Sermon for 14th July 2013.
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. David’s, Englewood, FL
Amos 7:7-17; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
(Note I read through the entire book of Amos in preparation for this sermon)
What do we say on our way home from Church? Maybe it's “Church was pretty good this morning”, or “the preacher was a bit off today”.
We rarely ask “what did God think about our worship?”.
Scripture indicates that God is not necessarily pleased with what we and millions of other Christians do on Sunday mornings. God sometimes despises our worship.
After his win at the Wimbledon Men’s Final this year Andy Murray, Scotland's first Wimbledon singles champion since Harold Mahony in 1896, thanked his coach Ivan Lendl for believing in him.
Lendl started coaching the Scot last year. Murray said this of his coach
"He stuck by me through some tough losses and he's been very patient with me, I'm just happy for him," said the world number two.........."He's always been very honest with me and told me exactly what he thought and in tennis that's not easy to do in a player/coach relationship.
“He’s always been very honest with me, and told me what he thought”, so said Andy Murray about Ivan Lendl.
Amos was a bit of a hick or a hayseed. He was a farmer (most probably a day labourer) and he lived south of Jerusalem about eight centuries before Jesus. The nation of Israel had split into two kingdoms, one in the north called Israel with its capital in the city of Samaria, the other in the south with its capital in Jerusalem.
Amos travels from the south to deliver words of God’s judgment to the leaders of the north. He was very honest and he told them what he thought. He dared to tell them what God thought.
He was speaking in a time of prosperity when the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. This was, and is, highly offensive to God.
* Wealthy people would sell a servant into indentured labour so that they afford to buy a pair of fancy sandals.
*The law of God told farmers to leave then edges and corners of their fields un-harvested so that the very poor would have a bit of wheat for a subsistence living. In Amos’ day the very well to do farmers would scrape up very last bit of wheat at harvest time, leaving none for the poor.
*Amos says that the elite “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth (in others words, let ‘em starve to death) and push the afflicted out of the way. (2v7)
*He assails those who “take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate”.5v12
*He scorns those who “trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land” 8v4
*He exposes the sexual shenanigans of the wealthy men saying that “they pervert the way of the humble, and a man and his father go to the maid, in order to profane My Holy Name” 2v7
*Amos is scathing in his denunciation of the idle rich women “ Hearken to this word, O cows of Bashan which are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their lords, "Bring that we may drink." 4v1
For all of this Amos, speaking in the name of the Lord, says that the northern kingdom of Israel will come under the judgement of God.
Amos was very honest and he told them what God thought. His message was not well received:
A priest named Amaziah, who was in cahoots with the King, said to Amos
"Seer, go, run away to the land of Judah and eat bread there; and prophesy there.
In other words, go back to where you belong; we do not want outside elements upsetting our apple-cart.
Indeed there was corruption at the heart of the northern Kingdom of Israel. The rich were getting richer at the expense of the poor. The poor were getting poorer and being denied even their daily bread. This was, and is, highly offensive to the God of Justice.
Believe it or not, the people of this highly corrupted ruling class, this oppressive oligarchy were assiduous in their attention to religious ritual. They observed all the festivals which the law prescribed. They did not neglect the worship of God.
And this devotion to religion did not impress God. In fact it pissed him off. Hear what he said to the religious yet corrupt leaders:
“21I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23Take away from me the (1) noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream”. 4 v 21-24
(1) One translation says “din” not “noise”
Amos’ words speak to us today. God is not necessarily pleased with what we and millions of other Christians are doing this morning. God sometimes despises our worship.
God hates and despises all our religious noises and songs when we are silent or complicit in a society where the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and justice is denied to the poor.