Because it was Remembrance Sunday, the service where I was preaching Amos took a different form. Held an hour earlier, it required slickness from the preacher to ensure the whole service was over in order for the congregation to walk to the war memorial. As the minutes ticked by I was mentally culling parts of my sermon! I tried to use my 20 minutes (which included the Scripture reading) to do some justice to this extraordinary bold prophet who roars like a lion in judgement on God's own people.
I chose two passages. Amos 1:1,2 to briefly set the scene for the man and his times. A shepherd (and tender of sycomore trees) who was propelled onto the national scene because God called him to prophesy. But I focused most attention on 5:11-24. God's judgement has such a hard edge because it is addressed to his own people Israel who, instead of living for him in holy ways, in justice and love, behaves just like the surrounding ungodly nations.
And how shocking it is to realize that God also expects us to live for him as a holy nation, royal priesthood, offering praise, abstaining from the desires of the flesh, conducting ourselves honorably so that the world notices and glorifies God (1 Pet: 2: 9-12).
Whenever God's chosen people behave like everyone else in ungodly ways they come under judgement ( 2 Cor. 5:10). Does God still roar?! I highlighted two issues in Amos and today:
UNJUST LIFESTYLES when God's people collude with a growing gap between the haves and have nots. Oppressing the poor is very subtle; neglecting poverty and the causes of poverty is very convenient.
SELF-PLEASING WORSHIP - devastatingly God has strong views about our worship. God says he hates their worship, their offerings and their songs (5:21-23). What a shock that must have been to people who were enjoying their worship but had disconnected it from the rest of life. I mentioned Mark Labberton's book: The Dangerous Act of Worship in which he critiques much contemporary worship that is so intent on pleasing people it domesticates God and fails to let him make a difference to them and the world.
I really wish that I hadn't had to preach such a tough sermon. But Amos should be heard today, shouldn't he?