This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICISES UK/USA SPYING AMOS 7: 10-19 10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel, sent a message to Jero- boam, king of Israel, saying, Amos is conspiring against you, in the very heart of Israel. The people cannot bear what he is saying, for Amos has declared: Jeroboam shall die by the sword, And Israel must go into exile, Far from her own country. 1 2 Then Amaziah said to Amos: Get out, you silly dreamer! Run away to Judah, Earn your bread and make your prophecies there. You shall no longer prophesy at Bethel Here is the king's holy place, and here his royal palace! 14 Then Amos replied to Amaziah: I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet I am a shepherd and I tend sycamore trees. But it was the Lord who took me from herding my little sheep, and it was the Lord who said to me, Go and prophesy against my people Israel. 1 6 Now therefore, hear the word of the Lord ! You say to me, Do not prophesy against Israel, And speak no word against the house of Isaac. Therefore the Lord says this: Your wife shall be ravished in the public street; Your daughters and your sons shall be killed by the sword. Your land shall be divided up into pieces, And you yourself shall die upon pagan soil! And Israel shall surely go into exile, Far from her own land.
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
A Vision of Christ
9 I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.[a] 10 I was in the spirit[b] on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, ‘Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’
12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.
Again today the Lectionary gives us the nourishing food of biblical prophecy which takes us out of the miserable consumer bedlam of Advent into a more bracing environment. The consumerist cleric Amaziah who orders the wild prophet Amos away from the profitable royal shrine of Bethel is bluntly told in God’s name that his wife will be raped in the street by the invading troops of a foreign army and that he will die in a heathen land. It’s not the stuff of a merry Christmas. Amos indignantly denies that he was one of the band of official prophets who try to win a living by giving favourable messages to people of power. He is a shepherd and wilderness farmer who believes he’s called by the LORD, whose arrows never miss their target. Doubtless Amaziah was not impressed, nor the King and his court, but the reader knows their policies led to disaster, defeat and exile. Sometimes the justice-driven prophet sees more clearly than the subtle statesman.
The amazing hypocrisy of the successors of Margaret Thatcher was paraded yesterday in the Tory politicians’ tributes to Mandela whom she and her acolytes dismissed as a terrorist. Ordinary people all over the UK who saw the nobility of the anti-apartheid cause judged more clearly than the political elite. The UK churches, taught by the prophetic voice of Desmond Tutu, also put their faith in the justice of God.
Some Christians would say that this God of fire and justice is not the Christian God, not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. The excerpt from The Revelation, which gives an image of the risen and exalted Christ is an effective answer to such doubts. His voice is like a trumpet and like many waters; his body shines with holiness; his feet glow with refined justice, his words cut to the bone. This tremendous figure however walks amongst the golden lampstands which are the Christian communities and holds in his hand the seven stars which are the animating spirits of he communities. There is a strange correspondence which is played out in the course of The Revelation, between the victory of God’s justice in Christ and his suffering presence in his persecuted followers. His suffering, which includes theirs, is the means of his victory over injustice.
This is a vision beyond that of Amos which does not give up on the faith that God is justice but adds that this justice is secured by love.