“My Master GOD showed me this vision: A bowl of fresh fruit. He said, “What do you see, Amos?” I said, “A bowl of fresh, ripe fruit.” GOD said, “Right. So, I’m calling it quits with my people Israel. I’m no longer acting as if everything is just fine.” –Amos 8:1-2 (The Message)
I know you were a prophet a long time ago and that people in that day and time did some really terrible things to one another. And I know that we do some of those very same things today. We’re greedy. We take advantage of one another in order to make a profit. We could be said to, as you so eloquently did of your own people, “buy the needy for a pair of sandals” (have you heard about our sweatshops making tennis shoes?). But you know, Amos, I was really looking for a little joy today. I was hoping for something uplifting to preach about tomorrow, like how God is always with us. Or how there is forgiveness for the lost ones (even if the lost ones are really really rich by the world’s standards). Something like that would have been nice.
But no, this Sunday we’re studying Amos 8, the part where you pretty much condemned the people to live in misery because God is through with them. You shared this play on words with the Hebrew word “quit” sounding a lot like the Hebrew word for “basket of ripe fruit.” The vision you described was your way of telling the people God was calling it quits with them. Why? Because they were willing to sell out their neighbor, were willing cheat to make a buck, and misunderstood the meaning of life. Around here there’s a bumper sticker that says, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” I know you don’t know what a bumper sticker is–to explain that, I’ll have to explain the marvel that the 21st century car is and how we have them in abundance in this very wealthy country. So just suffice it to say that it is a saying of ours in this day, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” While the people in your day didn’t listen to the Lord and did what they wanted to cheat one another, we’re no different.
Your lesson remains. Every Bible has it. But very few of us live it. For that reason, God said, “They’ll go anywhere, listen to anyone, hoping to hear GOD’s Word–but they won’t hear it.” The famine-to-come will be the lack of communication from GOD. No one wants to hear that.
So, Amos, do you think you could give us another word? A word about grace, about joy, about things we really want to hear? I’d like to preach that sermon instead of the one that is emerging.
And, while I’m waiting for that word, I’m going to eat some of this ripe fruit that came from the farmer’s market. Peaches are in season!