Summary: we are reminded that we must have a social conscience
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, my Lord and my Redeemer.
We are taught in Deacons School that we are to always preach on the Gospel reading for a given Sunday, since one of those things exclusively reserved for Deacons is the proclaiming of the Gospel. And I DID indeed have a sermon prepared on today’s Gospel of Luke. However, the more I read the Old Testament reading of Amos, in fact the more I read all of Amos, the more I felt compelled to preach on that instead.
So, I won’t tell. . . if you don’t tell.
Amos has always been a prophetic man and generally he was a real pain to the Israelites. I have a mental picture of him standing on the rooftops railing away to the Israelites about the things they were doing - and forecasting their gloom and doom. It reminds me of a street preacher who used to stand on the corner of Broad and High in Columbus every day, standing on a soap box and proclaiming the world was going to end in the next couple of hours. He hasn’t been there for a while, and I sometimes wonder what happened to him. He was, most of all, very amusing.
It was interesting to watch people’s reactions to his sermonizing:
· some would literally cross the street to avoid him
· some would lower their heads as they walked by,
· and there were a few brave souls who would take him on.
I can tell you, that he could out shout anyone
. . . except maybe Amos.
In these passages Amos is, once again, admonishing the Israelites. Actually, Amos might be considered the first voice of a social conscience in the world; he preached social justice before we even knew what social justice was.
This time he is shaming the Israelites for the way they were treating the poor. I find these passages are especially relevant today since last Friday was Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days in the Jewish tradition.
Yom Kippur is a ‘day of atonement’ on which you confess, before the Book of Life is closed, all those things you have done in the last year that are sinful or you consider to be failings. And, in the Jewish tradition, you then can start with a clean slate for the new year.
Sounds like a good idea to me.
On Yom Kippur, even the least observant Jew acknowledged the occasion and all markets and industry were closed. That means, of course, for the money changers and the merchants, this is a day when they are not making any money. . .
not a shekel!
Since most of the merchants were of the noble class, Amos is particularly hard on them
. . .and they are not too happy to have the straggly-bearded, bombastic old man once again slandering them.
They would just as soon he would fall in a hole somewhere and disappear forever. I imagine this is probably like the feeling many folks in Columbus had about that street preacher.
In the time of Amos’ prophesying, money and wealth were considered rewards from God for living a righteous life. This is not unlike the 'Prosperity ministry' a number of modern-day preachers are extolling today (and getting very rich themselves doing so!) "The more you have, the more God loves you" is their common mantra. "If you are doing well, it shows God’s approval. . . God wants you to have a big house and fancy car and pleasure yacht!"
But Amos seems determined to tear down that cultural norm.
Just as in the Parable of the Unjust Steward in the Gospel (Luke 16:1-13) this morning, there are acceptable ways to accumulate wealth
. . . and there are other ways . .
What Amos is ranting about is the accumulation of wealth at the expense of:
the elderly ….
all of those who are without a voice, a protector, a way to provide for themselves.
I can imagine the merchants and nobles sitting around grousing because they could not open their shops, beating their breasts about the money they were losing, and plotting how to make up for it.
Aha, someone said,
"Let’s make the ephah small and the shekel great". (Amos 8:5)
In other words, they were going to buy things with a light weight (the ephah was used as the weight when buying things and the shekel was used when selling things, and sell it with a heavy weight. In no time they would recover their losses from the holiday.
What a great idea!
Just like selling products more cheaply today…
products that are shoddy and easily fall apart,