Tuesday of Pentecost 20 – Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Seek the Lord and live,
    lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
    and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
O you who turn justice to wormwood
    and cast down righteousness to the earth!

10 They hate him who reproves in the gate,
    and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
11 Therefore because you trample on the poor
    and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
    but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
    but you shall not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your transgressions
    and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
    and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
    for it is an evil time.

14 Seek good, and not evil,
    that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
    as you have said.
15 Hate evil, and love good,
    and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
    will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

In late March of 1911, recent college graduate Frances Perkins was having a genteel day with her friends in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. They heard a great commotion outside and, having investigated, they came upon a sight of horror. The Triangle Shirt factory, located on the 8th through the 10th floors of a nearby building had caught fire. The exits had largely been locked or even nailed shut to prevent workers from stealing but that also meant they could not access the fire escapes. 146 people died that day, many jumping to their deaths to escape the flames. Most of the victims were young emigrant women (aged 14-23).

This event left an indelible mark on young Frances. She would become a tireless advocate for the betterment of working conditions. Eventually, she became an important advisor to the governor of New York. His name was Franklin D. Roosevelt and when he won the presidency, he brought Frances with him to Washington to become the secretary of Labor. She was the first woman on a presidential cabinet and the longest serving secretary of Labor – 12 years.

Roosevelt was a consummate deal maker and willing to compromise on anything. Perkins was practical, but more hard-headed. She was also Roosevelt’s friend. That friendship and Perkin’s willingness to use it to further worker’s rights is likely the reason why you have Social Security today, a 40-hr. work week, overtime pay, and much more.  Amos looked at his society and saw an economic, legal, and political system which left people vulnerable and abused. He called the late Israelite kingdom to repent and beseech God for mercy. He saw the abuse of the poor and corruption of the legal system as a crisis of faith and a breech of the covenant God had made with them. The Christian discerns here that God places great value on people, even the little people whom our systems often ignore. Let Christians be the hands and feet of God to serve people in their needs and strive for good things for all.

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