Breaking news right now -- there was a man and wife who had 5 children; both husband and wife lost their jobs. Reaching the end of their collective rope, they choose to commit suicide rather than go on.
This is not new news; this has already happened in our communities here in Georgia -- where people don't see any hope in sight and where their problems seem insurmountable.
Yesterday there were a record number of people laid off. Some say up to 70 thousand people. Today there were more layoffs announced. Delta Airlines has lost millions and millions of dollars. Even big scale retailers like Neiman Marcus (Needless Markup) have posted losses for this last quarter. The only retailer I know of doing well is McDonalds. Retailers are trying to cut losses, reducing merchandise 75% to 90% (and I have purchased wonderful things after Christmas because of it.)
On the other hand, feed and hay are rising in price. A large poultry processor in North Georgia has laid off thousand of workers because the farmers are not producing the chickens. And the price of chicken is going up and up. Beef, too. In fact, the same meal that cost my family $20 last year is now costing us $30.
I know so many of my friends and family who are without job and who have few prospects. I wonder -- what now?
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Where can we apply this text to our current condition? How can we hold this text in one with these newspaper stories in the other? Can we preach with authority in this economic climate? Does today's christian have anything relevant to say in this economic climate?
I believe we are inhabited by unclean spirits -- the spirit of greed and avarice; the spirit that cries "more! more!" when we already have enough. We are a nation of gluttons who stuff our faces when our neighbors go hungry. It strikes me that when the unclean spirit departs this man, he goes into convulsions -- it's not clean and pretty; it might even be painful. The solution to our problems today is not going to be clean and pretty. It's going to be painful for us and for our neighbors.
Where is the good news? That we CAN preach with authority; that Jesus preached with authority. That the evil spirits can and will depart.
I will remember this family of 7 who in despair have left this world. I will pray for this nation tonight. I will pray for the unemployed -- and I will give tonight more of my surplus to those who hunger. I will give something of my plenty away today to someone who can use it. It's what I can do.