Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor
Metropolitan AME Church
Sunday, July 08, 2012
Scripture: Amos 7:7-15 (The Message Bible): 7 God showed me this vision: My Master was standing beside a wall. In his hand he held a plumb line. 8-9 God said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” I said, “A plumb line.” Then my Master said, “Look what I’ve done. I’ve hung a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel. I’ve spared them for the last time. This is it! “Isaac’s sex-and-religion shrines will be smashed, Israel’s unholy shrines will be knocked to pieces. I’m raising my sword against the royal family of Jeroboam.” 10 Amaziah, priest at the shrine at Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam, king of Israel: “Amos is plotting to get rid of you; and he’s doing it as an insider, working from within Israel. His talk will destroy the country. He’s got to be silenced. Do you know what Amos is saying? 11′Jeroboam will be killed. Israel is headed for exile.’ 12-13 Then Amaziah confronted Amos: “Seer, be on your way! Get out of here and go back to Judah where you came from! Hang out there. Do your preaching there. But no more preaching at Bethel! Don’t show your face here again. This is the king’s chapel. This is a royal shrine.” 14-15 But Amos stood up to Amaziah: “I never set up to be a preacher, never had plans to be a preacher. I raised cattle and I pruned trees. Then God took me off the farm and said, ‘Go preach to my people Israel.’
In order to foster a healthier culture, Mrs. Obama is encouraging the country to eat better; she is calling on our schools to include more exercise programs in the day; and she is challenging all of us to do more outside activities.
Brothers and Sisters, we live in a home-bound, in-door society. We drive or catch public transportation to work, to the mall, to the store, to the cultural or recreational events and activities, to worship, and then we drive or catch public transportation back home. It is as if walking today is taboo. For fear of violence or the probability that we might have to speak to our neighbor, we seldom sit on our porches. Seldom do our children play games outside. All the games are on the TV, the computer, the pads, the cell phones or other devices.
Present day society is most unlike years passed. Possibly because we did not have anything else better to do, when my generation was growing up, we loved to go outside and play. Among the favorite games were “hide and seek,” shooting marbles, jumping rope, jacks, hop-scotch.
To help me with the sermon today, the game that stands out is “Simon said.” For those who may not have ever heard of it or those who forgot it, it was a game around the ability of following orders. The group gathered and selected a leader who became Simon. Simon gave a direct order and you had to listen to and do what Simon said and not what the leader said. Choir and preachers help me here: “Simon said stand up….Simon said sit down…Simon said stand up…wave your hands in praise…Simon said sit down. Now, in this game, the three who waved their hands – they would be out.
Tying this exercise into the scripture lesson: Amos, Simon said take a baby step…Amos, God said take a big step…which step will it be – Simon’s or God’s?
Here is the sermon thought, “When God Challenges Us to Take a Big Step.”
God sometimes challenges people to take a Big Step
Every now and then God challenges individuals, institutions, churches, communities and nations to take a big step. The baby step will not do the job; only the big step will appropriately address the issue.
Martin Luther took a big step and the result was the Protestant Revolution. John Wesley took a big step and the result was Methodism. The Big Deal was a big step for President Roosevelt. In order to come to some resolve with the Cast System in India, a baby step would not do; the challenge to Gandhi was to take a big step.
Gandhi’s Big Step
In his book, Stride Towards Freedom, Martin King writes, “Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.”
Richard Allen and Absalom Jones’ Big Steps
One hundred and ninety six years ago, in protest, walking out of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and others took a big step. Risking her own life and welfare, leading hundreds to freedom from the slavery of the South was a big step for Harriet Tubman.
The Big Steps in the Civil Rights Movement
For Martin King, other leaders, Black Churches and many Jewish Synagogue it was a big step to take on the movement of civil rights in America. The movement itself challenged and changed the world. I submit that even today the civil-rights movement began here in this country was the model for what we are witnessing all across the globe. And when we look at the apartheid situation in SA it was Gandi and King that modeled the big step of nonviolent protest.
God Challenges Amos to take a Big Step
In our text, the prophet Amos is challenged by God to take a big step. In no wise is it a baby step. Get this: He is to go prophesy God’s threat of judgment against the nation. In his theological perspective, Stephen Edmondson writes, “God will lay waste Israel’s religious and political establishment, for it is warped and has fallen beyond repair.” Not just to the nation and her people, but to the king in particular, Amos is to “Declare”, said Edmondson, that “not only the warp in their lives, but the measure of their lives.” And so God shows Amos a plumb line — a straight line in the midst of the people — so that Amos and the people could see how far off their lives and living were from God’s expectation.
For this sermon, I don’t want to deal so much with the message; rather, this morning, for this sermon, I want us to take a look at the man Amos who has to carry this message. And I want to suggest that this was for Amos a big step and a major challenge. This text ought to help someone this morning that has been or is being challenged by God to take a big step.
Here is the first salient thought that I want you to hold on to and it is well-documented in biblical as well as human history.
1. Sometimes God challenges little people to take big steps. In verses 14 and 15 Amos confesses that in the scheme of the big world of his day, he really was just a little insignificant human being. When Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, verbally assaulted Amos before king Jeroboam, Amos confesses his meager and humbled background and status. Look at what he says about himself: “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me – Go…”
Sometimes, God challenges those whom the world may think the least of to do big things and take giant steps. If a little boy can use a sling shot to bring down a giant; if an abandoned child and a murderer by the name of Moses can lead a nation out from the bondage of Pharaoh and the great kingdom of Ancient Egypt; if the boy child of a poor Jewish carpenter can justifiably claim to be the savior of fallen humanity; if twelve “nobodies” can take the Gospel of Christ and turn the world upside down; if a black man from a broken home, reared by a white mother and grandmother can become the President of the United States of America, then there is no secret what God can do in and with our lives - and our church. Because sometimes God challenges little people to take big steps.
2. When God challenges you to take a big step, you are not up to win a personality contest. This is the second lesson to keep in mind from today’s scripture: Because God challenges you to take a big step, never think that you are up to win a personality contest.
Look at verses 12 & 13, “Amaziah, confronted Amos: ‘Seer, be on your way! Get out of here and go back to Judah where you came from! Hang out there. Do your preaching there. But no more preaching at Bethel! Don’t show your face here again…”
Whatever popularity Amos might have had was gone. Whatever favor he might have had, was gone. You know as long as you are pleasing everybody, they will slap you on your back, and smile in your face. But take a step with God, and you will find out who is on your side.
Sometimes when you take a big step, you might feel that you are out there, all alone
The record does not record one friend among the prophets to rise up on Amos’side. And if you read the book to the end, clearly, Amos is “out there” alone. When God challenges us to take big steps, some will stand with you, but others will walk away from you. Sometimes the one closest to you will desert you.
Martin Luther King was not popular among all the preachers. Dorothy Height was not welcomed by all the “good ole boys.” Jesus suffered humiliation and crucifixion. When God challenges you to take some big steps, expect some bumps in the road; get ready to have your character assassinated; know that all your friends are not your friends; be alert; stay on guard; put on the full armor of God; watch as well as pray; put on the full armor of God.
Finally, Amos, the sheepherder, who in no wise had any prophetic credentials; he wasn’t licensed, he wasn’t ordained, he wasn’t among the court of priests. And Amaziah who is the pastor of Metropolitan; the significant priest in the shrine of the king’s court, ends up in a showdown.
Douglas King in his homiletically perspective writes, “The issue at stake is who does indeed call the shots.” Amaziah says Amos, get out of here; don’t ever show your face around these parts again.” God says, “Amos, go prophesy to my people.”
3. Who is calling the shots in your life: Simon, or God? The question for some of us this morning is: Who is calling the shots in your life — Simon or God; your spouse or God; those wild children in your home, or God; money or God; popularity or God; prestige or God.
Metropolitan, God says take some big steps — step out in some unfamiliar communities. Who is calling the shots in your church – Simon, or God?
Find a school in what some would call an undesirable neighborhood and rent some buses and bring the children downtown. Create learning centers to help improve the lives of others. Who is calling the shots? Simon, or God?
God is calling us to take some big steps; “…prove me with the tithe and see if I don’t open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings you can’t contain.”
Those of you who are in the congregation this morning – either here sitting in this holy place or sharing this witness in our streaming congregation on the web — God is calling somebody – a whole lot of somebodies — to take a Big Step. I don’t know what it is, but the assurance that Amos had is that if he stayed closely connected to God, he did not have to step by himself. God would uphold him and carry him through everything he had to do.
Who is calling the shots in your life? If you step with God, God will make a way for you. And if you’ve taken some Big Steps, you’ve got some more Big Steps to take. But if God is with you, you can make it!
Who is calling the shots in your life? Take some big steps; love your neighbor as you love yourself; love one another as I have loved you…forgive seventy time seventy…go and I’ll go with you…go in my name and whatsoever you ask will be granted.
God in some of our lives, God in this holy place, is calling us to take some Big Steps!