August 8, 2021
God set before Amos a basket. Then God asked, “Amos what do you see?”
Amos responded, “I see a basket of summer fruit.”
So what do you see sitting on our communion table? Does it evoke joy? Does it represent a bountiful harvest? Is this a gift from God’s creation? What are we to do with such a harvest?
What do you see on the table beneath the pulpit? Does it have anything to do with a harvest? What emotion does it evoke?
Which basket would God want us to pick from to nourish our bodies? Is one more healthy than another?
For me the image of a basket of summer fruit brings joy to my senses. The colors are beautiful. The textures are varied. The flavors are robust because the fruit is at its peak. The aromas are a feast for my sense of smell. It is like looking at a basket full of love, hope, and joy.
For me, the basket of summer fruit reminds me of growing good things and having fresh healthy food from the earth. It also reminds me that our growing season is short and will soon end. Fall will bring a different type of harvest.
The harvest season was over for the people of Israel. Their grapes for wine, pomegranates, figs, olives for oil had just been harvested. The festival of thanksgiving
for the gifts from the land was cause for joy and dancing.
The other basket filled with “junk food” reminds me to choose what is healthy
over foods laden with fat, salt, sugar, and chemicals that I can’t even pronounce.
Amos warns the people of Israel that they have been choosing junk, through greedy and dishonest business practices that victimize the poor. The merchants can’t wait
for the festival to be over, Why, so they can resume their deceitful business. Israel has come under God’s judgment for faithlessness in worship and in economic practices. They have become noisy gongs and clanging symbols because they do not act out of love for one another and they do not love God with all their heart, mind, strength, and soul. They have forgotten their responsibility to share God’s bounty.
They have forgotten the source of their abundance— gifts of God for all God’s people. God has had it with Israel. God will no longer give Israel a “get out of jail free” card. God will hold Israel accountable for its sins.
But did you notice where God is in this text? God will judge Israel, but God does not abandon Israel. God is in the midst of God’s people. As a result of their faithless actions Israel will be judged. Because of their morally and spiritually bankrupt spirits
they will not be able to hear God’s word even as they wander seeking it. But God is present with God’s people even if they can’t hear the word of God.
In the story of from Luke, Martha is busy, distracted, complaining, asking Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her. Mary, on the other hand, is focused on the word.
Mary is hearing and paying attention to the word of God.
What do these two stories from Amos and Luke, tell us? First, our nation is not without sin. We have witnessed horrific events of hate and violence for months.
We have a judicial system that is unjust. We have leaders who are not listening to the people they represent. We have citizens who are not listening to those on the opposing side of an argument.
We have an economic system that favors the rich. Businesses use unfair practices.
Second, we have a majority of citizenry that remain silent. Third, the Church has remained silent—unwilling to shake-up the status quo.
There is fear, anger, hate, hopelessness, and even worse, apathy. In our nation, it seems as though worship for many has become something done during one hour on the Sabbath and forgotten the rest of the week. There is an entire generation that has no apparent connection with God.
God holds our nation and its people accountable just like Israel. God has not abandoned us. God is calling us to turn ourselves around to repent to allow ourselves to be embraced by the love of God.
We cannot love one another, especially those we perceive as our enemies,
unless we accept God’s invitation of divine love. Mary chooses to be embraced by the words and presence of Jesus. Martha chooses distraction. If we first choose to be embraced by God’s love the tasks will fall into place. Does this give us insight in our intense desire to address the violence of our world? Action is desperately needed.
Let us make our first action be a willingness to be embraced by God’s love in our grief and anger so that we may be a presence of welcome to those who see us only as enemies.
Following another week of violence in our world, and gun violence related to race relations in America, listen to one of our prophetic voices of the twentieth century.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Another prophet called us to “come and reason together.” It is time. It is time to pray for wisdom. Its is time to pray for truly listening to our opponents— to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It is time to pray with words. It is time to pray with the Holy Spirit in sighs too deep for words. It is time to stop hateful speech. It is time to speak the truth in love. It is time to pray with action.
Here is the good news that we do not hear from our lectionary selection from Amos.
It is the oracle of restoration at the very end of the book.
“The time is surely coming, says the Lord, when the one who plows hall overtake the one who reaps, and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them upon their land and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land that I have given them, says the Lord your God” ( Amos 9:13-15).
The prophet Amos has called us to repent as well. The good news from Jesus is that God loves us and has forgiven our sins. There is hope! Hope is alive! God is in our midst!
God is still speaking.
In the greatest of hope may we like Mary choose to be embraced by God’s love
and may we be instruments of peace for God’s “kindom.”