We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

According to the Prophet Amos

Walter Brueggemann’s comments on the minor prophets point out the poetic nature of the prophets as distinct from the practicality of the “real-world” power elite: the government rulers, church leaders, etc. In particular, Amos, the prophet from the Southern Kingdom was called by God to leave his home and call the people of Israel in the North back to their covenantal faith. How easy it is for us to distance ourselves from the prophets and alienate ourselves from their message. But the prophets are people just like us; Dan Berrigan writes, in Minor Prophets, Major Themes that Amos is a “veritable nobody.” This shepherd - Berrigan calls him “dirt poor...a scrub farmer” - is not theologically sophisticated or endowed with all the privileges of authority that dominant culture requires the experts to have in order to be listened to. He lacks the credentials. “Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel”’” (Amos 7.14-15).

Invitation; no, command: “Go.” And Amos went - called to a life he could not have imagined or ordained for himself. For him to deny the call is for him to not believe in biblical faith, to cease to live the covenant. The task of the prophet is not to be heard but to speak: “Thus says the Lord....” For Amos and the prophetic consciousness, it is not so much about rebel rousing or causing trouble, but about entering into a life of solidarity - a lived, felt connection with the poor that breaks the prophets heart. The prophet does not come with a political agenda - although biblical faith encompasses the polis - but the prophet is about having faith, keeping faith, restoring faith.

Hence the pathos of both the poet and prophet is a shared characteristic. Not only is it in the best interest of the audience to heed the prophet’s words, but the emotional appeal cuts to the heart of the faith of the people of the Exodus. To be sure, the style of was attractive. The prophet’s faith is no prosaic soapbox: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5.24) Rolls off the tongue bu the content is a hard pill to swallow.

Even for the contemporary hearer of the Word - does the prophet’s message really call us to a turning away from the imperial faith of individualism and redemptive violence? Do we hear the call to a communal faith and restoring the covenant to its primary place of shared life in community? Better yet, are we even capable to “seek good and not evil, that [we] may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with [us], just as [we] have said?” (Amos 5:14). The prophets are always ridiculed to the sidelines, but tend to nag at us anyway. These days, in an age of plugging in and tuning out, we must ask ourselves if our faith is a nagging faith. If not...we could be in trouble.

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