The Plumb Line
July 28, 2019 | Lisa Degrenia
Passage: Amos 7:8
Rev. Jose Nieves
- Pastor First UMC, Kissimmee
- Leads school/church partnerships with several local schools
- A faithful man of God, a powerful man of prayer
- Two weeks ago, preacher for the High School students, while I was the preacher for the middle school students at camp
- One morning at camp, I see him, he looks awful. I thought he was sick.
- He was brokenhearted- Up late following the developments in Puerto Rico
- He was born there and much of his family still lives there
I suspect you’re brokenhearted over Puerto Rico as well
- The recent confirmation of extensive corruption among the ruling elite
- Extortion, Fraud, Favoritism, Mishandling public funds
- The injustice, abuse, and neglect are hard to take. It rends your heart. But at the root of what makes this possible, is how the ruling elite viewed those they were elected to serve.
- The revelation of deep-seated disrespect, mocking, contempt of the people, people still trying to recover from hurricanes
People rose up, they joined together and used their voice to speak out against the evil, the injustice, the oppression, and the devaluing of human beings. The people rose up and became prophets. They spoke. truth to power and called for change.
A prophet is empowered by God and called by God to speak truth to power. This is hard, uncomfortable work. It takes tremendous faith and courage and discipline to speak what people don’t want to hear, but need to hear.
How many of us like to read the Old Testament prophets? Not many. It's hard to read them, the level of truth-telling and pain.
We'll be spending time with the Old Testament prophets for the next few weeks. The prophets feel very fresh in our day and time. We need to read the prophets regularly.
- I need their example of truth-telling and courage. I need the reminder as a child of the One, True, Living God, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I too have a calling to be prophetic. To use my resources, and my influence, and my resources, and my voice to speak out against evil, injustice, and oppression. It's a part of our calling as the people of God.
- I need to hear their message. This is what happens to the people of God when things get twisted and crooked and we lose our way. I need the reminder so I don't do it. And so that I don't condone it by my silence and my apathy.
Some of you are asking, but I thought we were going to be studying parables? We are: Old Testament Parables
- Parables are stories and metaphors with deep spiritual meaning
- Parables are used by prophets to help people listen; to call people to justice, righteousness, and action.
- Where do you think Jesus got the idea to use parables? From the prophets!
Amos helps us to have a heart after God's heart, not a crooked twisted heart.
- Amos was a very ordinary person. A shepherd and sycamore-fig farmer.
- Called by God to be a prophet (not his family business, not a professional corrupted prophet)
- Lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, traveled to Bethel in the northern Kingdom of Israel to speak truth to power
That power was King Jeroboam II
- Powerful King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
- Successful military leader
- won battles
- enlarged their territory
- generated great wealth for some, a ruling elite
- Misused his power as king of God’s people
- Promoted the worship of false gods. As the worship became false, twisted and corrupted, so did their hearts.
- Promoted corrupt, predatory business practices, an injustice especially harmful to the poor
Amos 8:4-6, The Voice. Like a bowl of ripe fruit, the time was ripe. God would overlook their injustice no longer
4 Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor to ruin, 5 Who asks, “When will the new moon festival be done so we can sell our grain? And when will the Sabbath end so we can sell our wheat? Then we can tamper with our scales and make the bushel measure smaller and the counterweight heavier to cheat our customers. 6 We can buy the needy for silver and the poor and their property for the price of a pair of sandals. We can even sell the chaff we sweep up as grain.”
- False weights and measures, selling food that was inedible, human trafficking, taking over people's property and lives
People with voice and influence were either and active part of the corruption or fat, happy and apathetic to it.
I read that and ask, "Lord is that me?"
Amos begins speaking out against the injustice. Speaks truth to power so things can change.
- How could this injustice come from people who were once denied justice and enslaved in Egypt?
- How could this be if you are children of Abraham, chosen and privileged and covenanted to be a blessing to the nations, to care for the stranger and the poor, to proclaim the salvation of God in word and deed?
- How could you do this to fellow human beings beloved of God, made in the very image of God?
- How could this happen if you still worship the One True Living God who rescued you from oppression and established you in the Promised Land?
That was the problem- Their worship was full of hypocrisy, all show. We show something but it's not the truth of our hearts and souls. It was crooked and their hearts grew crooked
- People faithfully attended worship- making offerings and ritual sacrifices
- Yet became apathetic to injustice or downright embraced injustice
- Their worship did not change their actions, affect their choices, give them eyes to see every single person as a beloved child of God worthy respect, dignity, and access to resources we all need.
- Their worship was disconnected from how they treated people
- Lord is that me?
Amos 5:21-24, NRSV
21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Righteousness = right relationship. Equal, compassionate treatment no matter the social differences
Justice = concrete actions to create righteousness. Right relationship in action. Love in action. God's beauty, power, and grace in action flowing through us.
Our of our worship flows right relationship with others, ourselves, and the earth.
When we see something that isn't right we act, we speak, we do something to make it right. The flow of worship in right relationship and justice.
Isaiah 28:17, NIV.
I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.
This is probably the most famous image from the prophet Amos.
Someone said you could use a plumb bob as a weapon. It's heavy and pointed.
It's been used for thousands of years to make sure what's being built stays true. If the ground is uneven, what you're building can stay true if you use a plumb line. If we just eyeball it, it will be crooked.
No matter how you twist or swing a plumb line it will quickly return to true.
Amos 7:8, The Voice.
Eternal One: What do you see, Amos?
Amos: A plumb line.
Eternal One: Watch what I’m about to do! I am going to put a plumb line up against My people Israel to see what is straight and true, And I will not look the other way any longer.
What would it be like for God to hold a plumb line up next to our lives, up next to our hearts? Would they be shown to be true? Would they be shown living and flowing with grace, hope, justice, and mercy out of the very worship of God?
Or would they be shown to be twisted and crooked?
We do not have to shy away from allowing God to hold up a plumb line to us. With God, there is always the chance for change, for mercy, redemption, forgiveness. The chance to repent and turn. The chance for the healing of our hearts.
May we accept our calling to live true. To be a prophet of God. To walk alongside another. To give voice to one who has no voice.
What keeps you up at night saying, "God something should be done about this?" God is calling you to action.
Lord, help us to hear the call. To lead a life worthy of the call and the grace and hope we've found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The closing prayer is based on this devotion by Steve Garnaas Holmes.
A plumb line held straight
by the gravity of love,
without curve or spin of human twist,
plumb line of blessing
unbowed by curse,
unbent by fear or greed,
plumb line seeking, unerring, the center,
all creatures' belovedness and belonging,
the wellbeing of all Creation.
Measure your acts, O human,
judge your policies, O Nation,
by this and no other.
Does it bless without cursing?
Does it serve without stealing?
Does it join and not divide?
God's plumb line
will not slide sideways
to favor some over others,
but loves all dearly;
it will not sway to sacrifice one's thriving
for another's desires.
The ground is uneven but the line is set.
The corrupt tilt their heads;
the wise discern
and build accordingly.