Buried (Amos 9)

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Sermon Text

An old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV show was about a woman in prison who became good friends with the prison caretaker. When a prisoner died he would ring the bell, get the body, put it in a casket and, nail it shut. Then, placing the casket on a wagon, he would take it to the graveyard outside the prison walls and bury the corpse.

Knowing this routine, the woman devised an escape plan and shared it with this caretaker. “The next time the bell rings,” she said, “I’ll leave my cell and sneak into the coffin with the dead body. Nail the lid shut and take the coffin outside the prison with me in it. Bury the coffin,” she continued, “and because there will be enough air for me to breathe for some time, you can come back to the graveyard that night, dig up the coffin, and set me free.”

The caretaker agreed to the plan.

One day this woman heard the ringing of the death bell. She arose, walked down the hallway, found the coffin containing the dead body and climbed in. Soon she heard the pounding of hammer and nails. The coffin was lifted onto the wagon and taken outside to the graveyard. After the dirt was poured on the coffin she began to giggle out loud, “I’m free, free!”

Feeling curious she lit a match to identify the prisoner beside her … and in the glimmer of light she discovered that she was laying next to … the dead caretaker! In classic Alfred Hitchcock fashion this final scene fades as we hear the woman screaming, screaming, screaming, then silence.

Ever been buried like that before? Sure you have, and so have I. We’ve been buried in questions – “If God is so good, why do I hurt so bad?” “If Jesus is the light, why am I in the dark?”

We’ve been buried in disappointment. “You’re fired!” “I don’t love you anymore!”

We’ve all been buried in the past; the minute we lost our temper, the hour we lost our purity, the day we lost control, the years we lost our priorities.

Buried, boxed in, six feet under, again, right here, just now. It’s dark, tight, claustrophobic. And if there isn’t screaming, there are heavy sighs, lifeless looks, broken hearts.

Amos sees a day when Israel’s temple will be judged. Her people buried.

Buried by our sins. Under the rubble of our destroyed temples, we find refuge in another temple. But this temple has also been toppled and torn apart by God. This temple is Jesus. Because of your sin and mine, the Father marshaled every weapon of mass destruction: Judas, Pilate, and Herod; thorns, nails, and spear; darkness, sweat and screaming, screaming, screaming until there was total silence. It all ended “crucified, dead and buried.” Nothing is as bottomless as a pit, as lifeless as a grave, as hopeless as a tomb. Smell the mildew, the odor of blood, the of stench death. See the confines, the darkness, the sealed stone.

But this temple has been rebuilt.

But how does that impact my life? I’m cramped by the chaos, suffocating in the stillness, trapped in transgressions and sins, and screaming in my silence. What shall I do? I’ve got an idea.

Let’s light a match and see who we’re buried with. Romans 6:4: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” Colossians 2:12: “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”

You are not alone when life caves in. Jesus, the Crucified and Risen One, knows the feeling of being buried, and more than that. He knows the feeling of resurrection. In baptismal promises He still comes to raise you through His suffering and death. Amen.