Sunday, October 15, 2006

Amos 5:6-15 (Year B, Proper 23; 19 Pentecost)

Today's appointed reading is Amos 5:6-15. I just recently discovered a new on-line hyper-commentary on Amos that is pretty cool. To check it out, click here. It is part of a larger ongoing Hypertext Bible Commentary project.

One thing that struck me today about Amos 5 is the contrast between seeking and clinging that seems to underlie the theology of the chapter. The call to "seek" certainly stands out in Amos 5. Verses 4, 6, & 14 exhort Israel to seek the Lord and the good.

Amos is advocating a spiritual stance quite different from "clinging." The people cannot simply cling to their faith that the LORD God of hosts is with them, as they are saying (5:14). Neither should they cling to their houses of well-hewn stone or pleasant vineyards (5:11). They have got to look and wait expectantly to encounter God as God really is. They have to push aside every preoccupation that prevents this discipline of active seeking.

I heard one of Leo Tolstoy's metaphors this morning. Tolstoy contrasted a person who clings to a lamp-post and a person able to be on the move by holding a lamp on a pole, able to seek and discover. The latter type of person is not trapped, but is on a path of growth.


Blogger Peter Carey said...

Wow, more good stuff. I guess the challenge will be to see how this work goes when you're not on sabbatical ;)

Anyway, your distinction between "seeking" and "clinging" is very helpful for me in some of my academic work as I explore an Ecclesiology of Communion, but also as I pray and discern what God (and the Church) may have in store for me after seminary. Holding the lamp on a pole lightly seems to be what I am called to do, but I do have a tendency to want to cling to the lamp-post!

In his book on Nonviolence and Bonhoeffer, Stanley Hauerwas echoed some of your comments as he reflects upon the Church:

“That the church is often less than it is meant to be is but part of the witness the church must make to the world on behalf of the world; for nothing is more im portent for the world than for Christians to learn to confess our sins. Accordingly, Christians can never assume we have “finally gotten it right,” exactly because we worship the One who comes often into our lives as the stranger we had not anticipated. For Christians, truth can never be a possession but rather must be received as a gift. Christian tradition rightly understood is one long investigation provoked by the questions that must be asked by a people who worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Hauerwas, 25-26

I sense in the "seeking" there is an element of dynamism as well as courage, in contrast to "clinging" that might be more static and more related to fear. I wonder how clinging and seeking relate to our Anglican Communion challenges at present?

Sun Oct 15, 11:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Peter, Thanks so much for this! This comment is really substantive. You can leave a comment like this on my blog anytime! ---S.

Mon Oct 16, 06:19:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


There is a false dicotomy which I think Amos does address. For instance, within the tradition which I am associated (Southern Baptist) there are an quite a lot of people that hold fast to a "rapture" position. This position as you know teaches that the believing church will be caught away from the tribulation. What I see in Amos is a dire warning to "clining" to eschatology so that personal holiness can be put off. Amos has a dire warning for those who would do such a thing.

Thanks for this post Steve! Good stuff.

Mon Oct 16, 08:34:00 AM GMT-5  

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