Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | October 26, 2009

Sermon on Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Christianity is Not a Spectator Sport

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Are you ready for Reformation?  You can almost taste it, can’t you?  Already I’m humming “A Mighty Fortress” and thinking about the 95 Theses.  I’m counting the moments until I’m standing with hundreds of fellow DFW Lutherans at our Reformation service, and I can almost hear Luther say, “Here I stand.” I can’t wait to break out the Luther movie as I envision him translating the Bible into a German everyone could read.

Reformation’s a Lutheran pep rally.  We get together and say, “Uh-rah-rah Lutherans rule!”  We sing the songs.  We read the lessons.  We review the history.  We give thanks.  But you know what seems to get lost at Reformation?  Actual reformation.  That word is a verb, not just the name of an historical era.  To reform is to amend what’s wrong, corrupt, or unsatisfactory; to abandon evil thoughts and evil ways.  And yet, how often does Reformation stop the moment we leave church?  What actual reformation occurs in our lives after celebrating the mighty deeds worked by the Lord through servants like Martin Luther?  How often have we treated Christianity like a spectator sport, not something to work at?  Something to watch.  Something to go to.  Something to cheer, but when it’s over I go back to the same-old, same-old.  Christianity is not a spectator sport.  Christianity is your life.  And Jesus defined the Christian life:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….Love your neighbor as yourself. This doesn’t sound like something you watch, but something you do.  This sounds like the Reformation that the LORD called for through Amos today:  Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; it will devour, and Bethel will have no one to quench it. You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground….you hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth. You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil. Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Amos did his work during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel, probably between 760-750 BC.  He prophesied during a time of political success for Israel.  It was a second golden age.  Under Jeroboam, the northern kingdom of Israel expanded to her greatest territorial size.

But not all was well.  If you do your math, you’ll see that Amos’ ministry came 40 years before the Assyrians wiped the northern kingdom off the map.  Things were rotten beneath the surface.  And God used His prophets to let the people know.  Amos warned about the consequences of idolatries and adulteries.  He foreshadowed the Assyrian danger.  He let them know that the end was near.  The LORD will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire. It would be the end, because Jeroboam II followed in the footsteps of Jeroboam I.  He didn’t remove idols.  He didn’t remove high places where people worshiped false gods.  As was said about every other Israelite king, He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.  These sins manifested themselves especially in the way Israelites treated each other.  All that ought to define God’s people was despised.  They didn’t love their neighbor, which is to say that their faith was dead.

Just listen to the litany of sin in Israel.  They sought the help of worthless gods.  They made justice bitter.  They trampled the poor.  They exacted taxes from those who already had so little.  They built mansions and vineyards for themselves.  Those who did right were punished.  They accepted bribes.  Those with money won in court, those without, lost.  Discretion became the better part of valor, no one upset the status quo, no one blew the whistle.  To put it plainly, life in Israel wasn’t fair.  There was little social justice.  The rich got richer.  The poor got poorer.  The government seemed to side with the rich.  The wicked prospered and nice guys finished last.  And Amos says, “Stop it now, or else!”  But they didn’t.  2 Kings reports: They would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.” And or else came.  The Assyrians swept through, and in 722, the nation fell, the people were taken and they never returned.

Sound familiar?  Does Amos described today?  We see all the false gods people seek help from before even considering going to Christ.  Justice is a word we roll our eyes at.  The poor are poorer than ever.  The system doesn’t seem to work.  Those who need help don’t get it, but the dishonest work the system.  The mansions and luxuries of the super-rich are off the charts.  Government wastes our money.  If you have money, you get justice; if you don’t, you’re at the mercy of the system.  Who bothers to speak up anymore?  What does one vote matter?  Yeah, the world is a mess.  The US looks like Israel shortly before its total destruction.

But before we get comfortable condemning the world, let’s remember that we’re talking about reformation.  Our reformation.  Let’s remember that these words of Amos are words for us.  Damning words.  What needs fixing?  What needs amending?  What role have I played in the conditions that surround me?  How have I contributed to a lack of justice, to a loss of justice, to the oppression of those in need?  Where have I, while perhaps not being overtly unjust and oppressive, sought only my needs first, and ignored my needy brothers and sisters?  Where have I failed to act on behalf of others?  Where must I admit that perhaps instead of hating evil, I’ve tolerated it, compromised with it, made a deal with it, or embraced it whole-heartedly?  Where have I treated my faith as a spectator sport, being purely passive in my Christian life, letting others do all the work?  In other words, when have I failed to give God my whole heart, and expressed that whole-hearted love of God by loving my neighbor in the exact same way that I love myself?  How long have I sat on the sidelines of my Christian life?  How long have I lived blissfully ignorant of my actual situation – that when God condemns sins like this, God is talking to me too?  And while you may be ignorant of your sins.  God is not.  I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. And we have no response.

Well, we have one.  Amos said “perhaps.”  Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. It was iffy, at best, for Israel, given their track record, that things could turn around.  But, it had happened in Nineveh.  They listened to Jonah, and God spared them.  And it would be the same for us, except that God stepped in, literally.  The Word became flesh. God didn’t wait for us to reform ourselves, He achieved the reformation Himself.  He didn’t wait for us to seek the good before He came.  He came and was with us. We who would not seek the LORD were sought by Him.  Christ came to seek and to save the lost, the oppressors of the poor and the destroyers of justice.  He came to reform us.  And He did it well.  Hebrews says:  Fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him….But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. Christ didn’t sit on the sidelines as a spectator.  He jumped into this rotten mess and cleaned it up.  The indictment that was ours for our sins, He said, “I’m guilty.  Take me instead.”  Hebrews describes Jesus’ active life on your behalf:  He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. And later:  He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them….Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

The first reformation happened 2,000 years ago, when a lonely Jewish rabbi died for the sins of the world.  But it didn’t end there.  That rabbi rose from the dead, declaring death dead, declaring your sins paid for, declaring Himself with power to be the Son of God.  This was God’s eternal covenant, made in Eden, kept in Christ, made with you in Baptism, renewed in you as you receive the sacrificed body and blood of Christ.  This first reformation is the source of all other reformation.  Christ for you is the beginning of Christ in you, changing your whole outlook on life, equipping you with everything good, working in us what is pleasing to Him.  And that only comes as we are connected to Him.  And so, as always, the coming Reformation is a reminder to seek Christ, for only seeking Christ where He is found – Word, Water, Meal – can we ever hope to amend what needs amending, to seek good, to hate evil, to end oppression, to actually love God, and express our love for God by loving our neighbor.

And so, through Christ, the reformation continues.  Seek good, not evil, for in this way God is actually with you, working through you to will and do the good.  Know that the Lord does have mercy on you.  Look at the cross and you can’t miss it.  And looking at that helps you get off your butt and get into the game!  Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again!  Amen!



  1. Amen

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