Download these notes in word format: Amos course session 4
‘Then Amaziah said to Amos “Get out you seer! Go back to Judah…don’t prophesy any more at Bethel because this is the King’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom’ (7:12,13)
Feedback on last session’s challenge
Last week was the prayer challenge – ask whether people had any sense of God speaking to them about the issue they prayed about.
Introduce the theme
It has been said that the two issues that should never be raised in polite company are religion and politics. Tonight we are going to talk about both! We are going to explore the politics of the message of Amos and what it says to us today.
Read Amos 6
Focus on Amos 6:1-7
- Amos refers to the luxury lifestyle of those who feel secure. Do you think material comfort is linked to spiritual complacency?
- How does this resonate with Jesus’ teaching on wealth? (e.g. Luke 16:13-15)
- If Amos was around today, what do you think he would have said about the bonuses paid to bankers?
The politics of Amos’ message
When we look at much of the Bible, and especially books like Amos, we see that you simply cannot easily separate ‘faith’ from ‘politics’. There is no easy separation between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’ in God’s perspective because God’s concerns cover all things. A lot of what God says through Amos is essentially a political message because it is how about how power and resources are used. God cares about how people are treated and hates it when the rich and powerful neglect and oppress the poor and weak.
The ‘Just People’ Quiz
The Church has a rich tradition of people who have been involved in political action for justice. We are going to have a quiz with 10 questions about ‘just people’
Do this in whatever way is most fun – might be good to get people into pairs. I would recommend doing it like a pub quiz and giving out the answers at the end (the answers are in brackets so make sure you don’t read them out too!).
All contestants have to do is identify the person you are talking about:
1) African Archbishop, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1980s for his anti-apartheid campaigning (Desmond Tutu)
2) Clapham-based Christian MP who fought to abolish the slave trade and then slavery itself (William Wilberforce)
3) Baptist Minister who led the battle against racial segregation in the US during the 1950s and 1960s? (Martin Luther King)
4) An MP nicknamed the ‘poor-man’s Earl’ for his tireless work to bring in legislation to combat child labour in mines and factories (Lord Shaftesbury)
5) Archbishop of El Salvador in the 1970s who spoke against the unjust practices of his government and was martyred in his cathedral by government agents (Oscar Romero)
6) Baptist preacher who established a home for fatherless boys in Stockwell in 1866 and which is now a nation wide organisation helping children (Charles Spurgeon)
7) Missionary in China who successfully campaigned for legislation to outlaw the cruel practice of binding women’s feet (Gladys Aylward)
8) African-American activist who refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person in Alabama, USA in the 1950s and sparked the boycotts of the buses which led to segregated bus seating becoming illegal (Rosa Parks)
9) Victorian activist who campaigned against the appalling and inhumane state of England’s prisons (Elizabeth Fry)
10) Brazilian Archbishop who said “When I give bread to the poor they call me a saint; when I ask ‘Why do the poor have no food?’ they call me a communist” (Dom Helder Camara)
Run through the answers and perhaps award a prize for the team with the most correct answers.
A story with two sides…
As the quiz shows there is a great heritage of Christians who have made stands for justice. However, we have to face the sad reality that many of these ‘just people’ spent their time battling against people who professed to be Christians. Lord Shaftesbury, Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King had to fight against other church-going people who either wanted to maintain the status quo or those who twisted the Christian faith to justify oppressive and unjust actions. The role of prophets is often to challenge the church, as well as the nation.
Tonight we look at an example where religion is being used to maintain injustice rather than challenging it. Amaziah is the Priest at the King’s religious centre, Bethel, and he does not like what he hears Amos saying.
Read Amos 7
Focus on Amos 7:10-17
- What do you think Amaziah’s concerns were? What did he mean when he says ‘the land cannot bear all his words’ (v.10)
- Why do you think Amos’ emphasises his humble and non-religious job? (v.14)
- Where does Amos’ authority to prophesy come from? Is there a difference between political power and true authority?
In the New Testament, we see a similar confrontation between the Sanhedrin, the official ruling body in Jerusalem, and Peter and John. The Sanhedrin are greatly disturbed by the Apostles preaching in Jesus name and order them to stop. Peter replies ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19).
How does this connect to today world?
- Amos was speaking to people who considered themselves God’s people. In what ways can our church be in danger of complacency? How do we need to be challenged?
- When we look back on issues like slavery or apartheid, it is hard to understand how Christians could not be opposed to it. But what issues do you think that future generations will criticise us for the way we failed to act? On what issues should we as Christians be making more of a stand?
Thanks for the great Christians who have made a difference.
For us to be challenged by their example & be bold in speaking up against injustice
A Challenge – Give out the challenge to everyone.
If we feel we are in danger of complacency about the injustice we see around us then the book of Amos has a clear suggestion: take action NOW!
This week, the challenge is to take one specific action that you would not have done otherwise. Below are some ideas if you are stuck:
- Write to your MP or local councillor a letter about an issue of injustice locally
- When you shop, switch one of your regular items to a fair-trade equivalent
- Send one of Tearfund’s ActFast postcard to the government on an issue you care about
- Switch to energy-saving light-bulbs