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Pentecost 7B Sermon
Amos 7: 7-15

July 11, 2021


Sermon Archives
 

 

Amos 7:7-15

7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. 8And the LORD said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said,
‘See, I am setting a plumb-line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by;
9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’
10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said,
“Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.” ’
12And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’
14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycomore trees, 15and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

As most of you know, last weekend we were together with my wife’s family for the holiday in Cincinnati. One morning some of us were sitting on the back deck of the house, enjoying the morning sunshine while we had our coffee and breakfast. Seemingly out of nowhere, my father-in-law asked my daughter, “Hannah, why do you have a plumb bob on your leg?” I was confused- not able to see exactly to what he was referring I pictured a weighted piece of metal tied to a string and dangling from her knee. When I shifted to see what he was looking at, I had to laugh. You see, a big part of my daughter’s faith life has been camping ministries, especially Camp Mowana. She went there for a week every summer of her life, which is no exaggeration, because even before she was old enough to be an official “camper,” I would take her when I volunteered and she would hang out with me. As a result, it was a huge influence on her life. She is a camp counselor this year and I credit her connection with Camp Mowana in making that happen. She is sharing the love of Jesus with other young people because of those at Camp Mowana who shared the love of Jesus with her.

What does that have to do with my father-in-law’s question about the plumb bob on her leg? Well … when Camp Mowana closed and was sold by LOMO to the Richland County Parks Department a couple of years ago, Hannah and a couple of her camp friends decided to permanently honor this special and important place by getting some ink. On her right leg, just above the ankle, she has a tattoo of the Camp Mowana logo - which is a cross super-imposed onto a downward-pointing arrow flint. If you look at the image on the front of the bulletin of a real plumb bob and imagine a flint pointing down with a cross on the front, you can see where there might be a strong resemblance. While it might not have been the intentions of the people who originally designed that logo, I like the connection between the cross & flint of Mowana and the plumb bob.

First of all, the plumb bob is an important tool for those who want to build something straight and true. In construction, it is important that lines of materials going side to side are level. It is just as important for lines of materials going up and down to be plumb- that means they are straight. Hanging a weight and allowing for it to stop swinging is a basic tool for building straight, true walls. That is the reference that Amos is making when he shares the vision that Yahweh is setting a plumb line in the midst of the people. The two visions leading up to these verses shows the destruction of Israel in different ways - by locusts, or a shower of fire. In each case, Amos talks God out of the intended destruction. Finally, after this passage we hear how Israel will finally be defeated the sword and exile. God is speaking through the lowly herdsman, Amos, to tell the prophet Amaziah that the house of King Jeroboam will soon fall. Why? Because this house was not built using the plumb line that Yahweh has set before them. Let me go into this with a little more detail.

God’s plumb line, quite frankly, is the way of life according to the commandments of God. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength; we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. As we consider how to honor our fathers and mothers, keep the sabbath holy, refrain from killing, stealing and committing adultery, coveting and all that the commandments call us to do, loving God and each other is the plumb line that we use to build our own houses and lives. This is a message for people in all times and circumstances of life. For instance, Amos was preaching during a time of peace and prosperity for both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Immediately after this chapter comes the warning that we hear regularly from Amos - “Hear this, you that trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” When times are good, the sin of greed rears its ugly head, enticing those who already have much to attain for more and more by taking advantage of the vulnerable and cheating their customers. In Amos’ time this happened by tinkering with the scales to short-change those who bought goods, enslaving people into servitude for free or very little pay and passing off sweepings of the field for good grain. These merchants may have observed the sabbath and commandments of their faith, but they did so with an eye on the clock and calendar, yearning for the day when they can make even more money at their trade. The walls of this proverbial house will eventually crumble in upon themselves as people are more and more dishonest, convincing themselves that they are in the right and that the poor or needy are in their condition because they are not smart or hardworking or crafty enough to compete in the open market.

It is a message that is just as relevant today as our stock markets soar with value and even our church donations continue to meet or exceed our expenses. We must always ask how the plumb line of loving our neighbor - and as Jesus said, our neighbor is whoever is in need of our love and compassion - exposes how out of plumb our lifestyles may have become. Even though times may be good, the walls of our house will eventually fall if they continue to be out of plumb with God’s call to love.

It is also a word for times of trouble as well. Over the last year and a half, we have relied on the constant presence of a loving, healing God to get us through this terrible pandemic. To be sure, we have lost people who are close to us. Dan and Eda Jane Spivey and Norma Erion are a few Clinton Heights folks who died either directly or in part because of Covid19. But many of our family and friends have either avoided infection or have had minimal or temporary symptoms of the virus. Meanwhile we have taken so many precautions, maybe even more than we might have needed, and today we can see the smiles of unmasked, vaccinated friends gathering inside this wide-open sanctuary for worship. We have trusted that the plumb line of God’s love and our call to love one another has kept our house from crumbling apart. And for people who experience trauma and grief in their lives for a myriad of reasons, from their own illness to the loss of loved ones; from unemployment to divorce; from civil unrest and violence to corporate greed and crime; from addiction to general uncertainty or emotional distress, the message is the same - loving God and each other is the plumb line that strengthens your own house against the threats that we face, and even against getting too caught up in our own successes or peace.

Getting back to that plumb bob tattoo on my daughter’s leg … Camp Mowana was named for a young boy in a Native American legend. The name, “Mowana” means, “one who seeks.” How appropriate is that? A logo on the leg of a young person that looks like the plumb line from the prophet Amos and shows the importance of a camp set apart to share the love of God with those who seek … those who seek the path through life; those who seek God’s direction when times are good and life is joy-filled; those who seek God’s presence when all seems lost or life is bereft of all joy. Maybe we all should get a tattoo like that on our legs! It is a constant reminder of the presence of Jesus for all who seek - and the gift of the plumb line of Jesus, God’s love made flesh, which keeps our households strong and faithful, no matter what life is like. Thanks be to God! Amen.