Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.- Amos 7:14-16
I grew up in Central Presbyterian Church, just a couple of miles from the Virginia-Tennessee line in Bristol. My parents, Ed and Betty, were members of Central for more than 50 years before moving to Roanoke and joining RCPC during the pandemic.
As a child, I remember folding, then unfolding, my hands in the “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people” gesture (If you don’t know what this is, ask me and I’ll show you). At the end of the mnemonic, I would look at my fingers and try to figure out who was who. Left index finger? Daphne McCord. Right ring finger? Bill Bonham. Pinky? Marguerite Cupp.
You see, those names - and many, many others - were the people who made up our church. They taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, ushered at worship, served as church officers, organized the church library, brought food to weekly potlucks, and volunteered for capital campaign committees. They used everybody’s name because they knew everyone. They were friendly, hospitable, happy. They studied the bible and paid attention to kids like me. Those folks might not have liked that I am saying this about them, but they were good at being the church.
Yet how can anyone know how to be the church? Those I mentioned were certainly equipped for loving and serving others…but how did they become that way? As a youngster, I concluded that God must have recognized their special talents and placed them into their own specialized niches in our church’s ecosystem.
However, as Amos tells us, serving the Lord doesn’t require any secret training, an elite certification, or a formal ordination. “I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore figs…But the Lord took me…”
I don’t believe God called Amos because he was equipped; rather, God equipped Amos because he was called.
I wonder if that’s what happened with the cloud of witnesses in my childhood church. Were the icons of that place summoned by God because of their intelligences and abilities…or were their gifts revealed because they answered God’s call?
I am convinced that they made a difference for many others because, like Amos, they simply said yes to God. They left the flock. And the spirit of the Lord leapt to vibrant life through the timeless testimony of their words and actions.
Lord, help me hear you and help me answer you. Help me leave my flock so that others may connect with your love and grace. Amen.