Sermon – Pentecost 21 – October 14, 2018
Amos 5:6-15 ‘Seek God and Live’
CT: By God’s grace we are being preserved as His faithful people through the midst of a hurtful world, as Christ exhibits justice and righteousness through us, here and now.
Intro: What do we mean when we say someone or something is good? When someone has lived a long life you might hear, “They lived a good life”. At funerals you hear nice words about the deceased, describing them as ‘good’. Now there are people who live exemplary lives, but if we describe everyone as good; what are we left with? It’s as my son used to say, “It’s all good, Dad.” But is it? Have you seen the news lately; Hurricane Michael? Not so good! Amos is a difficult book to digest because he dwells a lot on ‘not good’. He didn’t sugar coat anything; he foretold death and destruction; he denounced people’s lifestyles and ethics (the way they treated others); he railed against their forms of worship; he told them they had alienated themselves from the Lord God.
Separated Confusion: Amos was God’s voice calling the northern ten tribes known as Israel to repentance; to seek God and live. Israel was separated from the two southern tribes of Judah, because Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son taxed the people into a revolt! But they were more than separated from the governance of Jerusalem; they were also separated from the Temple and the worship life of God’s people.
But why travel all that way when you have places like Bethel? Remember Jacob’s ladder with angels ascending and descending causing Jacob to name the place Bethel: the house of God? But with their own places of worship under big trees and high places they also made up a bunch of stuff and incorporated worship practices from other cultures (because they sounded neat and people liked that stuff). After all, you want to be inclusive!
Sound familiar? We don’t need to go the place where God says He will meet us with His gifts in His Word and Sacraments. I can find God anywhere; out in the field, on the golf course, or out on the lake. And to be sure God’s fingerprint can be seen in all these places, but only too soon one loses sight of what God has given in His Word, and incorporates ideas into our thinking from TV or movies or talk at the coffee shop. Pretty soon it’s every man has his own religion, all the while saying we are worshiping the same God. But are we? Amos preached that right worship and right doctrine are very important and the people suffered because of the lack of it. All else leads people astray into their own thinking and gods of their own making; they just put God’s name on it!
Both And: There is a tension here. We can get so wrapped up in right doctrine and worship that we become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good! Yet the opposite is where we’re so busy being earthly good that we lose sight of why, and our faith becomes a burden of proving ourselves. People like to polarize right worship and right actions, but God speaking through Amos makes it clear it’s a ‘both and’. Right actions—good works flow out of right worship; the two are intrinsically connected and necessary. The Holy Spirit works through Word and Sacrament that we might be able to do the good works God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10). Amos made no bones about it; the people in his day were racking up a sinful record of abusive behavior toward the poor, the fatherless, and the widows. The ethics of God’s people stunk! They had become wealthy and thought themselves mighty and self-sufficient and neglected any form of true worship, therefore they were not even open to hear God’s words of correction and instruction.
Amos told them that God would judge them; destruction was imminent! And Assyria came and inflicted a terrible and cruel judgment, and the Lord of hosts (Yaweh Sabbaoth), did not come to their aid.
A Remnant: But there is hope; a remnant will remain. Amos mention of Joseph is so important! There isn’t a tribe in Israel named after Joseph. Joseph was Jacob’s favored son, rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery where he suffered ridicule and imprisonment before being vindicated. He was set over all of Egypt in the blink of an eye when Pharaoh asked, “Can anyone like this be found, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” This is the kind of people who will endure as God’s Old Testament Church after the Assyrian conquest of Israel. By God’s grace a remnant will remain and endure.
The biblical theme of a remnant begins with Adam and Eve, who upon rebelling against God did not immediately die, but were preserved for the sake of the whole human race with God’s grace set on the Seed that would destroy the works of the devil. The remnant in the flood narrative was eight souls preserved on the ark, prefiguring all who are baptized into Christ; the remnant every Christian is a part of. By God’s grace Lot and his two daughters were all that were saved from Sodom and Gomorrah. Elijah in his day thought he was the only faithful believer left in all of Israel, yet God told him he had set aside seven thousand whose knees had not bowed to Baal. A remnant was preserved even through the brutal Assyrian conquest and then again when Babylon wiped out Judah and Jerusalem. In exile the line of David was preserved to pave the way for Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the house of David.
In each era the remnant does not escape suffering, rather, by God’s grace they continue to believe and be faithful in spite of tragedy, loss, and grief; in a world that stands under God’s righteous judgment. Ultimately this theme culminates in the sinless Son of God, who being fully righteous, yet He suffered the entirety of God’s righteous wrath and judgment against sinners; against our sin. Through Baptism you and I have been made part of God’s faithful remnant, the holy Christian Church, which will continue till Jesus returns.
Hope: You see Amos is not all doom and gloom; he preached God’s word of hope; seek the Lord God and live. It’s never too late to seek good and hate evil. The Christian church is about mission where we are taught and empowered by Word and Sacrament to faithfully speak to current issues right where God has placed us. And as we are nurtured, grow, and mature in the life of the Church, you will have an impact in your families and in our communities. This is the place where God teaches and equips you and me to engage our world ethically, trusting in His grace while we wait for Jesus’ return.
The New Testament continues in the call of Amos; seek God and live! Both John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near,” for as Jesus declared: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Everlasting life is found in Christ alone coming to you through faith, and it will work itself out in love toward to others.