Monday, 12 October 2015

Seek the Lord and live

6 Seek the Lord and live,
 or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire,
 and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it” Amos 5.6

'Seek' is the key word in these verses. When we seek for something that is lost, we do everything in our power to find it. Many of the people of Israel, like Amos himself, were shepherds, and if they had lost a sheep they would do anything in their power to seek it and bring it back to the safety of the fold.

Some people have lost touch with one whom they love very much, and they will do anything to seek them out and find them. We also use the word 'seek' for some great aim and purpose that we have in life. In this way it is linked to our hearts desire and the vision, aim and purpose of our life

In the gospel reading set for this Sunday a young man is seeking the answer to his desire to gain eternal life. Jesus looks at him, and loves him, and because of that love tells him the truth, gives him the hard answer, that for him he needs to sell his possessions so that there can be room for God in his heart and mind and life.

It is challenging to ask ourselves what, or whom, we seek most in our lives. It was this kind of question with which Amos challenged Israel to take stock of where they were as God’s chosen people.

From the previous chapter of this fiery prophets words we read how keen many of the people of Israel were about their religion. They went to the famous sanctuaries of Bethel and Gilgal, famous because of what God had done there in years past. They offered many sacrifices. They brought their tithes. They made their freewill offerings so that everyone could see how religious they were. 'For so you love to do', the Lord said to them.

But God made plain through the message of Amos that He had no pleasure in what they were doing. It was only multiplying their sins, because their hearts were far from God, and while they worshipped in the sanctuaries, they were oppressing the poor and corrupting justice (2:6-8 and 8:4-6).

So now Amos challenges them about what they were really seeking, and says directly to them, 'Do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beer-sheba'.

Amos is challenging the people not to go to the established temples, the places where God is known to have spoken or places where he has appeared in the past. Not to seek God in the familiar places but in the unknown in the strange places. Amos is challenging them that if they are true seekers of God then they will be taken outside of their comfort zone.

Amos is critical of those around him who show the outward appearance of piety but who do not let their faith in God change their lives and influence their choices.

Going to a place of worship has no meaning or value, unless we seek God. It is He who matters - that we should know Him, love Him, serve Him, and do His will.

'Seek Me' said the Lord through Amos. 'Seek the Lord,' said the prophet, to those around him; if there was one message that to his dying day Amos would have wanted more than any other to bring to the people, it would have been just that, “Seek the Lord and live.”

Real life is found only in seeking and knowing Him. Life otherwise is not truly worthwhile. Not His holy places, not His great gifts, but Himself, we are to seek.

As Augustine put it, God has made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Him. We may go to the place of worship and yet not have God. We may have God's gifts, we may have money, power, importance, but without God we have no real life.

How wonderful it is that we do not need to depend on going on pilgrimage to a special place of worship, that our life does not really depend on wealth or power that we have, but that wherever we are we can seek God Himself and find Him! We can live each day knowing that He is with us, that He is guiding us, and giving us strength. 'Seek the Lord and live' is the word of Amos that still comes to us.

Instead of upholding what was just, they 'cast down righteousness to the earth'. If they continued in this way, then they must face the fire of judgment as much as each of the nations of whom Amos spoke in 1:3-2:5. What is true of Israel, the chosen nation of the Earth, is true of us here at St John and St Matthias.
we are facing a time of change. At the end of the month our vicar leaves the parishes.
Some of the old ways of doing things may no longer be relevant or able to bring people to God.
It maybe that God is calling you to find him at work not in the familiar but in the unexpected?
In a few months time our bishop, Bishop Rob will come and ask  “what is it that God is calling you to do in his name in this community?” What are you seeking by way of a new priest, a new leader?
Where is God leading you as a congregation?

Let your answer be that you “Seek the Lord so that you may live”

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