Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Wednesday, December 5, 2007 -- Week of 1 Advent (Year 2)
(Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 937)
Psalms 119:1-24 (morning) 12, 13, 14 (evening)
Amos 3:12 - 4:5
2 Peter 3:1-10
Matthew 21:23-32

The Biblical writers frequently take issue with those of us who are religious but fail to live by the values of God. In a parable that is unique to Matthew, Jesus asks about two sons -- which faithful? The one who speaks nicely and properly yet doesn't live up to his promise, or the one who sounds rebellious and arrogant but does the right thing? Deed speaks louder than words is a major theme of Matthew's gospel.

Amos drives the same point home with even more edge. He ridicules the public religious practices of Israel, calling them a multiplication of transgressions. With biting sarcasm he tells them, "bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; bring a thank offering of leavened bread, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! says the Lord God." Amos says that God "will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground."

Amos' most bitter criticism is directed at the wealthy and powerful -- those who have winter houses in the Jordan valley where they can flee the cold, houses with furniture inlaid with ivory. "I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end, says the Lord."

With punishing sarcasm Amos speaks judgment on the elite women of the city "who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, 'Bring something to drink!'" Amos declares that they will suffer violent deportation by Israel's enemies. Amos describes the judgment that God has rendered to this wealthy nation that neglects its poor: "As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who live in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed."

This is fierce language. Imagine someone speaking in the name to God to our people, ridiculing our religious observances, declaring that militant Islamic hordes will come and destroy the McMansions and carry our women off in bondage. Yes, Amos attracted the attention of the eighth century version of Homeland Security too.

One of Scripture's major themes is that God does not give a free ride to the wealthy and powerful. They are expected to use their power to promote justice, with a special eye to the needs of the weak and the poor. These are the values of God. Only power exercised with compassion is power used in the Spirit of God. And all of the religious observance and piety in the world will not atone for the suffering of the poor in the presence of the rich. Amos and all of the prophets and Jesus agree -- God will bring catastrophe on nations that fail in their duty for compassion.

I'm wondering what they would be saying to the candidates for President as they debate the values and direction of this nation. Who would Amos vote for?



At 10:12 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Amos would have a fit if he were to study our political candidates. Amos would stand outside the polls and shout "Vote for Lowell!"


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