To Transform Toward the Kingdom
Amos 5:4-15, 21-24
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Although the messages of the Old Testament prophets were aimed at the children of Israel centuries before the birth of Jesus, they are still relevant for us today. God never changes and, as it turns out, human beings don’t change all that much, either. If we read the words of Amos, who prophesied over Israel and Judah from 793 to 740 B.C., when both kingdoms were prospering and had reached new political and military heights, we should recognize our own nation. And his warnings should alarm us.
“You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground. . . .You trample on the poor. . . . You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” We have only to glance at the news to see that these things are still happening today. Perhaps you or someone you know has been personally affected. When we understand the numbers of people who face daily discrimination and who must feel hopeless that things will ever be better for them, we might be tempted to think that God doesn’t care about the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, and the imprisoned, but we would be wrong: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
What is our part to play? We would never discriminate against another person. We would never support injustice or deliberately cause another person harm. We believe in justice and mercy and order and goodness. But we should understand that without action against them, discord and chaos and injustice increase. Doing nothing is not absolution. There are no innocent bystanders: either we push back against wrongdoing, whatever it is, or we allow it to persist and to grow. We might believe that God ignores our complicity in these injustices, but we would be wrong: “I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.” God knows, and he cares.
Hold on, you might say. I’m no political activist. You won’t find me in front of city hall or the courthouse, holding a sign and yelling at passersby. That’s okay. All of God’s people are equipped with certain gifts and talents, and each of us can use those gifts and talents to further his kingdom on earth. And each of us can at the very least extend grace to those around us, wherever we are. We can teach our children to be kind by demonstrating kindness. We can take a breath before jumping into a heated online discussion and consider what response would most effectively show Jesus to others. We can advocate for people whose voices are ignored. Jesus befriended the outcast. His heart was open to all of God’s children, but he especially cared for those nobody else seemed to care for. What an example he set for us! And what a challenge.
The coming of the Messiah was the inauguration of the kingdom of heaven on earth, the beginning of God’s restoration of everything to its intended state of perfection. Things are not as they should be, but God is working to bring all of creation back into alignment with his will. How amazing that he invites us to partner with him in this endeavor! His work of transformation begins in each human heart and grows exponentially from there. So what about us? Have we invited Jesus in to begin transforming us so that we can become his partners in kingdom building?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available). Discovery Hour classes will resume in the fall.