Worship for Sunday, July 11, 2021

Amos 7:7-15

7This is what [the Lord God] showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And 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; 9the 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.”

10Then 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. 11For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ ”

12And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ ”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 85:8-13

8I will listen to what the Lord God is saying;
for you speak peace to your faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to you.
9Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you,
that your glory may dwell in our land. 
10Steadfast love and faithfulness have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11Faithfulness shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12The Lord will indeed grant prosperity,
and our land will yield its increase.
13Righteousness shall go before the Lord
and shall prepare for God a pathway.  Amen.

Ephesians 1:3-14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 6:14-29

14King Herod heard of [the disciples’ preaching,] for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.”

25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

For me – one of the highlights of being a pastor is the opportunity to chat with and to get to know the Lutherans in my life. I love these conversations. These conversations add to the richness of life. They are blessings for which I give thanks again and again.

The best chats often happen with young Lutherans. The youngest Lutherans are truly our wisest sages.   These Lutherans keep me sharp.   (Okay – they keep me a bit sharper than I would otherwise be.) I learn all sorts of interesting and brilliant things from them. They keep me thinking.

Years ago I had a deeply profound conversation at a funeral with an 8-year-old prophet.

I noticed Stephanie standing in the middle of the fellowship hall with a frown on her face. She was clearly taking it all in. I could tell she was “thinking big thinks” as my William sometimes says.

We had just finished giving God thanks for her great-grandma’s life. And they had been close.   The 2 of them had spent a lot of time together. I wondered what was on her mind and in her heart so I decided to stop by for a chat.

“Well . . .” she said – “I was just wondering why everyone is so sad?”

To which I rather stupidly replied – “We are sad – because your grandma died and we miss her.” I know my answer was stupid because she looked at me like I was a great big idiot. (You have all seen the “idiot-look . . .” Well – that’s how Stephanie looked at me!)

“Hmmm . . .” came her reply – “Don’t they really believe what you told them about Grandma being in heaven with Jesus?   ‘Cause if she really is in heaven with Jesus they should ALL be happy for her. I believe in heaven and Jesus!”

Out of the mouths of babes . . . Stephanie was blunt and to the point.   And she spoke the truth. She spoke of the faith we all profess.

Again and again children come to me and delight and amaze me with their insights on faith and theology and what it means to be Christians in this world.

No obfuscation or dancing around the point with these guys. They tell it like they see it.

At my last church we were debating during a church council meeting about how we should respond to an increased need for food at the local food pantry.

Bobby (who was just 11 or 12 at the time) was hanging out at church with his friend and mentor. And Bobby was listening to our debate and conversation.

Eventually Bobby had enough of all of us – because he cleared his throat and then looked at all of us like we were space aliens and declared – “People are hungry – Jesus said to feed ’em!”

We didn’t tell Bobby he was out of order or he wasn’t on church council or he was just a kid. We listened to the wise prophet in our midst and we voted to “feed ’em!”

Bobby was blunt. Bobby made us profoundly uncomfortable. He made us squirm – big time!

Both Stephanie and Bobby remind me of the Prophet Amos. Because we learn in our first reading for today that Amos is boldly speaking God’s message to the people of Israel and it is making people very uncomfortable.

Amos is making people uncomfortable – because he has been pointing out their sins.

Can’t you just hear Amos’ mom now – “Oh Amos – you know better than to talk like that. You may disagree with the king. You may even criticize the king’s policies at home – but you cannot just go tell everyone what you think about him.”

“Your words – Amos – are making people uncomfortable.”

Amos’ words are making him very unpopular with lots of people.

Even the priest of Bethel scolds Amos. In fact – he tells Amos to get lost – to take his uncomfortable words and just go away. Far – far – FAR away.

But Amos won’t go. And Amos won’t stop sharing his uncomfortable message.  Because Amos is sharing a message from God.  A message they need to hear.  A message we need to hear too.

God wants the people of Israel to know they have gotten lost – they have strayed from what God wants for their lives.

Yes – some of them are very prosperous and wealthy and comfortable and content. But not all of them. They have neighbors who are suffering and going hungry while they turn a blind eye to their misery. They have neighbors who are struggling just to survive.

It must have been so hard to hear Amos’ message.   These people were happy and content.   They liked their lives just as they were. They didn’t want to change anything.

In fact – lots of folks thought Amos was a great – big trouble maker.

Because Amos challenged them to look beyond themselves and their own wants and desires. Amos challenged them to see the humanity of the person down the street who was struggling.

Amos tells us we are called by our God to look beyond ourselves – to reach out and help others. We have been called to feed the hungry. To bring comfort to the hurting and the sick. To lift up the oppressed. To welcome strangers and work for peace in God’s world.

We are called to look beyond our own wants and desires. We are called to remember the forgotten and to stand up for the rejected.

We are all called to make real sacrifices for the greater good. Even if this makes us uncomfortable!

And – you can.

When you donate food to the Fern Creek-Highview United Ministries – you are answering God’s call to feed the hungry.

When you help cook meals, donate supplies, or visit with the families at the Ronald McDonald House you are reaching out to the sick. You are helping them heal.

When you make offerings to Lutheran World Relief – you are helping to bring comfort to the hurting and the oppressed.

When you give blood – you are answering God’s call to help the injured.

When you donate school supplies to a child in need – you are answering God’s call to help others and to share your blessings.

Use your imagination and make a difference in God’s world.   You have been called. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

(PS – Sorry about all of the pictures of Will.  He has been my perpetual sidekick during the pandemic!)

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