Straight and true

The Tatura Guardian - - News - — Brian Spencer, Min­is­ter, Tatura Unit­ing Church

One cold and windy day last week we built a cou­ple of hun­dred me­tres of new ru­ral fenc­ing.

I’ve be­come some­thing of a ex­pert in judg­ing things by eye.

I been asked to sight along the line of the fence to check if it’s straight.

I’ve been asked to sight along the tops of the posts to see if the tops are all level.

I’ve been asked to stand back and look at the fence from the side and de­cide if all the posts are evenly spaced.

As the day wore on and I grew tired, the wind blew cold and rain threat­ened, I was more and more likely to an­nounce that ‘‘it was good enough’’.

This pro­nounce­ment seemed to cause great con­ster­na­tion from my mate Slim, who is the fenc­ing con­trac­tor.

Slim, as his nick­name sug­gests is tall and thin; I’m sure he would mea­sure seven-feet tall.

He’s a bit of a per­fec­tion­ist, so ‘‘near enough’’ was not ‘‘good enough’’ for him.

He would stride over to me and take a long hard look and then ap­ply his own stan­dards of ‘‘good enough’’, which of­ten took quite a bit of ad­just­ing here and there along the fence­line.

With the strainer posts Slim asked noone for their opin­ion; he would pro­duce his trusty spirit level from his pocket and place it on the side of the post.

The spirit level didn’t lie, it didn’t get tired, it didn’t tell him what he thought he wanted to hear.

If the post was straight, it was straight, if it wasn’t then it was clear to see.

In an ear­lier day, peo­ple used a plumbline.

A plumbline is a string with a metal weight at one end that, when sus­pended, points di­rectly to­wards the Earth’s cen­tre of grav­ity and so is used to de­ter­mine whether some­thing is ver­ti­cal or not.

Amos was an Old Tes­ta­ment prophet, not prophetic in the cliche´d sense of ‘‘fore­telling’’ the fu­ture, but in the sense of ‘‘truthtelling’’.

Amos likened his role to that of a plumbline.

Ba­si­cally that meant speak­ing the truth to power. Calling a spade a bloody shovel.

Nam­ing cor­rup­tion for what it was. Amos de­scribed his role as be­ing like that of a plumbline. A shame­less truth teller.

He says he saw ‘‘the Lord was stand­ing be­side a wall built with a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumbline.’ Then the Lord said, ‘See, I am set­ting a plumbline in the midst of my peo­ple Is­rael; I will never again pass them by’’. ( Amos 7:7-8)

Amos was an or­di­nary man who would not be si­lent about cor­rup­tion and in­jus­tice.

Speak­ing of him­self he says, ‘‘I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a herds­man and a ten­der of sy­camore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I fol­lowed the flock and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, proph­esy to My peo­ple Is­rael’,’’ ( Amos 7:14-15)

Amos was called by God to de­nounce the cor­rup­tion of the king and the rich and pow­er­ful who thought they they could get away with ex­ploit­ing the poor and that some­how God would treat them dif­fer­ently be­cause they were re­li­gious.

Amos was part of that great ru­ral tra­di­tion of sim­ple coun­try folk who call out the cor­rup­tion of the rich and pow­er­ful.

Speak­ing the truth to power has con­tin­ued to be part of the prophetic role of the church to this day.

And some­times God calls prophets to hold a plumbline to the church when it loses its way.

We should never be afraid to face the truth, be­cause even if it is painful to face, it is the only way to re­newal and growth.

Je­sus said: ‘‘You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’’

This is the gospel and it’s good news.

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