Friday, November 15, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 313: Amos 1; Psalm 107; Matthew 9

For Three Crimes and for Four...
Amos has some harsh words for the people of Israel and Judah, and for the surrounding kingdoms. The peoples have strayed far from God's justice, and from faithful obedience to Torah. Injustice and self-serving determination have become routine defaults for rulers and people alike. As he offers his oracles, a particular motif repeats itself..."For three crimes and for four, I will not turn away the punishment...." It's one thing to stumble and sin once, even twice...but three, then four times? It's becoming a habit. God's judgment is on the habitual default of the peoples, as they choose to turn from God's justice and peace toward their own ways. For some, it's idolatry, for others, corruption of the system that leads to the abuse of the poor. For others, it's dismantling the structures God put in place to conserve the inheritance of the land and the freedom of the people of Israel and Judah. Where things are a mess, God names it...and via Amos, God proclaims judgment. It's time to set things back on a correcting path, and Amos is making it clear that God is not relenting in the pursuit of justice, the defense of the poor and the commandment to seek mercy and not self-aggrandizement.

Coupling those images with Matthew's Jesus, we get a picture of a God who is intentionally focused on the people who are pushed to the fringes, to the ones who truly need. God is also intent on showing that healing is for the sick, restoration for the broken, hope for the lost and life for the dead. Funny how we as human beings lost in ourselves can easily forget that way God has of drawing out attention to the person in need, hunger, want or sorrow when our own "stuff" beckons.

Jesus forgives, then heals the paralytic. He releases the man with the bound tongue. He calls, and accepts a common meal, with a tax collector. He allows a women, an unclean woman, to touch him and proclaims her healed. He calls a little girl back from death. He gives sight to the blind....All of that, and yet the "in" crowd bridles that he is giving attention to folks who shouldn't be associated with because they are unclean, because they are unacceptable, because they are beyond healing....

Before we rack up too many lost moments, let's take a few to recognize that God's call to us is not just to assemble and offer praise to the Almighty in sanctuaries set apart from the is also to get out there and get our hands dirty with service. Amos's oracles were proclaimed because the ones who could serve the poor chose not to do so. If we, like Jesus, choose to act, to connect, to serve those who are in need, then God is as well served as the ones who are being cared for, lifted up and given hope.

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