September 25, 2016 Sermon Titled: Let Worship Flow and Justice Roll Down

First Mennonite Church

September 25, 2016

 Let Worship Flow and Justice Roll Down

Text: Amos 5: 18-24

Among prominent evangelicals there is one who is often in the news. He openly condemns the socio-political trends of American society and the politicians who he believes promotes them. He gathers Christians to prayer rallies and often proclaims that God’s judgment has come and will continue to come on America if repentance does take place.

God’s people should indeed tremble at the ideas of God’s wrath and judgment. Yet, it seems that far too many Christians believe abortion and homosexual lifestyles are the only sins arousing God’s wrath upon America. God did condemn Israel for sacrificing their babies to Molech and God condemns the practice of killing unborn babies today. God did condemn the immoral practices of ancient Israel and he still condemns them today. But God also condemns oppression, injustice, greed personal or corporate. God abhors when the CEO get millions in salaries and bonuses while the lay worker does not get enough to make ends meet. It troubles God when backbreaking labor of the alien is profited from, yet the alien is despised. God detests and abhors when people are disregarded just because of the color of their skin. If God is trouble for these things, we his people should at least admit these realities are our realities and pray and repent for our silence or indifference to them.

The God of peace weeps with the mothers, orphans, the elderly who see not only their homes and livelihood being destroyed by war but also their husbands, dads, and young men being killed. The God of peace is affronted when even the born-again Christians join the war-chanting chorus of the larger society. To them is the rebuke God spoke through the prophet Isaiah:

When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow
(Isaiah 1:15-17).

Yes, God is also offended when people worship idols or other deities, but he still desires to rescue the worshippers of such idols.

There are many preachers who speak of God’s impending judgment upon America. This sense of expectation of God’s wrath and judgment to come upon an unrepentant America is sometimes not only echoed as a warning but sometimes even sounds as the prayer of some Christians.

The problem Amos was addressing during his prophetic ministry was not that Israel was not worshipping God with the proper sacrifices. God’s displeasure, hate, and rejection of Israel’s sacrificial offering was not because the calves or rams offered were unclean or unfit to their God. God’s closing of his eyes and ears to the music and singing of Israel’s worship was not due to poor quality of the lyrics or the harmony in the singing voices. No! In fact, the sacrificial bulls were hand-pick and fatted ones, admitted Amos. The songs might have been theologically sound and harmoniously and beautifully arranged. The grain and oils offered were of the choicest in quality. In other words, Israel was giving the best of what it had to God, at least in terms of the sacrificial elements.

The problem of Israel’s worship was not because it was offering sick animals and products of poor quality, but because of the inconsistency between the external elements of their worship and their actions of worship. Words and deeds did not match. In chapter two, God indicts Israel of four sins:

Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Israel,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals—
they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth,
and push the afflicted out of the way;
father and son go in to the same girl,
so that my holy name is profaned;
they lay themselves down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge;
and in the house of their God they drink
wine bought with fines they imposed

This same list of accusations appear in chapter five also:

 They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
11 Therefore because you trample on the poor. . . .

. . . you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and push aside the needy in the gate (5:10, 11a, 12b).

It seems that the people of Israel were longing for the day of the Lord to come over the wicked around them. They wanted God’s judgment to be poured upon those who they thought were doing evil and defiling the land. The people of Israel wanted God to show up in anger against the other nations and to prove to them that they, the Israelites were on the right side. But Amos said to them, “Hold on a minute! You think the day of the Lord is going to be a good day for you? Look at yourselves. See your inconsistency between your sacrifices and your public lives. Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream and then it will be good for you.”

God’s plea to Israel becomes more poignant:

13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
for it is an evil time.

14 Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
just as you have said.
15 Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph

When our worship only seems to demonstrate the spiritual sovereignty and the holiness of God but fails to demonstrate his righteousness and heart for peace, we negate the true identity of the God of the Bible. When we go about in life concerned only for ourselves and not for what is happening in our society, we fail in our witness that God is a God of righteousness and justice. Our indifference to our society’s and world’s pains and injustices is interpreted by the watching world God’s indifference too. And that is making of our God a distant God, an indifferent God, and a God who has abandoned humanity.

Let us realize that when we confess Jesus as Lord it means he should be Lord on those things we consider sacred rights, private choices, and personal preferences. God’s advice to the prudent in evil times is to keep silent, to seek good, to hate evil, to establish justice in hopes that God’s favor will come.

The God we worship is the only God. There is no other like our God. But this God cannot be held as private property; that is, we cannot claim God to be ours only. The God who loves us is the God who also loves my children, the unreasonable boss, the angry protestor, the terrorist bomber, the crooked politician, the undocumented field worker and every breathing man and woman in this 7.5 billion-inhabitant planet. The God I worship cannot be held beholden to the Romero tribe or the Christian whims. His concerns should be our concerns also. Therefore, our worship in private should also be backed up with worship in public life. Our songs of praise and the monetary offering and surrender of self we offer God on Sunday should also be accompanied with concern for what happens in the world. Just as Israel was offering the right sacrifices in the temple but failing in its sacred duty to righteousness, mercy, and justice, we can too if we do not listen to Amos.

In 90 days, 12 hours and a couple minutes it will be Christmas again. Every year the culture wars focus on how people should greet each other on this day. Christians have been dragged into threatening others with law suits, boycotts, and supporting politicians in order to impose a “Merry Christmas” greeting. How can we demonstrate the presence of Immanuel (God is with us) by imposing the self-giving and self-denying loving Christ? Such schemes are not only shameful but they are an affront to the God-is-with-us we should celebrate in Christmas. Such attitudes negate the angels’ song of, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those he favors!” Again God’s advice to the prudent is opportune: let the prudent remain silent in evil times.

Our world is filled with pain. There is much blood shed. There is much hatred going on around. Injustice seems to have all the power to push itself in every sphere of human endeavor. Discontent, distrust, and indifference are increasing. All of this and more make our God sad. God does not like the death of the wicked, nor when the wicked kills. God’s heart also aches when those who invoke his name are indifferent and unconcerned for what pains his heart.

Immorality is becoming more and more a lifestyle. Many unborn babies are being killed. But also recently, a black men were killed by white police officers. A male Hispanic man killed five people in a shopping mall. A convoy on its way to deliver food for a starving people was attacked. Thousands of war victims continue to being displaced. A bomb was deliberately exploded injuring 28 people. For weeks now American Native peoples are guarding against an oil project from destroy their cultural heritage and sacred places.

Our worship should include prayers of confession and prayers of intercession. It all begins by being aware not only of the realities of our world but more so that the God we worship is not only aware of these realities but hurts and weeps.

Let us hear Amos:

Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
just as you have said.

 Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;

Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.