Scripture Amos 8:4-6
Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying,
“When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”--
skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
Quote – Psalm 119: 36-37 Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word
Reflection – Let's do a quick review of what we have been meditating on so far this week as we have contemplated obedience. On Monday began the spiritual journey of acknowledging and confessing disobedience. We did so confidently because the story of Adam and Eve's consumption of the bitter fruit is surrounded with God's grace. This story is meant to offer us a safe space to be honest with ourselves as individuals and as the community of Christ. Yesterday we continued the journey through unlearning. Along life's way, through experiences, we pick up actions, behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that diminish the image of God in which we are created. They need to be left behind, let go of, in order to continue to become that which we are created to be. Today, through the voice of the prophets, we see and will meditate upon a specific example of this process.
In today's reading the prophet Amos focuses our attention on the plight of those who are not only poor and needy, but who have no one to speak for them and advocate that they be treated with dignity and justice. Amos describes a society that has become so enamored of wealth and possession that New Moon and Sabbath, religious observance and spiritual practice are suffered through grudgingly as the wealthy and powerful wait for business to open again. When business does open it is conducted in a way that benefits the business, but not the common good and not the vulnerable in society. Goods are measured inaccurately and prices set to maximize profit, all of which benefits the owners bottom line, but which obviously makes survival difficult for the common person. It may not come as a surprise to those of you who regularly attend Berean, but it is important for us to be reminded of. Valuing profits over people, devoting time to consumerism instead of community and Spiritual connection with the Divine, trusting in the market over God, according to the prophet, is all disobedience. God cares deeply about social and economic justice.
Amos confronts his society with the bitter fruit they have chosen, the bitter fruit of profit and possession. They have forgotten the lessons learned in the desert, the lessons that God would provide and that enough for all is preferable to an over-abundance for a few. And if we are honest, we will see reflections of Amos's prophecy in our own society and culture; in the complete disregard of Sabbath, in the valuing of profit over person and in the desire for the joy of possession over the joy of relationship to God. This passage from Amos is not the only one to lift up these particular forms of disobedience. You can see them in Micah 2 & 6, Isaiah 1, 10 & 59, Jer 6, and echoed by Jesus when he warns, ' Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19) and when he tells the parable of the rich fool in Luke chapter 13. Once again, the social implications of personal disobedience is presented to us. As is the hope for change, for repentance. Listen, the prophet urges the people. So for today's contemplation, let's support one another in listening carefully to how the promise of wealth and possession shapes us, and to God's call to embrace proper values, people over profits.
Prayer – Applying the economics of your Kingdom to our time and place is a complex practice, God of gracious abundance. Encourage us, despite the complexity, to examine the ways that people over profits and market as our Idol disfigures and diminishes us. Empower us with your resurrection gift, to resist these forces and live lives of grace, not only spiritually, but as consumers and participants in a vast and complex economy.