We have spent a few weeks listening to prophets bring a word from the Lord about the ways God’s people regularly fail. In chapter six, Amos lists being at ease and feeling secure (when our neighbors are not), being sure our kingdoms are better than others, and eating lambs and calves from our vast stock (when our neighbors are hungry) as reasons the Lord will raise an enemy up against those who claim to be faithful. We fail at generosity, community, faithful worship, neighbor-love, and good ol’ self-control. Ouch. It might be hard to keep reading when these prophets don’t let up!
But, let’s stay engaged and discover God’s grace in the love holding all of this together.
Amos brings this word of judgment from the God of Love. This contempt for selfishness comes from the deep ache for the abundant life that comes from generous living. God wants this for us, not only out of concern for our suffering neighbor, but because it is the very best life for us. We know this is true because we feel most whole when we are loving and serving well. Is your favorite memory of your family the time people lavished gifts on you? Or is it when there was a crisis and you all showed up, even when it cost you time, money, or other resources?
Here at the seminary, we have plenty of fellowship around late night campfires. Those nights of laughter and storytelling are great fun. The moments when someone gets serious and shares a struggle they are having in a class or candidacy or with their child/partner/parent/friend—those moments when the laughter stops and the deep wells of concern and love take its place, those moments are richer than the laughter.
We were created for each other. We are stitched up this way. Our hearts recognize that serving a neighbor feels like home because we are created in the image of a servant God. It is from whence we come. We do not come from gluttony and self-preservation; we come from God. We come from love.
The Rev. Jennifer L. Shimota is the Coordinator of Seminary Enrollment at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC. She lives on the seminary campus with her Siberian Husky, Eleanor Rigby. Their very favorite thing is chatting with students while they are out for their walk around campus. Also snacks; they like snacks.
1. Being vulnerable and honest, what is one piece of your life where you could sacrifice for the sake of your neighbor? What resources are plentiful for you—resources God may be calling you to share? Considering the gifts of time, money, reputation, power, or privilege, which resource could you easily share? Which feels scarce?
2. Call to mind a memory wherein your heart felt right because you were serving rather than receiving. Give thanks to God for the deep-seated holy place in you that loves well, recognizing that the source of your neighbor-love is God.
Source of every good thing, there are many voices trying to convince us that your judgment is quick and vengeful, and you are slow to forgiveness. Remind us that your judgment comes from love and you never tire of forgiving us. We love you, and we trust you. Amen.