“I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head…” (Amos 8:10a-b NRSV)
Every time I sit down to my new laptop computer, I feel this has happened to me. Except for the bald part. As I write this, I can’t get on-line which means no precious e-mail or on-line research. I may begin pulling out my hair soon.
Amos has no good news. While other prophets give Nation Israel some options, i.e. straighten up or else, Amos makes it clear what is in store for Israel’s future. And it isn’t pretty. “There will be mourning,” the author says. Baldness in this case means a shaved head rather than normal male-pattern baldness. In ancient times, shaving one’s head sometimes indicated that that person was mourning.
Not that long ago, in our own culture, a woman wore black for a lengthy period of time to indicate her mourning a dead loved one. A wreath was hung on the door. People then knew what to expect because people could see that someone was in a period of mourning. What do we do to show our sorrow now?
Truth is, unless we know someone well, we don’t know who is in mourning and who is not. It would behoove us, then, to treat every person gently. We don’t know what sorrow someone is experiencing. We can’t tell by looking.
What if we treated everyone gently? What would happen then? That crabby person in the checkout line may be having frustrating computer issues. Or may be grieving the loss of someone dear. Unlike Amos’ prophecy, they need a second chance.
God of Grace and Tenderness, help us be the bearers of good news, unlike Amos’ prophecy. And let us bear that good news with tenderness and compassion. Amen.
– The Rev. Fay Ann Blaylock, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Falls City, and Zion United Church of Christ, Rulo