Sermon- The Plumb Line (Amos 7.8)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 1 of 4: The Plumb Line
Scripture: Amos 7:8
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/28/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Rev. Jose Nieves

  • Pastor First UMC, Kissimmee
    • Leads school/church partnerships with several local schools
    • A faithful man of God, a powerful man of prayer
  • Two weeks ago, preacher for the High School students, while I was the preacher for the middle school students at camp
    • One morning at camp, I see him, he looks awful. I thought he was sick.
    • He was brokenhearted- Up late following the developments in Puerto Rico
    • He was born there and much of his family still lives there

I suspect you’re brokenhearted over Puerto Rico as well

  • The recent confirmation of extensive corruption among the ruling elite
    • Extortion, Fraud, Favoritism, Mishandling public funds
  • The injustice, abuse, and neglect are hard to take. It rends your heart. But at the root of what makes this possible, is how the ruling elite viewed those they were elected to serve.
    • The revelation of deep-seated disrespect, mocking, contempt of the people, people still trying to recover from hurricanes

People rose up, they joined together and used their voice to speak out against the evil, the injustice, the oppression, and the devaluing of human beings. The people rose up and became prophets. They spoke. truth to power and called for change.

A prophet is empowered by God and called by God to speak truth to power. This is hard, uncomfortable work. It takes tremendous faith and courage and discipline to speak what people don’t want to hear, but need to hear.

How many of us like to read the Old Testament prophets? Not many. It’s hard to read them, the level of truth-telling and pain.

We’ll be spending time with the Old Testament prophets for the next few weeks. The prophets feel very fresh in our day and time. We need to read the prophets regularly.

  1. I need their example of truth-telling and courage. I need the reminder as a child of the One, True, Living God, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I too have a calling to be prophetic. To use my resources, and my influence, and my resources, and my voice to speak out against evil, injustice, and oppression. It’s a part of our calling as the people of God.
  2. I need to hear their message. This is what happens to the people of God when things get twisted and crooked and we lose our way. I need the reminder so I don’t do it. And so that I don’t condone it by my silence and my apathy.

Some of you are asking, but I thought we were going to be studying parables? We are: Old Testament Parables

  • Parables are stories and metaphors with deep spiritual meaning
  • Parables are used by prophets to help people listen; to call people to justice, righteousness, and action.
  • Where do you think Jesus got the idea to use parables? From the prophets!

Amos helps us to have a heart after God’s heart, not a crooked twisted heart. 

  • Amos was a very ordinary person. A shepherd and sycamore-fig farmer.
  • Called by God to be a prophet (not his family business, not a professional corrupted prophet)
  • Lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, traveled to Bethel in the northern Kingdom of Israel to speak truth to power

That power was King Jeroboam II

  • Powerful King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
  • Successful military leader
    • won battles
    • enlarged their territory
    • generated great wealth for some, a ruling elite
  • Misused his power as king of God’s people
    • Promoted the worship of false gods. As the worship became false, twisted and corrupted, so did their hearts.
    • Promoted corrupt, predatory business practices, an injustice especially harmful to the poor

Amos 8:4-6, The Voice. Like a bowl of ripe fruit, the time was ripe. God would overlook their injustice no longer

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor to ruin, Who asks, “When will the new moon festival be done so we can sell our grain? And when will the Sabbath end so we can sell our wheat? Then we can tamper with our scales and make the bushel measure smaller and the counterweight heavier to cheat our customers. We can buy the needy for silver and the poor and their property for the price of a pair of sandals. We can even sell the chaff we sweep up as grain.”

  • False weights and measures, selling food that was inedible, human trafficking, taking over people’s property and lives

People with voice and influence were either and active part of the corruption or fat, happy and apathetic to it. 

I read that and ask, “Lord is that me?”     

Amos begins speaking out against the injustice. Speaks truth to power so things can change.

  • How could this injustice come from people who were once denied justice and enslaved in Egypt?
  • How could this be if you are children of Abraham, chosen and privileged and covenanted to be a blessing to the nations, to care for the stranger and the poor, to proclaim the salvation of God in word and deed?
  • How could you do this to fellow human beings beloved of God, made in the very image of God?
  • How could this happen if you still worship the One True Living God who rescued you from oppression and established you in the Promised Land?

That was the problem- Their worship was full of hypocrisy, all show. We show something but it’s not the truth of our hearts and souls. It was crooked and their hearts grew crooked  

  • People faithfully attended worship- making offerings and ritual sacrifices
    • Yet became apathetic to injustice or downright embraced injustice
    • Their worship did not change their actions, affect their choices, give them eyes to see every single person as a beloved child of God worthy respect, dignity, and access to resources we all need.
    • Their worship was disconnected from how they treated people
    • Lord is that me?

Amos 5:21-24, NRSV
21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Righteousness = right relationship. Equal, compassionate treatment no matter the social differences

Justice = concrete actions to create righteousness. Right relationship in action. Love in action. God’s beauty, power, and grace in action flowing through us.

Our of our worship flows right relationship with others, ourselves, and the earth.

When we see something that isn’t right we act, we speak, we do something to make it right. The flow of worship in right relationship and justice.

Isaiah 28:17, NIV.
I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.

plumb line

This is probably the most famous image from the prophet Amos. Someone reminded me you could use a plumb bob as a weapon. It’s heavy and pointed.

Its proper use for thousands of years is to make sure what’s being built stays true. If the ground is uneven, what you’re building can stay true if you use a plumb line. If we just eyeball it, it will be crooked.

No matter how you twist or swing a plumb line it will quickly return to true.

Amos 7:8, The Voice.
Eternal One: What do you see, Amos?
Amos: A plumb line.
Eternal One: Watch what I’m about to do! I am going to put a plumb line up against My people Israel to see what is straight and true, And I will not look the other way any longer.

What would it be like for God to hold a plumb line up next to our lives, up next to our hearts? Would they be shown to be true? Would they be shown living and flowing with grace, hope, justice, and mercy out of the very worship of God?

Or would they be shown to be twisted and crooked?

We do not have to shy away from allowing God to hold up a plumb line to us. With God, there is always the chance for change, for mercy, redemption, forgiveness. The chance to repent and turn. The chance for the healing of our hearts.

May we accept our calling to live true. To be a prophet of God. To walk alongside another. To give voice to one who has no voice.

What keeps you up at night saying, “God something should be done about this?” God is calling you to action.

Lord, help us to hear the call. To lead a life worthy of the call and the grace and hope we’ve found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The closing prayer is based on this devotion by Steve Garnaas Holmes.
A plumb line held straight
by the gravity of love,
without curve or spin of human twist,
plumb line of blessing
unbowed by curse,
unbent by fear or greed,
plumb line seeking, unerring, the center,
all creatures’ belovedness and belonging,
the wellbeing of all Creation.

Measure your acts, O human,
judge your policies, O Nation,
by this and no other.
Does it bless without cursing?
Does it serve without stealing?
Does it join and not divide?

God’s plumb line
will not slide sideways
to favor some over others,
but loves all dearly;
it will not sway to sacrifice one’s thriving
for another’s desires.

The ground is uneven but the line is set.
The corrupt tilt their heads;
the wise discern
and build accordingly.

*****************
The Plumb Line © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Independence Day Prayer for Unity (Psalm 133)

Psalm 133 Ben Shahn

Psalm 133 by Ben Shahn

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.

On this Independence Day, I long for our neighborhoods and nation to experience the freedom of this psalm- the freedom of true unity. I long for the dividing walls to come crashing down. I long for an end to destructive division.

In this Psalm, the goodness of God-breathed unity is compared to the anointing of Aaron as high priest and dew on the mountains of Hermon and Zion in Israel.

True unity is precious, like sacred, costly oil or a trusted source of water in the wilderness.

True unity brings abundant blessing to an entire community. It is generous and lavish. There is so much oil it runs down Aaron’s beard and on to his robe. There is so much dew it can sustain plants, animals, and people on a mountainside.

True unity means goodness for all. It is pervasive, crossing unjust boundaries. The anointing oil is mixed with spices so the aroma pervades the gathering. The dew makes way for fragrant flowers, fruits, and crops which are enjoyed by the whole community.

True unity is holy and unique. The oil is set apart for the ritual anointing of a priest or king. It is used for no other purpose. Mount Hermon is set apart for its height and snow, the highest point in the region at over 9,000 feet. Mount Zion near Jerusalem is set apart for the worship of God. True unity sets a group of people apart, a rare and beautiful light in our world.

Holy God
One yet Three
Reach into the abundance of your companionship
Bring forth unity and healing in our land
Pour out peace on violent homes and hearts
Shower compassion on selfish and short-sighted motives
Rain down generosity and understanding
so all are covered in blessing and harmony and life
Forevermore
Forevermore
Amen

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Independence Day Prayer for Unity © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

God of Abundance, Provision, Plenty (Genesis 13)

biryanni dish on round stainless steel tray

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Based on Genesis 13
Abraham and Lot end their conflict peaceably
God’s generous promise to Abraham of land and children

You are the God of Abundance
God of Provision and Plenty
Generous Creator and Sustainer

Yet
So many do not have enough
So many are burdened by too much
So many squander what they have
So many do evil to get more
Corruption, Injustice, Oppression, Greed, Graft, Violence…
Fear-filled Competition

Lord, have mercy

Help me choose You and your ways
Gratitude for all you entrust to me
Collaboration over competition
True love of those I’m working with
Eyes to see all people as you see them… beloved

Forgive and heal my fears when there doesn’t seem to be enough
You know my worry and lack of faith

God of Abundance
I trust you to provide everything I need
and everything others need
Increase my faith and trust
Help me approach every need and conflict
with fairness, generosity, openness
Help me see all you are providing
Help me hear and listen to all you are saying
Your ways, always. Amen

****************
God of Abundance, Provision, Plenty © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Live in Light (Ephesians 5)

woman sunlight windowEphesians 5:8-11
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord, you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Shine on Jesus
Shine on me and in me and through me
Make me a Child of Light
To be light
To live in light
To bear the fruit of light

Shine on me and in me and through me
exposing the works of my darkness to the light
Your Light

Shine on me and in me and through me
Exposing the works of darkness around me
The oppression, corruption, destruction
Exposing them to the light
Your light
Your truth, your justice
Your mercy, your healing, your love
Your ways
Your Light

Shine on Jesus
Lord of Light
Light of the World
Shine on me and in me and through me
Shine on

*****************
This prayer was inspired by the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

Live in Light © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Saint Patrick and Psalms of Protection (Psalm 59)

celtic-cross-cropPsalms 59, 62, 124 are all psalms of protection. This devotion is based on Psalm 59.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress. – Psalm 59:16

Observation
In Psalm 59, the Psalmist describes living in a dangerous place. Each evening violent gangs roam the streets like wild dogs, bloodthirsty and hungry for trouble. (vs. 6, 14, 15) These enemies are pride-filled, mocking the authority’s inability to stop them. (vs. 7) The Psalmist is confident that God will stop them. God will deliver and protect. God is a shield, a fortress, and a refuge in the day of distress.

Application
Sometimes our choices place us in dangerous situations. Our action, inaction, or words play a role in the creation of enemies. Sometimes danger finds us and we are left to wonder at the cause. We experience random hate, thieving, or violence.

God’s protection is for the entirety of our lives- not just our bodies or our property. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we seek to live a Godly and reconciling life. The Holy Spirit’s counsel saves us from the ravages of revenge, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We are empowered to take Godly action in the face of injustice and violence, to speak the truth, to heal, and to transform lives and situations. The death and resurrection of Jesus provide the ultimate shield. They may hurt us, they may even kill us, but we are safe now and always in God’s eternal refuge and home. – Lisa <><

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere when human lives are in danger, when human dignity is in danger. – Elie Weisel

It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like that creates no problems, starts no conflicts. What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine Church, is the word that, burning like the word of the prophets, proclaims and accuses: proclaims to the people God’s wonders to be believed and venerated, and accuses of sin those who oppose God’s reign, so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts, out of their societies, out of their laws – out of the structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights of God and of humanity. -Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Mark Herringshaw writes: “The prayer is often called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” because it seeks God’s protection in a world of both tangible and invisible dangers. Though Patrick of Ireland lived more than 1500 years ago his prayer asking that God would cover him is just as relevant today. Who of us haven’t wrestled with the haunting fear of living in this unpredictable world? Patrick’s solution: Run to God!”

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous people

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

***********
This post was originally part of a Summer in the Psalms Bible reading plan. In this plan, psalms are grouped based on common themes. Click the link – Psalms Reading Plan

Please leave a comment for more information the use of this devotional in other settings.

Saint Patrick and Psalms of Protection

celtic-cross-cropPsalms 59, 62, 124 are all psalms of protection. This devotion is based on Psalm 59.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress. – Psalm 59:16

Observation
In Psalm 59, the Psalmist describes living in a dangerous place. Each evening violent gangs roam the streets like wild dogs, bloodthirsty and hungry for trouble. (vs. 6, 14, 15) These enemies are pride-filled, mocking the authority’s inability to stop them. (vs. 7) The Psalmist is confident that God will stop them. God will deliver and protect. God is a shield, a fortress, and a refuge in the day of distress.

Application
Sometimes our choices place us in dangerous situations. Our action, inaction, or words play a role in the creation of enemies. Sometimes danger finds us and we are left to wonder at the cause. We experience random hate, thieving, or violence.

God’s protection is for the entirety of our lives- not just our bodies or our property. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we seek to live a Godly and reconciling life. The Holy Spirit’s counsel saves us from the ravages of revenge, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We are empowered to take Godly action in the face of injustice and violence, to speak the truth, to heal, and to transform lives and situations. The death and resurrection of Jesus provide the ultimate shield. They may hurt us, they may even kill us, but we are safe now and always in God’s eternal refuge and home. – Lisa <><

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere when human lives are in danger, when human dignity is in danger. – Elie Weisel

It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like that creates no problems, starts no conflicts. What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine Church, is the word that, burning like the word of the prophets, proclaims and accuses: proclaims to the people God’s wonders to be believed and venerated, and accuses of sin those who oppose God’s reign, so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts, out of their societies, out of their laws – out of the structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights of God and of humanity. -Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Mark Herringshaw writes: “The prayer is often called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” because it seeks God’s protection in a world of both tangible and invisible dangers. Though Patrick of Ireland lived more than 1500 years ago his prayer asking that God would cover him is just as relevant today. Who of us haven’t wrestled with the haunting fear of living in this unpredictable world? Patrick’s solution: Run to God!”

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous people

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

***********
This post was originally part of a Summer in the Psalms Bible reading plan. In this plan, psalms are grouped based on common themes. Click the link – Psalms Reading Plan

Please leave a comment for more information the use of this devotional in other settings.

Prayer for Holy Resistance

true-love-requires-actionBreak our hearts Jesus
That we may weep as You weep
Love as You love

Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus
take away our fear, our apathy, our silence
Grant us
Your courage, Your strength, Your perseverance, Your Word

That we may be Your sanctuary
Your safe and sanctified place of presence

That we may live Your justice
and use Your power with wisdom and humility

That we may be Your whole and holy people
people of integrity

That we may speak and act and love
again and again and again
till every dividing wall of hate, fear, and mistrust
comes crashing down in Your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, Savior of the Nations,
teach us to pray and teach us to live Your prayer…
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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Click here for Comfort Ye based on Isaiah 40 by Steve Garnaas Holmes, a word of encouragement to those experiencing horror and abuse, and those striving to bring justice and healing.

Prayer for Holy Resistance © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.