Reading the Bible Day 132
Hi, friends! Today we finish the book of Amos. While Amos will continue his criticisms against Israel today they are not nearly as pointed as yesterdays reading. Further, while Amos is one of the more "critical" prophets his writing ends in a word of hope just like Hosea and Isaiah did. It's one of the tell tale things to ask when reading any prophet or listening to any sermon "Where is the good news in this?" if there isn't any "gospel" in a message or a prophecy, than it isn't a word of God. Anyways, I'll share more down below. In the mean time let's get started and read Amos together!
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this reveal to me about the nature of God?
What does this reveal to me about humanity?
What is the "good news" of Amos' message? What is his primary criticism?
If God did a "plumb line" with me - how "level" would I be?
- My Thoughts -
In my message from last Sunday on the courage to vulnerable I shared that it is important for us to vulnerable with people and to give a small circle of people permission to be critical of us with the intention of helping us grow and be better. I really saw an example of what happens when we don't do that in today's reading from Amos, and the consequences when we don't have someone keep us in check. Amos goes to the king to prophecy and the king turns him away saying "Grr, I don't like your message, it makes me feel bad about myself, go somewhere else and prophecy." This is two parted and it's important to note the difference. Amos replies "I am not a professional prophet, I am just a fig tree farmer" At that time there were plenty of "false prophets" that were just really charismatic and would manipulate people of their money by sharing words from "God". As a result of many people getting screwed by these people many turned away from God and went to other idols. (Good thing we don't have an entire generation frustrated by the church and leaving. Oh no.)
That's not to say we don't have false prophets today. Turn your TV on to any mega church pastor wearing $3,000 jeans and living in a million dollar home and there is clearly still false prophets. This is ESPECIALLY true in the US where we are so obsessed with financial success and climbing the ladder of social status. It's very easy to distill scripture down to a "happy, motivating, and cupcake" story that God loves you, God wants to bless you, God wants to give you blessing, and all you need is to be faithful to God (and to me). Of course people want to hear this! We are hard wired for affirmation so heck yes we will gravitate to this. Followers of these prophets get fleeced over and buy that pastor another Bugatti and will defend that pastor by saying "its a witness to the truth that God wants us to bless us!"
I know it's not the pastoral thing to say, but I want to smash these people over the head with the Bible (like one of those big heavy tome ones, yanno?) while pointing to any of the more nuanced and complex things that we have been reading together as a group.
This prosperity gospel is not the bible. End of story. Quit supporting it.
I get it, no one wants to come to church to get uncomfortable. I don't enjoy the days when I have a sermon (or a blog post) that I know is going to piss people off. But church isn't to make us feel better, it's to make us better. (Lord knows I need it too! I just talked about beating someone to death with a bible with a silly grin on my face for goodness sake!) It's not fun to talk about racism, but we are way better after we've had those conversations and our black and brown sisters and brothers live in a little less fear for their lives when we do. It's not fun to talk about the dangers of a nationalized state religion, but when we don't we get weirdo dork shaman terrorists daring to invoke God's name in prayer as he and his weirdo dork idiot friends try to kill democracy. It's not fun to have a pastor talk about gun control after a mass shooting breaks out. And no, it's not just stuff that the "right" usually supports. Any pastor that wasn't critical of Obama's usage of drone strikes in war was a coward at the time too. But it wasn't fun for Israel either. They tried to say "go away, prophet - Joel Osteen comes on in 5 minutes and I don't wanna miss my church" Meanwhile God was deciding whether to use the bulldozer or the wrecking ball on them at that time.
So, back to courageous conversations. Amos was trying to offer valid criticism, but King Jeroboam was too insecure to be vulnerable with Amos and listen to his words. So who is your accountability partner? Who is in your circle? Whose circle are you in? Do you have one? I know I got one recently of pastor friends that review my sermons before I give them to make sure I'm not letting my anger overwhelm God's grace. In other words, just like the top of this article - "where is the good news in this?" And yes, I genuinely appreciate all of you that keep me in line too. It's never easy to speak up and share your feelings and I don't harbor any resentment to any that do. As I hope I make you better, please know that you all make me better each week.
Take time to pray for the courage to be open to God, open to yourself, and open to having a circle that keeps you (and me) in line. Because in a world that thrives off the sensantional despair we could all use a little reminder that there is still good news in all things. Amen and amen.
Today we pray (and/or) sing the words of hymn 132 in the United Methodist Hymnal - All My Hope is Firmly Grounded. As always the music is beneath the words if you would like to sing along with it. :)
All my hope is firmly grounded In our great and living Lord; Who, whenever I most need him, Never fails to keep his word. Him I must Wholly trust, God the ever good and just. Tell me, who can trust our nature, Human, weak, and insecure? Which of all the airy castles Can the hurricane endure? Build on sand, Nought can stand, By our earthly wisdom planned. But in every time and season, Out of love's abundant store, God sustains his whole creation, Fount of life for evermore. We who share Earth and air Count on his unfailing care. Thank, O thank, our great Creator, Through his only Son this day; He alone, the heavenly Potter, Made us out of earth and clay. Quick to heed, Strong the deed, He shall all his people feed.