This Sunday marks a transition in the life of our church. Pastor Kaji will preach this Sunday, then take the month of August off for her sabbatical, and Rev. Stephanie will return from hers for next week! I am grateful to serve a congregation who values their pastors and their rest. I have enjoyed writing these newsletters over the past month and have so appreciated the feedback I’ve received from many of you about them. It is a joy to be in community with you and to share in conversation about God’s Word together.
Our scripture this week comes from the book of Amos. Amos was a shepherd who lived on the border between Northern and Southern Israel at the time that King Jeroboam II ruled Northern Israel. Jeroboam II was a successful military leader who had amassed lots of wealth and new land for Israel; however, the Prophets of the time regarded him as a horrid leader because as he sought wealth and power, he let idolatry and injustice run rampant throughout Northern Israel. Amos, moved by God to speak out against the injustice, traveled to Bethel, a prominent city in Northern Israel, and spoke out against the injustices in its large, prestigious temple. His sermons were compiled into the book, Amos.
While the beginning of Amos details the problems, hypocrisy, and negligence of the “National Temple,” the end reveals God’s coming solution and a glimmer of hope for a future rebuilt on the principles of justice and righteousness. This scripture comes from the end of Amos, as Amos is recounting his visions of what God will do to Israel to find reparation for its sins. Let’s read together and see what Amos has had revealed to him and how the people react:
“7 This is what the Sovereign God showed me:
God was standing by a wall, a plumb line in hand. 8 “What do you see, Amos?” God asked me.
“A plumb line,” I said.
Then God said to me,
“Look, I am going to measure my people Israel by plumb line.
I will no longer excuse their atrocities. 9 The high places of Isaac are going to be ruined,
the sanctuaries of Israel destroyed.
With sword in hand,
I will attack the House of Jeroboam.” 10 Amaziah the priest of Bethel then sent the following message to Jeroboam ruler of Israel: “Amos is plotting against you in the midst of the House of Israel. The country can no longer tolerate what he keeps saying. 11 For this is what he says, ‘Jeroboam is going to die by the sword, and Israel is going into exile from its land.’ ” 12 Amaziah told Amos, “Go away, seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there. Do your prophesying there. 13 We want no more prophesying in Bethel. This is the royal sanctuary, the national Temple!” 14 Amos answered Amaziah: “I am no prophet. Nor am I the disciple of a prophet. I was a shepherd, and gathered figs for food. 15 But God took me from herding the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’“
[Amos 7:7-15 (ILB)/ Amós 7:7-15 (NVI)]
There are many important insights about God from Amos’ speech here: God uses unexpected people, like shepherds, to speak God’s word. God will not abide injustice. God measures God’s people by their depth, for that is how plumb lines (pictured above) are used for measuring. Be it depth of love, depth of faith, depth of spirituality; it’s not about how big one becomes but how their depth of love, justice, and kindness are maintained.
Amos shares a powerful message with the people of Bethel in Northern Israel – a message of condemnation, a message intended to wake people up. He is met with resistance by the gatekeepers of the National Temple who do not permit such criticism in their patriotic temple. Those whose faith is placed in the power of a Nation or the forcefulness of a leader have lost their depth of faith in God, lost their knack for love and justice, and – according to Amos – have failed to measure down to God’s expectations for righteousness.
God’s response to all this pride and power, predicted by Amos and carried out 40 years later by the Assyrian Empire, is the tearing down of that which had been built up in service to power and wealth – the high places are ruined, their new territory is conquered away from them, and their King and his palace are struck down.
Like Amos, we must speak truth to power even when it is difficult or unwelcome. But more importantly, we must hear his message as it is still relevant today. May we all maintain depths of love, justice, and kindness that we might be emboldened to speak when we are led to speak, to find righteousness with our neighbors throughout the world, and to do justice each day.
Kelsey Creech Resident Seminarian
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Last Sunday, there was no Children’s Worship as most of our children were out of town. This Sunday, however, we have quite a lot planned for our short time together!
The older children and I will meet at 10 AM and read Amos 7:7-15 in our Inclusive Language Bible. We will talk about what situation Amos was speaking against and consider the way the priests of the temple reacted. Together, we’ll talk about the ways we might have behaved and felt during the situation, and what we think God’s choice for us might be.
Then at 10:30 AM, the younger children, Mr. Trevor, and I will read “King Saul” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. This story, like that of Amos, is about a bad king. Together, we’ll talk about what makes a good or bad leader and what we can do to become good leaders and follow God’s paths. We’ll spend time in fellowship and prayer and celebrate a certain birthday.
After this, we will take a break for the month of August and we will start Children’s Worship once more in September. I’m looking forward to the days where we can join together in person with hugs and fellowship, but I am presently grateful for all the time we have together online.
Blessings and well wishes for a joyous week to all of you!
Join Rev. Stephanie at the 2021 Disciples Virtual Gathering! Registration is now LIVE! Join Disciples from across the US and Canada for this one day, live event on August 7. Featuring Bible study, workshops and worship as we celebrate that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
Well, it isn't food for your stomach (though when we are able to meet again in person, we will share a brown bag lunch right after church), but it is food — almost a banquet — for your soul.
SoulFood Fellowship is a gathering of The PARK members and friends who get together from near and far after worship on the third Sunday of each month. We engage in conversation that is bound to get you thinking and talking. We discuss and reflect on books, articles, documentary films, or plays —in light of our faith, Bible Study, and concern for social justice.
We have concluded our study of Juan Gonzalez's Harvest of Empire, and on July 18 we'll be taking up a new social justice focus—beginning with a review and commentary by one of our participants and followed by our response with regard to what God requires of us. We would love to have you join us and share your perspective, experience, hopes, and concerns.
Pandemic of Love is a mutual aid community of care that was started in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. It humbly began on March 14th, 2020 by one person and was intended to help her own local community. But, like an epidemic, the act of love and kindness spread quickly and is now a beautiful movement helping those in need throughout the world.
What is a mutual aid community? It connects people in need with patrons who can help with that need. This is a tangible way for people to give to each other, quickly, discretely and directly.
What’s the catch? There is none. Kind people are introduced to kind people which results in an act of kindness and human connection.