Amos 5 is spot on. Like Israel in Amos’ day, we have wandered far from God’s ways. We worship at the shrines of consumerism, power over others and their resources, military might, greed, rugged to hell with the 99% rugged Randian individualism, and abusive political power. Political candidates assure those living in hunger, want and poverty that good things will trickle down to them. Amos says rubbish to all this:
So seek God and live! You don’t want to end up
with nothing to show for your life
But a pile of ashes, a house burned to the ground.
For God will send just such a fire,
and the firefighters will show up too late.
Woe to you who turn justice to vinegar
and stomp righteousness into the mud.
Do you realize where you are? You’re in a cosmos
star-flung with constellations by God,
A world God wakes up each morning
and puts to bed each night.
God dips water from the ocean
and gives the land a drink.
God, God-revealed, does all this.
And he can destroy it as easily as make it.
He can turn this vast wonder into total waste.
People hate this kind of talk.
Raw truth is never popular.
But here it is, bluntly spoken:
Because you run roughshod over the poor
and take the bread right out of their mouths,
You’re never going to move into
the luxury homes you have built.
You’re never going to drink wine
from the expensive vineyards you’ve planted.
I know precisely the extent of your violations,
the enormity of your sins. Appalling!
You bully right-living people,
taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they’re down.
. . .
“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
Do we want what God wants?
Hebrews 4:12 reminds us:
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
Mark continues to disturb us in our smug comfort:
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Our hearts will be where our treasure lies. Our treasure is Christ crucified–the Cosmic Christ who lives on the margins. Christ is always calling us to be more than what we are. This is a call to wisdom–the wisdom of the cross, compassion and justice at the city gates.