Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ash Wednesday

Psalm 102      Amos 5:6-15      Hebrews 12:1-14      Luke 18:9-14

Amos gets my attention, both for his message and for his vivid language. I have to listen, his words stick with me. Amos warms my heart as he describes the Lord
The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning,
and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea,
and pours them out on the surface of the earth

But Amos is prophesying to the people of Israel in a time of fatness, of prosperity and freedom from war. The people of Israel are thinking of themselves as God’s chosen people, therefore nothing bad will happen to them. Amos douses their smugness with chilling force, denouncing “the strong” who
hate the one who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
Therefore because you trample on the poor
and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not live in them,
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.

Reading Amos makes me appropriately anxious. His language grabs me. I can’t turn away. This is a gift, one especially welcome as we start into Lent, a time when I look more closely at my life and habits. Amos makes me consider whether I am contributing towards justice.

I perceive a parallel between Amos and Jesus in today’s gospel passage from Luke in which Jesus brings his hearers up short, banishing complacency with the surprise of his praising the unpopular tax collector who stands “far off” saying “God be merciful to me a sinner!” rather than the Pharisee who has observed all the correct rituals. I find I want to spend more time this Lent in quiet “listening” to God.

—Jane W. Rotch

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