November 14, 2021
Amos 1:1-2; 5:14-15, 21-24
Hans Hauge was plowing his father’s field and singing an old German hymn more than 200 years ago when he felt something.
It was something that he couldn’t describe … something that touched his soul and overwhelmed his senses. He later said that this moment led him to feel a sense of regret for not serving a “transcendently good God.”
Years later he wrote:
“That my soul experienced something supernatural, divine, and blessed; that there was a glory that no tongue can utter…”
Hauge was filled with a love of God and … just as important … a love of his neighbours. He left the farm and traveled the Norwegian countryside preaching and teaching piety. Whenever he met someone on the road, Hauge would talk to them about eternal life and the importance of working toward salvation.
Hauge preached personal piety … living a life that was pleasing to God and by doing so … other’s lives would be transformed and they would be called to live such a life as well.
Hauge’s personal transformation in the farmer’s field led to the transformation of the country’s spiritual life … and landed him in prison quite a few times when he upset church authorities.
And the transformation wasn’t restricted to Norway … people who emigrated to North America brought this sense of piety with them and it took hold here.
It was an early influence on our brand of Lutheranism,
Like Hauge, the prophet Amos was also a disturber with roots in farming. He was used to doing manual labour in the fields or the vineyards … he was not born into privilege.
He was a working person’s prophet.
Amos was from Judea and he spent his time prophesizing in the Northern Kingdom … a place where society and religious authorities considered him an outsider … but being from the margins gave Amos insight into the problems faced by the people who had little influence in life.
During Amos’ time, Assyria’s power in the region was growing and they were influencing economic policy … increasing the exports of olive oil, grain and wine and converting over large tracts of land to wheat production.
Now, the elite and powerful are able to force the smaller farms and villages to join the new economy and … as a result … the cost of the basic necessities increase … sometimes beyond the means of the poor and the less-fortunate. So, more people were being pushed into debt and hunger to fuel this prosperity.
It’s in this world that Amos rails against the state of religious life this morning. He is stirring the pot and challenging people to do better and be better … and it all starts in worship.
In a time of peace and prosperity, the people have become complacent and indifferent to their neighbours … the sick who suffer unaided and the poor who starve unnoticed.
Amos offers a vision of a God who is angry with the people’s approach to their worship life … their hearts are not in it … they are just going through the routine … the rituals and traditions … killing time until the day of the Lord joyously arrived.
A couple of weeks ago … as we heard about the dedication of Solomon’s Temple … about how it became the focus of worship life and how we are called to worship as a community. Today … through our reading of Amos … we hear how just showing up for worship isn’t enough.
Worship … to the prophet … isn’t about following rituals and traditions … it’s about how it empowers people to act.
Amos tells the people that the quality of worship lies in what comes afterward … what we do in the community … how they … how we … live lives in service and thanksgiving.
If they do otherwise, God … Amos warns … will roar like a lion … cause the grass in the pastures to wither and the snow and water on the mountains to dry up … just as the people’s hearts threaten to.
Amos tells the people that God hates their festivals … and the solemn gatherings … and their offerings … because they are offered out of a sense of personal obligation or piety and not out of a sense of love of God or their neighbours.
Amos reminds the people that their worship life should lead them to work for justice for others … for those left behind in a time of prosperity.
The piety that Amos … and God … sees in the people serves to mask callousness and indifference to the oppressed and marginalized. Justice should … to quote Amos … roll down like an ever-flowing stream with love carried in the current.
Amos calls on the people to reconsider their relationship with God and adopt a right relationship with God … he calls them to repent their ways … not out of fear of God’s anger … but out of love.
This grace-filled relationship … empowered and embodied by worship … calls us out into the world to work with and to advocate for the powerless and the vulnerable … it calls us to bring justice into the life of the world … to help bring about a world where justice flows like water from the cross … washing away the suffering and hardship being borne by others.
A world where the thirsty are welcomed at the banks of the stream … welcome to drink as much as the need … and where we are called to make sure the stream flows unabated.