Sermon Pentecost 9 July 17, 2016
Amos 8:1-12 Psalm 52 Colossians 1:15-28 Luke 10:38-42
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
The more things change the more they stay the same. That’s a paradox and a truth.
Last week the vision Amos received about the plumb line spoke to the First Commandment, love God. This week Amos recounts a vision of ripe fruit and about the Second Commandment, love your neighbour. The story behind Amos’ visions is one that we hear too frequently today. The Israelites after the Exodus had occupied Canaan, the Promised Land, something the Jews were to repeat in 1948 but by that time it was called Palestine. In Moses’ day every tribe got a territory and every family got a parcel of land or something by which they could support themselves, even just the opportunity to do that. That echoes how we in North America occupied this continent too. In Canada we divided the place into Concessions and then parcelled sections off, everyone with hard work had the opportunity to prosper. That’s fair enough, except if you are a Canaanite or a native North American or a Palestinian today; their land has been taken away from them. That smacks of injustice.
Injustice is universal in this world because human beings run it. We live largely by the same rules as the animal kingdom – survival of the fittest. By the time Amos lived, those who were fittest and then wealthiest had taken-over the lands of the peasant farmers, buying them out or just seizing their land for debt, and adding insult to injury, they hired those farmers back as labourers on the land. Gone was the ideal of people living in harmony. More and more land and resources was acquired and controlled by the avaricious, and often unjust people. And to add to the misery the rich of Amos’ time, those in control of the land, the produce and the money, paid pitifully low wages to their workers. Any resemblance to today is purely intentional. Amos says people sold themselves cheaply, just for a pair of sandals, the wealthy cheated on the weights and measures, and raised the price of even the poorest quality wheat so that the people starved.
God didn’t like that so He brought the whole thing crashing down around their heads. In the Beginning God created everything and gave us dominion over it. Not so that a few would benefit but all of us – worldwide. But when we lose touch with the raw things of the world, the land, the seas, the atmosphere, the trees and plants, the animals of every description, we lose a part of ourselves our central purpose, our God-given dominion and our being.
Our society is what it is today because some people in an earlier time, in our perpetual, universal, and repetitive history, were stronger and beat their opponents down, or outsmarted them in the wealth game. Out of that came the ruling class and the working class, the rich and the poor. This happened not because some were better persons than others, usually it was because some were of worse character than the rest. Our history reveals the feet of clay that our leaders have had – and have. However, in the West now, by dint of sheer numbers, by the effects of the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, we in the industrialised world have mitigated that system somewhat by laws and tribunals, but not completely. There are still the few who manipulate the levers of power, politics and finance. How else could people take home millions of dollars in bonuses when the financial system collapsed in 2008, and the people they made their money from lost their jobs, wealth, possessions and pensions ?
Today Amos had the vision of a basket of Summer fruit, fruit that was ripe, almost overripe. The good times were over, it was time for a change. That was the situation then as the powerful had gorged themselves on the common people and their society was no longer tenable.
Regrettably in the developing world things have not changed anywhere near as much as here. The problem we face is as old as Amos and he lived close to three thousand years ago. Isn’t it about time we changed our world with a better message, a better way of doing things ? A world where we care more about God and about each other – about our neighbours ?
God wants this world to change, God wants us to be more interested in Him, more committed to Him. He said “The time is surely coming [ ] when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD”. That was the world in which Amos lived, and Jesus lived and we live too. God wants us to be more as He intended, living in the Word of God. / Jesus gives us the same teaching in the Gospel lesson today. Martha represents many in society who cannot see the wood for the trees, concentrating on the immediate with no view of the bigger picture or eternity. Jesus is the greatest teacher we could ever have, yet Martha is fussing about doing stuff that gets in the way of her listening to the Word of God, the real Word of God. In Amos’ and Jesus’ times people had got away from the Word of God and were ignoring their deficit. Society at large is doing that today. The message they are missing is that we are loved, that God is with us, that we are a forgiven people and everlasting life is ours. It’s surely a great message to give and to receive.
St. Paul writing to the Colossians and us, gives the Good News, afresh. We are destined for eternal life, but the only way to achieve eternal life is to be ‘holy and blameless’. We cannot absolve ourselves of our own wrong doings, just as we can’t push our broken-down car to the garage while sitting inside. We need someone outside to do it for us. Jesus has done that. His Death and Resurrection have cleared the way to Redemption for us. Our sins have been thrown aside, and they are no longer a barrier between God and us. We have been reconciled with God. Now having received such a reprieve, it is up to us to keep the Faith, spread the Word, love God, love our neighbour and our Redemption will be secure. To me that really is Good News. Amen.