Tucked in among the tourist traps of the South Dakota Black Hills is a self-entitled “Mystery House.” The mystery of the Mystery House is that water seems to run uphill, and objects dangle strangely out of plumb. But the mystery involved is not in the house; it is in our brains. The house is built off-kilter, but once inside a visitor has no external frame of reference. Because our brains are used to seeing floors as level and walls as parallel, our grey matter goes to work inside the Mystery House to reread the tilted floor as even and the walls as square. Unconsciously, we read the room as normal and are mystified when the water runs uphill.

That is precisely the type of situation Amos is addressing in Israel. The people have become accustomed to living in a skewed house. The primary concern of a biblical prophet is to call the people back into covenant with God. In Amos’s eyes, the people have strayed from their promises. The heart of the covenant with God is deep compassion for the poor, the widow and orphan, the migrant and foreigner. But Israel has abandoned those passions and priorities. Like the Mystery House, the oblique angles are exposed when a covenant plumb line is dropped.

Which leads me to wonder what my out-of-kilter heart and brain have compensated for in our skewed world today. We inherit priorities like success and progress and power, and we rarely stop to get our covenant bearings. When a messenger of God drops a plumb line, all too often we wonder why it hangs at such an odd angle. But maybe the ground we stand on is askew.

Reorient the level of my heart, O God, not on the ground of society’s values but on the plumb line of the passion of your heart. Amen.


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Lectionary Week
July 8–14, 2019
Scripture Overview

Amos is a farmer called by God to deliver a message to Jeroboam, the king of Israel (the Northern Kingdom in the divided monarchy). Because the king has not listened to the warnings from God, judgment will come. The psalmist also warns of judgment, in this case for those who oppress the weak and needy and fail to protect them from the wicked. Such heartless people will surely be brought low by God. The opening to the letter to the Colossians is a prayer of thanksgiving for their faith in Christ and the spiritual fruit they are producing in the world. The parable in the Gospel reading challenges our human tendency to ignore need. Jesus teaches that mercy should overcome any reason we might find to harden our hearts.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Amos 7:7-17. Look for God’s plumb line in the world. In what ways is the ground you stand on askew?
Read Psalm 82. If you sit on the council of the Most High, how does this change your perspective on the world?
Read Colossians 1:1-14. Prayers of mere words are just the beginning of prayer. To what prayerful actions do your prayerful words call you?
Read Luke 10:25-37. The author writes, “Even those trying to be faithful walk askew.” Consider how you live out Jesus’ call to love your neighbor.

Respond by posting a prayer.

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