9.23.22 – Greive
God is angry, because we, who are not grieved at the ruin of other brothers and sisters are becoming something less than human. This angers God because God loves us. And God is angry because we are diminishing people, ruining people with our policies, and in our lust after excess. And we are making them something less than humans.
This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.
Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau. And Bishop Wright and I are having a conversation based on For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description.
It’s good to be back with you, Bishop.
Rob: Good to be back with you. Yeah, I’ve missed ya.
Melissa: And I, you. This week’s devotion is based off Amos Chapter 6, 1 – 7. And you called it, Grieved. You said that Amos knew that it must anger God when we lust over things and lose the ability to be grieved at the “ruin” of other human beings. Can you share more about what’s resonating with you regarding the passage?
Rob: Well, yeah. So, Amos, is– You know, before we get there, let’s talk a little bit about, you know, Amos and talk a little bit about what a prophet is, right? So, Amos, without sort of giving you a seminary lesson, Amos is one of the minor prophets of Israel. A prophet is the men and the women who who sit under the Word of God. That the Word of God is alive and dancing in their mouth and in their heart and in their viewpoint.
And two things you got to remember about profits, one that cared deeply about God. And number two, they care deeply about neighbor, right? And so, they’re the canary in the coal mine, you know, when things are going wrong, when the nation’s missing the mark, when the people’s lips are in one direction, and they’re behind are in another direction. You know, it’s the prophets. They are the checkpoints. It’s the prophets who come and say, hey, you are not living the way you say. You walked away from your uniqueness. In terms of the biblical story, you know, the people of Israel walking away from their uniqueness, which is to care radically for the poor. Because God cared radically for them when they were in bondage in Egypt. You know, the prophet reminds the people of their humble and modest beginnings, when they were without help, and when they were no people. That’s literally what the word Hebrew means. That they were no people, right? And so, when you were no people, God was merciful to you. And made a way out of no way for you.
And so, therefore, as a nation going forward, remember who you are and who you are. Remember that God had intervened on your behalf. So, don’t get too cute when you make it. You know, when you’ve got the nice house and the pretty lawn, and a couple of nickels in the bank, don’t forget where you’ve come from. That’s what the prophet does.
I read a commentary one time and it said, nobody really likes Amos. In fact, Amos got kicked out, right, of all the holy places in the sanctuary. Because he had an edge, man. I mean, he deeply loved. And when you deeply love people, you’ve got to speak up on behalf.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, can I just follow up with that question? Like, I mean, was any prophet actually ever loved?
Rob: Yeah, we love them dead.
Melissa: Or in deep community with people? I think being a prophet must be a lonely job.
Rob: As I’ve said before, on the podcast, I get a chance to hang out with some of our civil rights leaders, our national treasures. And, you know, I was talking to Ambassador Andrew Young one time and he was just marveling and how many friends Martin Luther King had picked up after he died.
Melissa: Yes, that’s right.
Rob: You know, in the year that he won the Nobel Prize here in Atlanta in 1964, the year of my birth, that could scarcely throw a dinner party for him. Because he was simultaneously leading a boycott of a downtown department store, I believe it was Riches. And so, no, we don’t like our prophets in real time, we like them dead. Where we can begin to paint, you know, on their canvases. And so, Amos just refuses. And you know, we also don’t like the prophets because they refuse to be bought off. Like they are for God and they are for neighbor and there is nothing, not a damn thing people can do about it. And so, they kicked Amos out, but Amos kept talking. You know from a little place called to Toka. We of course have Toka, Georgia, spelled differently, but I’m always amused by that.
So, to get right down to it, we need the prophets. Because we know something about ourselves. We know that our hearts can get fat and lazy. We know that we can become obsessed with ourselves and our ease and our comfort. We know that about ourselves if we are honest. We shouldn’t be– You know, we shouldn’t be consumed by guilt or shame or obligation. We should just know that it is a facet of being a human being. And so, God is good to us. And God is good merciful to us because God brings these people, you know, into view, into earshot, who remember what it was like to be vulnerable and to remember when God saved us and who remember that we’re supposed to be a unique witness in the world. And so, not that we’re supposed to be the sort of these religious character. We are supposed to combine compassion in everything that we do. So, this is why the prophet is important.
The word I use For Faith is called Grieve because that is Amos’ word. Amos says that you cannot be grieved, you are not grieved at the ruin, again his word, of Joseph. And Joseph is here being used as all the vulnerable, all the sick, all the poor, all those who are suffering really bad outcomes in life. Those who are on the sort of unfortunate end of policies, and you know, geopolitical policies, etc.
I mean, when I think about the ruin of people, and I think about a prophet, what would the prophets say right now, today about how politicians are loading up onto airplanes migrants, people who have come to this country seeking legitimate asylum, and making political spectacles out of them. Incidentally, the two governors who are doing this, also professed to be Christians. So, you know, what would Amos say about that? My guess is that Amos would have something to say like, where is the compassion in this nation? We’ve made political spectacles out to people. And that means that we’re patriotic? What does it mean? Or does it mean that you have forgotten who you are? And you’ve forgotten love thy neighbor? Is it loving to make pawns out of people for political posturing? So, this is why we don’t like the prophets, because the prophets have something to say about our adopted best practices.
Melissa: You know, you said, remember, a number of times. And each time you said that, it struck me as you know, re, member, like remembering, as in how do we include everyone in the membership of, you know, Christ Jesus?
Rob: Well, and this is it. Because our temptation is to isolate, right? To exclude, right? I mean, this is what we do. And so, rather than saying, let’s figure out a policy around immigration and the asylum where people have their dignity, work gets done, and secure borders as it is necessary to secure rather than doing the hard work or figuring out how we hold intention, being compassionate nation, and at the same time securing our borders. We would rather play Lord God over some people’s lives, that incidentally happen to be poor and brown, by and large.
And so, it’s the prophets who don’t forget these things. And it’s the prophets, I mean, even if you read Amos, the 6th chapter, you know, he’s talking about lusting over comfort and lusting over your own security and lusting over the finer things. He’s not doing a guilt trip. He’s doing a God thing. And you know, what the prophets do, which is really complicated to do, only for the grownups listening, is that God’s anger is connected to God’s love, right? And so, God is angry because we, who are not grieved, at the ruin of other brothers and sisters are becoming something less than human. This angers God because God loves us. And God is angry, because we are diminishing people, ruining people with our policies and in our lust after excess, and we are making them something less than human. So, God is angry whenever you and I start engineering our lives or other people’s lives into something we were never intended to be. We were always intended to be fully possessing full dignity, worth, and value, all of us. And so, you know, people don’t want an angry God. But thank God for an angry God, because the anger actually comes from love. And there’s always a call in this anger to come home to yourself. That’s why the prophet. The prophet is actually there a road sign on the road saying, “Hey, stop the foolishness. Come home. Come back to yourself. Come back to God. And be who God made you to be, right? And thrive all of you. And thrive.”
Melissa: Well, we could probably finish the episode right now. But I do have another question. Both admission and confession right after this.
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Melissa: All right, welcome back to For People. So, Bishop both in admission and a confession. You know, for the listeners who don’t know, I typically get bishop’s devotions a day or two before we record. And it’s not like we have a rehearsal or anything. I just asked these questions and Bishop will do his best to unpack or answer as best as he can.
And this is what happened this morning Bishop, it was actually last night. I have a friend who’s going through kind of like a dark night, a difficult season. And I sent this person a text and I said, I love you. And my heart hurts because yours is hurting. And this person said, I’m sorry for that. Good night. So, it was kind of like I’m sorry, that my heart hurts. And this is what I said, it’s no need to be sorry. It’s what real love is. And I thought to myself, oh, crap, that’s what real love is. When our hearts hurt, when other people’s hurt. And man, that hit me. I don’t know that my heart hurts when– I mean, I feel a little pain, but it means I’m not in relationship with or know people deeply enough to fully care, to be grieved by, and I don’t know what to do about it Bis–
Rob: Well, you know, first of all, I just appreciate you saying that, sharing something that real out of your own real life. And I think that is what the cost of love is, right? I mean, we love family, you know. We hurt when they hurt. Friends, we hurt when they hurt. Those of us who have been through some things, when we see others going through those things, we know the contours of that pain and our heart breaks, our heart goes out to them, etc. It’s a part of being human. It’s a part of the way that God developed the architecture of the universe. And when we work against that, we’re being something that we’re not. We’re not staying true to the engineered design. And I think this is what the prophet has to say, you know. In an individualistic world, I could see why the person would apologize to you, for your heart breaking at their pain. And I think this is why the Christian message is so important to continue to say these days. Because we are all bound up together. There is no escaping that. And some people want to escape that because it is inconvenient at times or because it’s messy at times. But this is what life is as a human being. From our very birth, we’re messy, right? We are messy. I have changed enough diapers to know. We are messy. And we are grumpy. And we can act inappropriately towards one another and we can be selfish. We can be hurtful. And it’s all terribly messy. So, we just have to acknowledge that, right?
And this is what I love about the prophets. There is just no hiding from their words. There is no hiding. They penetrate deeply. You know, one of Amos’ famous lines is that, I despise your festivals. Here is he talking about God. He is talking about how religious people will make fine Sunday mornings, or fine services, or fine masses. And yet, won’t care about justice. How we can have all the beautiful religious programming, make all the sacrifices, have the beautiful investments, and the beautiful architecture, but we are very far away from God. We can sing beautiful hymns. And Amos goes on to say, you know, God don’t care about that, you know. What God cares about is justice and of course he says, let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. That is Amos’, you know, the poet prophet, one of his best lines. He is helping us understand that it is about justice. And it’s not about what we do from a condescending standpoint. Like, I want you to come up to me. No, that’s what justice is. Justice is deeply wrapped up in dignity, right? The dignity of other human beings. So, we want for them, what we want for ourselves. So, when we don’t want it as much for others, whatever your other is, everybody has their other, then we are at some distance from God’s vision of justice and shared humanity.
Melissa: I agree with all of that. And I am not defending, I am not. So, reader, listener here, I am not defending what Governor DeSantis did. In fact, I live in Florida, and was absolutely appalled. And yet, so I’m not defending, I think it was quite interesting where that plane was headed. And I wonder, if some of these states who have a “border problem” and that’s how they see it, I wonder if they feel like the other states just either don’t care or aren’t helping solve and are trying to get, I don’t know. It was appalling and I’m not saying it was right. And why Cape Cod?
Rob: Well, we know why Martha’s Vineyard, right? We know why. You know, rumored to be sort of a Democratic stronghold, you know, where the rich Democrats go to sort of play.
Melissa: Very affluent.
Rob: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Well, let me say this. I absolutely, you know, I don’t want to knock you out of your chair, Melissa. I absolutely affirm Governor Abbott and Governor DeSantis in saying, they’ve got a problem. I think they are quite right. It’s documentable.
Melissa: But it’s our problem.
Rob: There is a problem. We have a problem. And the problem is, how do we secure our borders? It is important to secure our borders. I get it. It is important. No doubt about it. I think what the prophet would say, can we figure out together all of this genius, all this smart, Republicans and Democrats together, can we figure out how to affirm the dignity of human beings and the same time, secure the borders? You know, why do we have to secure the borders at the expense of, the dignity of people? And this is Republican and Democrat alike. I mean, both are on record of putting folks in cages, putting kids in cages. So, in a bipartisan fashion, we failed. You know, what is interesting to me is that, you know, it is rumored that one of the governors at least is interested in running for President. I would be intrigued. I would be intrigued, you know, if that Governor demonstrated real leadership chops, by doing something, you know, more significant and substantial than putting people on an airplane, you know, just hurting them and demonstrating leadership. Now, that would be really eye-catching, right? Just to say, hey, look, I’m not just sitting over here as a critic of the incumbent president. But I’ve got a real idea about how we can do this. Both are Catholics. Interestingly enough. Both are.
And I don’t question their Christianity. But I just think their prophet would say, God is irreducible. And the Prophet would say, and so as neighbor. And so, make your policies with those two things as your guiding lights. And so, I think that is open for Republicans or Democrats. And I think we’ve got to, you know, do the important work of securing our borders, etc. But how will we get there? You know, do we need to ruin people? This is a great country, as I’ve said before, I do believe it. And I think we demonstrate greatness, by you know, holding fast to what we say about ourselves that we are compassionate, we even say we are a Christian nation. So, you know, when we do that, when we pull that blanket over ourselves, when we say we are Christian, then that has some demands on it. And I think this is what the prophet is saying to the people of Israel. You are special. If you’re going to claim exceptionalism, then you’re going to have to live exceptionally. And then God has some real clear ideas about what that looks like. And so, I think this is what is at issue right now? I think what really twists Amos hair in a bun is when we say these fine things about ourselves and our relationship to God and then live as other people who make no claims about God at all. And this is what gets Amos really fired up.
So, we need some more Amos’ in our lives. Let’s listen, listen, listen. Bishop, thank you so much for this stimulating and very thoughtful conversation. And listeners, we thank you for listening and tuning into For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright.
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