Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My Lenten Discipline

The Prophet Amos by Gustave Dore

People who follow the church's liturgical calendar are about to enter the season of Lent.

Traditionally, people try to give up some luxury, a normal pleasure or a bad behavior during this season (we usually fail and learn more about what it means to depend upon Christ instead of ourselves.) Alternatively, one can add a discipline during Lent, such as spiritual study (many churches offer a "Lenten Series" for this reason), acts of charity or added times of prayer.

My discipline will be to pray over Amos 7:2 -


When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,‘O Lord God, forgive, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’

God sent a locust plague on Israel because of national corruption. The rich trampled on the poor, justice was partial and corrupt, and people dabbled in all kinds of false religion instead being true to the One God.

The prophet Amos interceded for the people. Seeing the destruction worked by the locusts, Amos worried that God's people would be annihilated. They (The ancestral name Jacob, like Israel, stands for the whole nation) were too small to withstand God-sized punishment.

The verse has been nagging at me for weeks. I've been more aware than usual of my own distance from God in attitudes and behaviors. My own inflated sense of self is giving way to the realization of how small I am in the scheme of things. Personally, the last few years have seen difficulties multiply and some familiar joys disappear. And beyond my personal challenges, The Episcopal Church is wretched beyond description - and the act of describing it only makes things more toxic.

Somehow, this verse speaks to all that mess. Not sure how, exactly, which is why my intention is to spend Lent with Amos 7:2 in a couple of ways:

Recollection: When I find myself anxious, angry or otherwise revved up, I will call this verse to mind and repeat it to myself.

Contemplation: I will set aside quiet time and space to read this verse, be still and give God my best attention, so He can show me what he wants in these words.

May your Lent be a holy season. May you find the compassion, mercy and help of Christ close at hand.

3 comments:

David Handy+ said...

Bravo, Tim+. Spoken like a true pastor, with an unending burden for the people entrusted to your care.

Amos 7:2 is similar to be the better known laments or confessions of Jeremiah, the so-called "weeping prophet" (see Jer. 9:1ff.). Jeremiah was so distressed because he knew the harsh judgment that was coming on unrepentant Judah. For decades he preached the call to repent but his warnings were ignored, just as TEC has been stubbornly doing for years.

During Lent, especially Holy Week, we read those very moving laments in Jer. 11 to 20 as part of the Daily Office. But choosing a single, short text like Amos 7:2 helps to focus our attention and rivet it on a text we can remember throughout this holy season. Well done, my friend!

May you, and the people of Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, and all readers of this blog, experience a truly holy and renewing Lent.

Alice C. Linsley said...

"Personally, the last few years have seen difficulties multiply and some familiar joys disappear. And beyond my personal challenges, The Episcopal Church is wretched beyond description - and the act of describing it only makes things more toxic."

So Amos is an appropriate Lenten discipline. May you be prepared for a bright Easter! May you experience afresh that God's mercies are renewed daily.

Dickey B said...

Tim+, I hesitate to intrude on your lenten meditation. I agree with your other two commenters that Amos 7:2 is most appropriate to our current situation (and any situation where we are tempted to be judges and not watchmen on the walls).

The first thought that crossed my mind was this: Isn't that just like Jesus? May this Lent bring peace to your soul, dear friend.