July 17, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest. Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence, that we may treasure your word above all else, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Amos 8:1-12

1This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, 
 “The end has come upon my people Israel;
  I will never again pass them by.
3The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
 says the Lord God;
 “the dead bodies shall be many,
  cast out in every place. Be silent!”

4Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
  and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
5saying, “When will the new moon be over
  so that we may sell grain;
 and the sabbath,
  so that we may offer wheat for sale?
 We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
  and practice deceit with false balances,
6buying the poor for silver
  and the needy for a pair of sandals,
  and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

7The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
 Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
8Shall not the land tremble on this account,
  and everyone mourn who lives in it,
 and all of it rise like the Nile,
  and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?

9On that day, says the Lord God,
  I will make the sun go down at noon,
  and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10I will turn your feasts into mourning,
  and all your songs into lamentation;
 I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
  and baldness on every head;
 I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
  and the end of it like a bitter day.

11The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
  when I will send a famine on the land;
 not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
  but of hearing the words of the Lord.
12They shall wander from sea to sea,
  and from north to east;
 they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
  but they shall not find it.

Saint Ranerius Frees the Poor From Prison  —  Sassetta, Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Psalm 52

1You mighty, why do you | boast of wickedness
  against the godly | all day long?
2Continually | you plot ruin;
  your tongue is like a sharpened razor that com- | mits deceit.
3You love evil | more than good
  and lying more than speak- | ing the truth.
4You love all words | that devour,
  O you de- | ceitful tongue.
5Oh, that God would demol- | ish you utterly,
  topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling, and root you out of the land | of the living!
6The righteous shall see | and be awestruck,
  and they shall laugh | at you, saying,
7“This is the one who did not take God | for a refuge,
  but trusted in great wealth and found strength | in destruction.”
8But I am like a green olive tree in the | house of God;
  I trust in the steadfast love of God forev- | er and ever.
9I will thank you forever for what | you have done;
  in the presence of the faithful I will long for your name, for | it is good.

Colossians 1:15-28

15[Christ Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
21And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
24I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Luke 10:38-42

38Now as [Jesus and his disciples] went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I spent this last week at Luther Heights Bible Camp with six youth from Trinity and another 40 youth from across the Mountain West. On Monday afternoon I volunteered to lead a special interest group. I’ve grown to love nine-square in the air, kind of like four squares except, as the name implies, there are nine squares and you set or hit the ball through the air instead of on the ground. The openings are about eight feet high and when we all assembled it became clear that we would need to adjust the rules, or some people would always be out/fail. 

I began though by asking for various rules the kids knew—you can’t let the ball touch the ground, if it hits a PVC pipe-that’s okay, you cannot hit the ball twice in one turn. Then I pointed out the height differences among us and asked if anyone had ideas about how to include the shortest among us. “They could catch the ball and then toss it,” one person volunteered. I asked, “What do you all think?” Everyone was agreeable. Then, later in the game, as different levels of athleticism and experience became evident, we all agreed that anyone could catch the ball and then toss it.

It was quite the contrast to what Amos addresses in today’s Old Testament lesson from the book with his name. The Book of Amos is a collection of prophetic messages, most of which are announcements of God’s anger with impending judgment on Israel (then the northern kingdom). Amos’s messages focus on Israel’s oppression of the poor and lack of justice. Amos consistently criticizes Israel’s worship life. He sees that it has deteriorated to rote ritual observance disconnected from daily life. 

The overarching message of Amos insists that God’s relationship with people includes all of their lives. Amos insists that because of injustice and oppression, God’s anger has been provoked and judgment will come. The judgment that Amos announced was not a final judgment, but a part of God’s relationship with the people. Because God still loves people, God still is provoked to anger when people cause others to suffer. 

Words of judgment like Amos’, directed at a whole people, naturally make us reflect on our own society and culture. One pastor noted that the lament about the moral decay in our country often concerns a perceived decline in personal relationships, sexual behavior, and family values. In contrast, note that Amos voices divine concern about those areas of morality related to, did you notice, economics.

“Hear this,” Amos says, “You that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

Amos is especially concerned with the treatment of the poor. He also voices divine judgment against a specific class of persons. He singles out the merchants who cannot wait for the religious holiday to end so they can get back to fleecing the poor with their high prices for grain.

God threatens fierce, dire consequences against an economically unrighteous society, promising dark days ahead. This prophet does not take injustice against the poor lightly. He tells this greatly contented society—made up of people who think they are secure in their prosperity and wealth—that they will disintegrate into dark, disruptive chaos. 

Will Willimon wrote that “One way you can tell the difference between a true and living God and a dead and fake god is that a false god will never tell you anything that will make you angry and uncomfortable!” How uncomfortable should or does this passage make us? I’m honestly not sure.

I said to a colleague up at camp that I had a very clear idea of how to preach on Amos 8 if I was in the well of the United States Congress or with a group of CEOs on Wall Street. But much of our congregation does not hold power like the leaders of ancient Israel or the leaders of our country or world today. I don’t even think we have anyone in the top 1%. 

But we do all know people who have been hurt–physically, emotionally, spiritually–by the greed and abuse of power at work in so many systems today. Take your pick, it could be insurance companies that make it far too difficult to access benefits; mortgage companies that sold deals that were too good to be true before the 2008 housing bubble; investment firms buying up whole subdivisions and destroying the rental market; industrial agriculture harming our soil and bodies. 

Do you ever wonder to yourself, why are the rich getting richer, while my friend/child/neighbor/self just cannot catch a break? Then maybe Amos’s words are good news. Why? Because it is clear that the increasing wealth gap, the fear, the apathy of younger generations, is not what God intends. God wants an economy with enough for all—no gluttons, no one hungry, enough for everyone. Jesus, God incarnate, announced the same when he walked among us, telling us what the reign of God looked like. The reign of God is not just about what’s in our hearts or what we do in this space, vital as those are.

A professor opens a theology class by asking students, “With what is theology concerned?” The students answer, “God,” or “Religion,” or “spiritual things.” He corrects their misapprehension, “No, Christian theology is concerned with everything!”

Worship of the God of Israel and the church itself are not limited to Sunday. Worship continues in what we do Monday and continues through the week. This God does not want just our “heart” or our “soul.” This God wants all of us. If we ever forget this, we can just turn back to Amos.

Amos represents and speaks for a God who loves Israel enough to call Israel to account. Not all gods throughout human history had such relationships with human beings. Israel lives under the judgements of a God who loves Israel, who wants this people to be a “light to the nations,” to show forth to the world what a people can do when they are owned by, accountable to, and called by a true and living God.

We, who so often feel powerless are reminded today not only that God cares enough about us to keep sending prophets. And we are not completely powerless. On Saturday, our group of youth will leave for our adventure to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Our programming will be primarily on the University of St. Thomas Campus with ELCA Lutherans from Northeast Iowa. We will learn about daily life and struggles and injustices in other states. We will also hear stories of people trying to follow Jesus wherever they are. 

Beyond our evenings together, we will explore the Twin Cities—lakes, museums, historical sites, churches, parks, and restaurants. We will worship Sunday morning in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We will spend one day in service but, more important, we will encounter Jesus at every turn. We will interpret our experiences through the old, old story of God forming a people—the people of Israel, the whole Christian church, the congregation that is Trinity, Lutheran, Nampa. 

We will return and inevitably see our own communities with new eyes. Maybe we will see new injustices, but I trust that we will also see new possibilities. We will return renewed in our call to be disciples of Jesus Christ with you, our community of disciples. And together we will use old and new ways to share the good news of a God who wants to be in relationship with all creation, including us, and who wants an economy of equity for all.

Prayers of Intercession

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Ever-present God, in Christ you fill all things. As your church gathers to hear your word, share your meal, and receive your blessing, teach us to welcome strangers as we have been welcomed by you. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Through Christ you created all things, visible and invisible. Teach humankind to honor and protect all creation, including living things that remain hidden from our eyes such as air, atmosphere, molecules, and microscopic creatures. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Through Christ you reconcile all things. Motivate those in power to end enslavement, dehumanization, or brutality of any kind (in the spirit of Bartolomé de Las Casas, whom we commemorate today) and to protect and improve the lives of Indigenous peoples. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Through Christ you bring peace. Assure all who are worried and distracted by many things of your constant presence. Soothe those suffering in mind, body, or spirit. Sustain all who are afflicted and those who serve as caregivers (especially). God of grace, hear our prayer.

In Christ you make your word fully known. Inspire this worshiping community (congregation may be named) to abide fully in your word as we sit at the feet of Jesus. Bless the ministry of teachers and Bible study leaders. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Almighty God, grant to your church your Holy Spirit and the wisdom which comes down from heaven, that your Word may not be bound but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve you and in the confession of your name may abide to the end. Direct the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America by your wisdom, as this church prepares to gather in assembly. God of grace, hear our prayer.

In Christ you brought forth the firstborn from the dead. We give thanks for the saints you have gathered at your table. Gather us with them in your eternal glory. God of grace, hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

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