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Plumb Right - July11, 2021

Amos 7:7-15I’ve never been a fan of tests and am not convinced that all tests show the level of achievement of the learner. I don’t test out very well. My GPA is not the best however I tend to do really well on the licensure tests and recap tests. Maybe I am a slow learner. I prefer to think however that I learn differently. And I need other measures to stand next to in my life. I need both information and practice; pages of guidance and hands-on experience.

Often I also learn the hard way. I learn a lesson each time I need to say I am sorry because I realize how I hurt someone, including myself. I

learn a lesson each time I miss a call or fail to look up from what I am doing and see someone in need.

The prophet Amos is a prophet for people who are like me.

At the beginning of this passage from the seventh chapter of Amos the vision Amos sees is one of standing by a building seeing a plumb line to measure the accuracy of the wall. Evidently, this is at the beginning of the construction where the wall is measured to be exactly in plumb as it should be. If the first wall is out of plumb the rest of the building will often end up progressively out of plumb and compromise the structure. And Amos is asked, “What do you see?” A plumb line, the correct response.

God’s reply is “I am setting or holding a plumb line before my people. I will not leave or abandon you.”

Notice first that the vision of the plumb line is noted to be of a wall at the beginning of the construction. The implication is that God has measured from the beginning our lives and our rightness by a plumb line. And from the beginning, we are all found to be right with God.

I was, you were, we all were made perfect in the eyes of God no matter what. From the moment of our birth, we were created in the image of God. In the language of Amos, we were each born “upright” or plumb. We stood next to God’s measure and we were found to be perfectly in line.

Along the way though we begin to learn right from wrong. Our minds learn the rules. Our hearts learn the rules. And with a little nudging from our parents, we can come right back into the fold of being plumb with God. Yet some time in line many of us begin to realize that we can take a shortcut and be just a little bit off-kilter and, well, you know, “it will be okay just this once.”
I can tell the little white lie. This one time won’t hurt.
I don’t need to point out that they gave me too much change. No one will ever know.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so mean to my friend on the playground, but he’s always dropping the ball. She never wins the race. They’ll get over it.
I am so tired. I know I promised to be at the meeting tonight. Everyone else will be there. It won’t matter this one time if I don’t go.

All the little things become habits that might let the foundation of the building slip and come out of plumb. And before you know it we move from the little things to the bigger things. Infidelity. Misdemeanor money mishandling. Skipping work and missing project deadlines. Misstating the facts in our favor. Borrowing from the till one evening. And the wall is less plumb month by month, week by week, day, by day.

In society, it begins to turn into systemic problems — racism, mistrust of others who are different from us, lack of respect for property, and even personal respect when anger or fear grow so much that we move from a peace march to a melee to a full out riot causing damages to businesses and harm to individuals.

Whether it is a little white lie about who ate the last cookie at home or an attack on another human being that leads to death they are each indicating that what was in plumb with God at our birth has come out of plumb in our actions. We stray. Thankfully most of us don’t go far, but none of us are perfect and each of us has the opportunity to go far out of alignment with God just as we each have the chance to become just a slight bit off plumb.

I am sure most of us want to say the little white can’t be compared to personal injury or even murder. And I agree with that. But out of plumb is out of plumb and we cannot allow ourselves to ignore the small leaning just because it’s small.

Righteousness is for the small things just as it is for the big things. And patting ourselves on the back and saying “Well thank goodness I’m not like THAT sinner” falls into the category of pride and self-deceit.

Amaziah didn’t want to hear this concept of plumb is plumb either. And he told Amos to stop prophesying. And Amos like most of us preachers and prophets say, “Don’t shoot the messenger. I am not a prophet. I am a rancher, a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees.” God just showed me this vision.

If Amos was standing here with me preaching this morning he might also say, “Preacher: Oh by the way . . . Did you forget part of what I said when I told you about the plumb line?”

Remember, God, says God will always hold a plumb line before the people to show them what it means when right is right. God does that because God is faithful to God’s people . . . Even when you look up and notice you are out of plumb, and you are embarrassed or concerned because you no longer measure up. God is faithful and the plumb line stays plumb so you can walk right up to it and find the true measure of what it means to be God’s people.

God’s faithfulness is great.
God’s mercy extends to you each and every day.
NO matter what happened yesterday.
The plumb line never goes out of plumb.
And God holds it before you yesterday, today, and tomorrow in order that you might measure up to be who God created you to be.
Upright. In line with what God says it is right Full of justice and mercy, just as God is.

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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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