Back when I was in middle school, it was still mandatory that all students take a technology education class and in the seventh grade it was my responsibility to build two projects. The first was a wooden balloon powered car and the second was a bottle rocket. I hated tech ed. I was not good at it and I was afraid of the power tools. I remember that it was my turn to drill the axel holes. I cautiously put on the safety goggles and stepped up to the huge drill. I placed my wooden car down and stood as far away as I could while still reaching the machine. I remember feeling scared of hurting myself as I pulled the lever of the drill down and I closed my eyes almost as if by instinct. Sure enough the hole was crooked. I could have done started again but it was good enough for me.
Off I went, attaching my balloon and testing the ugliest looking balloon car in the school hallways. It kept veering to the left no matter what I did. It was good enough to get me a C and I was happy with that. My next project was not much better and I was even less committed to that one and ended with my bottle rocket blowing up in the sky and pieces of it falling all over the place. Again I was satisfied with mediocre work. I had an understanding with the tech ed teacher, who had all my cousins and brothers before me. As long as I tried I’d get a passing grade.
Isn’t this how life gets sometimes? We become lack-luster, uninspired, barely committed, and just go through the motions in life and in our spiritual lives as well. This can happen in our marriages, in our relationships, in our jobs, and in our relationship with God. We get tired. This happens to everyone, to every group of people, and it is something that humanity has struggled with since the very beginning of time. However, when all is said and done, when our loved ones write our eulogies, when we come face to face with God do we want the words that define our lives to be unenthusiastic, uncommitted, and indifferent?
Just like the people of Israel, we were not called into relationship with God to live indifferent lives. We were called to make a difference, to touch the lives of another, to live by God’s covenant completely committed, enthusiastic, and full of the joy of the spirit. We were called to leave behind the vices; the idols of the past, for a new life lived in God’s light following his commandments.
Amos was a simple man, a shepherd from Judah, who never thought of himself as a prophet. Yet when God called to him to challenge the people of Israel ruled by King Jeroboam, who introduced idol worship to these people, to live by the covenant standards of God, he did as he was asked. He preached doom and hardship to the people, in a time when the Assyrian and the Egyptian Empires were weak and there was relative peace in the land. He preached the dangers of turning away from a life lived by the ways of God.
Our faith is very much like a building project that is never complete. We would not want to live in a house that builders didn’t check to make sure that the walls were level, that the roof was on solidly built foundations. And we do not want to rely on a faith that has not had the same care put into its construction. We cannot be half heartedly committed to God. God uses the plumb line to test the viability of our faiths. If we follow the covenant of God then our walls will straight, strong, and sturdy. But if not then we cannot just live with a faulty spiritual existence, we have to rip it apart and start fresh. The people of Israel needed to start fresh because Jeroboam replaced the foundations of the covenant with the worship of Golden Calves and the people embraced it losing sight of the life offered by the one true God.
We do not want a faith that when tried will disintegrate like my bottle rocket or one that will stir us in the wrong direction because we cared too little for the basis of what we were doing. We need to constantly be paying attention to our relationship with God, to maintaining our connection with the holy and to learning to live a life where we can trust and depend upon our God to lead us where he needs us to be. Rick Warren says, “Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make”. The people of Israel had committed to idols and the ways of the world. Ways that are often plagued with war, jealousy, revenge, and brokenness.
We are called to ask ourselves what we have committed our lives too. And is this what we want others to remember or think about us when all is said and done? Keep the words of Amos in your minds when you are feeling tempted to live a purely secular life, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them”. God checks on the quality of our lives. He expects that we live by his law, by his lead. He looks for his people to commit to a better way of life, a way of life that will teach healing, wholeness, and happiness. We just need to place our lives into his hands each and every day and commit to living life as he would have us. We start with prayer and allow God to be a part of our decisions and life choices. And in time, we can be confident that when the plumb line is applied to our lives that our lives will be constructed on solid grounding, on solid faith.
 Rick Warren, American evangelical Christian pastor and author, 21st century.
 Amos 7: 8, RSV.
(Based on Amos 7: 7-17)