6Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. 7Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! 8The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name, 9who makes destruction flash out against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress. 10They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. 11Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. 13Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. 14Seek 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. 15Hate 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.
There’s my text for October 15. I’ll preach about a seven-minute homily on that, then Ben will do the same for Mark 10:17-31. Then I’ll do a brief (one-minute, roughly) improvisational oration based on his sermon, then he’ll do one based on my response, and so on. It went over very well the first time, and I imagine it will again this time.
Once again I find myself taking Erasmus’s side over Luther’s; the presence of these strong imperatives, and the absence of hand-wringing appeals to “the fall” simply do not allow room for Luther’s sin-awareness-turned-cynicism that one sees when the Peasants’ Revolt goes down. YHWH expects Israel to be just because YHWH said so, and there will be no excuses for the exploitation that characterizes their life together. There will, however, be punishment. Just as the poor build houses for the rich, so the rich have paid for houses for the invaders (or, more likely, for the rats).
The bit that strikes me most about this passage in Amos is the assumed correspondence between God’s orderly and good creation and the expectation that Israel’s life together will be orderly and good. There’s no sense of inevitability there, no hedging of bets because of “human nature” or “economic forces.” I don’t see how I can avoid setting up that tone in my part of the sermon on October 15, but I also don’t see how I can avoid hitting Ben’s strong Lutheran reading of the Mark passage as a truck hits a deer.
I suppose we’ll have to see…