Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

Amos 5:18-24
Psalm 96
Matthew 18:12-14

REFLECTION: “Ouch! That's harsh.”
Our first reading today, from the prophecy of Amos, leaves us with some pretty harsh words concerning the end of time. In particular, verse 20, which states "the day of Yahweh will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope." Such a statement stands in stark contrast with texts like Revelation 21 which states: " He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain."

Of course, this is a point where some contextual reading is necessary. The prophet Amos is writing during the reign of Jeroboam II, whose reign coincided with relative peace and prosperity among the people, but also with a precipitous decline in religious practice. A disparity was rapidly evolving between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'... and God did not find such an evolution to be pleasing. Not at all.

And yet it is precisely the growing distance between rich and poor, and the neglect of the needs of the less fortunate, that leads the Lord to speak through his prophet to announce that their religious observances was utterly useless. 
More so, they were detestable to him.

Here is God saying that he hates their worship, their feasts, their offerings, their hymns of praise. Even their hymns! Can you imagine God hating Psalm 150? His own word, detested, when flowing from the lips of those whose worship was worth nothing more than the puff of vapor that came from their lungs.

Do not mistake this reading of Amos to teach us that worship is pointless. It isn't. The point of worship is to glorify God and to convert our hearts. God speaks to us through worship... but when we stop listening, our worship becomes pointless. When our worship does not impel us beyond our pious cozy place, it is displeasing to God.

Authentic worship is a challenge to reach out in ministry and mission to others. It is a place for equipping for that outreach. It is a place of refuge... but only when something flows from it.

In our day and age, we desperately need to remember this lesson, so that we will have no fear on the last great day; for, if we simply move our lips in our worship without moving our entire spirit, the day of Yahweh will be dark and sorrowful for us, just as it Amos prophesied to the people of the Kingdom of Israel so very long ago.

Lord, please convert any selfishness in my worship, and allow me to glorify you in prayer, study, worship, and in deed!