What would you risk?
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; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword." ...And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom." Amos 7
If you had the king's ear, what would you tell him?
Okay, we don't have a king. Maybe the President, or any bigwig who was in charge and making important decisions affecting everyone in your community, state, country, or the world itself?
Most of us can call to mind some spiritual leader who has "the king's ear." It must be quite a heady role to play. The Big Kahuna is in a dilemma; his or her everyday advisors have peddled all the necessary advice on a matter of great consequence, and he or she is still wrestling with what path to take. So you are called in as someone of great spiritual wisdom; someone whose counsel transcends the everyday strategic considerations. God has your ear, and the Kahuna wants some of that.
Institutional religion has a strange relationship to this role. For the most part, if your sage spiritual counsel is welcome in the halls of power, you're likely not to tell those who seek your advice much that they don't want to hear. God has blessed your nation, the spirit-sage will say; and God will bless any choice you make to protect its place and privilege. Then you'll walk out with the leader, stand beside him or her as the cameras click, and your words of counsel will be thought to have saved the day, or at least provided proper comfort.
Amos was in a little bit of a different pickle, as were many of the great prophets that populate the Hebrew Bible and the Christian texts. They kept telling the people and their leaders that they were on the wrong path; that they had failed in nurturing a culture of justice for the poor and dispossessed. God tells Amos that God has held a plumb line up in the midst of the people; we are left to conclude that the people - and their leaders - had not measured up very straight.
And the obsequious priest, Amaziah, who did have the king's ear, advised Amos to hit the road. His prophecies upset the king. If Amos wanted to continue spouting his troublesome prophecies, he had best find some backwater place to blather about justice. The halls of power were not a good place to upset the apple cart. Pardon the mixed metaphor.
When the Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire in the fourth century CE, the ragtag, subversive young faith of the followers of Jesus Christ changed forever - or maybe just for quite a long time. Suddenly, Christianity, if it knew what was good for it, was given the task of smoothing the way for the powerful. Its Jesus-charge of caring for the lost and the least - its Gospel of Enoughness instead of More-All-The-Timeness - was, at the very least, subordinated to the work of protecting the privileges of the, well... privileged.
Now what? Despite our culture's protestations that we are a "Christian Nation", the Good News of Jesus Christ has fallen on hard times in the everyday consciousness of most of us. You might argue this point, and you'd be at least partly right. But the work of people of faith is not to keep the mighty engines of culture and economy well-oiled; the work is to ask the hard questions, and keep asking them.
If you had the Big Kahuna's ear for a couple of hours, what would you tell him or here? What would you risk?
Amos's reply to Amaziah was "The Lord said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'" He risked everything. We are invited to worship together, as the children of Abraham, the children of Amos. The very brothers and sisters of Christ. We worship at 10 AM. That gets us started. The Big Kahuna needs to hear us.