Homily Sept 18, 2022 – Amos 8:4-7
Very often we hear that the “god of the Old Testament” is judgmental and legalistic – and nothing like the God that Jesus reveals to be goodness, full of grace, mercy and love.
Well, that’s simply nonsense.
But it is true that the prophets make it plain that God has no patience with foolishness.
Now notice that as always, Amos is speaking to the people of God – to those who follow the God of Israel – who themselves know his kindness poured out on them when he delivered them from slavery in Egypt and gave them a land to dwell in – and made a covenant with them to be their God.
He has no interest in what pagans do.
Amos has nothing to say to people who are not in covenant relationship with God.
He isn’t concerned with what we might call “secular” society.
But even though we are not Jews; even though we are not people of the land; even though we are Gentiles – we Christians do understand ourselves to have been miraculously, unnaturally, grafted into the people of God.
That is Paul’s understanding of our status.
And so – if we choose to accept that, Amos has something to say to us, too.
Christian business men and women, investors, who rather like to see a recession coming because it allows them to buy up properties abandoned or repossessed by those who can no longer make payments on them – who then resell them, or rent them at exorbitant prices – are in Amos’ view.
So are those who cannot enjoy the Holy Days of Lent or Advent, Christmas or Easter, or even the Sabbath, because they can’t wait to get back to business as usual – after the required time spent in prayer and supplication – so that they can offer smaller goods for larger prices – disregarding the right of the Christian poor to adequate food and shelter at reasonable prices – are in his sights.
Remember, Amos is angry – and says God is – at the people of God who are abusing their own brothers and sisters – He has plenty to say about how they ought to be treating foreigners as well; but right now he is speaking about friends, neighbors, those who worship alongside these men greedy for profit at the expense of their own –
When I was in Haiti many years ago it was dangerous to buy milk unless you actually saw the farmer milking his animal. I don’t know if they sold “sweepings” of the rice and corn, but I do know that very often people watered down the milk – with what was certainly dirty river water – and sold it to mothers who needed it for their children.
It is not difficult to see how men and women who are too eager to make a profit, can become willing to “buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.”
I recently spoke with someone who works in sales for a large corporation who lamented this trend, but felt helpless to do anything about it. Profits keep rising, prices rise, while the size and quality of goods being sold deteriorates. And everybody knows it.
He can’t change the system. He can’t probably do anything about that culture of greed. But what he has to decide is whether or not he can keep his soul, his integrity, his sanity IN that job – or whether he should move into another job. I can’t answer that for him. But I can certainly appreciate his conscience, his concern for what he is teaching his kids.
This week the whole country saw what calculated “Christian” cruelty looks like – but it saw something else, too.
And what heartens me is how non-Christians have been reacting to what the people of St Andrews Episcopal Church on Martha’s Vineyard did when 50 immigrants were dumped on them without any warning –
Let me read you what an unbelieving friend of mine wrote on his very popular, widely read page:
What we do matters.
And when the Church IS the Church, people look and listen and wonder – and when confronted with the REAL, the counterfeit suddenly looks exactly as tawdry and miserable – as fake – as it actually is.
Amos knew that.
I trust we do, too.