Prepared for Zoom worship by Sister Pamela Pranke, OPA.
[Show a basket of summer fruit. Looks good but ripening and beginning to rot.]
Here I have a bowl of summer fruit. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? While the fruits are not from the Middle East, they represent the basket of summer fruit given in a vision by the Lord to Amos along with the words, “The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them anymore.”
That does sound like a dire warning, but – really, what does it have to do with a basket of summer fruit?
Let’s keep this fruit handy while listening carefully to the warnings given to Amos by the Lord, and draw some parallels for 21st Century Christians.
Sometime, about 765 BC, the prophet Amos tried to warn the Jewish people living in the northern Kingdom of Israel that they were headed for disaster unless they made some changes to the way that they were living. As any prophet knows, the people just won’t listen.
And why should they listen, after all, like us, Israel was experiencing a time of relative prosperity as symbolized by this lovely bowl of fruit. Yet, when we look more closely, we notice that it is not as lovely as it first appeared.
Here the skin is shriveling, this one is beginning to rot, this one has a worm. Summer fruit, while delicious, doesn’t last long and must be examined carefully.
Amos is known as the social justice prophet sent by God to inform Israel of the rot present in their fruit, of its faults, how the Kingdom needed to change its ways to repair injustice, and to warn the people of coming disaster if they did not do so. This is also a message for us.
While the economy could be doing better, most people are doing alright, there is no famine, yet hunger exists among the poor and sick, especially among widows, children, and refugees, with a growing disparity of wealth between the ones who had and the ones who had not.
The poor grow poorer. They are being cheated in the markets, prices are raised so the poor only grow further into debt, becoming slaves to the wealthy.
Are we like the people of ancient Israel where prosperity was available only to those who did not experience misfortune of any kind, such as illness, coming from a conquered nation, having a husband die, or being a woman or, or elderly, or a child?
Do these things really happen in the United States?
Can you offer some examples?
Regarding wealth, The Pew Research Organization stated that there has been an …uninterrupted increase in inequality since 1980. Income and wealth inequality in the United States is substantially higher than in almost any other developed nation, and it is on the rise, [Council of Foreign Affairs).
Despite the presence of injustice, like the people in ancient Israel, most of us are content with the general state of affairs.
The people of Amos’ time did not want to listen to Amos so he wrote the Lord’s words down so they and us could read and study them today. We must take care that we do not make the same mistake as they did by not listening to the warning.
We, means individuals, families, churches, and our nation, that we must listen to this warning about injustice. A just society is a stable society and a stable society is a just society.
When greed for power and wealth overcome a society it begins to go bad. Like this bowl of fruit, it will look good until closer examination. That was Amos’ message.
That is not just Amos message, it is God’s message, as well. Throughout the Old and New Testament, the Lord teaches us to live righteously.
Christianity is a faith with defined moral rights and wrongs lived out, above all, in love. As Christians, our life ought to look like our beliefs, a life of humility, honesty, righteousness, and above all, love.
Here at St. Dunstan’s, we see that lived experience with loving actions toward those in need and care for the earth.
As individuals, each of us are called to contribute in whatever way we are called. Do for others what you have a passion to do, what you love to do.
I have a friend who runs a dance studio, she offers scholarships for dance class to children who cannot afford the usual fee.
I have another friend who collects Christmas gifts for abused women and their children.
Whatever we do, do in love, do with joy, and do with the knowledge that it will not be easy, therefore, support one another in God’s work.
Amos’ warning was indeed dire. And, it is a warning given in love to help the people in ancient Israel, and now, so inevitable disaster would be avoided.
So, enjoy the summer fruit, and, do not take it for granted. It is fragile and fleeting.
As another prophet, Micah, said in Micah 6:8,
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God. [NIV]