Whanaungatanga: Prophetic Community and the Amos Archetype

Whanaungatanga is an indigenous word we use to describe relationship, kinship, a sense of family connection - a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. As a church the Edge community is exploring ways of strengthening our whanaungatanga through the spiritual practices that have defined our journey.

"Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.”  - Rev 19:10

What do we mean when we say we are a prophetic community? How are we to realistically embody the place of prophecy as a unique designation that supports our growth and maturity?

‘To be  prophetic is to consider and comply with the sacred work of inspiration alive in the world’

The Amos archetype  

The voice of Amos emerges in the biblical narrative at a time of relative peace and prosperity for the people of God, albeit that they were neglecting the laws of Yahweh by supporting the social injustices that occur when the disparity between  rich and poor is ignored. He rages against the religious machine that has settled into the complacency of self-sufficiency, numbing their compassion along the way. Religion was now contributing to the ongoing problem by refusing to be a voice of response to the societal dilemmas that were occurring.

Eugene Peterson in his introduction to Amos from the Message Bible says.. "Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization) is convinced that God is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history, worldwide, of religion-fuelled hate, killing, and oppression is staggering. The biblical prophets are in the front line of those doing something about it.  The biblical prophets continue to be the most powerful and effective voices ever heard on this earth for keeping religion honest, humble, and compassionate”.

‘Prophetic encounter is a moment of enthusiasm that re-calibrates our personhood’  - Abraham Heschel

To be a prophetic community for Amos would mean that we have to be prepared for divine interruption to occur that would inevitably re-interpret our life, in order for us to be an embodiment of compassionate response to the needs around us.

Divine Interruption: the disturbance of pathos

“I was neither a prophet nor the disciple of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy (preach) to my people Israel.’ 16Now then, hear the word of the LORD.” -Amos 7

Amos becomes an archetype for how the work of the prophetic encounters our life to disturb our status quo and help us to consider whether all that we are now is all that we really are. No matter how small or insignificant we may feel or well pleased with our current disposition prophetic encounter comes to disturb our blind obedience to the machine of life that can often trap us in a false sense of security or a hopelessness that says that this is all I am or will ever amount to. Prophetic encounter does not diminish your current status in life by suggesting a better option but rather somehow offers to advance to the ongoing evolution of your becoming. Often the best way to gauge whether you are stuck in the rut of the mundane is to compare how your complacency and compassion are doing.

Divine reinterpretation: finding your roar

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. 8The lion has roared— who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken— who can but prophesy? - Amos 3:7-8

Our lives have something to say but more often than not we find ourselves trapped in an old vocabulary that is restricted to the same old rhetoric. Prophetic encounter comes to re-language our lives, to put a new ROAR in our mouths so to speak. This metaphor gives us some insight into how the prophetic realigns our life as a voice that can make a significant contribution to society. 

The roar of a lion gives meaning to the ideas of ‘territorial  ownership’, ‘protection of the pride’, and care for the ‘next generation’.Finding our voice (roar) as a community is about taking ownership for the social landscape that we find ourselves in, no longer putting our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and ignoring the realities that are afflicting our community health and well-being.

Finding your voice is about taking pride in your fellow humans, standing up and fighting for the worthy causes that are glaringly obvious. It is about restoring peoples dignity and helping them to take pride in their status which must be a primary driver behind our reinterpreting of divine purpose.

Finding your voice (roar) is not just about you, but about providing a future for those who come after you. The next generation matters, especially if we are to believe that life is eternal. The sound of the divine will forever speak for the vulnerable, endangered, fragile, and marginalised. The roar of a lion was a sign to the cubs that someone is there that cares and will fight for their survival.

The sound of Amos continues to be heard through all generations reminding us that the big SINS of humans still need confronting and be held accountable.  Here is just a small list of the things he confronted in order to remind us of our call to be vocal around these challenging issues:

Slavery

Misogyny

Sanctity of life

The rich and poor divide

The Marginalised

Sexual health

Economic exploitation and social injustice

Religious idolatry 

National arrogance

When God interrupts our lives and confronts us with the truth of our current reality it will often re-interpret how we speak to the situation with the compassion that it requires. This is what it means to be a prophetic community.

Greg Burson

WhanaungatangaClint Gibson