A famine of hearing the words of the Lord
The prophet Amos recounts a vision from the LORD in which he learns of the consequences of systems and structures that "trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land" (vs. 4). Exploitative commerce - a way of life that focuses on products and wealth while buying and selling the prosperity of the people - can only lead to "mourning" and "lamentation" (vs. 10). Perhaps Amos has received not only a warning about a possible calamitous future, but also a foundation for a possible positive transformation. 'What if society turns?', Amos' vision seems to ask. 'What would it mean to honor truth and value people more than profit?' 'What if we structured our lives and communities in such a way as to value most those who have the least?' 'What if we understood clearly that the honor, success, and empowerment of the poor and needy of the land are keys to a just and promise-filled life for everyone?'
Amos is clear that God's word is finally lost in the midst of societies that devalue the poor and overvalue greed. Verse 11 outlines a final consequence of trampling the needy and bring ruin upon the poor: "The time is surely coming, says the LORD God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst of water, but of hearing the words of the LORD." God's life-giving word cannot be found among those who disregard the needs of the most vulnerable. We hear and honor the word of the LORD when we hear and honor the most vulnerable among us. We participate in preparing for a promising future when we act justly and share equitably. Each time societies fail to provide access to clean water and nutritious food for the poorest and most marginalized, the word of the LORD becomes fainter in our midst. Every moment that we spend justifying our own successes at the expense of those who have no medical care or access to treatment is a moment when we have distanced ourselves from one another and from God's life-giving word. Whenever stigma, discrimination, and fear dominate our actions, laws, and rhetoric, God's word is not being heard.
How can we avoid this famine? How can we live and love so that God's word is heard and God's presence is recognized and celebrated? The best way to stop doing what leads to death is to start doing what leads to life. When the poor are embraced, heard, liberated, and empowered, and when the needy are valued, honored, and included in all areas of our social, political, and economic life and decision making - then the word of the LORD can be heard among us. Then we will have ears to hear.
To Think About: What needs must be addressed as we continue to live with and respond to the presence of HIV in our lives? What word from God might we hear when we turn our attention to the voices that have often been silenced?
Written by: Rev. Jeff Moore, D.Min., Ph.D., St. Louis, Missouri USA and Trained CCoH Facilitator