20th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 23 -B)
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
October 11, 2015
“Amos’ Call To You”
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament reading, which was read a few minutes ago.
The word “call” has a lot of usages in the English language. Kids are called to the table for supper. We call in sick to work. Football games begin when the visiting team calls heads or tails. Friends call one another to talk. I call the kids up front for children’s messages. And in the past, there have been calls to arms as our nation fought for its liberty, its unity, and against evil. Not all calls are good though. Kids, and adults, are called names. People are called in for audits by the IRS, and we receive devastating calls on the phone. And then there’s the call of the prophet Amos. Amos issues a different kind of call. Not a call for a day of fun or pleasant conversation. Rather, Amos calls us to hear God’s Word and to repent.
Amos is interesting guy because in his call to be prophet, we see that God can use anyone to deliver His message. Amos wasn’t special, he was just a shepherd who also tended sycamore trees. He was minding his own business when God called him to preach around 750 BC. At this time, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms. The Southern Kingdom was called Judah, while the Northern Kingdom retained the name Israel. Amos was from a town in Judah, which was just a stone’s throw from Bethlehem, but he was sent north to Israel.
When he arrived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel he found a very successful nation. They had conquered their enemies, their borders were secure, and it was a time of great prosperity. They were a happy bunch, and they were certain that the good times were going to continue because God was with them. They were, after all, the direct descendants of Abraham, they were God’s chosen people. But when Amos arrived in the town of Bethel, he didn’t praise the, he didn’t promise great blessings, instead he condemned them for their sinful behavior and for their rejection of God.
In our reading, we hear a whole litany of Israel’s sins which covers the entire spectrum of wickedness. They take advantage of the poor, they cheat in business, they lie and shout down those who tell the truth, they neglect the beggars who sit by the city gates. They remain silent when they should be speaking out against the sinful things going on around them. And last, but certainly not least, they worship golden idols shaped like bulls. If there was a sin to be had, you could find it in Israel.
So Amos is clear. He says, “Seek the LORD and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel.” Amos is speaking hardcore Law. He is laying out before them all they’ve done wrong. They think that nobody notices or cares about what they do, but God does, and He’s angry. God says, through Amos, “For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins.” Amos calls for them to repent, because God doesn’t want to destroy Israel, He doesn’t want destroy anyone. God is loving and gracious, He wants to forgive, but if Israel continues to live in its sin, if it continues to revel in its disobedience, things aren’t going to end well for them at all.
Now fast-forward 2,800 years, and imagine that Amos was standing here before us. What would he say to us? Now before we go too much further, there is a significant difference between the Israel of Amos’ time and the United States. We are not a special nation founded by God to be His chosen people in a godless world. There are no special promises made to us because we’re Americans. But that doesn’t mean that Amos’ words aren’t still just as valid. Amos was addressing the chosen people of God, he was speaking to the Church, and so as members of the Church, Amos speaks to you as well.
God said that there is nothing new under the sun, so the sins of Amos’ time are the same sins as today. The poor are neglected. The unborn are killed. We may not have big, golden calves that we bow down before, but idolatry is still a problem for all of us. What do we worship? What do we make more important than God? What do we trust in? We are blessed, more blessed than any other nation in the world, but often what we’ve been given is wasted. And often times we are silent when we’re supposed to speak. Maybe we’re afraid of what others might say or maybe the subject just doesn’t mean anything to us. But as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” We are called to speak for the helpless and to speak the Word of God in a world that doesn’t want to hear what He has to say. Amos was kicked out of Israel, nobody wanted to hear what he had to say. Are we willing to take the same kind of stand, to speak in the face of total opposition?
Now, please hear me, I’m not saying you’re bad people, not at all. You are children of God, you are the Church, His chosen people. But even the children of God need to be called to repentance, right? We know our sins, we know our failings, and if we don’t, we need to take a good look at ourselves and acknowledge that we are sinful.
To live in sin, to embrace it, to refuse to repent of it is to shun God. It’s to choose to live in a way that invites God’s wrath. Israel refused to repent and they were effectively destroyed. So also God calls us to repentance that we would be spared His wrath. God wants to show mercy, it’s why He sent Amos to Israel, it’s why His Law is spoken today, but to reject Him is to reject His mercy and to choose His anger.
Amos had a lot of harsh words for Israel, and he does for us as well, but it’s not all bad news. Listen to this. Amos says, “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you.” The God in Heaven is not some vengeful god. Rather He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He is merciful and forgiving, and He is here to forgive you. He could cast us all away, destroy us for our sins, yet He doesn’t. He shows us mercy and it’s in His grace that we rejoice.
We rejoice because God spared us His wrath by pouring it out on His Son. Jesus endured the Father’s anger over Israel’s sin and over yours. The sins of neglect, idolatry, silence, whatever they may be, were punished by God. He punished His Son in our place. His Son endured the torments of hell so that we would be spared. His Son died that we would live. Amos refers to those who are hated because they speak the truth. Jesus spoke the truth and was hated. He didn’t just speak the truth though, He is the Truth, and the Truth is that you are forgiven and loved by God. So rejoice! Your sins are forgiven, you’re not condemned by them, nothing condemns you because Jesus’ blood has taken all condemnation away. Amos refers to a remnant of Joseph. That’s you! You have been saved and because you are a child of God you’ve been called out of this sinful world and into a new relationship with Christ Jesus.
To live as those who rejoice in our forgiveness means that we change our lives, we are transformed. This means that we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We speak for, and help, the poor and the neglected. We use our time and our talents in God pleasing ways that share the message of forgiveness that is for all people. To live as forgiven people means we’re honest in all our dealings, we betray others, we don’t seek to take advantage of those around us. It means that we turn from our idolatry and false worship even though they might make life easier for us. It also means that we speak the Truth. People don’t want to hear the Truth. Paul says that people have itchy ears that only hear what they want to hear. But we must speak the Truth, regardless of the consequences. As Luther said in the hymn of the Reformation, A Mighty Fortress, “Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.”
When Amos called Israel to repent and to show the world that they were God’s people, he never said it would be easy. To fight sin and this sinful world is not easy, and it never will be. But Amos wasn’t telling anyone to fight alone, for God helps His people. As Saint Peter says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness”. In other words, God gives you all you need. By being immersed in God’s Word, attending the Divine Service, receiving the Lord’s Supper, praying and mediating on what Christ has done for you, you will find the Lord who will guide you into all things that are pleasing to Him.
I read a great quote this week from the Facebook page of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I shared it from Emmanuel’s Facebook page so maybe you’ve seen it already, but for those who haven’t, bear with me. The pastor wrote, “Jesus removed your sin. When He removed your sin, He also removed your shame and your guilt. He restores your voice. He fights the demons and their unholy silence for you… He restores your voice to speak in faith toward Him and in love toward one another.” What a wonderful blessing and a promise! You don’t fight alone, you don’t even do the fighting, for Christ does all that is needed for you.
Amos’ message to Israel was a call to arms. He called on Israel to repent, to fight injustice and sin. But more than that it was a call to forgiveness. To seek the Lord and to live. To seek His mercy and find it. The same call is for you. Repent of your sins, seek the Lord and you will live through His Son’s body and blood. God calls to you, He calls you to life everlasting, He calls you to receive His mercy. So hear the call of the Lord and you will hear words of love and forgiveness.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen