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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 11, 2021 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Amos 7:7–7:15

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Amos 7:7-15
Date: July 11, 2021; Pentecost 7; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • In our Old Testament reading for this morning we heard part of a section in the book of Amos that has become known as the “Five Visions.”
  • The first part of our reading is the third vision that Amos received, which is the vision of the plumb line. 
  • At this time Amos was in the Southern Kingdom of Judah where he was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore fig trees.
  • However, the Lord sent Amos to the Northern Kingdom to prophesy against the religious leaders and King Jeroboam who had turned from God and his covenant. 
  • They had lost their way.
  • So God gave Amos this vision of the plumb line in order to prophesy to the people, in order to call them to repentance and warn them of the coming destruction that would be punishment for their sin.
  • We also see this idea of a plumb line used in the book of Isaiah when the Lord pictured himself as a builder saying, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation…I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line” (Isaiah 28:16-17).
  • In other words, as the Lord builds his kingdom on the cornerstone of Christ Jesus, he will ensure it is perfect in every way. 
  • There will be no crookedness, no sin, in God’s kingdom and he is the one who sets that standard.
  • A plumb line is a good way to understand this because it is used to measure whether something lines up with a standard - it measures if something is straight.
  • It’s a cord with a weight attached to its end and when it hangs properly an exact vertical can be determined. 
  • Carpenters use plumb lines as an objective measuring tool that reveals that something is straight or crooked.
  • The carpenter doesn’t just decide on his own if something is plumb or not. 
  • In fact, his opinion doesn’t really matter. His work is either plumb and straight or it isn’t.
  • This fact was true before the prophet Amos walked on this earth, it has remained true over the millennia since, and it will remain true forever.
  • When the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will spare them no longer” he was again setting the standard of his Law.
  • And just as a carpenter’s plumb line is not subject to his opinions, so God’s Law is not subject to our opinions. 
  • In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
  • God’s Word is our standard. It is our plumb line. 
  • In the midst of all of the chances and changes in this life, this remains true and constant.
  • God’s Word is the objective standard by which we determine what is right or wrong, what is true or false, what is straight or crooked.
  • Going back to the time of our Old Testament reading, when God’s people were measured to see if they lined up with the standard of God’s law, it was clear that the results were not good.  
  • The people were not in line with God’s will.
  • Israel was guilty of greed, sexual sins, idol worship - and all kinds of other sin.  
  • They were not at all living the holy life that God called them to live when he established his covenant with them.
  • Some things never change.
  • Sure, many things have changed since Amos’ time eight centuries before Jesus’ birth - but not God’s Law, not people, not sin.
  • And this can be terrifying because when we look into the mirror of God’s Law, when we measure ourselves according to his standard - we see clearly that we are definitely “out of plumb.” 
  • We still wrestle with sin and find that we do not always live on God’s straight path but wander off. 
  • Sure, when we compare ourselves to the world around us, to our culture and society, we might feel that we are measuring up just fine.
  • But when we compare ourselves to the true measure of God’s Law - how crooked we find ourselves to be.
  • The disobedience of God’s people, our disobedience, has not changed.
  • Every generation since the fall into sin has been a crooked one and our sin contributes to that crookedness.
  • And the prophet Ezekiel’s statement, “The soul who sins shall die…” still applies today (Ezekiel 18:20). 
  • God’s Law, and the punishment our sin deserves - is the same today as it ever was. 
  • But just as God’s Law hasn’t changed - so his deep love for us hasn’t changed. 
  • God’s deep desire to save each and every one of us from our sin and death has not changed.
  • As God sent Amos, so he still sends his servants out today to call his people to turn from their sins, to repent, to straighten out their crooked ways. 
  • This isn’t popular work, and with Amos and the other prophets, we can expect rejection and hostility from those who reject and are hostile towards God.
  • Jesus warned his disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19).
  • In today’s Collect Prayer we prayed, “Give us pure hearts and minds to follow Your Son faithfully even into suffering and death.”
  • Only God can give us a faith that is able to remain steadfast into suffering and death.
  • The Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds to be made aware of how crooked, how “out of plumb” we are, so that we can turn to the only One who is able to straighten things out for us.
  • As we heard in our reading from Ephesians, we who have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing, we who have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world, are holy and blameless.
  • Not because we are perfect. 
  • On this side of heaven we will continue to struggle with our sin and we will continue to find that we are unable to measure up to the plumb line of God’s Law.
  • We are holy, blameless, and perfect because in Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, all according to the riches of God’s grace that he has lavished upon us.
  • We who have heard the Word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and believed in him have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit, whom we received in our Baptism, is the guarantee of our inheritance of eternal life.
  • Christ was sent into this world to straighten out the crooked mess of our sin and he has changed everything. He has changed you.
  • We are changed and no longer fear God’s wrath and punishment because we know that Christ took it all upon himself and he has clothed us in the robe of his righteousness.
  • We are changed and seek to live our lives according to God’s will, to walk on his path - not to become his people, but because we are his people.
  • We are changed and we are eager to proclaim to the world around us that God’s forgiveness and promise of eternal life is for them too. 
  • In the midst of all of the change around us, we have comfort knowing and trusting that some things never change.
  • God’s Word, his love, forgiveness, and salvation won for us by Jesus will always remain.
  • How blessed we are that some things never change - and never will. Thanks be to God! Amen.

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