Advent Devotional | 2nd Thursday in Advent | Year C | December 10th, 2015

Amos 6:1-8

Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
   and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
the notables of the first of the nations,
   to whom the house of Israel resorts! 
Cross over to Calneh, and see;
   from there go to Hamath the great;
   then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
   Or is your territory greater than their territory, 
O you that put far away the evil day,
   and bring near a reign of violence? 

Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
   and lounge on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
   and calves from the stall; 
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
   and like David improvise on instruments of music; 
who drink wine from bowls,
   and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
   but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! 
Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
   and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away. 

The Lord God has sworn by himself
(says the Lord, the God of hosts):
I abhor the pride of Jacob
   and hate his strongholds;
   and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it. 

O dear.  This is not a fun passage.  Especially for me.

As I'm writing this devotional, I'm doing so on my $1,500 MacBook Pro, sitting and watching a football game on my 42 inch 1080i HDTV with a bourbon and ginger-ale by my side in my climate-controlled house that is keeping the cold November air at bay.  I've had three warm meals today and I have the pleasure of enjoying my day off because I have a steady job that allows me to do so.  Alas for those who are at ease, indeed.

Well, this is awkward.

I must admit, I have my days when I'm quite comfortable with this existence.  Now, don't get me wrong, I do not consider myself rich; mine and my wife's more than $100,000 in student debt reminds me of that quite frequently.  However, when compared to the standards of the rest of the world, I am quite wealthy even when taking that into account.

Today's passage from Amos does not vilify those who have much; it vilifies those who have much and are comfortable with it and do not share it.  Today's passage from Amos tells us that God is not happy when a few people have much and many people have little.  In concert with previous passages from Isaiah, Amos reminds us that God comes to make the mountains flat and the parched lands flowing with water.  God comes to bring everyone, literally, on an equal playing field where all have access to the grace that has given us birth.

So, how comfortable am I?  What do I take for granted?  What am I not sharing with others?  All these are valuable questions that the inconvenient but prophetic voice of Amos asks of you and me during this Advent season.

Prayer of the Day:
Giving God,
thank you for the many blessings in my life that I do not deserve.
Give me the courage to share with others that they might, too, enjoy the peace I have in you.
Help me to not take for granted the many reasons I have to be thankful.
Grant me the wisdom to give of myself and my belongings.  Amen.


Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.