Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lenten Midweek V

Lenten Midweek 5: Lion Alert![1]
March 20, 2013
Text: Amos 7:10-17

            The LORD roars in preaching!  He sends preachers to proclaim His powerful Word.  Though the preacher is nothing in and of himself, just a regular Joe, a sinner like everybody else, the Word… well, that is powerful.  The Word is performative, doing what it says.  It is packed with all the power of Almighty God.  And so, like a Lion roaring in the forest, the Word of the LORD shakes things up.  It is a hair-raising, fearsome Word, that accomplishes God’s will for you by killing you and making you alive.  Which, as you can imagine, makes such a Word offensive.  Fallen humans simply don’t want to hear it.  Speak pious platitudes to us, syrupy sentiments, make us feel good about us, and we’ll listen.  But do not proclaim to us a Word that hurts, that kills, even if it is to make alive.  Such a Word is a threat.  Yes, it is a threat, indeed.
            Amaziah, the priest, cannot abide the preaching of Amos, the Prophet.  It’s amazing.  Amaziah is the leading religious authority in Israel, and he wants nothing to do with God’s Word.  He wants to shut the Lion’s mouth by silencing the prophet.  No more of this doom and gloom stuff for Israel.  If you’re going to do that, Amos, then just go back to Tekoa.  We have no need for you here.  And we certainly don’t want to hear sermons about God’s judgment.  So eager was Amaziah to silence God’s prophet that he even accused him of treachery before King Jeroboam: “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.  The land is not able to bear all his words.  For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from this land’” (Amos 7:10-11; ESV).  Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  This is very similar to our own day, isn’t it?  Secular and religious authorities alike are happy to hear religious-sounding messages that are empty of God’s death and resurrection power.  But proclaim His Law in all its severity, or His Gospel in all its blood and death and crucifixion/resurrection reality, and just see where that gets you.  It gets many pastors fired.  It earns many Christians rejection on the part of their friends and family and even, sometimes, their fellow Christians.  It is just as St. Paul said it would be in writing to Pastor Timothy: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power… Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:1-2, 5, 12-13).  The world will gladly tolerate false teachers who scratch their itching ears and tickle their fancies.  But the world will not tolerate the pure Word of God.  And neither will your sinful flesh.  Which is why you must be crucified and raised to new life.  And God accomplishes that in preaching. 
            No, it isn’t politically correct to preach like Amos.  Here’s just a sampling of his proclamation to Israel as he speaks forth the roar of the LORD: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment” (2:6).  You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:2).  Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!  Why would you have the day of the LORD?  It is darkness, and not light” (5:18).  I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (v. 21).  Woe to those who are at ease in Zion… but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (6:1, 6) (cf. Lessing). 
            So if such preaching only gets Amos persecution, why does he do it?  As he says in our text, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs,” a regular old chap.  But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (7:14-15).  Why did Amos do it?  Because He was called by God to do so.  He was called to speak for God, to be the mouthpiece of God’s roar.  St. Paul puts it another way: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).  A preacher is compelled to preach.  He has no choice in the matter lest he place himself under God’s wrath.  For necessity is laid upon me,” says Paul.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).  Preaching is not about what you want to hear.  It’s about what God has to say.  And what He has to say is the dynamic Word of your death and resurrection in Christ, who died, and who was raised, for you.  For “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).
            Jesus, as God’s Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14), also proclaimed the Word of God faithfully in spite of the consequences.  Indeed, “he once had the courage to make a whip and then use it to cleanse His Father’s house (John 2:13-16).  Another time He looked the religious leaders of His day straight in the eye and said, ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones’ (Matthew 23:27).  Climactically, He stands before His high priest and confesses, ‘In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’ (Mark 14:62)” (Lessing).  Do you know what happened to Jesus as a result of His proclamation?  It got Him killed!  For such was God’s plan, for us, and for our salvation.  For “this Lion,” Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), “is also the Lamb, and His mighty power is made most perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Jesus allows soldiers to march Him along the Via Dolorosa while He shoulders His crossbar with blood dripping from His butchered back.  Jesus lets His executioners strip Him naked, shove Him to the ground, and pin Him to wood with their tools of torture.  And Jesus absorbs the spit and the insults without asking His Father to dispense twelve legions of angels” (Lessing).  He does not shrink back.  For He has come to be the sacrifice for your sins.  He has come to save His people Israel, to take the punishment their sins deserve, and He has come to do the same for you. 
            What do you suppose would have happened if faithless Amaziah had repented and confessed, “Enough is enough.  I will no longer sell my soul on the altar called compromise; it is time to let the Lion loose!” (Lessing)…  “It is time to hear and heed the Word of the LORD!”?  What would have happened is this: Amos would have raised his hand to make the sign of the cross, and pronounced upon Amaziah the very Word of the LORD that has been pronounced upon you tonight: “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.”  Amen.

[1] The theme and many of the thoughts from this sermon are from R. Reed Lessing, Restore the Roar! (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012). 


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