Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bunch of Bald Heads, Amos 8:1-12

Amos 8:1-12
Bunch of Bald heads - this title didn’t really ending up having much to do with the sermon,
but I liked it.  I will be preaching without notes for the most part, with the exception of the relatively long reading of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle,  pp 344-46. Hardback addition.

The best impersonators of the prophet Amos are probably people who stand on street corners shouting, holding a sign, getting the message across-- THE END IS NEAR THE END IS NEAR.  If you can think of anyone who has a general doom and gloom attitude, even on a pretty day, they may just be carrying on Amos’ legacy.

Amos isn’t someone I would have like to have spent much time with back in his day: early eight century BCE.  A real buzz kill of a guy. He’s a southern boy who travels north with his message: The end is near.  And like most prophets, I’d write him off, and probably most people would have back in his day too.  

The pattern of Amos’ oracle is that the Lord shows him an ordinary object and then employs a pun that signifies the threat.  In chapter 8, the object is a bowl of fruit.  We read summer fruit, but the hebrew probably renders something more like...fruit that is over ripened, past it’s prime, fruit surrounded by fruit flies, on it’s way to the pigs, or chickens or the compost pile.  This fruit is Israel.  “The end has come upon my people Israel.” says the Lord.

The “end” is to be national destruction and exile, from which none shall escape (9.1), and the ultimate threat issued to the people: a famine, not of food or water, but a famine of hearing the words of God.
What might that have meant for the people then?  What might that mean for us today?  

As you ponder that, let’s take a step back. What has caused this end to come?  

“You trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land.”
Amos accuses the people of being impatiently engaged in commerce and money making...laws and practices made in favor of the haves, at the expense of the have nots...
The rich are getting richer, while the poor suffer and die.

That day is surely coming....Says the Lord...

These warnings were issued some 10000 years ago...
Don’t they seem to apply to our context today?

I don’t think I need to go through a litany of examples of ways in which our nations collective lifestyle and practices trample the needy.  I think we know this.
You don’t need proof that our ways and practices are harming the environment like never before.  And those who will be most suffer from global warming or oil erupting from the sea, are the poor. We know this.

We don’t have to entirely recognize that things aren’t right with the world, we just have to be awakened to it. And I think the disaster in the gulf of mexico has, to a certain extent, awakened us. pictures of oil marinated birds and turtles.  Fishermen with empty nets,  job loss, the destruction of a way of life. One community in Grand Isle, LA,  has erected crosses on the beach, a symbolic graveyard for everything this community has lost: “Sandcastles,” “Seafood Gumbo,” “Sea Turtles” “Redfish” — dozens of white crosses with different labels.

Is this the opportunity for the prophet Amos to rear his doom and gloom head?  He was trying to wake the people up!  Do we need to wake up?  The poor are suffering, the needy are being trampled upon.  Do we hear the words of the Lord? Or have those words been drowned out by our gadgets and phones and Chinese made products; information overload and life lived at a frenetic pace?

Do any of you not think we should slow down and examine our lives?  Pray for an awakening to God’s leading, which is done in you for you through you within you in spite of you for you, it’s done in the language of communion, the language of surrender, the language of trust.

We wonder what we need to do? And I don’t know. But what’s comforting to me is that you and I have answers already.

1 John 2, 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it...
Jeremiah 31:33 I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me,

What a comfort it is to teach assuming that I don’t have to do it all right, you already know this. All we can do for one another as a community of faith is try to pull it out of one another.  

True wisdom never feels like I have to prove it to you, or convince you of it, as if it’s coming from outside.  It’s evocing it’s a saying that says you already know this, you just need to go deeper.

That’s the difference between religion as outer authority.  An outer authority telling you what is right and wrong. Which is what most religion is.

Our job is to lead you to the level of depth and the Spirit will teach you
The spirit will pray in you, through you, with you;
All we can do is allow this.
If we search ourselves, we all know that something is not right about the way we live our lives. Our lives, the lives of the needy and the poor in this nation, across the globe.

What must we do?  


Amos pronounced his gloom and doom message way back when.  The message today seems to be gloom and doom.  Will we get more time?  Will the Lord grant us more time?  Or will this empire crumble? What will happen in our lives in the next few years?  What kind of world will Ruby Gene and Zaida, and Oscar, and the other toddlers inherit?

The ripened fruit is becoming rotten...
We know what we must do...
Let’s take a few moments to pray that God will speak to us, and that maybe we will do something new that will matter. Many of us are already doing some pretty radical things?  many of us, have not given this much thought, but would like to try.

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