Amos 1:1-2; 5:14-15,21-24 (CEB)
These are the words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa. He perceived these things concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, in the days of Judah’s King Uzziah and in the days of Israel’s King Jeroboam, Joash’s son.
The Lord roars from Zion. He shouts from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds wither, and the top of Carmel dries up….
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of heavenly forces, will be with you just as you have said. Hate evil, love good, and establish justice at the city gate. Perhaps the Lord God of heavenly forces will be gracious to what is left of Joseph….
I hate, I reject your festivals; I don’t enjoy your joyous assemblies.
If you bring me your entirely burned offerings and gifts of food—
I won’t be pleased; I won’t even look at your offerings of well-fed animals. Take away the noise of your songs; I won’t listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
About a century after Elijah’s conflict with Ahab and Jezebel, the king is named Jeroboam and everything is sunshine and roses in the northern kingdom of Israel.
The borders have expanded, and there’s peace and prosperity. Only, not for everyone.
The rich and powerful worship other gods in addition to the Lord, and they’ve put their trust in practicing certain rituals rather than justice for the poor.
Amos, a prophet from the southern kingdom of Judah, has established himself as the least popular preacher in Israel.
God made a covenant with the people, and we can’t live up to it by worship alone.
Worship is not an end in itself nor is it the most important thing.
It only matters to God that we worship if we are also transformed by that worship and then seek to make the world look like God wants it to look.
God only wants our worship if God also has our hearts and hands throughout the week as well.
The thing that leads God to actually welcome our worship is when we behave ethically toward each other.
Amos portrays God as having no patience for anything but justice and righteousness.
at it’s best…worship forms us in a way that leads us to seek to engage in right actions toward our neighbors….
God’s abundant grace… leads us to praising God in worship and living a life of right action
this makes sense
Previously in this chapter, Amos has enjoined the people to “Seek the Lord” (5:4, 6).
We’re meant to “seek good,” and there, the Lord will be with us.
Seeking and doing good is a form of worship…
the people Amos was speaking to were worshiping, making offerings, raising the rafters with praise … and God hated it.
God wants a flood of justice and righteousness.
Can’t you just picture the Lord with fingers in the divine ears, singing, “La la la! I can’t hear you!” ???
God wants those listening to Amos… way back when and today to be more focused on what goes on outside our walls than inside.
God seeks…JUSTICE … NOT JUST US.
last week the sound of silence was where Elijah heard God….
Last week I was saying we need more silence… to hear God… but this week …maybe Amos is challenging us to less silence when it comes to what God calls us to?
After a church was shot up… can any of us be silent?
Its not enough to respond to the tragedy in Sutherland Springs TX by having the survivors and families of the victims in our thoughts and prayers in worship
God wants more from us…
And let me insist that our responses do not have to be the same…
but justice needs to be our aim… I will not tell you what God is leading You to Go SEEK
But I can tell you God is telling all of us not to keep silent, no matter where you stand on Guns.
My response will be to call for stronger background checks to prevent the legal purchase of guns by people who should not have them. If you agree, you need to speak up!
I want to push for an end to assault weapons being sold— and end the sale or kits or hardware to convert semi automatic weapons to automatic,
If you are a member of the NRA– speak up for better reporting of those who should be prevented access to purchasing guns
Maybe you will feel called to increase spending for mental health or an increase in gun safety classes
We cannot remain divided and fighting with each other… while each week someone goes out and kills people using assault weapons.
The prophet Amos lived in days that were like these days.
There were those who had things and those who went without—
Some were comfortable while others lived without the basic comforts
There were, as Frederick Buechner put it, the beautiful people , sleek and tanned at Palm Beach, Acapulco and St Tropez
and there were the Un-beautiful people…the pasty faced starch-fed child, passed out native American winos, the ragged woman fumbling for food stamps at the checkout counter.
The prophet’s words are as good advice now as they were then.
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate
Go seek to do good, seek to act justly…
not long ago… someone in line at Walmart— and they noticed the woman and child ahead of them… This woman was trying to calculate her order… having the cashier total it out… she came to a point where, despite the remaining food— not junk, but things like chicken and cereal and fruit— still being on the belt, she said “that’s all I have money for.”
At this point the person behind asked… May I purchase the rest for you? To which there was a reply of Really? And then tears and hugs and many thank yous.
But for the grace of God, go you or I…
It could have been our place of worship and not Sutherland Springs, but for the grace of God
Don’t be silent… seek to do good, seek to bring about Justice
Some of you grew up in the era where going to church was an end in itself.
People described themselves as “churchgoers.”
Sometimes they even added the word “good” in front of churchgoers as a way of saying that going to church makes you respectable.
And there were others who went out of social pressure or duty
Whether duty or social pressure, those folks checked it off their mental checklist each week and watched the clock while they were there – go over an hour and they would start to grumble.
In those (often referred to as good old days), back then, church was a thing you did for many, more so than a way of following Jesus.
The prophet Amos witnessed something like this long before the birth of Christ.
People would go to the temple, make their sacrifices and offerings and sing their songs.
They did this so God would be pleased with them.
Their hearts were not seeking God
But God was not pleased.
The point of worship is not to make God happy.
The point of worship is to allow God to work on us so that we seek to devote our lives to making God’s vision reality.
Where there is suffering, poverty, injustice or anything else that is not in keeping with God’s vision, God does not want us to “go to church” and then ignore the plight of the world.
God does not desire that we go to church and get shot either…
Rather, God’s desire is that we put worship in the right perspective – part of a life lived well.
We have been united with Christ in baptism.
Our lives are lived in union with Christ.
We aren’t joined to Jesus just so we can attend church on Sunday.
We are joined to Christ so that we can continue God’s work in all that we do. Amen
Narrative Lectionary Justice like Water, Washing Away, Providing Growth… (Amos 1:1-2; 5:14-15, 21-24)
Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who by Frederick Buechner