"Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." - Amos 5:24 (NRSV)
Our nation is built on ideals. From our earliest days, Americans cherished and celebrated the virtues of freedom, respect, and justice for all. Every now and then, we're called into a time of self-reflection. We're forced to examine the gulf between ideals and reality - the people we long to be and the people we actually are. Every now and then, these ideals guide us to reform laws - to make changes for the betterment of all. This was the case during the movement for Women's Suffrage. This was the case during the Civil Rights movement. This is also the case today. The killing of George Floyd has sparked a national conversation on issues of racism and justice. It has shined a spotlight on the experience of African-Americans with law enforcement. It's forced us to have uncomfortable conversations about racial discrimination, bias, and privilege in America. As United Methodists, I remind us that part of our Baptismal/Membership vows is "to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves." Friends, let's remember our vows. Let's embrace the freedom and power God gives us to stand up and speak out against evil and injustice in whatever forms they take. The prophet Amos eloquently describes God's desire for justice to "roll down like waters" and righteousness to flow like "an ever-flowing stream." Let me offer the context for this well-known scripture from "The Message" translation by Eugene Peterson.
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and 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’ve 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." - Amos 5:21-24
These are harsh words from God for the people of Israel. We may not like it, but these are the words we need to hear when we're tempted to prioritize comfort over compassion, programs over people, silence over shalom. God's words are as true today for the people of God as they were thousands of years ago. So, let's talk. Let's study. Let's pray. But, in the end, let's make sure that we act in ways that honor God's love for all people. Let's respond in ways that embody God's longing for justice for all. ~ Pastor Caleb