Frederick Buechner Sermon Illustration: Amos (Amos 8:1-12)
In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic.
Next Sunday we will celebrate the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. Here is this week’s reading from the book of Amos:
This is what the Lord GOD showed me--a basket of summer fruit. He said, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the LORD said to me, The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day," says the Lord GOD; "the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!" Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, "When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat." The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day. The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.
The following excerpt was initially published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words:
When the prophet Amos walked down the main drag, it was like a shoot-out in the Old West. Everybody ran for cover. His special target was The Beautiful People, and shooting from the hip, he never missed his mark. He pictures them sleek and tanned at Palm Beach, Acapulco, St. Tropez. They glisten with Bain de Soleil. The stereo is piped out over the marble terrace. Another tray of bloody Marys is on the way. A vacationing bishop plunges into the heated pool.
With one eye cocked on them, he has his other cocked on the Unbeautiful People—the varicose veins of the old waiter, the pasty face of the starch-fed child, the winos passed out on the railroad siding, the ragged woman fumbling for food stamps at the check-out counter.
When justice is finally done, Amos says, there will be Hell to pay. The Happy Hour will be postponed indefinitely because the sun will never make it over the yard-arm. The Pucci blouses, the tangerine colored slacks, the flowered Lillys, will all fade like grass. Nothing but a few chicken bones will mark the place where once the cold buffet was spread out under the royal palms.
But according to Amos, it won't be the shortage of food and fun that will hurt. It will be the shortage "of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). Towards the end, God will make himself so scarce that the world won't even know what it's starving to death for.