Two memorable readings from today’s lectionary struck me. The story from Amos and the parable most often dubbed The Good Samaritan
Amos had a vision where God, the ultimate upright, stands by a perfectly upright wall created with the use of a plumb line: precise, clean, straight, completely perpendicular to the surface of the ground, with a string weighted down by a stone in hand. “What do you see?” asks God. Amos (can you imagine a kind of uh … duh…’ running through his mind?) replies “A plumb line”. Amos is a practical guy. He earned a living by raising cattle and trimming trees. This prophet life was not a career change that he sought. God called and he answered.
Like many a prophet before him, Amos must bear God’s message to the people and it’s not a joyful or lighthearted one. GET IT RIGHT – I’M TIRED OF COMING TO YOUR AID. CLEAN UP YOUR ACT. DO THE RIGHT THING. HAVE MORAL BACKBONE. TAKE CARE OF THE WEAK. LIVE IN UPRIGHT, GODLY FASHION.
Amaziah, priest at Bethel, puts his own spin on Amos’ message and forwards it to King Jeroboam. Next Amaziah, looking to keep things as they are for his own self interest, confronts Amos directly, telling him to take his message elsewhere. Amos leaves, but not before delivering God's special message to Amaziah.
The initial question posed by a lawyer to Jesus in the Gospel sounds like a request for specifics to God's message to Amos:"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus refers the lawyer to THE LAW: "What do you read there?” The lawyer responds “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
Jesus then relates a story about someone who uses the plumb line, who has become the human plumb line, who automatically does the right thing. It’s a sign of the times that the early editors of these scriptures dubbed him ‘The GOOD Samaritan’ because “everybody
knew” all of the unclean, other- worshipping Samaritans were other than good. This person was an exception.
Jesus, having told a vivid parable about living an upright life, asks the lawyer “Which of these three, do you think, was a true neighbor?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Note well that the lawyer cannot even bring himself to say that a Samaritan – NOT a Jew, a despicable outcast –followed God’s precepts. Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." The remark must have been shocking, unsettling to the gathering.
It may be unsettling to us even now. Every one of us is capable becoming the plumb line, of living an upright life, regardless of religious affiliation. It is a choice that transcends our divisions.
Given opportunities daily, what will I choose, what will you choose, what will we choose?