Amos 1:1-2; 5:14-15, 21-24. “The Cry for Justice”
What makes a good worship service? We all have our opinions. Some would say that great worship is when we sing familiar hymns and the worship band rocks. Others would argue that they need a sermon that they can understand and is helpful for them in their daily lives. Several people might mention fellowshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ, while still others find meaning in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Based on today’s reading from the prophet Amos it is apparent that God judges worship in a different manner than we do. I’m sure that the people in eighth century BCE Israel thought that their worship of sacrifices, songs and prayers was good worship. God had a different opinion. Through the prophet God proclaims, “I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies“ (Amos 5:21).
Where is the disconnect? What was wrong with the Israelite’s worship and what can we learn from them and apply to our worship services so that they are pleasing to the Lord? Before we hear God’s words of judgment, let’s be refreshed and renewed by the good news that the words of Amos contain.
A GOD WHO IS INVOLVED IN CREATION
As followers of Jesus, we frequently talk about how God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. (This is based on a conversation that God had with Abraham, which is found in Genesis 12:3.) Our Lord models this behavior for us. Our God is not content to simply soak up our worship, offerings, thanksgiving and praise. No indeed! Our God is involved in all of creation and pours out God’s blessings abundantly and without boundaries. This behavior is in contrast to humankind’s idols and false gods.
In Old Testament times when people worshiped Baal, Dagon, Zeus and Artemis and all the others, the gods demanded more, but gave little in return. We experience this same phenomenon today. If our job or career becomes our god, it demands our all, but it gives little rest, security or pleasure in return. Some of us worship our retirement plans. We tithe or give generously, yet the more we concentrate on this god the less secure and more worried we become. The god “Possessions” may be worshiped by many of us. We seek to find pleasure and affirmation in the purchase of one more item. What we receive from the god is limited and fleeting.
The King of kings and Lord of lords, wants all of creation to experience the fullness of God’s kingdom. This is not some sweet bye and bye when we die, but the abundant experience of God’s love, grace, provision, justice and inclusion in the here and now. God’s Spirit is moving to accomplish God’s will.
GOD CARES FOR EVERYONE
Earlier in the book of Amos the prophet lists those actions that are anathema to the Lord. They include selling people into slavery in order to pay small debts, ignoring the poor and corrupt business practices. The powerful preyed upon the weak and altered the practices of the society so that the rich grew richer at the expense of the poor. In the midst of this injustice and inequity the people would offer their sacrifices. They did not challenge the system nor did they care about the poor.
God cared about the poor, though. God called out their plight to God’s people and challenged God’s people to attend to the needs of the poor. The good news that we hear in today’s lesson is that God is not only involved in creation, but God cares about all people.
In the topsy turvy world of God’s kingdom, the poor and needy are the people who catch God’s attention. Remember the parable of the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus. It was the poor man who went to heaven and not the rich man. Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time ministering to the political and religious leaders. Instead Jesus ministered to the needs of the demon possessed, the blind, lame and lepers—the people who were disenfranchised and neglected by society.
God cares and so should all who worship the Lord.
WORDS OF JUDGMENT
There are occasions when we as parents need to raise our voice to our children. This is not to be verbally abusive, but to accentuate the seriousness of the message we are communicating to them. In Amos, God raised God’s voice. We read, “The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds wither,
and the top of Carmel dries up” (Amos 1:2).
Injustice and inequality surrounds us. The list could be endless and we could argue about what should or should not be on that list. Here are a few items with which I believe we need to address both as a church and as a nation:
We are more concerned about getting a few extra dollars in a tax cut for ourselves than we are in feeding the hungry.
We talk more about building a multigenerational recreation facility in Surprise, than we do about providing a shelter for the homeless.
We’re more willing to spend $24 billion on building a wall than on educating our children.
It is easy to see the problem. We are more like the self indulgent idols we sometimes serve than we are the Lord of lords who cares and is involved.
The prophet Amos gives us a clear call at the end of today’s lessons. He says, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
We are Desert Streams. We are not a spring—we don’t just bubble. We are not Desert View—enjoying a beautiful panorama. We are a stream that flows and provides needed moisture to a parched desert land.
We strive to have our worship pleasing to the Lord as we seek not only to sing God’s praises, but to share God’s love and grace with those around us. Sometimes this means that we stand against injustice and fight for equality and inclusion. We do this so that we can experience the fullness of God’s kingdom and so can everyone else.