We are nearing the end of Lent. I have more or less succeeded in some of my resolutions and failed in others. Lent is more enjoyable with a partner. Unfortunately, this year I decided to do three things with three different people. Lent hasn’t been an utter failure though. I have learned more about my strengths and weakness and have become more involved with social justice. I wanted to get involved more, and I have.
Since reading The Art of Biblical Narrative early this year, I have found the motivation to reread the Old Testament. I recently finished Joshua and Amos. Joshua is basically a Jewish epic story. Reading the book in that context has helped me stomach the violence. I have difficulty believing that God told the Jews to annihilate surrounding nations. Still, the book emphasizes more God’s love for a formerly enslaved people. The weak and marginalized are liberated. An allegorical reading of Joshua (a reading Medieval Christians preferred) interprets Joshua’s victory as grace. Through grace, God helps us overcome sin.
Amos is so relevant today in America. The wealthy Israelites have forgotten the God who sides with the marginalized, so Amos preaches a fire-and-brimstone sermon to remind the Jews of God’s wrath. In Joshua, the Jews had the victory because they were obedient to God, but they have forgotten that their victory is due to God’s mercy. Instead of helping liberate the oppressed, they have sided with the oppressors. The Jews have become like Pharaoh. Amos’ words of warning are often cited in social justice contexts today.
Truly, the day of the LORD will be darkness, not light,
gloom without any brightness!
I hate, I despise your feasts,
I take no pleasure in your solemnities.
Even though you bring me your burnt offerings and grain offerings
I will not accept them;
Your stall-fed communion offerings,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me
your noisy songs;
The melodies of your harps,
I will not listen to them.
Rather let justice surge like waters,
and righteousness like an unfailing stream (Amos 5:20-24).
I know that it is not fashionable today to interpret natural disasters and national failures as signs from God, but the Hebrew Scriptures do think of God’s wrath as imminent. The afterlife is not really a concern for the Jews. While I am not interested in reviving this tradition, I do believe we should be perceptive to the “signs of the times”. The racism and poverty in America should make us more comfortable Christians uncomfortable. Amos reminded me that I am wealthy. God does not look kindly on the rich.
Finally, I have begun praying in the morning. No long prayers. Just one Our Father and one Hail Mary. But these two prayers have reminded me of what it means to be a Christian. I am reminded to accept everything as grace, to live modestly, and to forgive those who have offended me. I am reminded that one teenage girl’s “yes” changed history, so my “yes” matters. .