Friday (December 10, 2021)

“Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end…The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: ‘Surely, I will never forget any of their deeds…”  Amos 8:4,7

When I was sixteen, my high school English teacher gave us an assignment to choose a “value” that we thought most important to one’s character, and then to write an essay explaining our choice.  I chose to write about “respect.”

Not long ago, I was going through some old papers and found that essay. And after re-reading it, I have to say that even with 55 more years of life and learning behind me, I think that if this assignment were given today, I might write the same paper.

It is still true that when I look around at human attitudes and behaviors, almost everything that makes me feel sad, pessimistic, or generally gloomy about the future emanates from some breakdown in our capacity to respect creation and those who dwell therein.

And everything I see that gives me courage or optimism or energy for the future flows from a rebirth of respect; that is, our respect for nature, for differences, for ourselves, for those who are left out or disregarded, or invisible.  Respect is still both our greatest stumbling block and our most profound hope.

The prophet, Amos, was an angry guy – not just angry for himself, but angry on God’s behalf.  The eighth chapter of his oracle is gloomy reading for any of us trying to get into the Christmas spirit.

But to my ear, it seems important to notice that underneath the diatribe against specific sins like greed, exploitation, disregard, hypocrisy, and economic disparity, there is this same root problem of an utter breakdown in respect for those in a different life circumstance or a different social position.

That theme is important, in this season, especially, because in this season we remember that no matter how frustrated or disappointed God may be over our lack of respect, God continues to respect us enough to be born into this human race, to become one of us, and to show us the way back to a life, a society, a world of mutual respect… and, thus, to show us the possibilities of the future into which God is calling us.

Pastor Wayne Miller

Stir up your power, O God, and come. Open our eyes to see your respect for all you have created.  Open our ears to hear the cries of those who feel despised, forgotten, or invisible.  Open our hearts to receive the gift of respect reborn within us.  Amen.