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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, July 12, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Amos 7:7–17

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. 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.”

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.” 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.’ “Now therefore hear the word of the Lord. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’” (NRSV)

What happens when we realize that God’s call to us takes us to territory we never imagined we would go? Amos, a farm boy from rural Judah, is no professional prophet, but he has been party to a vision of what is to come—great fire, great social and political upheaval, great turbulence, and—probably the most disturbing—great silence. Indeed, what happens when God’s call asks us to speak the disturbing word, to stand toe-to-toe with a culture that is skidding off the rails?

One of the most remarkable things about our faith in the living God and the story of that faith in the Bible is that God continuously taps the most unlikely souls for the most upending and empowering tasks. Think of it: Amos, a farmer with dirty, calloused hands from pruning sycamore trees, standing in the palace chapel; Jesus’ disciples smelling of fish and fury, called to sing the Lord’s song to the next generation of followers; Saul, torturer of those followers, blinded by a bright light, only to regain his sight and bring a brilliant light to the world through the power of Jesus; and Jesus, who hung out with sinners,  who might be assumed by those who mocked him to be the greatest failure that ever lived yet whose life has shaped the world more than any other.

I sometimes find myself wondering how my own life has led me to the places I’ve been. A Midwestern girl who loved church but never imagined God would take my life and hold a larger imagination for me than I ever dreamed. There have been moments when the call has been more than I wanted or cared to hold. But the power of the living God continues to stay the course in the ministry we all hold. God’s call is for us to herd in the lost and to build the steady foundation of faith for the tipping, fearful world. What a call, what a life!

You call, O God, and though we seem to be unlikely candidates you persist because you know us so well. Give us trust that our lives would resemble the life of Jesus, our Lord and our Savior. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

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