Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amos.8.4-7; Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 19, 2010

Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. (Amos 8:4-7, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Oh, come, let us sin unto the Lord!” No, I didn’t forget the “g”. I really did say, “Come let us sin to the Lord.” Well, it’s what the prophet Amos is saying here. He tops his list of the sins of God’s people with not caring for the needy and preferring business to worship. “Let’s get church over with so we can get back to business. Let’s cut this stuff short so we can do what’s really important. Let’s minimize our obligations to God, so we can spend our time doing what we want to do instead. Time is money. Let’s get back to what life is really all about… the pursuit of happiness!” And what’s worse the business practices they want to get back to are less than beneficial to the customers. Crooked scales and high prices combine for great profit margins, but poor customer service. They were coming to church, but it was the last place they wanted to be. Amos was point blunt. “You’re only here to get credit for being here. You want God to notice that you are doing your part, paying your fair share, but your mind is in the market. God’s Word is far from your heart when you are far from His house. You think that you are entitled to pursue happiness because you’ve parking in the pew.”

Well, it’s a good thing that Amos isn’t talking to us. This moldy old prophet couldn’t possibly have anything relevant to say. How could words scratched out 3,000 years ago mean anything to you and me? God really couldn’t be speaking to me? Could he? Oh come, let us sin unto the Lord! Watching your clock already? How long is the sermon going to be today? Week 2: Minnisota vs Miami? The balloon are passing overhead as we speak? The roast is in the oven. I don’t want to spend my whole day here. Twice a month Communion would be better if it didn’t take so long. My time is valuable… Time is money… Ah, that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it? We are not so far from God’s people who were hit between the eyes by Amos’ words. We do just what they did. We put God in church, and leave Him here. We grudgingly set aside this hour for God and no more. We pretend that God gets enough of us if we look like we are enjoying our time. If we fool the pastor we must be fooling God too.

If Amos’ words are harsh, he means them to be. His hearers were confident in their place before God. We do our part and God will do his part. We give God his due and our businesses will grow and prosper. Our thoughts are not any different. If we put our time in at church on Sunday we can live any way we want to for the rest of the week. God doesn’t belong out there.

But God says differently. He sends prophets and pastors to make it clear. You cannot serve God and money. …this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me… (Isaiah 29:13, ESV) Oh, come, let us sin to the Lord, is not something God will tolerate. Sin is serious business to Him. His beautiful creation is corrupted by it. His creature’s lives are set to ruin by it. Greed provokes God’s righteous anger. Amos speaks God’s law very clearly. “I will not forget their sin, ever! I will not forget your sin, ever!”

Well we are in trouble if God won’t forget. We have a difficult time on our own forgetting sin and the sins of others against us. But we count on God’s forgiveness. We cling to Jeremiah’s words as he speaks for God.

For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34b, ESV)

But Amos goes on to describe the consequences of God not forgetting our sin.

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. (Amos 8:9-10, ESV)

So how do we reconcile what Amos says? We know our lack of faithfulness in worship; we see our sin and know we need God’s forgiveness. Amos writes about a darkened day, a day when there will be mourning for an only son. It reminds us of a dark day we call “good”; Good Friday. That is a day when God does exactly has He says, He doesn’t forget our sin. In fact, He remembers them in full, by placing them on His only Son. Jesus, on the cross, is the focus of God’s wrath and anger. God is true to His promise of not forgetting sin. All human sin is heaped on Jesus; every one remembered; every lackluster worship service; every selfish thought; every time we watch the clock; every time our mind is somewhere else; every time we set out for our own gain at the expense of others. Jesus is nailed to the cross to carry them all, to suffer God’s punishment. Jesus dies with our sin, so we are dead to it, too. Jesus takes the curse of God remembering sin, so that we can receive God’s forgiveness. Oh, come, let us sin unto the Lord… let us place our sin on Him and receive from God the forgiveness He gives though faith in Jesus.

So, does that make a difference in our worship today and in the future? Shall we continue, Oh, come, let us sin unto the Lord? Saint Paul asked the question like this:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1, ESV)

He answers the question, too:

By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4, ESV)

God remembers his promises. He places our sin and punishment on Jesus and gives us Jesus resurrection to new life. We walk in newness of life! We live and act and worship differently. What God has done for us in Jesus turns that turns our sin into sing. Oh come let us sing unto the Lord. Let us make a joyful noise to the God of our salvation. He turns our sin in to song. We rejoice. We celebrate. We sing about what God has done for us. Just like we sang moment ago:

Then shall I praise you and adore
Your blessed name forevermore,
Who once, for me and all you made,
An everlasting ransom paid. (LW 362:6)

And not only that but it changes everything else, too. Worship becomes the center point of our lives. We receive from God, His wonderful gift of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, in Word and Sacrament, and it bleeds through us to the world out there. Our lives become ways of serving others because God serves us. Our lives don’t need to be about gaining things for ourselves with crooked scales and false measures; instead our work becomes a way of giving God’s gifts to people who need them.

Now it won’t be to long and we’ll be thinking about stewardship in our church. Yes, I’m talking about the budget. God would not have us use the budget for the motivation we would work with. God gives to us so that we can give to and help others. God’s blessings to us are for our blessing other people. One way we do that is through the work of the church. We can do so much more than we do through our own congregation. But, we’ve got to start with Oh, come let us sing unto the Lord.

Oh, come, let us sin to the Lord? No! We are forgiven sinners. We do not live in sin anymore. God will not punish us for our sin because of Our Savior Jesus Christ. Instead, Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: