Lectionary Text for Seventh Sunday after Pentecost:
Amos 7:7-17: “This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. 8 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; 9 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. 10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, “Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel must go into exile away from his land.”
12And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom. 14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of Sycamore trees, 15and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” 16 ‘Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. You say, “Do not prophesy against Israel and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” 17 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.”
Luke 10:25-37: “Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 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.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 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. 35 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.” 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost Comment: It seems that one sign of a prophet is the use of metaphoric language in their messages. Perhaps the message is more easily understood when the symbols are drawn from familiar examples. Perhaps using of figures of speech is a subtle way of making a point more acceptable.
In Amos’ vision, God is holding a plumb-line. A plumb-line is an instrument used to determine a straight vertical line. A cord, with a weight fastened at the bottom is suspended near the place where the line is to be drawn. When the cord stops moving, the cord becomes the guide to measure or draw a straight line. Walls are built straight by using this method. From personal experience, using a plumb-line is the only way to hand wallpaper! The ‘bottom line’ is that a plumb-line is a standard, a yardstick or a benchmark for straight! Whether leveling a wall or hanging wall paper, like it or not, rules or criterion also builds a life!
Clearly the people of Israel were not ‘straight’ in their following the God who made them God’s chosen. There were those whose minds, twisted by greed, ignored the plight of the poor. Justice was warped towards the righteous. Empty religious traditions distorted rituals because they were based on superstition rather than of faith. The result was that God destroyed Israel as a and the survivors were taken into captivity.
In Luke 10, a skeptical lawyer asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” —Jesus asks the lawyer to give the “plumb-line” of all Scripture. The lawyer said, “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.” Rejecting Jesus’ answer the lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus, as prophet, tells the famous parable we call, “The Good Samaritan.”
One lesson we can learn from this parable is that when love is the standard we use to measure our intent, then behavior like that of the traveler in the parable is the expected outcome. When love is the ‘plumb-line’ of our lifestyles, then our attitudes and actions have eternal life-giving ramifications. How many times has this parable been read? How many hearers have used its standard for the benefit of others?
Who is our neighbor today? America is now a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation. In these difficult economic times there are those in each of these categories of people with needs that demand as much or more sacrifice as that of the ‘traveler’ in the parable.
In America today and the world, the spirit of skepticism is alive and well. Our understanding of God’s love sounds like license, “If you love me, you’ll let me!” We reject the notion that God holds us accountable for our treatment of our ‘neighbor’. We believe in disciplining our children for their good, with “times out,” but the idea of God destroying a nation is anathema to our thinking. However, how often do we tell our children what wonderful things to expect after those “times out?” Do our children hear that they are loved in spite of their negative attitudes and behavior? Well, Amos also delivers a message from God of hope and restoration. “The days are coming, declares the LORD, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, no more to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God.” (Amos 9:13-15)
During Ordinary Times, even all times, let the Holy Spirit fulfill this text in our lives, because of Jesus our Eternal Plumb-line. Amen
©July 9, 2010
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