The prophets of the Bible are not mythological figures. They are real people who were embedded in real life circumstances. We shouldn’t forget this truth.
The prophet Amos spoke the word of the Lord in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Jeroboam II, one of the most decadent and idolatrous of the Israelite kings. Jeroboam was insulated from the consequences of his sins by prosperity. The Israelites were willing to look the other way, even countenance Jeroboam’s idolatry, because he seemed to manage the economic affairs of the nation with great skill.
Amos would have none of this.
He knew that idolatry always exacts a price, and the price that was paid, was placed as a burden on poor of Israel, who were marginalized, as the ruling elites were reveling in luxuries.
These elites didn’t care and figured God didn’t either.
They were wrong.
Amos reminds Israel that God is deeply interested in what Israel is doing and if the Israelites will not act as advocates for the poor, then the God of Israel will act and his intervention will have a devastating effect- it will be worse for the Israelites than it was for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This kind of prophecy likely makes us stir uncomfortably. We have become accustomed to reading the Bible with dulled sensibilities in which the scripture is distorted into an affirming self-help manual. This distortion is comforting, but it is not true. The Bible tells the truth and the prophets tell us the truths that we often times do not want to hear.
The heart of the matter for Amos is that God has ordered his creation towards justice and love, and when justice and love are deferred or denied, the risk is great. We can evade the consequences of our actions for only so long.
God hears the cry of his poor and knows their suffering. If we do not listen to their cries and attend to their needs, then the day may come when God may break our hardened hearts so that they might be opened up to receive the ones that in our selfishness we have refused to love.
In Christ’s Gospel we hear about the power of Christ manifested as he calms a storm at sea. This power is God’s power, the same power that brought the ancient, primordial waters to peace at the beginning of the world. Christ is God, and he speaks and acts as God.
But this scripture is also about the Church, symbolized in the story by the disciples in the boat. The Church is like a boat, in which the disciples of the Lord make their way through the storm tossed winds and waves of culture and history.
The Church is not a cruise liner full of luxury amenities that only traverses calm seas to vacation destinations, and is kept safely in port when there is the slightest hint of storms.
Instead the Church is immersed in the storms of reality, in the waves of the world, as it is. It goes out into raging storms and treacherous waters with a mission to save the endangered and rescue the lost. The purpose of the Church is search and rescue, not rest and recreation.
And so we must venture forth, bravely, boldly, knowing that Church is always guided by the Lord Jesus, who is God. We place our trust in Christ, who is the one who the winds and seas obey.