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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scripture Reading: Amos 1:1; 5:21–24
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

I hate, I despise your festivals,
     and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
     I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
     I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
     I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
     and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (NRSV)

Today’s scripture passage includes many harsh words from God, as relayed by the prophet Amos: “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” Amos has come as a shepherd from the small town of Tekoa in the south and was shocked at what was happening in the urban marketplaces. People were using bribery in the courts; privilege was bought with money; and many were getting wealthy at the expense of the poor. These same people were making offerings at the temple and appeared to be religious but did not seem to understand their own hypocrisy. “Even though you offer me your grain offerings and your burnt offerings, I will not accept them,” explains God. This passage concludes with the often-quoted beautiful words explaining what God wants from the Israelites: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” 

Like the Israelites, we too have much hypocrisy in our world. This passage calls us to reflect on how we are living our lives, conducting our business, and treating the poor. We have to be more than Sunday Christians; we are to live as Christ calls us to in every aspect of our lives. Like the Israelites, it is easy for us to compartmentalize and to apply different standards to doing business than to the rest of our lives. We view ourselves as sophisticated, smart, urbane people, and we easily conform to the standards of the world around us. Amos reminds us that God accepts only one standard, and God calls us to live so that righteousness will flow through the decisions we make and the way we behave every day of the week. The way we choose to live our lives is the only offering acceptable to God.

Merciful God, you call us to be our best selves, to become the people that you have lovingly created us to be. Thank you for the reminder of these words not to conform to the standards of the world but to be transformed by your love. Help us to have the courage to dedicate our lives as an offering to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.                

Written by Liz Nickerson, Family Ministry Coordinator

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