Main Street Community Church


This talk was given by Paul Wintle on .

The total length of the recording is , excluding the length of the video in the middle of the talk.

  1. Part 1: .
  2. The Bible Project video: .
  3. Part 2: .

Before the talk, Amos chapter 5 verses 21 to 24 was read:

‘I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
  your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
  I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
  I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
  I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
  righteousness like a never-failing stream!


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The first part of Paul’s talk:

Between the two parts of Paul’s talk we watched the video on Amos from the Bible Project. This is at

The second part of Paul’s talk:

A transcript is available lower down the page.


Yes. That was an interesting Bible reading, wasn’t it? How do you really follow that one? You might have heard me recount this tale before. When I was a school chaplain, a lot of my work involved helping young people with issues of self-esteem. The school I worked mainly in, aimed to offer hope and improve that self-esteem working with whole-year groups using a charity called Humanutopia. The first thing Humanutopia asked the children, the young people, to do on their morning was to talk about the unspoken pecking order. Who in the big year-group was top dog and who was the lowest of the low? That’s a big undertaking. It’s fine if you’re top of the pile. If you’re like me and you’re intelligent and you’re sporty and you’re handsome.


Might stay in Uganda. But if you knew that you were at the bottom of the pile, imagine how that must have felt. The groups of pupils did this which then led them to talking about a whole range of issues about that pecking order. Where were they in that pecking order? It was quite revealing, really, and quite emotional to watch. One particular lad I was working with during the year, found that, his revelation, that he was really quite at the bottom of the pile. He found that quite inspiring because he wanted to do something about that. He wanted to change his situation. I won’t go into the detail now but suffice to say he felt that he could help others around him to improve his and their lot.

Now, imagine Amos. A bottom-of-the-pile shepherd. Shepherd turned prophet. He lived in the north of the southern kingdom of Judah. I think in a couple of weeks’ time, Andrew might be doing a short summary of where the Old Testament prophets come and where they were in geography and history. God had told Amos to speak judgements against his people. Firstly, to Judah and then across the border in Israel. Amos might have felt bottom of that pile but more than this was the message that God wanted Amos to get across to both the kingdoms: the treatment that the people were giving God. God saw through the way that they were worshipping, and Amos’ message was to declare God’s judgement upon them for not doing what was required of them: true worship through acting justly and with righteousness.

This series on the prophets, as I explained last week, is one that I’m still trying to get to grips with. The prophets are important to us because they are part of scripture. We look at them, firstly, through their own lens. Next, we see them through the background of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then we look to see what they might say to us today. The church leaders and I met this week. I explained that I still felt ill-equipped for our service today and asked whether it would be okay to take a shortcut. Something I don’t often like to do but because of this week’s circumstances and our situation, together with my impending fortnight away in Uganda. Andrew Faraday reminded me just a little while ago that two weeks ago, we only had a 10-minute sermon and everybody survived.


All that said, I’d like us to start this morning with the book of Amos in just seven minutes. The Bible Project has done the hard work for me and amazingly links together the history of Amos, together with his prophecy to both kingdoms that used to worship God. After we’ve had this seven-minute presentation, I’ll bring our message to an end with a challenge: so what about Amos?

Between the two parts of Paul’s talk we watched the video on Amos from the Bible Project. This is at

Isn’t that impressive? I’ll go and sit down now and you can have this next... But no. Isn’t that impressive? That you get so much from one book in seven minutes? Neil, in a couple of weeks’ time, I look forward to hearing on the internet exactly how you’re going to be dealing with Jonah.

Neil: Six and a half minutes!


Paul: The prophets remind us about God’s character. Amos’ message was literally all about justice. But the people had ignored the poor. They had sold them into debt slavery and then had denied them legal representation. Literally injustice by God’s people. Their neglect of others really, really, really riled God after the love that he had continuously poured out upon them. The book of Hosea offers a similar but even stronger message. We’ll not go down that one today. Those at the bottom of the pile are, in fact, the ones that Jesus came for. He said in Luke’s Gospel that he came not for those who are well but for the sick. Jesus’ message was always for those on the wrong side of life. The downtrodden, those who had misfortune, the orphan, the widow, those who go without. That was the message of Jesus. In Amos, God’s character and compassion towards his people felt like it had come to an end and so judgement was coming upon them. As the film explained, right at the end of the book, there is still hope. God would mend and repair and restore his people and his temple. For more on that specifically, we’ll be looking at particular prophets regarding these issues in future weeks.

God’s character in spite of the destruction and the locusts – I understand there are some locusts in Kenya at the moment so, hopefully, they won’t be crossing the border – and the judgement and the woes ends with God hoping for his people. The God who created them still wants to be in relationship with them. The way he wants them back is to reflect his character. Hope through justice. Gill read from, I think, the NIV version this morning. This is what the message says. Just three verses from Amos 5. “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and your conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans, and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes. Your public relations, and image-making. I had all I can take of your noisy ego music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice. Oceans of it. I want fairness. Rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” (MSG)

And so the “so what about the prophets?” The “so what about today” reminds us of the need for practical action to show our world today. The point of these particular verses, perhaps, is for us to be reminded that God chooses his people to mete out righteousness and justice. For many years, I went to church and I listened when I was growing up, and a lot of the Bible teaching that I received was about Christian life. I think, for that, it meant Christian morals. A moral life. I wonder whether there’s more about the Christian life than merely morality. Merely right living. Perhaps right living stretches to this righteousness and this justice.

Couple of weeks ago, I was preaching at King’s Church just along the road, and I was asked to speak about the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5. I explained that I didn’t think that this list of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, gentleness – no, I’ve missed one – self-control, goodness: it’s nine of them. I said that I didn’t think that this was just a list of things for us to get better at. I said that I thought that this was how we know the Spirit of God lives in us when this kind of fruit is produced.

Similarly, when we look at the book of Amos and we look at these hard words that he proclaims, what is my response to justice? What is my action towards those who need my assistance? Do I carefully wait and pray to see what God wants of me or has he already told me? Let justice roll like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. That’s what God asks us for. That’s what God asks as worship.

The meetings, the gatherings that we have over centuries that we’ve decided as worship means nothing unless there’s action. Our gatherings are to encourage one another. In the book of Hebrews, the writer begs the listeners not to stop meeting as some are in the habit of doing, and so we won’t. The purpose of the meeting isn’t necessarily to just meet together from a prophet’s point of view. The gathering isn’t to go through the motions; it’s to remind ourselves of who we are and how we act. Justice and righteousness.

I know that for so many people here, you are already acting. You are standing up to injustice by writing to Christians that are imprisoned for their faith. We heard this morning, a little bit about the work that Open Doors does. By giving through your finances, to causes that mean much to you. God-given compassion has drawn you to act in this particular way. For others, your compassionate act towards those around you every day show the love of God, and this has become your spiritual act of worship as Romans 12 might say.

There is always, always more injustice to be stood against. There is always, always more righteousness to be developed in our world. We know at Main Street that the main thing at Main Street is our welcome to all. Old, young, poor, lonely, rich, oppressed, disabled, singled, gay, divorced, financially insecure. It is not only to welcome but to offer hope. Hope in practical ways. Our role is always to help seek the ones at the bottom of the pile. To bring hope, to raise people up, to show them the way of Jesus.

Nine and half chapters of destruction and judgement of Amos might make us feel depressed when we read the whole lot, to be frank, leaving us thinking, “What’s the point?” The point is that it’s not over until the final lines of that story. God is in the business of restoration and rebuilding and that is my favourite bit of the Bible to preach about, but that’s for another time. For now, let us rise to the challenge to seek out, to welcome, to act on behalf of those who cannot do it by themselves or for themselves. How do I treat people? Those around me? My family? Those I come into contact with regularly? How’s that going? Right actions, right relationships, righteousness, and justice throughout all the prophets equals true worship.

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