The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
R1 Amos 5:18-27
Sermon for 20 August 2023
May I speak in the name God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
The book of Amos is one in which the prophet sets out the many sins of the people of Israel and spends the first 6 chapters passing on the word of the Lord, hoping that the people will heed his words. God had rejected the prayers and offerings of the people as they have also been offering praise and sacrifices to false gods. In consequence, God will not accept anything from the priests and people until they renounce the false gods that they have been worshipping.
To put Amos’ prophecy into context, he is a prophet from the middle of the 8th century BC (about 750), and flourished during the reign of Jeroboam II. This is about 180 years after the reigns of David and Solomon but before the second exile into Babylon. Amos has been told by God that if the people do not mend their ways they will be sent into exile beyond Damascus, hence Babylon.
God did give the people every chance to redeem themselves as the second exile did not take place until 597/587BC. The people continued in their bad ways, though there was a respite in the reign of Josiah who tried to restore worship of God, and even found an ancient book of the Pentateuch (probably Deuteronomy) hidden in a crevice in the wall of the Temple. But Josiah was not listened to by the people of his kingdom.
But the message of Amos was quite clear - start living as God has told you or suffer the consequences. It was a stark message with God telling them that their ways were not how he wanted his people to live. The Hebrews were an ungrateful lot, not unlike modern people. God gave them a good land to live in with food, clothing and shelter. He had rescued them from the land of Egypt, their first exile, but all this was not enough. Moses had found to his cost his people were never satisfied, they were full of complaints, and they were difficult to lead and please.
If ingratitude is part of human failings, so too is the inability of many to forgive even when they have themselves been forgiven. In Matthew 18, we have the situation where Peter asks Jesus “How many times must I forgive my brother or sister, when they sin again me? Up to seven times?” Jesus tells him that it can be at least seventy-seven times. Then he tells Peter the Parable which we heard. God does expect us to forgive as we ourselves have been forgiven. How would we like to find ourselves unforgiven when we “reach the other shore”, if we have not been forgiving ourselves?
God is a forgiving God. He is also the God, we can turn to in distress as David found when he prayed the words of Psalm 142. Sources say that this Psalm was written when David was hiding from Saul when he was seeking to kill him, being afraid that David was going to oust him from his kingship.
God, being God, has many facets and perfectly able to cope with all our situations and messes which we, as human beings, get ourselves into, whether on a personal level or globally. Though he lets us sort ourselves out if we can, God is there to assist us and be with us when we ask him. We don’t always get a miracle sent to solve the situation, but we get guidance or the sense that God is with us if we let him be so.
A number of times in my life I have needed guidance to solve problems, and I have to say that I have felt that God is there at my side. Sometimes answers have been almost unpalatable, but necessary, and it is a sign that there are sometimes no easy answers. However always God has actually given me the appropriate way forward.
However, what we should do is to do as the great hymn “What a friend” says. “Take it to the Lord in prayer”. “Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care?” “In His arms he’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there!” This hymn, my favourite, I have found to be the purveyor of such truths that I am so grateful that I was taught it when I was very young. It has never yet failed me and is not just a hymn but a prayer.
We do too many things in our modern lives in which we forget to consult with God. The human race thinks itself too clever now to bring God into the picture. So often we are told that we don’t need God, or even worse that God does not exist. What a mess the world is in because of it!.
So, God is a forgiving God, one who guides and protects, and is with us every step of the way. He sent Jesus to redeem our sins, however the human race rejected God’s gift then and many reject him now.
I firmly believe that if we pray to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and listen to the answers we might gain the knowledge and guidance to get the world out of its current problems. So do as the hymn says, and,” take it to the Lord in prayer”. Amen.