Amos 5-6, pt.2

Please remember that this evening we are reading through Two Woes Against Israel found in Amos 5:16-6:14. Within the readings, Amos warns Israel that the day of the Lord will be terrible because of their refusal to obey God’s command to carry out justice and righteousness, especially to the least of those in society. Amos warns that Israel’s empty religious worship will be of no account when the Lord comes. Amos is not the only prophet to condemn Israel’s lack of justice and its reliance on the sacrificial system to appease God.  Condemnation on these grounds issues from other prophets such as Samuel (1 Sam. 15:22), Isaiah (Isa. 1:11-17), Jeremiah (Jer. 6:20-21, 7:1-7) and Malachi (Mal 1:10). In the 19th c., Søren Kierkegaard makes a similar observation about our reliance on our modern theological systems: 

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

Provocations, The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

This past Sunday the New York Times carried an op-ed piece which, I believe, reflects the same concerns with the purpose of worship as Amos. In the piece, the writer says that “Jesus Christ is the point of all the smells, bells, rules and dogma; . . .  . [and that] the church exists for one reason only — to carry the story of Jesus forward in history, and by doing that to make his presence real. Everything else is rubrics.”  Therefore, think about not only how our worship, but also how our reading of Scripture, our theology, our church politics, and our allegiance to institutional structures and dogma interfere with and prevent us from seeing the world as God sees the world and from carrying out those actions necessary to create and maintain the just and righteous society envisioned by the prophets and by Christ himself. 

Last week, we had a brief discussion of how Amos exhibits psychotic symptoms, for example, by his description of his having a lion roaring in his head. Amos 3:8. I have attached Chapter 12 of Heschel on “Prophecy and Psychosis” where he discusses the relative merits of viewing the Biblical prophets as suffering from psychotic episodes. As Heschel argues, if the prophet suffers from “insanity, then we ought to feel ashamed of being sane.” p.517.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is a baked potato bar. We may start the discussion a bit earlier this week. Weather permitting, we’ll say evening prayer in the new gardens with blankets being provided.  I know that I have attached a lot of secondary materials and links, but you do not need to have read anything to join us in our discussions. Also, please remember that on Tuesday, November 25 we’ll have a Thanksgiving dinner followed by a Thanksgiving Eucharist (yes, that is redundant).  Please plan to come.

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of he-goats.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings
    from before my eyes;
    cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
    seek justice,
    correct oppression;
defend the fatherless,
    plead for the widow.

Isaiah 1:11, 16-17

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