Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday in Advent 1

Amos 3:12--4:5
v. 4:1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy...

I've missed the first few days of Advent and I can't guarantee this reflection will happen every day, but here it is for what it is.

In Year 2 of the Daily Lectionary during the first three weeks of Advent we get to read from three of the "minor" prophets: Amos, Haggai, and Zechariah. Amos is first. Amos ministered in the middle of the eighth century B.C.E. in the Northern Kingdom--Israel (although he was a native of the Southern Kingdom--Judah). These were prosperous days for both kingdoms under the reigns of Jeroboam II (Israel) and Uzziah (Judah).

Amos has come to announce God's judgment on the practices that this prosperity is built upon, namely the abuse of the poor by the rich. The verse cited above can be taken as a summary of this indictment.

Thoughts about Advent often lead to thoughts about the second coming, which often lead to thoughts about Judgment Day, which often lead to anxiety about not measuring up on a personal level. From Amos' perspective (and the vast majority of prophetic writing in the Old Testament) this is not the issue. The issue is justice. The Day of Judgment is the Day of Justice, when everything will be set right according to God's vision.

Not much of the prophets would be left if you cut out all the bits about justice. It was one of their overriding themes. It makes it hard to read for us who have so much. Yet read we must, for the sake of our souls, but, more importantly, for the sake of our world and those in our world who, mostly through accident of birth, have ended up among the world's poor. In the days of Amos, Israel's days were numbered. The powerful Assyrians were on their way to destroy the northern kingdom. In our day, it appears we still have time to act. May Amos inspire us to do so.

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