21 I hate, I reject your festivals;
I don’t enjoy your joyous assemblies.
22 If you bring me your entirely burned offerings and gifts of food—
I won’t be pleased;
I won’t even look at your offerings of well-fed animals.
23 Take away the noise of your songs;
I won’t listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos was probably the first Hebrew “writing prophet.” On God’s behalf, he urged those who exploited others to stop trusting in showy religious ceremonies, to “let justice roll down like waters.” Pastor Ginger Gaines-Cirelli put his idea vividly: “God doesn’t say, love me with your mind alone, thinking Goddish thoughts….God doesn’t say only love me with your praisy warm feelings surrounded by nothing and no one that challenges you to stretch yourself ....the call is to love with everything we’ve got, with SOUL, with our deepest wholeness and essence and humanity…that which connects us to our neighbor.” *
* From Pastor Cirelli’s Oct. 25 sermon at Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington, D.C. Full sermon available at https://www.foundryumc.org/.
Lord Jesus, from Kansas and Missouri to Honduras, Malawi and beyond, there are hungry children and desperate people facing injustice. They are all your people—help me to care about them as much as you do. Amen.
Connecting the Dots
Amos 5 reveals the dangerous disconnect between showy prayers and the actual lives we live. Shockingly, God gets our attention in these verses by saying, “I hate church.” That’s basically what the “festivals, assemblies and songs” (v. 21, 23) would mean today. Ouch!
I don’t really think God hates church. But God is saying that we can get so focused on “performing” religion that it becomes disconnected from real life. What God wants is not spectacular worship or showy religion. What God wants are hearts that seek justice and righteousness, daily lives that authentically live out the good news.
This means connecting the dots from the things we say in worship to the lives we live in the world. We can’t say we love God at church and then treat our employees badly at work. We can’t say at church that Jesus loves everyone and then vilify our political opponents. God wants us to connect the dots from church life to real life--it’s all one life!
Connecting the dots from our inner, spiritual lives to our outer, everyday lives is a constant cycle in and out, much like breathing. Today, experiment with a Christian practice, the breath prayer. Bring your awareness to your breath and let it embody this inner-outer rhythm. Choose a word for each inhale and a word for each exhale that helps you connect the dots, for example, “love, neighbor” or “seek, justice.” Say each word silently in your mind as you breathe in and out 10 times. Let God help you connect the dots.
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