Am 3:1-8, 4:11-12; Ps 5:4-8; Mt 8:23-27
Because of the abundant mercy of the LORD, we enter his house. Because of his boundless mercy, we worship at his holy temple. Because of his gracious mercy we live in the fear of the LORD. We worship in fear; we live in fear, but we are not afraid of God. Indeed, we are at home in his house, and we rest beside his altar. We dare to live and move and have our being in his Spirit only because the LORD leads us in his justice. To fear the LORD is to live in awe and wonder all the days of our lives. Indeed, we are filled with awe and wonder when we behold his holiness and rejoice in his summons to holiness. The most daring thing is not to ignore the will of God, but to will what the LORD wills. Indeed, the very desire to be holy as the LORD is holy, is his gracious gift to us in baptism, confession and Eucharist. Every time we enter his temple in holy fear we become more like the one whom we worship. By his grace and mercy we delight not in wickedness. Gradually, we learn to hate sin and love sinners, ourselves and others. As we grow in holiness no evil man wants to be around us and the arrogant flee from our company. Our hate for sin and love for sinners eventually silences those who speak falsehood. Even the bloodthirsty and the deceitful come to know their own thirst for truth. This is the witness of all who live and pray because of his abundant mercy. This is the great adventure of gospel living, the life of true holiness. The Prophet Amos summoned all the children of Israel return to the LORD who brought them up from the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. Likewise, the Lord Jesus summons his disciples to live in faith and not in fear no matter how frightful the storms in which they find themselves. Today, we are summoned by the LORD of sea and sky to live in the freedom of those who only fear the LORD.
At the time of the Prophet Amos many lived in fear of the social storms that threaten their nation. The children of Israel were afraid that the LORD was not enough for them, and they sought refuge in other gods and political alliances. It is the mouth of the LORD who pronounces over them another warning through the preaching of Amos. The LORD announces his favor for Israel, more than all the families of the earth he favors the whole family that he brought up from slavery. The prophet makes it clear that the LORD takes no delight in their lack of trust, in their choice of slavery to other gods and other nations. He wants them to be free; he wants them to be holy. “I brought upon you such upheaval as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah; you were like a brand plucked from the fire; yet you returned not to me, says the LORD.” The wrath of God was about to come upon his rebellious children. The LORD was about to give them over to their own designs. He was about to deal with them in his own way. This was the painful and powerful preaching of Amos. He could not hold back. He had to announce the reason for their impending punishment. Amos heard the lion roar; how could he not roar? Amos heard the LORD speak; how could he not prophesy? Indeed, the prophet’s heart reveals the LORD’s own heart. He is heartbroken over the rebellion of his favored ones. The LORD cannot bear the self-destructive lifestyle of his children. He cannot stand by and watch them destroy his own image in them. We, too, are called to this prophetic witness in our own time. We cannot stand by and watch in silence. We must summon our brothers and sisters to prepare to meet the LORD God. For he comes to claim his own and to vindicate those who are unjustly condemned. The LORD will make known the fire of his holiness and love to rescue us from our foolish and godless ways. Indeed, the ministry of Amos is the ministry of every believer at every time in history. When the LORD speaks will we prophesy?
Today we find ourselves in the boat with the Lord Jesus. Again a violent storm catches us by surprise. The safety of our church, the bark of Peter, is being threatened by the waves, and the Lord seems to be asleep. Just as our ancestors in the faith had the courage to cry out in fear, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” so, too, we must pray. Indeed, these storms come our way to test our faith. We need to have this kind of danger in order to learn trust. We need to admit our fear in order to grow in faith. We need to pray honestly. Yet, even in this humble prayer, the LORD challenges us with an even greater power than that with which he challenged the storm. He asks us the painful question, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Indeed, why are we terrified? Perhaps we have yet to discover what sort of man this is whom even the winds and the sea obey. Perhaps we have yet to obey the Lord Jesus who has invited us into the boat. He is with us. Is that not enough? He even responds to our fear of perishing with a power greater than our fear. He responds with a power that amazes us, unworthy and untrusting as we are. Indeed, the storm within us is also subject to his power. Indeed, we can handle any fear when we know that the Lord Jesus is in the boat with us. We can awaken him, and he will save us.