Pentecost 21B - Amos 5:6-7,10-15

Amos 5:6–7, 10-15 (NIV)

 Seek the Lord and live,

or He will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire;

it will devour them,

and Bethel will have no one to quench it.

There are those who turn justice into bitterness

and cast righteousness to the ground.

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court

and detest the one who tells the truth.

11 You levy a straw tax on the poor

and impose a tax on their grain.

Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,

you will not live in them;

though you have planted lush vineyards,

you will not drink their wine.

12 For I know how many are your offenses

and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes

and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,

for the times are evil.

14 Seek good, not evil,

that you may live.

Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,

just as you say he is.

15 Hate evil, love good;

maintain justice in the courts.

Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy

on the remnant of Joseph.

 

            Once upon a time there was prosperous man whose first wife died soon after the birth of their first child, a daughter. Before long the man re-married and ended up with two more daughters. Not long after he passed away leaving the widow with his first daughter and her two half-sisters.

            The second wife ruled the roost in the house with the three girls. It wasn’t long before the harmony which had existed in the house when the man was alive disappeared. The fairness of domestic tasks, equity in the distribution of food and the use of the family wealth was up-ended.

            The woman and her two younger daughters ruled the roost and the first daughter became the slave of the house, patiently bearing the burden of the housework, to eat only the leftovers from the table and wear the castoffs of her two spoilt siblings.

            By now you’ve guessed the name of the poor girl who lived in misery by the edge of the hearth – of course it’s Cinderella. Cinderella is a metaphor for the poor and oppressed of the world.

            We know from the fairy tale that Cinderella was patient and kind, obedient and polite, like the prudent man Amos describes as keeping… quiet in such times, for the times are evil. Waiting for the mercy of almighty God.

            We can draw some parallels between the story of Cinderella and our text from Amos concerning the judgement on Israel and Judah. There’s even a parallel for us to consider here in the world in which we live today.

            The wealthy and powerful pull the strings and control the welfare of the poor and disadvantaged. As with Cinderella, the poor and needy of Judah and Israel, together with the people of the war torn Middle East, North Africa, and numerous other places around the world today, have no recourse for justice and so bear quietly with the bullying, mistreatment and poverty - but live in the hope of salvation.

            Another parallel may be drawn with the child who is abused by an adult or other family member, and like Cinderella, expected to slave in the house, eat little or nothing and wear dirty ill-fitting clothes. They hope for an end to their misery and suffering.

            But the parallels aren’t limited to abused children, lower socio-economic situations and the third world. There are those who abuse their children with neglect while they themselves indulge their passions for entertainment, sensual pleasure and self-indulgence.

There are some who abuse children by not providing the discipline, guidance and time necessary to help children properly grow in body, mind and spirit.

            Children who aren’t allowed to receive adequate care, supervision and encouragement are as deprived of love as those who are verbally, physically and sexually abused for the self-satisfaction of their careers.

It may be as simple as the adult spending largely on themselves – e.g. having an expensive ice cream while giving a child a popsicle.

            Those entrusted with leadership and responsibility cannot deprive God’s people of truth and justice as Amos highlights, because God will, … sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it. There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground.

            Judgement is coming.

            Cinderella did get to experience for a brief moment the splendour that a-waits as she attended the ball with the prince until 12 o’clock when it was back to the reality of the hearth - until the prince’s servant came with the hope fitting the glass slipper.

            Like a poor child watching a TV show which depicts happy families, when they live in hell on earth, and hearing that Jesus is all about life. Or like a child in poverty receiving a shoe box full of goodies which will give a glimpse of how others are blessed from a Christian prophet from the other side of the world with a life giving message.

            The world needs prophets like Amos who will stand and confront the injustices in the world so that the poor may be provided for.

            The world needs prophets like Amos who will speak to oppressive and manipulative governments, companies and bosses so that the over worked and oppressed may be released from the boredom and monotony of their lives,

            The world needs prophets like Amos who will speak out so that the child may be freed from the relative who creeps and acts in darkness and secrecy.

            The world needs prophets like Amos so that parents may be encouraged to respect and honour their children with good discipline, the provision of those things which will help them develop into their full potential and to be the people God created them to be.

            The world needs prophets like Amos to let people know that Jesus is all about life!

            Amos said, Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. We know that we have a great High Priest who is gracious and who has mercy for His people. Like the prince with the glass slipper, our High Priest offers a life of happy ever after the hearth of this life here on earth.

            We have a place in the palace of God as the bride of Christ – the church – to which all who believe belong. God has room for all of us, for all who are oppressed and burdened by their life of suffering and drudgery, sin and guilt.

            Many are lost in their suffering and have not yet heard the message. Cinderella was kept in the dark away from the prince’s servant with the glass slipper.

            How many in the world are kept from hearing about Jesus to satisfy the selfish desire of a few – be they industrialists who peddle injustice or parents who are too busy sleeping in after playing the pokies to bring their child to be blessed by Jesus, His Word and Sacraments.

            How many are too busy, or to lazy, to come to be fed regularly with the healing Word of the Gospel, the bread and wine, body and blood of Jesus which heals and strengthens us in body and soul for this life and for eternity?

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us in 4:14–16 (NIV) 14 Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into heaven,  Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

            Did you hear the last words of this text? … that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

The grace to help is not only for our need, but for the need of the Cinderella’s around the world – in the Middle East, North Africa, India, Sumatra, Samoa, the length and breadth of New Zealand, around the corner here in Hamilton and Cambridge, and perhaps even in our own extended families.

            So I encourage you, along with Amos, to continue to, and help others to, Seek the Lord and live, … 14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.

            …we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Not only with words, but in actions also, so that justice may prevail as the Lord wills.

            Remember the disciples asked, Mark in chapter 10:26–27 (NIV) …, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

            Amen.