An immigrant worker comes from the south to its richer, northern neighbor. He looks around at the opulence of their homes and their places of worship. The people have winter and summer homes, both of which are extravagantly adorned. They are fitted with the finest fabrics and inset in imported ivory. They dine on the best foods, having turned their fields of sustenance crops like grains into vineyards and orchards for exotic fruits.
Amos, a migrant worker from the southern kingdom of Judea, was sent to the rich neighborhood in the northern kingdom of Israel to tell the people there that God has seen through their lives of luxury, and knows that their lives are all substance and no heart.
The northern kingdom benefited from the development and establishment of trade routes. Merchants were able to amass small fortunes, but the benefits were not seen and shared by everyone. The wealthy became really wealthy, while the poor stayed poor. The wealthy demanded the best of everything, and the economy changed to meet their demands. Farmers changed from planting the crops that fed all of the people, and planted the luxury, privileged crops that the wealthy wanted. This meant even the basic sustenance crops had to be imported, at a higher cost. This also meant that there were no edges of farms left for the poor and marginalized to glean.
The rich in Israel lived in luxury, and they worshiped that way as well. They built exquisite temples. They imported the finest wood, had them hand carved and varnished. Then they covered the wood in gold or silver or both.
They have strayed and ignored what God has called on them to do. They have phony worship service where they just go through the motions. They focus on themselves and what they have and have ignored the poor and suffering. They would worship God in festivals and solemn assemblies, and then go back to their lives of ignoring God’s will and commands.
Into this world of living in luxury and poverty, in worshiping with one’s lips, but not one’s heart, comes Amos. Amos was a poor worker from the southern kingdom, who came to call the wealthy and powerful to repent.
What was it that God wanted of them? Seek good and not evil. Hate evil and love good. God wants them to act in right and proper ways. God wants them to look out for each other and to take care of one another. God wants them to help the less fortunate.
Establish justice in the gate. Business was done at the gates to the city, so this command is to be fair to one another. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Basically, do what God has commanded the people of Israel to do: Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Help the poor. Feed the hungry. Care for the least, last, lost, little and those who are alone.
These are the things Christ commanded his followers to do. The things Christ commanded us to do.
God doesn’t want them to worship with their lips and then live lives contrary to God’s will. I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
Nor does God want us to do those things, or act in this way. God wants to hear us proclaim our faith, but more so wants us to live out the commands and values of that faith. It is not enough to come to church; we need to be the church, be the Body of Christ in our community and in the daily lives of those in need. We are called to do these things in response to the gift of grace given by God from the cross, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It isn’t a worship service that God wants; it is us doing the right thing. It is us being in service to those in need.
While the farmlands of Israel were able to support both sustenance and luxury crops, having enough water was always a concern. Constant and reliable sources of water were always needed. So God speaks through Amos about what God wants of God’s chosen people. Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
When water is always a worry, imagine what a rolling river or an ever-flowing stream would be. It would be a relief, a blessing. That is what justice is like for those who are ignored and left out.
God want us to Seek good and not evil. Hate evil and love good. God wants us to share God’s love, and help those who need our help. God wants us to turn our worship services into serving those in our neighborhoods and communities.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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