Sunday 10th July 2022
5th Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 7:7-17; Psalm 82' Colossians 1:1-14 Luke 10:25-37.

(Alternatives: Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Psalm 25:1-9)

Today's readings are riven with references to the workplace. It is a lawyer who asks Jesus the question 'who is my neighbour?' while Amos borrows the image of a builder or engineer as he imagines God's 'plumb line' held against the nation of Israel. The prophet also makes mention of his original role as a herdsman and vine dresser, and there are similar agricultural references in the New Testament epistle's call for us to 'bear fruit'. Many have suggested that the Samaritan featured in Jesus' parable was a commercial traveller, and he certainly enlisted the help of an innkeeper in providing support to the robbers' victim. We might use the imagery of the Priest and Levite crossing the road to avoid the wounded man as a powerful reminder that it is often through our everyday actions in the world of work and commerce, rather than through what might be called religious activity, that we fulfil God's purpose and calling.

Looking more deeply at the resonant themes in today's readings, one that stands out is 'judgement' - overtly made through the words of Amos. Psalm 82 speaks of God as a judge, while Psalm 25 acknowledges the same as the writer seeks direction and also prays that previous errors, deserving of judgement, will be met with love and compassion. We might recognise too that the man who approached Jesus was a lawyer - someone who would be well versed in the practices and values underlined by the Psalms.

Amos' image of a plumb-line might be a useful way of exploring how "judgement" can be a multi-faceted reality. The measuring line used by a builder or engineer is crucial to making sure that a construction remains true and of course God's laws and instructions were intended to help the nation stay 'true' to its vocation and identity as a people of God. In a more informal setting, there might be opportunity for congregational members to share how careful measurement etc. is crucial to their different roles and occupations.

There is something of a circular argument here - there are examples from the world of work that help us recognise the importance of good judgement and measuring, but through the Psalm and the Old Testament (Amos) reading, this is turned around as we are also reminded that our working lives and practices cannot escape the scrutiny of God's Judgement. Although this is not as overtly stated in the alternative OT reading, the promise of prosperity is undergirded with the same message - it will be the outcome of their obedience to God's law, just as Amos announces that the nation's abandonment of God's law will bring about it's ruin. There is opportunity too here, to reflect on the breadth in application of God's law - prescribed religious rituals sit side by side with regulations across the breadth of everyday life - the two are not considered separate in God's eyes.

The account of Amos being called away from a career in agriculture, could be taken as somehow indicating that his former role was insignificant. But as he is confronted by Amaziah the 'religious professional' his response serves as a reminder that God can speak to people in the midst of our working lives, and it is the integrity of our message, not any religious title that defines our authenticity.

The New Testament epistle further reinforces these themes as we are invited to live lives fully pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work. Through these and similar words, the whole of our lives, which for many will include engagement with the world of work, are brought into view.