9-25-2022

“CARING FOR THE NEEDS OF OTHERS”


Text: Amos 6:1-7


Sunday September 25th, 2022 – Pentecost 16

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr


Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and

Savior, Jesus Christ!

Our text for this 16th Sunday after Pentecost is the Old Testament lesson from

Amos 6 that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Gracious Father, open our eyes to see Joseph, to see Lazarus, to see our

neighbor so very near and so much in need, and open our eyes to see how you lavish

your goodness upon us, for the sake of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:


Helping Your Neighbor Is Your Ongoing Task as a Christian.


That is to say, as the people of God, we live for others; we love our neighbors as

ourselves.


But from the Old Testament prophet Amos, our text: “Woe to those who are at ease

in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria . . . but are not

grieved over the ruin of Joseph!”.


Loving others as ourselves is a biblical theme revealed early in the Scriptures. In

the Bible’s first book—the Book of Genesis—we hear a story of how sin corrupted

people’s desire for God and others. In Genesis, Moses writes of how ten brothers


were guilty of not loving their neighbor as themselves. In this story, their neighbor

wasn’t a stranger needing assistance. Their neighbor was their brother Joseph.


Jealous because of their father’s favoritism toward Joseph (Gen 37:4), upset that

Joseph’s dreams predicted that he would one day rule them (37:8, 11), Joseph’s

brothers wanted him to disappear. We read: “And they took him and threw him

into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it” (37:24). Soon the brothers

sold Joseph to traders, Ishmaelites (37:28), and he landed in Egypt.


Brother Joseph suffered. While in the pit, he had no water. He cried out in distress

(42:21), but the brothers didn’t care. Instead of caring about Joseph’s suffering (and

reversing their sinister plot), they ate a meal (37:25).

The brothers considered themselves first, caring for their own needs. They ignored

their brother’s needs. They were not mindful of the needs of others. Woe to these

brothers!

Today’s text from Amos reminds us of Joseph’s suffering and his brothers’

unfortunate, careless reaction. God’s eighth century BC prophet used Joseph’s story as a

way to speak God’s Word of Law to God’s people: “Woe to those who . . . are not

grieved over the ruin of Joseph!”

By appealing to this familiar story, Amos hoped to resonate with his own hearers.

After all, God’s indictment against his people during this era was that they lived for

themselves. “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the

mountain of Samaria.”

Like Joseph’s brothers, Jerusalem and Samaria in Amos’s day considered their needs

first. They were living in luxury. Amos described this lavish life in vv 4–6 of our text:

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches,

and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs

to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who

drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils.”


Amos captured his hearers’ “me-first” attitude. But did you notice the recurring first

word in these sections of the text? Again and again the first word is “Woe.” Woe isn’t a

pleasant word. Woe means “Warning! Pay attention.” Woe predicts the Day of the

Lord’s judgment. The Day of the Lord will not be pretty for these people! Woe to these

Israelites!

The situation in Amos’s day is similar to the situation Jesus presents in today’s

Gospel, the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19–31).

Like Joseph’s brothers, and like the Israelites in Amos’s day, the rich man cared only

for himself. He feasted sumptuously. He wore expensive clothes. Yet his neighbor

Lazarus—his “Joseph”—begged for crumbs of food.

Unfortunately, instead of caring for his neighbor, the rich man opted to gratify his

own pleasures. That choice was a poor choice. What God predicted through Amos for

such people—divine judgment and destruction—became reality in the rich man’s life.

The rich man experienced what Amos prophesied: he spent eternity in hell, separated

from God. Woe to this rich man.


II.


“Woe” isn’t spoken only to these biblical bad examples of careless living. “Woe” is

spoken to you and to me, to all people, for we all have a sinful nature. The devil entices

all of us to treat ourselves as first, ahead of others.

Woe to you, people of God, people declared to be without sin on account of Jesus

and people who by Baptism are dead to selfish sinful behavior and alive to God in Christ

Jesus.

Woe to you who at times live as the world lives, living in a lavish land of abundance

that you use for personal gain. (examples)

Woe to you, who at times act like Joseph’s brothers, like Amos’s hearers, like the

rich man in today’s Gospel. Keep living like these bad examples, fail to heed the call of

repentance and faith, and you’ll be first, all right—first among equals in hell!

God’s “woe” stings. It accuses even us baptized Christians, who sin daily and need

God’s forgiveness. We assess our lives and realize that at times we fail to care for the

people God puts in our lives. We know that we deserve hell for our sinful selfishness.


III.


But we also know that our way out of eternal suffering isn’t doing better in helping

the Josephs in our lives. That will never earn us salvation or the favor of God. As

Christians, we have a better reason to help others—and that is our certain deliverance

from hell.

While you feel the sting of God’s “woe,” you who have been baptized also have

God’s Word of promise: you are “blessed.” Now there’s a sweet word!

On account of Jesus, you are blessed! All your sins are washed away—your missed

opportunities, your failures, your egocentric actions, and your times of yielding to the

devil, the world, and your sinful nature’s “me-first” focus.

Your sins are all washed away! Jesus’ innocent blood shed for you on the cross

cleanses you from the filth of your self-centered focus. He restores your focus. He puts

your focus on him, on his love for you.

He does this by speaking the Absolution through his ordained servant, by whom

Jesus also delivers to you his true body and blood, which in turn creates “fervent love

toward one another” (LSB, p. 166).

Here, Jesus places your focus on him, and by extension on your neighbors in need.

Out of this focus flows love for those neighbors. You help others because helping others

is a way we respond to God’s forgiveness for Christ’s sake.

Helping our neighbor is the ongoing task for the Christian. It’s your task. It’s my

task. It’s our task together, because that’s what we Christians are to do.

Not to justify ourselves or to make us look good among peers. But we simply live

for others, meaning we love our neighbors as ourselves.

With God’s Gospel power, we endeavor in this worthy response to God’s mercy for

us. Amen.


Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your

hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.