Faith Column: Knowing how to connect with scripture
“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 for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it” (NRSV, Amos 8: 11-12).“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 for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it” (NRSV, Amos 8: 11-12).
“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 for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it” (NRSV, Amos 8: 11-12).
Have you ever read something in the holy scriptures that just shook you to your very core, scared the “bewillikers” out of you, and forced you to examine your country, your faith, your schools, your politics, and yes, even your very being? For me, when I read these words from Amos, one of the Minor Prophets, writing prior to the Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in approximately 760-750 B.C., they shook me to my core.
When I think of something that is unbearable and incomprehensible, being separated from the word of the lord truly frightens me. In the case of Amos, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was rich, complacent and fulfilled the minimum requirements for being in relationship with the Lord. Unfortunately, when they had become rich they exploited the poor and downtrodden with fraudulent business practices and “buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals” (Amos 8:5). As a result they subsequently lost their special relationship with the Lord God through their actions and suffered the consequences. Jesus Christ, in the New Testament, reminds us of the mandate that we must be in a righteous relationship with the Lord and with our fellow man (Deut 6:5 and Lev19: 18 summarized in Luke 10: 25-28). When the Northern Kingdom rejected Amos’ prophecy, the end result was catastrophic!
When I read and digest the holy scripture I attempt to place myself in the times that I am reading about (known as exegesis) or attempt to understand how they would be interpreted in today’s world (known as hermeneutics). Using the approach to understand the loss of hearing the words of the Lord in today’s society, I had to ask myself what is meant by a famine of hearing the words of the Lord today. In an attempt to place the phrase into context, it was necessary to recognize how we are fed spiritually. It was necessary to examine our society and find where we can be fed or nourished through the receiving of the words of the Lord. My first area was to see if I received spiritual nourishment from any governmental sources and I concluded that in today’s society I could not expect the government to provide me with spiritual nourishment.
I then went to our secular system of education to examine the same prospect, but again found that I would find no spiritual nourishment provided through purely secular schools. Perhaps one of the most potent aspects of our lives consists in family, if not in government or schooling. The meaning of family today is not the same as when I was raised, and the number of those who declare themselves to be “nones,” signifying no religion, or atheist or agnostic, are growing exponentially.
To be spiritually fed and nourished would require that direction and understanding of the holy scriptures would have to be provided. Each of us requires some form of a moral compass or norm that is worthy of being called an attempt toward holiness on our part, something that would set us apart and remind us of that Biblical saying about being “in” the world, but not “of” the world. The holy scriptures themselves provide this insight into the words of the Lord, therefore to be separated from them would be catastrophic. To be spiritually fed and nourished would also mean that leaders who are trained and capable of understanding the holy scriptures would need to be available for interpretation so that all of the layers of meaning are expressed to us. It also requires a community of faithful believers who are of like mind and desire to be in a proper relationship between themselves and the Lord God and between themselves and their neighbor.
The next question arose as to whether or not a building was required, and that did not appear to be an absolute requirement. The Holy Writ itself, properly trained and experienced leadership and a group of believers who desire to be immersed in God’s written word to us are absolute imperatives. Does a requirement exist for persons to be of a particular denomination for nourishment to take place? My humble opinion is that if we, as brothers and sisters in Christ can join together in love, worship and praise, then everything else will fall into place in the Lord God’s good timing. Please join with a group of fellow believers this Sunday to proclaim the good news, rejoice in our fellowship and love of God, serve one another in love and patience and unite with each other as brothers and sisters united together in Christ. It has been and will continue to be that we are fed and nourished daily from the Body of Christ, the Church.
Bain White is the pastor at St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of Grace.Bain White is the pastor at St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of Grace.Bain White is the pastor at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of Grace.
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