By: Minister Angela Lee Price
In memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This sermon was delivered on January 7, 2005 to the Christian Addiction Ministry Program at St. Stephen Church, Louisville, Kentucky, and on September 27, 2003 at The House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky. An audio excerpt is at the bottom of this post.
Scriptures: Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11; 2:4, 6; (NLT); 5:24 (KJV)
Have you ever taken the time to sit and reminisce? If not, you ought to take time to do that. That’s what I have been doing a whole lot of lately. Let God speak to you through that process. He certainly has been speaking to me. Lately, I’ve had time to look at old pictures from back in the day and time to go through my files. I’ve been looking at old report cards, transcripts, awards, and letters of recognition. I reread papers written while working to complete my Communication degree at the University of Louisville.
A program from the Bellarmine Medal Presentation Dinner honoring Jesse L. Jackson, dated March 12, 1979 caught my attention. The program had Rev. Jackson’s picture in it. He had one of those Clarence Williams, III “Mod Squad” afros. I began thinking about what a wonderful job Rev. Jackson did at the commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Rev. Jackson knows his history and he brought it to the commenoration. I reflected on how Rev. Jackson, John Lewis, Coretta Scott King, and young leaders all stood in dignity and told the truth about “I Have A Dream,” how that speech is being used against us to brain wash us and we don’t know it. We’re doing Martin Luther King, Jr. and all he stood for an injustice, and we’re doing the King of Kings an injustice when we take them out of context. I looked at the program and began thinking “I am somebody!”
One cannot reflect on the March on Washington without remembering why it had to occur -- lynchings, Jim Crow, segregation, discrimination and racism. And one cannot forget to praise God for the resulting victories, the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954, the Civil Rights Bills of 1964 and 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
If ever you’ve been falsely accused of something you didn’t do, charged for crimes you didn’t commit. If ever you’ve been treated differently because of the color of your skin, treated differently because of the part of town you live in, and it’s happened not once, not twice, but again and again. If ever you’ve been demoted when you should have been promoted, unjustly fired, let go, downsized, denied unemployment benefits. If ever you’ve lost a love one to or through some senseless crime, and it’s happened not once, not twice, but time after time. If ever you’ve been ostracized, criticized for your Christian beliefs, you know that pain is unreal and sometime there just is no relief!
Look around you. There is too much hatred and bitterness out there. How did it get that way – too much pain, agony, grief, despair, depression I say. It’s dark in America, dark in Louisville - too many people escaping through sex, violence, drugs, and the pill! We need to reclaim our heritage with dignity and say it loud – “I am black! I am proud!” Above all, the whole world has to know I AM not having this mess no mo’! Without justice there is no truth. Without justice there can be no peace.
It’s a beautiful thing to see I AM not havin' it. I’m talking about the Magnificent, Marvelous, Matchless One, the Mighty Judge of Heaven and Hell, the Majestic I AM, the Lover of our souls. It’s a beautiful thing to see I AM when He’s sore, handling His business, settling the score. It’s a beautiful thing to see I AM not taking this mess no more. You see, this mess, it’s happened before and I AM not taking this mess no more!
I AM became angry in the book of Amos. He had Amos pronounce judgment on Judah, Israel as well as on Israel’s neighbors, the people of Damascus Syria, the Philistines in Gaza, the people of Tyre, Edom, Ammom and Moab. Why? They had all sinned again and again. I AM had enough. I AM convicted and condemned them. He sent Amos two years ahead of time to serve notice - Guilty as charged! The sentence death by natural disaster, an earthquake.
What infuriated I AM so? What caused Him to become angry, particularly with the people of Israel? They were caught up in their prosperity. They were oppressing the poor, worshipping idols, dabbling in the occult and other false religions. We’re caught up in all that mess today. Exactly, what did I AM say?
I AM said in chapter 3:9, “My people have forgotten what it means to do right. Their fortresses are filled with wealth taken by theft and violence.” In chapter 6:1 He said, “How terrible it will be for you who lounge in luxury and think you are secure in Jerusalem and Samaria. You are famous and popular in Israel, you to whom the people go for help.”
He called them out, the leaders. The leaders had gotten caught up in their prosperity, their summer homes and winter homes, fine jewelry, fancy cars - their Rose Royces, chauffeured limousines - their expensive minks and furs. They had gotten “stuck on self,” “stuck on stupid,” the men blinded by power and the "bling bling,” the women blinded by power and the “ding-a-ling.”
The people of Amos’ day were delusional, drunk with military power. God warned them about it before through Joel, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah. They were all warned, Israel and her enemies. In Amos, the enemies of Israel were being convicted for persecution of God’s people. Edom -- her sin was an unmerciful, unwearied, pursuit of the people of God. The Edomites were cowards. They waited until another enemy came against Judah and Israel and then they jumped in. They were the least courageous. The least courageous are often the cruelest people.
The Israelites - God "gave it" to them, too, for being “punch drunk” with military power and might. We read in chapter 6 beginning at verse 12: “Can horses gallop over rocks? Can oxen be used to plow rocks? Stupid even to ask – but that’s how stupid you are when you turn justice into poison and make bitter the sweet fruit of righteousness. And just as stupid is this bragging about your conquest of Lo-debar (nothing). You boast, “Didn’t we take Karnaim (horns) by our own strength and power?” Don’t they sound like a country you know today, always hollerin', “We’re big and we’re bad and that’s a fact, we ain’t never scared, never scared of Sadam, Iraq!”
The people of Judah and Israel were committing idolatry, dabbling in the occult and astrology. In chapter 5:25 “God said, “ Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, Israel? No, your real interest was in your pagan gods – Sakkuth your king god and Kaiwan your star god – the images you yourselves made.” I AM not only called out their sins, He named names – Sakkuth and Kaiwan. The Matthew Henry Commentary says God was possibly talking about sun worship and worship of the planet Saturn, the highest of the planets. Astrology, the worship of the sun, moon, stars and planets is the oldest kind of idolatry. It continues to today.
It’s dark outside and it’s partly our own fault. We are not standing for truth and justice like we’ve been taught Instead, Christians are drunk and out of their minds, stumbling, staggering, and falling dead in the streets. We keep looking for the next miracle with our name on it, asking God to bless us indeed. He won’t bless us if we don’t care to read. We need to read in His Word about the works He’s already done. We were taught a long time ago to name and claim, yes – name and claim our history, our heritage, this is our fame! Name and reclaim Martin, Marcus, Malcolm, DuBois and Booker T., too, reclaim Harriet, Sojourner, Ella and Fannie Lou, reclaim Tubman, please, so that we can get off this boat! It’s got too many holes, and it can’t stay afloat!
We have never seen so many trying situations, but we have God our side, love and peace in our hearts, and I AM as our God. Amos tells us that the foundation of truth rest on justice, with privilege comes responsibilities and failure to live up to responsibilities brings judgment. Amos tells us God calls whom He chooses to the ministry. Amos tells us to rest assured. I AM did not have it then. I AM not havin' it now. Amos tells us justice will prevail! Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream! Amen.
This is an excerpt from a sermon delivered on September 27, 2003 at The House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Note: This sermon was also delivered on January 7, 2005 at St. Stephen Church, Louisville, Kentucky to the Christian Addiction Ministry Program.