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Posts Tagged ‘social justice’


Amos 3: This World . . . and the Next

Monday, July 2, 2018

Each time we visit this prophecy we have the opportunity to hear God speak to us on the topic of social justice.  For they know not how to do what is right . . . storing up in their castles what they have extorted and robbed.  The gathering of wealth at the expense of others is something many of us may not want to ponder.  We may not want to think about how much we have stored up in our homes and in our accounts that may have arrived in our hands because someone somewhere struggled to make ends meet on low wages.  We may want to open our IRA statement without wondering if the dividends were partially gained or fully gained on the backs of those who have no political or social voice.  In each news cycle we can find stories about companies and individuals who happily ignore today’s message.  Companies keep double books in order to hide their safety infractions (http://www.connectmidmissouri.com/news/story.aspx?id=635646 ), priests are involved in sex scandals (http://www.americancatholic.org/news/clergysexabuse/  ), scientists squabble over the truth or lie of global warming and the consequences for our planet (https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/).  There is an endless stream of information that asks us to think about how we act.  Today’s Noontime tells us that there is nothing new in this.  For millennia we humans have been taking advantage of one another . . . and hoping all the while that no one sees us.  Amos reminds us that God sees all.

When we turn blind eyes to corruption we have forgotten that our actions have consequences, and Jesus reminds us of this with a number of parables defining stewardship.  One story in Luke 16 even demonstrates how a corrupt steward bargains with his master’s debtors in order to save himself.  And while Jesus does not make the case that the wealthy do not go to heaven, he does plainly say (Matthew 19:23, Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25) that a rich man will have to bend a bit and be willing to sacrifice as a camel does to enter the eye of the needle.  (This is likely a reference to the pedestrian door in a large city gate – the camel will have to pass through on its knees.)  Jesus tells us that all of us are called to humility no matter our station in life . . . and so we ought to become accustomed to putting ourselves last rather than first, to serving rather than expecting to be served.

The picture of the world that Amos describes is a world gone mad with greed and envy; God will eradicate all that has been stored in silos and greenhouses, ivory apartments and summer houses.  The enemy shall strip you of your strength and pillage your castles.  Jesus paints another possibility for us.  He describes a world in which we think of one another before self, in which we pray for our enemies rather than condemn them.  And this is a prospect that all us might welcome.  Even those who are so self-centered as to be narcissists might pause to think . . . how much better it is to share what we have rather than to lose all.  But in our striving to survive we so often forget that in this finite world we prepare for the next.  We either conveniently forget, or we willfully ignore, the words we hear today: There is a consequence for what we say and think and do . . . and woe to those who take advantage of the marginalized who have no voice.

I have shared with a number of my friends that I honestly believe that our lives on this planet are a complex, interlocking dress rehearsal for the real life which follows; and that if we do not learn the art of sharing as God asks on this planet then we will still have to learn this in the next dimension.  I believe that we are living in a complicated laboratory which is full of hypotheses and lesson plans for us to learn the art of love as presented to us by God among us, Jesus.  I believe that if we struggle to tend to the despair of the great disorder within our society today . . . we are already living in the kingdom we thought was only a dream.

If we believe this world is beyond hope . . . let us act as if we are living in the next . . .


Image from: http://www.all-creatures.org/hope/

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 2, 2011.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Martin-Luther-King-Pic-21Jeremiah 22

Do What Is Right

Listen to the word of the Lord . . .

Do what is right and just . . .

Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor . . .

Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow . . .

Do not shed innocent blood . . .

With hindsight we can see where the chosen people miss-stepped. We can easily judge and say that we would have listened to God’s voice to avoid falling into the subtle trap of following little gods rather than the one Living God.

With understanding we can see how the chosen people miscalculated. We can quickly recognize the corruption that pervaded their religious and civic institutions.

With honesty we can see our own slide into first accepting and later following the way that is wide and dishonest rather than the narrow way that is difficult and authentic.

do-what-you-feel-is-rightMany people will pass by this city and ask one another: “Why has the Lord done this to so great a city?”

And the answer will be: “Because they have deserted their covenant with the Lord, their God, by worshiping and serving strange gods”.

What strange little gods do we allow to filter into our decisions? What small little gods rule our days and nights? What insignificant little gods threaten our peaceful relationship with God?

How do we do what is good and right and just?

We take time today to pause and reflect.

For more information on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, go to: http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086#synopsis and http://www.biography.com/people/eleanor-roosevelt-9463366 

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

200px-Prophet_Amos_002Amos 7

God’s Servants

Through a series of visions Amos leads us to his central message: we must respond to God’s call to correct the social injustice we see around us.  In Chapter 7 we see the core of Amos’ message through a series of visions but it is perhaps his personality that moves us more than the images he describes.  Amos displays characteristics we see in Jesus, and these are the same tools we must nurture so that we might be faithful servants of God’s Word: frankness, brevity, an insistence to stay “on message” despite the chastisement and threats received from a corrupt civil, social or religious structure.

Amos refuses to hire himself out, as other prophets do.  He resists the urge to say more than Yahweh has told him.  He speaks, takes no credit or blame, remains faithful and tenacious, then stands down when his work of prophecy is complete, returning to the productive life he had lived before he stepped into history.

We are each called to be Amos.  We are each called to speak in witness to what we know to be truth and light.  We each live in the providential care of God.  We each have the power of speech and spirit.  We each must intercede for our family, friends and enemies . . . just as Amos does.  And then we may return to our work . . . living the Gospel we know to be true until we are called again by God.

Life lived in this manner becomes less complicated, less frightening, more fulfilling, and more peaceful.  Life lived in this manner – even in the midst of painful abuse and dire extremes – is seen as beautiful and serene.  Life lived as Amos shows us is life in its proper alignment – we become good and faithful servants doing the work of God.  As humble and honest workers we demonstrate our understanding that God is in charge, that God’s plan will not be thwarted, that God can be trusted to turn all acts of malicious damage into acts of saving love.

This then is the lesson of Amos: Speak when we know we must, listen for the Word always, step forward when called and back when the time for speaking has ended . . . act always in God and through God . . . remain always God’s willing servant who brings a full and open heart to each day, trust God . . . and stay out of God’s way. 

Tomorrow, a Prayer for Faithful Servants.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2008.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

promisesAmos 9:13-15

Keeping Promises

The prophet Amos was particularly insistent about the Covenant promises the Jewish people did not keep, especially regarding issues of social injustice.  We have spent a number of days reflecting on this prophecy and we have seen the conciseness and force with which this fiercely independent prophet calls us to observing the importance of keeping our Covenant Promise with God. Amos reminds us of what is most important in life: the return to out true nature as loving children who trust in God alone when we find ourselves suffering acutely.   We are accustomed to thinking of Social Injustice in the wide and sweeping scale of one people against another; but injustice also takes place on a personal level of an individual against another, or one small group against another.  There are many times in our lives when we have been involved in unjust relationships . . . either as an aggressor or as the innocent . . . and this calls us re-evaluate the promises we keep, with whom, and why.  So as we approach the Fourth Sunday in Lent, let us pause to evaluate.

God always keeps promises . . . do we keep our promises to God, to others, and to ourselves?  What do we do with the Gift of Promise God places in us?

Adapted from a reflection written on March 27, 2008.

To view a trailer with an interesting presentation of God’s promises produced by Worship House Media, go to: http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/18865/Promises

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First Sunday of Lent

Carl Bloch: Denying Satan

March 9, 2014

Amos 1-4

A Prayer to Hear God’s Word

Amos lived in the southern kingdom but prophesied in the north; his oracles began in the oral tradition and were recorded in written form much later. His harshest words are aimed at the cult worship in BethelAmos delivers “a broadside against all the festivals of Israel . . . His point is not that all ritual is bad, but that it is not of the essence of religion.  For Amos, the essence of religion is social justice.  If ritual furthers justice, well and good, but too often it does not . . . When the festival was over, they would go back to cheating in the market place . . . Amos insisted that all this was self-delusion.  God would not overlook the injustice of the society because of the sound of the harps, and the Assyrians would rudely shatter the naïve belief that God would protect Israel no matter what”. (Senior RG 364-365)

As we enter our first full week of Lent, we hear the familiar Gospel of the devil tempting Jesus, attempting to lure him with the promise of gifts he already possesses.  (Matthew 4:1-11) We too, are tempted to turn over the gifts we already possess for the illusion of an offer that does not exist.  In God’s kingdom, power lies in our readiness to be humble, life exists in our willingness to die for one another, and peace rests in our preparedness to act on the Word of God.

And so on this first Sunday in Lent, a time for introspection and honesty, together we pray.

That we might step up to the responsibility of discipleship: Lord, hear our prayer.

That we might share the Good News of God’s love for us: Christ, hear our prayer.

That we might act in mercy, kindness, goodness, and forgiveness: Holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

That we might embrace God’s gifts of freedom, transformation and redemption: Lord, hear our prayer.

We understand the importance of hearing God’s word, and so we ask all of this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

For a Noontime reflection on the temptation of Christ, see The Temptations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-temptations/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 364-365. Print.   

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Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014

ash-wednesday-usa[1]Amos 1

Receptive

Today we stand on the threshold of a great opportunity, an opportunity to shed all that we dislike about ourselves, an opportunity to return fully to the promise God sends to the world through us.  We have taken up the prophecy of Amos as our first Lenten lesson plan and today we re-visit an old theme: we ask for the courage to open our hearts and minds and souls to the possibility of newness, we ask for the strength to be receptive to God’s announced gift of regeneration.

God calls to us through Amos just as he called to the faithful millennia ago.  And what is the message we hear today?  Where are we to go to do the work of self-conversion and kingdom building?  Amos tells us simply: We are to look to our own homes, communities, work, worship and play places . . . we are to begin . . . and then we are to take this newness in which we find ourselves into all we do, think and say.  Social injustice and religious arrogance: these are the two devils we are to combat.  We must invert these two ideas (as Jesus always does when he stands us on our heads – calling us to the margins rather than to the comfortable middle) to social justice and to religious humility.  They are the standard bearers we are to carry each day as we step out of our homes and into the world.  They are the same standards we carry into our evenings as we return home to rest and rebuild.

The paragraph above is an excerpt from a 2012 Noontime.  To read more of this post, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/10/09/stepping-into-newness/

To learn more about the places named in Amos 1, click on the following words and consider . . . Do we live in these places?  If so, what do we do to change ourselves . . . so that the world might also change? Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom and Ammon.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

sycamore_ashkelon-66-t[1]

A Sycamore Tree Bearing Fruit

Investigating Amos

What do we know about the prophet Amos?  When we seek we will find that . . .

  • He described himself as a shepherd and farmer who tended to sycamore trees;
  • His strong verbal skills imply that he was more than an ignorant peasant;
  • He did not consider himself to be a professional prophet; he did not make a living proclaiming oracles to a patron who paid to hear what he wanted to hear;
  • He lived in Tekoa, a town about 11 miles south of Jerusalem;
  • He centered his ministry around Bethel, a major city in the north of Israel where many of the upper classes of the northern kingdom worshiped;
  • He lived during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judah, 760-750 B.C.E., an era of unusual prosperity;
  • He brought a message of warning to the wealthy and powerful that they must come to see that their wealth had lured them into spiritual complacency and ethical laxity;
  • He warned his audience that judgment would be exacted for the actions of the strong against the weak. (Zondervan 1444-1445)

There is heavy emphasis on social justice in this prophecy and those of us today who live in first-world cultures do well to spend time contemplating the words and thoughts of Amos.  What do we who are comfortable do for those who are not?  How do we have much enact God’s Word for those who have little?  Who are the peasants among us who ask for our introspection, our witness, our voices, and our action?

If we spend time today with the words of Amos and a solid commentary or other resource, we will hear God speak to us in our innermost refuge where we go to forget the woes of the world.  If we spend time with the poetry of Amos today, we will experience the message of healing and restoration this prophet still brings to the faithful who seek God’s wisdom, to the faithful who yearn to bear fruit.

Tomorrow, an exhortation to return to God.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1444-1445. Print.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012 – Amos 1 – Stepping into Newness

The Prophet Amos

Having had a bumpy week-end, I decided to spend extra reflection time with the bridge I felt rising from Leviticus.  I asked myself: To where does all of this conversion take us?  We know to whom we go . . . and usually how and why.  It is often the where that confounds us.  Today’s Noontime is from Amos, a prophecy of the first of the eighth century prophets (Amos is followed by Hosea, Isaiah and Micah).  This prophet comes away from his worldly work to follow God’s call to service and then returns to his fields, sycamore trees and herds to step back into his life.  Commentary points out that these words are direct and uncompromising” (Meeks 1356).  There is no doubting what we are to do – we are to tend to the laziness, avarice and corruption into which society always seems to sink.  There is no doubt about why we are to do this – it is the sanctity to which God calls each of us.  When we ask when we are to begin our conversion – the answer is always now; not later, not “when I have the time, energy or opportunity”.

God calls to us through Amos just as he called to the faithful millennia ago.  So what is the message we hear today?  Where are we to go to do this great work of self-conversion and kingdom building?  Amos tells us simply: We are to look to our own homes, communities, work, worship and play places . . . we are to begin . . . and then we are to take this newness in which we find ourselves into all we do, think and say.  Social injustice and religious arrogance: these are the two devils we are to combat.  We must invert these two ideas (as Jesus always does when he stands us on our heads – calling us to the margins rather than to the comfortable middle) to social justice and to religious humility.  They are the standard bearers we are to carry each day as we step out of our homes and into the world.  They are the same standards we carry into our evenings as we return home to rest and rebuild.

The words of Amos in this first chapter are frightening; he can see the approaching whirlwind and so he sends out the watchman’s alert to tend to that which is dragging us down.

The images of Amos in this first chapter are full of violent pictures; he understands that the people have built thick walls behind which they can linger in comfort and so he urges us to change our ways.

The foreshadowed events which Amos shares in this first chapter are full of ugly pictures; he feels the coming maelstrom and so he calls us to conversion . . . to sanctity.

After spending time with the laws of Leviticus, we turn to Amos to find that these rules have been twisted and manipulated until they are nearly unrecognizable.  Amos calls the people to social justice and to religious humility.  We can see the need to tend to his message; we can see the places in our lives where we can be more just and humble.

When the earth quakes, when clouds roil, when the wind blows more stiffly and brings a different scent so that we know that change is coming . . . what do we do?  Do we retreat into old habits and easy answers?  Or do we step into the difficult newness that God offers?  This is something to spend time with today.  Looking forward, when we see difficult work ahead we can become easily exhausted and ask to have the cup of sacrifice pass away from us . . . or we can allow our weary selves to sink into the constant healing hands of Christ . . . and we can greet the storm with confidence in this . . . that we are loved by an awesome and fearless God . . . who will not let us fail.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.

Written on October 5, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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