July 21, 2019
Due to technical difficulties, no video of the sermon is available this week.
Whenever I do a “summer wedding” in our lovely, but un-air-conditioned church, I make the couple a promise, (one I honestly stole from Adam) that my sermon will be inversely proportional to the temperature in the room. So the hotter the room, the shorter the sermon.
It’s pretty hot in here today, so my sermon will be short and, hopefully, to the point. Here it is…are you ready?
I would guess that this isn’t an earth-shattering message to anyone. We’ve all experienced words that have inspired us, elevated us. And we’ve been subjected to words that have denigrated us, wounded us. Words have the power to inspire hope or fear; to encourage us to be our “best selves” or persuade us to give in to our “worst selves.” Words can convince us we can do anything, or nothing. Words can fall on our ears like water, soothing and life-giving, or they can assault us, like a slap in the face or a punch to the gut. All because words matter.
We often talk about the importance of actions and I’m not denying how critical it is for us to live out our faith though our actions. And, our words matter just as much as our actions. It’s not enough to only take action against injustice, oppression, racism, or the mistreatment of those most in need, we must use our words as well.
The prophets, with whom we have been walking these past few weeks, knew this well. And our prophet today, Amos, speaks powerful words that indict the people for their mistreatment of the poor and the hungry. Amos calls the people out for abandoning God’s mission of love and reconciliation and instead privileging their own desire for wealth and power over their fellow human beings, and over God.
In a time of relative peace and great prosperity, many have become greedy and selfish. They amass wealth beyond measure at the expense of those most in need. They offer and take bribes, all to increase their own wealth or power. They ignore the poor, eating sumptuous meals while those most in need sell themselves for “the price of a pair of sandals,” just to survive. And, in the midst of their rejection of those whom God has privileged, the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten, a grand show of their purported faith is made—prayers are spoken aloud for all to hear, Scriptures are quoted, and holy days are celebrated with gusto.
Into this world of wealth, privilege, and power, Amos’ gives voice to God’s words.
God is fed up. God has called the people to be a holy nation—one defined by love and generosity. A nation where the hungry are fed, the poor are lifted up, the refugee finds safe haven, and the immigrant is welcomed into the community. And the people have ignored God’s calling.
Amos’ words burn with righteous anger and echo with a clarion call for the people to return to God and to who God has called them to be—a people whose every action is defined by love.
Amos’ words matter…and so do ours.
When we find ourselves face to face with oppression, racism, unjust systems, or the mistreatment of those most in need, it is not enough to act—we must also speak.
In one-on-one conversations or in groups; at home or at work; to family, friends, neighbors, and those in power, and yes, on social media, we speak. We give voice to God’s words of love, because it is that same love that defines our actions.
We speak because, in the end, words matter.