When I was a much younger person, I would attend concerts of all kinds of music, hard rock, alternative, your standard pop. I went to festivals that lasted a day or days. Of course, these were all Christian music concerts, so… take that for what it’s worth. Here’s what I remember: The musicians, artists, the bands kept telling us that this is a worship experience. And concerts of any kind can be a euphoric experience, but they would remind us these were experiences we were having for God. And it was fun, concerts are fun. It also makes me wonder about what the worship of God at a Skillet or a Newsboys concert compelled us to do or be. Or what their love and worship of God compelled the musicians to be a part of.
The people of Israel were great worshippers. They had music, rocked their harps and lyres, trumpets and drums. We see the instruments brought up throughout the psalms. The people of Israel were great worshippers. They had not one, but 2 temples to the God who led them out of Egypt. The people of Israel were great worshippers. They had so much worship to give that they also had temples to other gods, the gods of the neighbors, and worshipped them too, with song and sacrifice. The people of Israel, or at least the leaders of the people of Israel were great worshippers. They offered sacrifices and then throw great feasts filled with mountains of harvested food and slaughtered animals so that they might celebrate the bounty of the gods by filling their bellies at their fancy parties.
The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judea were at a moment of relative peace and prosperity. The Southern Kingdom of Judea really thought the north was worshiping wrong, the wrong places, the wrong way, the wrong gods. Our prophet today, Amos, came from that southern land. I’m sure he had a lot to say about where the Israelites worshipped and that they worshiped other gods.
What he noticed was that the lavish feasts in the name of God were filled with food at the expense of the farmers and herders, and they weren’t even invited. It was at the expense of the poor, who had already been marginalized by the powerful trying to gain more prosperity for themselves. Remember the land had been overworked, they had been heavily exporting at the cost of having enough, and that made things more expensive. A little in earlier in chapter 5: (vs 13) Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain… (vs 12) you afflict the righteous and push aside the needy…”
The privileged of Israel were so busy worshiping and making their lives better, that they failed to see their effect on the world around them. They ignored the poor, ignored the laborers, ignored their farmers, ignoring those in need. They were so busy worshiping the God who set them free from oppression and allowed others around them to live under the oppression of poverty. They were so busy worshiping the God who gave them enough when they were in need and then took from those with little so that they might have more.
See, I don’t think that Amos thought worship was bad, or that God hated all worship but this worship–this worship that exploits others, that excludes others, that ignores the needs of others, that is not worship of God of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the captive. That is not worship of the God of abundance, liberation, and community.
Now, Emmanuel, we have put on the tree in the narthex and considered our responses to our worship of the God who is good news to the poor, release the captives, healer, sets free the oppressed. We are called to show up, to stand up, and to be of the business of our God. I thought we would put that in action today, in small ways. You may not know this but our liturgy, our order of worship, has the Word and reflection, and then a response. Sometimes it’s prayer, or offering, or communion. Sometimes it’s a question to reflect on. Today it is lifting each other up in prayer and we have a couple of stations, an opportunity to respond in action.
And in this day, and when we welcome families in our church with Family Promise, and we care for our community in need, and when we show up to protest, we are participating in God’s justice rolling down like a mighty water and righteousness bubbling up and ever-flowin