The Prophetic Voice

Ascensioncast

Sermon by The Rev. Christopher W. Hogin, July 14, 2019

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The First Lesson: Amos 7:7-17

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And 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;

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.”

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,

`Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'”

And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.

You say, `Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

Therefore thus says the Lord:

`Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”

The Gospel: Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Sermon The Reverend Christopher Hogin The Prophetic Voice Amos 7:7-17 The Episcopal Church of The Ascension July 14, 2019   It’s the summer of 1978. I’m five years old riding in the back seat with my brother and sister in a station wagon headed to Florida. With seatbelts shoved under the seat, we bounce up and down keeping time to the Seals and Croft song, Summer Breeze on the radio. My father rests his arm on the ledge of the open window. A Beach Boys tune plays—Wipeout. The children shout with glee asking, “Can we surf?” My father grins and replies, “Sure!!!! We stand, steady our arms, and sway side to side cruising on imaginary waves on a California coastline. My father tries to make us Wipeout in time with the music. He pumps the brakes while gulping a can of Tab, causing the car to lurch forward until we tumble down in the seat giggling. The game gets better! While “surfing” a police car pulls up beside us. Pressing our faces to the window we wave. With a cigarette dangling from his mouth, he waves back. We twirl our fingers in the air signaling him to turn on the siren. He does. My father pumps the brakes again making us wipeout again. The policeman laughs. The children laugh. My parents laugh. We all laugh! It’s a grand time, and we do this all while barreling down Interstate 75 unrestrained. It never crossed anyone’s mind that three kids bouncing up and down without a seatbelt was probably not a good idea! Not even the police. Child auto safety laws were not yet in the societal consciousness. Today my parents would have been shipped to Guantanamo Bay. We laugh at that story. We laugh thinking, how could people then have been so clueless? Even here at Ascension we had a raised area downstairs in the parish hall where people smoked. I know, because I was a child here, and remember eating donuts downstairs in a haze of smoke. Here’s the thing: somewhere along the way, somebody said that’s not right. Somebody said that the social norms, the everyday, the seemingly innocuous activities were actually harmful. Somebody said that maybe having seatbelts was a good idea or that smoking was bad. That’s what a prophet does. It’s what Amos does. Amos makes his proclamation to the people of Israel during a time of peace and prosperity. It’s a time where bribery of officials was rampant and normal. A time where it was okay to oppress the poor by imprisoning those for minor unpaid debts and kicking people off their land. All that was normal Amos says that is not God’s world. He says society is not aligned with God. He uses a tangible instrument, a plumb line, to demonstrate his point. A plumb line is a weighted instrument, suspended from a string used to measure whether a structure is centered properly. Amos challenges people to look at themselves and society and ask, “what is out of alignment?” It’s a question just as relevant today as it was four-thousand years ago. It is a question every generation must ask themselves: “What are we doing now that seems normal, but that is really harmful, and out of alignment with God’s plan?” Let’s go deeper. Somebody, at some point in time, said slavery was wrong, even though it was normal. Somebody said children working fifty hours a week in a sweat shop was a bad idea. Somebody, at some point in time, looked at what is normal and proclaimed things need to change. It needs to change so that all of us in society can live a better life. A life closer to God. Today is Peanut Butter Sunday. It’s a day where we collect food for those who hunger. The fact that we even have a Peanut Butter Sunday is a prophetic witness. It reveals that our world is still broken. Thankfully we have organizations such as FISH that meets those needs. But the fact that we live in a community where there is still hunger reveals our brokenness. I’m not a prophet. I don’t claim to know the answer to that question. But it is important that we ask the question, that we begin the conversation of what is broken in our world and in our society. We must do this because we are called by God to heal this broken world. We make that proclamation every Sunday when we recite: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We must align ourselves with God. Let me repeat that “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s the key. God wants us moving forward step-by-step towards a world that is better than what we are living in right now. God wants us to see the world the way God sees it, and then respond the way God wants us to respond.  That’s happened throughout the ages: we no longer live in a world of slavery, or where children work in coal mines. We have seatbelts. And most of us can now eat in a restaurant or attend church without smelling like an ashtray afterwards. I think most of us can agree those are good things, but many challenges remain for God’s people in the ongoing effort of continuing God’s work of, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done. What are we doing today that will look utterly bizarre to future generations? What are we doing now that is the equivalent of the 1970’s norm of children flopping around in the backseat of cars without seatbelts, or people smoking cigarettes in a church parish hall? What are we doing today that will astonish future generations? May we ask ourselves what needs to change. May we engage God asking for clarity to see the world as God sees it, and then respond as God responds. May we hasten the kingdom of God step-by-step through honest examination, so that in doing so, we may move closer towards healing this world and ourselves aligned with God. Amen