I Raised Up Your Children

Monday, December 2, 2013 — Week of Advent 1, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 1, 2, 3 (morning) // 4, 7 (evening)

Amos 2:6-16

2 Peter 1:1-11

Matthew 21:1-11

Our reading from Amos this morning opens with a list of transgressions. The majority of these faults have to do with how God’s people have treated the poor—selling the needy “for a pair of sandals,” trampling “the poor into the dust of the earth,” and pushing “the afflicted out of the way.” Each of these indictments has a clear parallel to how contemporary American society and policy have affected the poor.

We sell the needy for a pair of sandals when we manufacture shoes and other consumer goods in facilities with dangerous working conditions and wages that leave people in poverty. We trample the poor into the dust of the earth when our agricultural policies drive family farmers out of business and leave our soil stripped of its nutrients. We push the afflicted out of the way when we deny early childhood education to poor families, leaving them many miles behind on the road to opportunity. And we especially push non-white children off the path to prosperity as structural racism continues to restrict their access to education, housing, and economic development.

On the one hand, today’s prophetic Scripture passage makes it seem inevitable that any human society will fall into these patterns of oppression. In Amos’ view of history, the Amorites became a strong, powerful, and prosperous people . . . and God destroyed them. God replaced them with the Israelites, but they in turn grew powerful and prosperous at the expense of the poor. Is it any wonder that other “people of God” would exercise power and pursue prosperity in ways that deprive others?

Yet God has planted seeds of hope in each new generation. God tells the Israelites, “I raised up some of your children to be prophets and some of your youths to be nazirites.” These children are the prophetic and holy gifts that God gives us in order to show his people another way. We can see in these people a deep contentment and joy with simple things. We can also hear them offer a wise critique of conformist values and prejudices.

But how do we respond to these people in their youth and as they grow up? God says, “you made the nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.'” In other words, we feed our children the toxins and addictions of our day and poison their holiness. We silence the prophetic voices of our youth when they reject the assumptions and values that we think keep society from collapsing.

As part of our Advent preparations to meet God in the form of a child, we can search for ways to recognize children as nazirites (people consecrated to God) and prophets (people who articulate God’s dreams for the world). And we can help them grow up to be the people God has called them to be, and to speak the words that God has given them to speak. God has raised them up among us to show us how to be a people of justice, mercy, and love. Let’s look out for them.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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