Amos and Amaziah: a closer look at Amos 7:10-17

In the 7th chapter of Amos, strategically tucked between his 3rd and 4th visions, we find an account of a brief confrontation between Amaziah “the priest of Bethel” and Amos of Tekoa the 8th Century (BCE) prophet. In searching for a narrative, we find that the compliers of this book have left us only a small number of concrete clues. We do not find a time frame, setting, or resolution to the conflict, though some things may be inferred. From the text we know that Jeroboam is King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel at the time, and that Amaziah is stationed at Bethel, (v. 10) so we might assume that the confrontation takes place in that city. This makes sense as Amos is a southerner and Bethel is only about 10 miles north of the Judean capital of Jerusalem. In actuality, this is all of the textual setting we have. The text is as follows:

 10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said,

‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
    

and Israel must go into exile
    

away from his land.’”

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

16        “Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.


You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
    

and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

17        Therefore thus says the Lord:


‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
    

and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
    

and your land shall be parceled out by line;


you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
    

and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

(NRSV)

            Many scholars maintain that due to the brief nature of this episode and its conclusion with an oracle against Amaziah the primary character in the passage is Amaziah himself and not Amos. Thus a prophecy against Amaziah would align him with the Kingdom of Israel and King Jeroboam and would continue the trajectory of the visions in which it is embedded. Wolff writes

“Once it is acknowledged that Amaziah, and not Amos, is the focus of the story, there is no longer cause to misunderstand it as a fragment of some prophetic biography. Instead we must recognize here the clear form of an apophthegma (memorabile), in which an historical episode is presented solely for the purpose of making intelligible a pointed prophetic oracle by explaining the circumstances of its origin”[1]

Perhaps then, as we think deeply about what this passage has to say to us, we must first take a look at Amaziah. Who was “the priest of Bethel”? What would it mean to be a priest at a prominent sanctuary of the king in the 8th century BCE? I will argue that we can deduce from scripture, archaeology, and other scholarship that Amaziah was in an intentional and beneficial allegiance to the king and the kingdom, that the temple structure and those that worked in it are part of a millennia’s long tradition of comingling the power of the state and religious leaders, and that this has deep implications for how we think about God and God’s action in the world.

            First, Who was Amaziah? Not much is revealed to us in the text. We learn only that he is “the priest of bethel.” (v. 10) Yet, when we put Amaziah in a social and historical location, taking into account the words attributed to him, we can discern who this priest might have been. It is likely that Amaziah performed normal priestly rituals and oversaw the care and life of the temple at Bethel. As Wolff notes, “Apparently the priest Amaziah was charged with supervisory functions at the state sanctuary (cf. Jer 20:1-2 and 29:26).”1 This most likely gave Amaziah some power over not only people working in the temple, but also those who came to worship there. “Although he is only described as the “priest of Bethel” it seems clear that Amaziah is the priest in charge of the shrine at Bethel,”[2] and as such he is given a great deal of authority and influence over what goes on within the city itself.   

We note Amaziah’s apparent authority to expel Amos from the city (vv. 12-13) and his direct message to King Jeroboam, (vv. 10-11) and we are given the image of a priest with authority and status in the temple-palace complex. The temple-palace complex was truly the seat of power for any nation in the ANE. It held leaders and meeting places for commerce, religion, and war. “The temple-palace complex was the central, organizing, unifying institution in the ANE. It not only legitimated the political role of the king but was central to the economic structure of the state (1 Kings 5-9).”[3] As such, the temple and the royal palace in the ancient Near East are inextricably reliant on one another. It seems that the temple gives authority to the king while the king gives authority to the temple.

            With the influence and authority of such a priest in mind, let us briefly look at the way Amaziah would have fit into an ancient Near Eastern trend of temple workers who report prophecy to the king. “The shrine at Bethel was…directly identified as the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom. Amaziah…the official representative of the state priesthood”[4], and we could draw a direct line between Amaziah’s report to the king, and the prophetic reporting of many temple officials in the centuries before him. We know from the documents found at Mari (ca. 1792-1760 BCE) and Neo-Assyrian texts found at Nineveh (ca. 681-627 BCE) that prophetic activity seemed to center around the king and the welfare of the kingdom.[5] This is most likely due to the ANE view that kings were children of the gods and their welfare depended largely on the gods’ favor. Some kings obsessively concerned themselves with the collection of prophetic oracles, especially from prophets whose words had proven true in the past.

We have records of one messenger of Mari, Nur-Suen, exasperatedly reporting to have written the king concerning a particular oracle, claiming “he has already written about it ‘once, twice, even five times,’ indicating the seriousness with which he took his duties to report it to the king.”[6] Often in the ANE priests, prophets, and other temple personnel were hired and supported by the king and lived in and around the Temple-Palace complex. From Assyria all the way to Egypt, it seems “the distinction between priests and royal officials was often blurred. It was not unknown for a high priest to be appointed vizier by the Pharaoh, or vice versa.”[7] Thus it would not be out of the ordinary for Amaziah to view himself as a bureaucrat who directly reported religious and prophetic activity to the king. We even get the sense in verse 13 that Amaziah views the temple as a political place, at least as much if not more than a holy one. Rather than referring to the temple as a temple of YHWH, or of Ba’al, or of anything in the spiritual realm, he refers to it as “the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” (v. 13)

             Amaziah would not have been merely a beneficiary of status due to a royal appointment, he also would most likely have been intricately involved in stately decision making, administration, and even “commander of the temple guard.”2 As Gomes points out, “The priest Pashur was designated as… ‘chief guardsman’ in Jer. 20:1-3 (cf. Jer. 37:13). Indeed, Amaziah does not appear in the passage as priest, he is nowhere seen offering sacrifices. It is his role as guardian of the king’s interests that is emphasized.”2 There is little doubt that “Amaziah does have influence in the decision-making process of the state.”[8] Of course with such a little information to inform us about Amaziah, we may not need to go so far as to doubt that Amaziah performed sacrifices and other priestly functions; however, Gomes’ point that here that we see Amaziah as defender of the king and with the mindset of a guardsman opens our eyes to the powerful position that Amaziah holds.

            Amaziah, then, from his position of temple authority, says to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there” (v. 12). This alludes to what we know of many prophets in the 8th century BCE. Often prophets would work in the temples and send messages to kings from their respective gods.[9] Generally these prophets would earn their bread or make a living from wages given them for their prophecies. We see evidence of such payment of prophets in 1 Kings 17:8-16 with Elijah and the Widow of Zerephath. Thus, what we hear from Amaziah in v. 12 clues us in to two important things. One, Amaziah views Amos as a “seer”, or a visionary prophet. It makes sense then why we find this story placed among the visions of Amos. Second, it reveals that Amaziah believes that Amos is a prophet who earns his living by his prophecy.  Amaziah initially thinks that Amos is a part of the same elite temple structure with which Amaziah is so familiar, and urges him to return to his home and make his living with his own people.

            In making this demand of Amos, we have already identified Amaziah’s royal allegiance. He refers to Bethel as the king’s sanctuary partly to show Amos where it is that his authority comes from. Amos then, in his response gives a different referent for his authority and allegiance. As Jeremias establishes in his commentary on Amos:

“The complexity of these discourses derives from the fact that the two dialogue partners are not really being portrayed in their mutual reactions to the actual course of this dispute, but rather in connection with the authority in whose name and commission they are acting in the first place… Both speakers cite their dialogue partner either literally or substantively to their respective superiors (vv. 11, 16). Through these artistic devices, the narrator manages from the very beginning to juxtapose – in the figures of the priest Amaziah and the prophet Amos – state interest on the one hand, and the divine will on the other.”[10]

It is clear then why we would find Amos implicating Amaziah along with the house of Jeroboam and the elite of the northern kingdom of Israel. Amaziah is in a clearly intentional and beneficial allegiance to the king and the kingdom against whom Amos is prophesying.

            Furthermore, we find Amaziah in a system designed to use prophets and prophesy as a way to uphold a monarchical structure and to support the kingship.  This is a system long standing, ancient already in fact by the time we read of it in the 8th century BCE. “Amos vii 10-17 presupposes a royal attitude toward prophecy consistent with the picture from Israel’s larger ancient Near Eastern context.”[11] Amos’ oracle against Amaziah comes from someone outside the presupposed structure of temple prophecy and thus subverts the system that Amaziah himself is trying to maintain by his actions. “In his capacity as a priest, Amaziah informs Jeroboam II of prophetic activity that he has witnessed at Bethel, much as the priest Ahum had done for Zimri-Lim centuries earlier at Mari. Amaziah’s actions should be regarded as those of a state official.”[12] Due to the placement of this dialogue within the book of Amos, the historical location and words of Amaziah, and what we know of temple-palace prophets in the ANE, we can now take an informed look at Amos’ response to Amaziah.

            Amos’ first words contain a resounding notion that, I believe, must have stricken worry and panic, if not terror, in the ears of Amaziah. “I am no prophet,” he says, “nor am I a prophet’s son,” or else a prophet’s disciple or a prophet in training (v. 14).  Amaziah assumes that Amos is a part of an established temple structure, and thus could be easily dismissed; yet Amos insists that not only is he not in that club, but that God has sent him first hand with a message to the system in place.

            In response to Amaziah’s assertion that Amos could go back south and earn a living as a prophet, Amos rejects this notion by saying that he is already well established as a “herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees” (v. 14). This suggests that not only is Amos not a part of the temple system, but that he doesn’t need to be in Bethel saying these things. He is only here at the instruction of YHWH. A notion which would be extremely unnerving to someone in Amaziah’s position, one which places so much trust on the kingdom and its systems.

            Amos then moves to an oracle of destruction against Amaziah, his family, his land, and exile for the people of Israel.  He continues themes of earlier destruction against the house of Jeroboam and the kingdom, yet now applies them directly to Amaziah. Amos asserts in these lines that God has said that the destruction that is coming to the northern kingdom will specifically come to Amaziah and his family. Dying by the sword, becoming a prostitute in the city, having ancestral lands parceled out to your enemies; these are all consequences of destruction by an invading and conquering army. We know that the Neo-Assyrian army comes from the north and the northern kingdom of Israel falls in 722, so it would seem that Amos’ prophecy was accurate.

            In all, I think Amos interaction with Amaziah in these verses can serve to give us a fuller understanding of his prophecy as a whole. “Amos sees Amaziah implicated in the power structures of his day. He senses that he is siding with the establishment (7:16) and pronounces judgment by denying the Bethel priesthood a future at the central sanctuary (7:17).”[13] Through this conflict the narrator has given us glimpse into perhaps the core of Amos’ message: “Wherever king and priest as representatives of the state determine the degree to which both they and their subjects are to accept the word of God, God… stipulates the end of this state, which is no longer acceptable to [God].”[14]

            Finally, what does this tell us about God? A vast number of things, I am sure. But perhaps the most pointed thing here is that God will find a way around the structures we build.  We find in this passage a God who will find loopholes and go-betweens in our societal structures and will use them to speak truth to power. For as we know, “It is hard to speak the truth to power when enjoying the privileges of power.”[15] It is my conviction that theopolitical structures such as courts and churches will always have their ideas of justice muddled by power, culture, and privilege. Amos, I believe, would have much to say to a justice system whose laws keep an entire class of people in systems of recidivism. Amos, I believe, would have much to say to churches who spend more time and energy maintaining their own buildings and budgets than to serving those around them.  Amos, I believe, would have much to say to nations and companies who hoard land and exploit workers for the sake of a profit margin. In Amos we see God making a way to speak truth to power structures, holding them accountable for the ways they attempt to silence or dilute God. Perhaps a close reading of this text will open our eyes to the ways we use our privilege and power to silence or expel those who buck our systems.  We can rest assured, however, that God will make a way to send Word to those who need to hear it. May our ears be ever open.

 


[1] Hans Walter Wolff, Joel and Amos: A Commentary On the Books of the Prophets Joel and Amos, ed. and trans. S Dean McBride (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), 308-10.

[2] Bruce C. Birch, Hosea, Joel, and Amos, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 1997), 238.

[3] David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 5 (Downers Grove, IL: Anchor Bible, 1992), 49.

[4] Shalom M. Paul, Amos: a Commentary On the Book of Amos, ed. Frank Moore Cross (Minneapolis: Fortress Pr, 1991), 239.

[5] see: Martti Nissinen with contributions by C.L. Seow and Robert K. Ritner, Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East, ed. Peter Machinist (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003)

[6] Blake J. Couey, “Amos vii 10-17 and royal attitudes toward prophecy in the ancient Near East.” Vetus Testamentum 58, no. 3 (January 1, 2008): 300-314. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 16, 2014), 303.

[7] Gomes, J F. The Sanctuary of Bethel and the Configuration of Israelite Identity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co., 2006, 155-6.

[8] Gomes, J F. The Sanctuary of Bethel and the Configuration of Israelite Identity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co., 2006, 156.

[9] see: Martti Nissinen with contributions by C.L. Seow and Robert K. Ritner, Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East, ed. Peter Machinist (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003)

[10] Jörg Jeremias, The Book of Amos: a Commentary, 1st ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 137-38.

[11] Blake J. Couey, “Amos vii 10-17 and royal attitudes toward prophecy in the ancient Near East.” Vetus Testamentum 58, no. 3 (January 1, 2008): 300-314. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 16, 2014), 312.

[12] Blake J. Couey, “Amos vii 10-17 and royal attitudes toward prophecy in the ancient Near East.” Vetus Testamentum 58, no. 3 (January 1, 2008): 300-314. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 16, 2014), 312.

[13] Gomes, J F. The Sanctuary of Bethel and the Configuration of Israelite Identity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co., 2006, 157.

[14] Jörg Jeremias, The Book of Amos: a Commentary, 1st ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 138.

[15] Bruce C. Birch, Hosea, Joel, and Amos, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 1997), 240.


… Polo

Last week I met a seafarer from Poland, and on the way to Best Buy, we hit it off talking about cars.  He wished he could buy a Dodge Charger and ship it back to his home. We talked gas prices and speeding tickets and the differences between our education systems. And the whole time I was making different attempts at pronouncing his name. I tried Micha, Malkoo, Malcho… Every time he politely tried to correct me, and every time I tried to mimic the phlegm production in the middle of his name.

We got back to the center from our trip to Best Buy, and we sat at one of the tables across from our computers. I offered him a cup of coffee. He passed, but I needed some. When I got back with my coffee, I asked him, “Why do you do what you do?”

… He didn’t understand my poorly worded query, so I tried again.

“Working on the ships. Why do you do that?”

.

I’ve found that asking “why?” questions, after you’ve broken the initial awkward iceberg with someone, can help quickly take the conversation to a deeper level. It gets at motivations and subtext in a way that ‘when’ ‘where’ and ‘how’ can’t.

.

He talked about his need to make money, but he quickly began to talk about his relationship with his girlfriend, and how much she meant to him. He talked about how this job allowed him to spend his off months with her and how he loved spending so many long days free to enjoy her company. He hoped they would get married soon.

It’s amazing how Love connects us and molds us and shapes us.  If there were nothing else to connect my Polish friend and I, the desire to love and have that love returned is something that I believe connects us all. We want to feel desired and cared for. We want purpose and meaning. We want adventure and beauty. We want to change the world. Doesn’t Love give us all of those things and more?

Despite his rejection of religion and resistance to talking about God, I could tell that there was a deep longing in him, as there is in myself, to get to know Love and the nature of it. We talked for quite a while.

Finally, towards the end of our deep conversation about love, and life, and why bad things happen to people, I took one more failed attempt at his name, and he said, “No, Marco! Marco! Like Marco Polo!!” ,and we both laughed loudly at the embarrassingly long time it took me understand “Marco!”

.

God is Love, and that Love is revealed in Christ. I would ask that those who read this would pray that God would continue to open Marco’s heart to the Love being offered through Jesus Christ, and I pray for more opportunities to discuss the deep, real truths of life with those who we serve.

-grace and peace


61.

A couple of weeks ago I made a few new friends at Global Maritime who loved to play pool. After playing a couple of games with them, they decided to teach me a new game, which they called 61. It was totally new to me, and I’m still not sure that they weren’t making up some of the rules as they went, but it was a great time. It took me a while to catch on, but eventually I even won a game!

Later in the evening before we were about to head back to their ship, I asked one of my new friends about his family, and he began to tell me about his two little girls and about how his wife was struggling to keep up with them while he was away. He had bought the older one a lap top for doing her homework at Best Buy earlier that day.

I asked him if it would be alright if I prayed for them, and he said of course. So together we prayed for his family, for their strength and unity as he was away. I was reminded to pray for all of our seafarers and their families. Often times their work is the best way to provide for their families monetarily, but nothing can make up for the lack of a father’s presence. So, I would ask that those who read this pray for the families of our seafaring friends, and specifically that in the absence of their earthly fathers, that our heavenly Father would be particularly present and tangible to the families in the times of their absence, providing the peace and comfort only God can provide.

I was then handily thumped in one last game of pool.

-grace and peace


MLK.

This past monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. day, and it is one of my favorite traditions that the saturday before would be a day of service to honor the clergyman, activist, and non-violent leader of the civil rights movement. The YAVs took an opportunity to serve at a food bank which is operated by Jefferson Presbyterian Church.

It was a really great morning. Personally, I enjoyed the company much more that the work as my job was to hang out at the NyQuil table and see that each family only took one. So, as you can guess, I quickly found other ways to amuse myself such as finding creative ways to arrange the bottles and having a dance off with a little girl. Though our jobs were not strenuous, we gladly helped oversee the distribution of food and met so many kind and caring people. It was really encouraging to be a part of actively meeting the needs of the vulnerable in our community, something I believe Dr.  King would be proud of.

Sadly, on Martin Luther King, Jr. day itself, 5 people were shot on MLK Boulevard in New Orleans, and as I headed home from the port that night I thought of the many ways that Dr. King’s dream is still a dream, a point in the future, drawing those of us who believe his message forward.

As New Orleans YAVs, We live in a city where a  young man has a worse chance of surviving than in Afghanistan according to the mayor. We live in a state that is in the top ten in executions per capita. We live in a state that imprisons more people per capita than any in our country. We live in a nation where the people who are faced with taking the brunt of these and many other disproportionatetly distributed atrocities are African American.  Approximately half of the US citizens imprisoned today are African American, more than were enslaved before the Civil War.

So this weekend I was encouraged to see the good that can come from a caring community, but I pray, as I hope you will, for the day when Dr. King’s dream would come true. In fact, that beyond Dr. King’s dream, that God’s kingdom would come, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

-grace and peace


Barbecue.

Two weeks ago I had a beautiful and humbling experience, and I thought I would share.

I was at Global Maritime and I had just done a routine pick up from a ship to run some of the crew to Wal-Mart. As I was dropping off the first contingent and heading back to the center, a few of the crew mentioned wanting some good food, something they couldn’t get on the boat. I felt their pain and wanted to help.

Flashback with me to the summer of 2005.

(flash)

I am sitting in the hot sun in the parking lot of a high school somewhere I’ve never been before and will probably never return to. I have just eaten a slimy, over dressed salad and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the bajillionth time.

I’m a member of the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle corps and we have been touring the country competing against other corps. We sleep in busses and on gym floors and our food comes from an 18 wheeler that has been converted into a kitchen and follows us around.

As you could expect, we eat very similar, overly processed food every day.

(flash)

So, having some respect and understanding of the frustrations of repetitive processed foods, I know I have to hook these gentlemen up with some decent local fare.

I droped off the rest of the crew with Jonathan at the center, and told these hungry fellows to come with me. We went to Magazine to get some gas, and I told them that some of the best restaurants in the city were on this very street.

As we walked down Magazine, we chatted about the similarities and differences between their home country of the Philipines and our home here in New Orleans. We talked about parks, schools, family and sports. Eventually, the topic got back around to their life on the ship. They told me how bad their cook was and how he only served dried fish and rice, and I told them that in New Orleans they could have Pizza or Tacos or Vietnamese or Indian, but nothing really sounded perfect.

Then, one of the crew spotted Saucy’s. He asked me what it was and I told him it was a barbecue place. They looked around at each other and came to a silent consensus that this was place. I was elated.

We sat down and the waitress was very patient and kind as they ordered their enormous plates, each with two meats and two sides. I ordered an alligator po’ boy, and the crew were very amused that I was going to be eating alligator.

The food came, and I asked if I could bless the meal.

In that prayer, God opened my eyes and heart to the smallness of the world and the heavenly communion that was before us.

I would ask that those who read this might pray for my heart to be continually open to the moving of God’s love in these relationships, strengthened by the beauty of these shared moments.

-grace and peace


Whirlwind.

I like the word whirlwind.

It has an onomatopoetic quality as it swirls with breath. There’s a free-ness and chaos to it that makes it especially beautiful. Say it with me:

Whirlwind.

.

My past few weeks have been a whirlwind: a chaotic restructuring of almost everything rooted in my life. My journey to The Crescent City was interrupted by Hurricane Isaac, which caused serious devastation in South Louisiana (one of my co-workers at Global Maritime Ministries lost his home). My family vacation was extended, and my orientation time with my housemates was furious and brief. I began work four days after arriving only to be overwhelmed with how right it feels for me to be here in New Orleans.

.

I love meeting new people, and it seems that both of my placements will be heavy in the “people meeting” department.

On Tulane:

I have had a couple of weeks learning and getting settled into the rhythm of my time with Rev. Jennie Thomas at Tulane Medical Center.  I can say for certain that my time as a chaplain here will be challenging and energizing. I am excited at the possibility of making so many new acquaintances and building relationships with the staff and patients.

I have my name badge, and I’ve learned what all the codes mean; it seems that they have one for everything! (Code pink is for a stolen baby . . . ) I have shadowed Jennie for a couple of days, read some books and handouts, and had some discussions on boundaries and being a healing presence.  I am nervous about meeting with people individually, but I am confident that God has volumes to reveal to me through my time at the hospital.

On Global Maritime:

Despite the fact that I am giving up most of my weeknights, I have really enjoyed working with Global Maritime Ministries so far. I get to do some of my favorite things as part of my job: driving a van, playing pool and ping pong, and talking to people with amazingly diverse backgrounds! At the center we have phone cards, postage, and toiletries. We also taxi the seafarers to run errands. My favorite trip so far was to the mall where all the fellows came out with Victoria’s Secret bags to send back to their wives.  It is a relaxed atmosphere and a much needed ministry, and I am blessed to be a part.

.

I would ask that as I continue to root myself into my place in this robustly cultured city, you would pray for guidance, patience, and clear vision as I seek to be a healing presence to all the new faces I will meet. Please pray for my housemates Nate, Valentina, Elizabeth, and Henry as well; that they would find peace and meaning in their new roles, and that God would begin the work of knitting us into a community that loves and encourages one another in the work that God has for us here in New Orleans.

.

an address for letters, encouragements, or financial support:

8124 Zimpel St.

New Orleans, LA 70118

.

Thank you so much for reading!

-grace and peace


What is a city but the people?

This past weekend was far more difficult and emotional for me than I expected.

.

In retrospect, I think I believed that since God has given me such peace and assurance about my place in New Orleans that leaving Denver would be peaceful and simple. However, as I get closer to my twelve o’clock departure tomorrow, I realize that there really is no change without pain.

With every change there is loss. There is something we used to have, people we will miss, and a norm that has become a comfort to us even when we knew it was temporary.

Things will never be the same, and as overjoyed as I am to begin the next part of my journey (so excited I can’t even begin), leaving is a painful eye-opening to the many blessings I have had here in Denver.

.

For starters, the people I was able to work with at DenUM have been such great teachers and friends. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned about the social work setting. Having no experience coming into this year, It seemed like a never ending flow of new ideas and information, and yet I enjoyed the learning and growing that came from such a multi-faceted position. And honestly, they’re just great people. People who care and laugh and work hard. I pray some of their spirit has rubbed off on me.

.

And then there was my Blues Prayers family.

My mentor and friend, Vern Rempel, is the Senior Pastor First Mennonite Church of Denver. He invited me to participate in a new worship service where we would play music in the folk, blues, and jazz styles and offer brief reflections. This service became one of the times I looked forward to every week. It’s challenged me spiritually and musically, and I am so grateful to Vern for allowing me to speak several times throughout the year.

It has been such an honor to play with my incredible musician friends Tony and Taylor, and the few and steady attendees of Blues Prayers have been so kind and supportive. They have been a steady flow of creativity, gentleness, and hugs, and I will miss them immensely.

.

As if my relationship with Blues Prayers wasn’t enough, every Sunday evening I was blessed to attend Bloom.

Bloom’s church model and honest, insightful teaching filled my soul, reminding me each week who I was and centering me to mystery and beauty of Christ. The friendships I made through house church and the frisbee group I started will never be forgotten, and I hope to keep in touch as so many of them are going to do great things. I know it.

I will continue to listen to the teachings by Andrew Arndt on podcast, and Bloom will always be a significant part of my spiritual journey.

.

Finally, there isn’t room on the internet for the countless things the Dwell program has done for me, but what I will miss most is the people.

I already miss Maegen, Johanna, Meg and Sarah. Their lights in my life have shone into places I couldn’t have seen otherwise. They are living proof that knowing yourself takes place in the pervasive light of community as much as it does in your own heart.

Glenn Balzer and his family have been an awesome influence and sounding board for me this year. In the conversations and time we’ve had together, they have encouraged and loved those of us in the Dwell house and shown us the beautiful and difficult things a family can do when committed to Christ, to loving each other, and to living Love into the community around them.

Antonio Lucero and his family have been incredible. In them I have seen so much generosity, openness, and kindness. I aspire to be so open and generous as a way of taking their spirit with me. Antonio has given of himself and his time to the Dwellers freely, and I hope that his spontaneity and optimism have sparked those parts in all of us. He has become a true and trusted friend that I hope to keep.

.

Its a bright and hopeful pain I have in leaving this place, knowing the good it’s done for me and the people it’s brought me to will be a part of me as I go.

I would ask that those reading this would pray for safe travel and God’s comfort as I make this next step into my tiny part of God’s story, and that he would continue to reveal to me the gifts and lessons from Denver.

-grace and peace


cultivation

Last Tuesday was our final community day together.

It was a beautiful day, and we had a reflection time that involved walking through our city in silence. We were to take in the sights, sounds, and smells and reflect on our city and our community.

As I walked through the different parts of town -the neighborhood, the art district, the business district, and lower downtown- I thought about what made them different. What makes one part of town nicer than the other? What keeps the paint pristine in one part of town and peeling in another? Why is the sidewalk on this block smooth and flat while one block over it rises and falls, being reclaimed by weeds and grass?

.

It seems to me that humans cannot exist anywhere without affecting their surroundings, for better or for worse.

There is no staying the same.

If we give our energies to something we can improve it or maintain it, but if we ignore it deterioration and decomposition sets in. It forces us to cultivate the things we care about. To weed our gardens and paint our walls. To dust our shelves and change the oil in our cars. To make phone calls to our friends and practice our instruments.

This year I’ve learned how directly this applies to my spiritual life.

My soul needs attention and nourishment; when I ignore it I can feel it in my heart, and I can see it in my relationships.

.

As I walked along I thought about Denver, and I thought about my friends and family, and I thought about our nation and our world. What kinds of things are we cultivating? Are our words giving love and nourishment, or judgement and separation?

.

If I have the gift of prophesy and can understand all mysteries and knowledge, and If I have faith enough to move the mountains, but have not love I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2)

nothing.

and being nothing is what leaves room for the ruin of the things we care about most.

.

I pray that we would put our energies into the things that build up, heal, and reconcile. May our words and actions speak love and community into the world, because anything else tears down and separates.

-grace and peace


poem.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
― Maya Angelou


chadpittman:

I’m heartbroken over this tragedy. The Denver Dwellers are okay, but prayers are appreciated for our city and all those affected, directly or indirectly.

These are some thoughts on response to tragedy that I would encourage everyone to read.

Originally posted on The Blog of Andrew Arndt:

Last night’s shooting in Aurora leaves us vacillating in our souls between numbness and horror, and grasping for meaning; for we are “meaning makers”, we human beings, and so it is that “senseless tragedy” is particularly hard for us to swallow.  We feel that something must be done or said to put it all in perspective.

And it is just there that we are likely to go wrong, for the wise writer of Ecclesiastes says:

What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. (Eccl 1:15)

Not everything that happens “under the sun” simply “fits” the way we’d like it to.  With that in mind, let me make five suggestions for responding to this (and any) tragedy:

1) Resist the temptation to spout theological platitudes.  This is all part of God’s perfect plan… God has a purpose in this… Everything works together for good for…

View original 594 more words

Continue reading

Jeff Haanen

Faith, Work and Culture

Hank Reads Books

Words, words, words, Word.

Young Adult Volunteers in New Orleans

A year of service in South Louisiana, for A lifetime of change

Glenn Balzer

Thoughts for reflection and discussion

the life and times of charity rauls

Stuff about life, love, and the meaning of everything.

SupportMeInCO

A year of service

Eric Hyde's Blog

Journey Through Orthodox Christianity

The Blog of Andrew Arndt

Bits and pieces... fragments of thoughts on living a quiet life with God

Live to Write - Write to Live

Professional writers talk about the craft and business of writing

Let it be.

thoughts from my year in New Orleans

Seek Up

- chad pittman

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.