St. Philip Lutheran Church
10 July 2022 + Lect. 15c (Pentecost 5)
Rev. Josh Evans
You know the feeling: Enough is enough. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with work or household chores. Or maybe you’re someone who has raised children or grandchildren. You’re exasperated. You’re tired. Your patience is running thin. It’s just…too much. You’re fed up.
If you’ve been there – and I’d venture to guess we all have been there at some point – you’re in good company with our biblical ancestors. Three weeks ago, you might remember the story of Elijah. Everything was going great…until it wasn’t. Elijah had done everything God asked him to do, only to find himself on the run for his life. He was done, tired, burnt out. Elijah was fed up.
It seems like a common feeling among the Hebrew prophets. This week and next, we find ourselves in the timely company of Amos – perhaps the most well-known of the “social justice” prophets, made famous for the oft-quoted line among such activists as Martin Luther King Jr.: “Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (5.24)
Amos, too, is fed up. Or maybe, more accurately, in the book of Amos, God is fed up.
The people have abandoned God’s torah (“law,” “instruction”). Economic injustice and social inequality have run rampant: “They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals – they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way.” (2.6-7)
For this, God’s righteous judgment on the people is clear. Following threats of locusts and fire, God shows Amos a vision of a plumb line. That’s one translation. Another translation proposed by a seminary professor of mine is tin – as in, one of the metals that makes bronze, which in turn is used to make weapons. God is so fed up that God is stockpiling weapons to declare war on Israel.
God is fed up: “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” (5.21) God sees right past their efforts to keep up appearances, while they neglect the heart of the covenant, rooted in love and care for their neighbor.
God is fed up – and it seems like so little has changed since the time of Amos.
Like so many others, I watched in horror and sadness the news of yet another mass shooting on Monday. That same day, even before we could ingest the reality of what had happened in our own backyard in Highland Park, news alerts of still more shootings in Kenosha and Philadelphia came across our phones and TV screens. Meanwhile, in the city of Chicago, the Fourth of July weekend alone saw ten people killed and over sixty others wounded.
I am fed up.
How long, O God? When will enough be enough? When will we be fed up enough to do something?
Normally, as I prepare a sermon, I ask myself the guiding question: Where is the good news here? Frankly, this week, I just don’t know.
Where is the good news when seven people are murdered in broad daylight at a family-friendly parade on a national holiday? Where is the good news for a two-year-old boy who will never grow up to know his parents after both of them were among the victims that morning?
Where is the good news for the families in Uvalde, Texas, for whom “back to school” sales are now a painful reminder of the kids and teachers who won’t be “back to school” this fall?
Where is the good news in the endless litany of shootings in schools, grocery stores, places of worship, parks, and streets in a country where we have more laws to protect a baby before they’re even born than we do to protect that baby when they grow up and go to school?
I am fed up. And I’m struggling to find the good news this week.
This past week, I had the opportunity to participate in two different services with Glenview area clergy. (Some of you were there, too.)
At Thursday night’s interfaith prayer vigil at Glenview Community Church, we lit candles. As we sat there in silence, flames flickering across faces and pews, I couldn’t help but think of when we light our candles on Christmas Eve, after hearing again the “good news of great joy.”
As the gospel of John so poetically puts it: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.
Which is to say: This light, this love, this hope, which we have, which we hold in our hands, in these flickering candles, will always, ultimately, somehow, shine more brightly, and speak more loudly, than the evil and the brokenness and the fear that surround us.
From where I was sitting, near the front of the sanctuary, I could look out and see the flames held by others – a collection of single flames burning more brightly together.
As one of our speakers that night reminded us, “We nurture interfaith religious relationships in good times because we need them in difficult times.”
Maybe that’s where the good news is. Maybe that’s where God is. In a people being drawn together, across difference, for the sake of mutual support and companionship on the journey, especially when that journey gets difficult.
When we look up from our single, solitary flame, we look around and see the flames of others, burning with love and compassion.
When we look up, we also notice the suffering and the hurt around us. We are drawn, like the Samaritan to their hurting sibling, to tend to our neighbors, no matter who they are, to bind up each other’s wounds, to support and sustain one another in our grief and pain.
When we are fed up, God feeds us.
God feeds us here in word and sacrament: in water and bread and cup, in song and prayer.
When we are fed up, God feeds us.
God feeds us here with one another: in each other’s presence and with each other’s faith.
God feeds us so that we can be fed and inspired for the work of justice.
“Thoughts and prayers” are a starting place. But it is so abundantly clear that more is needed. I am fed up with preaching these sermons in the wake of a violent shooting. I never want to have to preach this sermon again.
So be fed up.
Be overwhelmed with righteous tears.
Be agitators for justice and advocates for change.
But here, first: Be fed.
Be fed because God knows we need it.
Be fed with God’s own self:
The body of Christ, given for you.
The body of Christ, among us here.