Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016

The Prophet Goes to Meddling! – Amos (3)

Lent 13

We’re okay with prophets as long as they’re goring someone else’s ox. But when they train they guns on us and our practices, well . . . it’s time to run them out of town. Especially if they are an outsider. And Amos was a southerner called not merely to preach but to meddle in the lives and affairs of the northern kingdom! And his meddling is specific and wide-ranging. And precisely in its specificity and comprehensiveness it hits home with us today in 21st century North America.
The sheer volume of the indictments in Amos presses on the reader their seriousness. I have reproduced those sections below without comment. I invite you to reflect on them yourselves and feel their critique for whatever area of life they prick your heart and conscience about.
 because they sell the righteous for silver,
    and the needy for a pair of sandals—
 they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth,
    and push the afflicted out of the way;
father and son go in to the same girl,
    so that my holy name is profaned;
 they lay themselves down beside every altar
    on garments taken in pledge;
and in the house of their God they drink
    wine bought with fines they imposed.”
“But you made the nazirites drink wine,
    and commanded the prophets,
    saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’”
“store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”

“I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house;
    and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses shall come to an end,
says the Lord.”
“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan
    who are on Mount Samaria,
who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
    who say to their husbands, ‘Bring something to drink!’”
“Come to Bethel—and transgress;
    to Gilgal—and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices every morning,
    your tithes every three days;
bring a thank offering of leavened bread,
    and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them;
    for so you love to do, O people of Israel!
says the Lord God.”
“They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
    and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
 Therefore because you trample on the poor
    and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
    but you shall not live in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
    but you shall not drink their wine.”
   “and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
    and push aside the needy in the gate.”
“I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
 But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
“Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
    and lounge on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
    and calves from the stall;
 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
    and like David improvise on instruments of music;
 who drink wine from bowls,
    and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
    but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!”
“But you have turned justice into poison
    and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood—
 you who rejoice in Lo-debar,
    who say, ‘Have we not by our own strength
    taken Karnaim for ourselves?’”
“Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
    and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
 saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
    so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
    so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
    and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,
    and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’”
          Scripture is a cup we can drink from to lake our thirst, a pool we can bathe in to be cleansed, and a river we can drown and be raised to new life through by God. Lent is a call to move into the sacred text beyond our thirst, even beyond our need to be cleaned, but as a river that can drown us, our old life as tragically and conclusively demonstrated by Amos, that we can be raised to the new life in Christ, which is the life we are meant for and the ife the world needs to see in and through us to draw them to God.

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