Measuring Up, July 9. 2012

Amos 7:7-8
[Amos said] This is what God showed me:
the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line,
with a plumb line in his hand.
And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”
And I said, “A plumb line.”
Then the Lord said,
“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.”

I’ll admit it; I had to look up what a plumb line was to even begin to understand these words from the prophet Amos. Here’s what I found: A plumb line is a line from which a weight is suspended to determine verticality or depth. So a builder would have used this tool to check that a wall or building was being built at a 90° angle to the ground or the horizon. In Amos’ vision God is using the plumb line to measure the people of Israel to check for their ‘uprightness’ you might say. According to Amos God measures the people of Israel and finds them lacking.‘Ouch.’

Have you ever been measured and found lacking? Whether in a professional setting when a performance review or evaluation didn’t go well at all, or in a personal relationship when a partner or close friend reveals their disappointment or discontent. For most of us, living up to and meeting the expectations of others is a high priority. When we don’t meet their standards we feel judged, broken and inferior.

What seems to be happening for the people to whom God has sent Amos however is not so much a story of a people who try hard and just can’t make the grade but more of an issue of prevailing apathy. It’s as if, in this story, Israel has not only lost their way but they have lost the desire to know God, let alone to please God.

Can you think of a time in which apathy has taken over your life of faith or of a particular relationship? There is almost nothing worse than attempting to relate to a person or community that seems not to care. The malaise of apathy and disinterest can infect us for many reasons. Depression, misunderstandings and exhaustion are a few experiences that can lead to apathy.

These are areas in need of healing and compassion, and even in God’s frustration; ultimately God does not abandon Israel. In stories such as this, when it seems God’s frustration might take the day, it’s important to take a wide view of our biblical story. The Israelites and their relationship to God function in this story as the symbol of humanity’s relationship to God; yours, mine, our collective communities and the generations that have come before and that will follow after us.

It is the story of humanity in relation to the God who loves us, who calls us home and who’s dream for the world is that we each stand tall knowing who and whose we are, we are being measured in this story by a God who longs for us to pay attention, to care and to be active in our relationship with God and all of creation.

May you respond to God’s call to pay-attention,
Leaving apathy behind and returning
to the loving and nurturing Spirit of God,
May you be drawn upright through God’s loving care
And during times of discontent and disinterest,
May you find comfort in the knowledge that
God’s dream for the world includes you,
That it depends on your participation and passion.