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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Amos & Holy Week

Here it is, "holy week." At least that's what the media tells us. I even heard CNN talking about. The talk show host asked a pastor to pray for him during "holy week." I found myself wondering what about it is holy.

I know, I know --- it is the week that we remember Jesus' return to Jerusalem to die on the cross for our sins. I wonder how holy most of us are doing that remembrance though. How many of us actually take time to reflect on what that means?

I am reading in the Old Testament book of Amos this week. Now there's an obscure book. You don't see many wall plaques or calendars with verses from Amos on them. There aren't too many t-shirts in the Christian book stores with verses from Amos. Heck, there aren't even any Jewish trinkets in the synagogues with quotes from the book of Amos. I've checked! (Yes, I have been to the bookstores inside Jewish synagogues --- in Texas, Iowa and Missouri.)

But I wonder why the book of Amos seems so obscure in our modern culture. During this holy week, it seems like maybe we should pay more attention to what Amos had to say. It might make us more holy! You see, Amos wasn't a famous prophet. Heck, he wasn't even a prominent religious leader. But God spoke to him about the sinful ways of the Israelites. And Amos, being the obedient man that he was, felt led to confront Israel about its sin.

Consider what God accused Israel of, and used Amos to do it.

In Amos 5:7, He says, "You turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground." I found myself remembering what I saw on CNN earlier this week - where teen girls were screaming as a pop star was escorted into court for a hearing about how he had attacked and beaten his girlfriend. I wonder if this is what God meant.

In Amos 5:11, He says, "You trample on the poor ..." I found myself remembering what I've read about how the numbers of poor people in the world and even in our country are growing --- and how the numbers of truly wealthy people are growing also. I wonder if this is what God meant.

In Amos 5:21-23, He says, "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me (offerings), I will not accept them. … I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs!" I found myself remembering some of the showy church services I've been to where everything was choreographed to perfection --- but there seemed to be no reverence for God. I wonder if this is what God meant.

In Amos 6, God continues lambasting those who feel secure and comfortable --- and still call themselves His chosen people. He rails on about how they live in luxury. It is a contrast with how they ignore the poor. I found myself thinking of the way that so many self-identified Christians in America live so well, alongside so many who don't. How many wealthy people do you suppose there are in America that would consider themselves Christians? I wonder if this is what God meant.

It is hard to read books of the Old Testament where the sinfulness of the Israelites (God's chosen people) is addressed. It is hard because there are so many correlations with modern American life. Traditional patriotism in America likes to see us as God's chosen people. We feel blessed to live in this land. We sing "God Bless America" as if it were proclaiming a Biblical truth. It is possible that we are His chosen people in this land called America. Unfortunately, we look very much like those who were His chosen people in that land called Israel.

In this holy week, I find myself wondering what is truly holy. I wonder who among us is really holy. As we approach the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection this weekend, I wonder if this is what God meant it for. Did He mean for Christ to die and us to live like this? Do any of us have a true grasp of what holy week is?

To be sure, we don't have to "discover the meaning of Easter," as I saw on a magazine cover at the supermarket. There is a meaning to Easter, but rather than discover, we may need to enter holiness to find it.

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