Finally (for gardeners and farmers).
Why today (for vacationers).
Water, falling in sheets released from heavy clouds, seems fitting as we release the heaviness of our hearts to God in prayer together today.
Water, cascading from the heavens above, in a cleansing shower that may remain us of our baptism.
Somehow I've always pictured the prophet Amos standing in blazing sunlight as he argued it out with Amaziah, the king's religious representative and overseer of ritual.
But maybe it was raining that day too. Maybe the heavy waters were washing over the scene while Amaziah was admonishing Amos to knock it off.
Maybe the recreating waters empowered Amos as he remembered.....
"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.
God gave Amos a difficult message to share. God was revoking the "get out of jail free card" for beloved people.
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."
I would have found it difficult to speak truth to power that day. Shaky knees, layered thoughts in a tumble of "what if" and "did I get it right?" Maybe rain would be a reminder of the larger work of creation unfolding all around me, that I don't get to choose the sun, the wind, or what falls from the sky. But I do get to choose my words, my witness.
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."
Yesterday I read a string of communication between pastors sharing the experience of difficult behaviors in churches they serve. While much energy was spent on how to confront "difficult people," I thought the best shared wisdom had more to do with how to cultivate positive dynamics in the congregations and how to lead by their own healthy behavior. (I call this staying Christ centered rather than crisis centered).
Amos had hard words to speak to Amaziah and to the people of Israel. They were hard times, times of judgement. What had the people down with what God had given them? Who were they honoring? Who were they caring for?
He was able to speak truthfully because he remembered who he was and he recognized what God wanted him to do. That means that before he was a strong speaker he was a good listener! 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.' " Amos 7: 7-15
One everyday guy standing God's ground
in the face of the powers that want to be, but are never stronger than God's grace.
Amos' words fell like water.
Welcome to some, unwelcome to others;
a release of God's heavy heart;
a possibility of God's cleansing power.
A promise that God could still be known.
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
"How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I say, "You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince."
Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!