Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
This famous verse from Amos could easily be mistaken as a plea or a prayer: God - please get rid of the injustice and unrighteousness we see all around us. We need your help!
But Amos writes these words as if they were coming out of God's own mouth. They are not a plea to God, but God's plea to us. As paraphrased in the Message translation of the bible, the whole passage quotes God as saying:
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.
Phew! According to Amos, God is pretty fed up with us, even those of us who call ourselves religious, saying that we produce plenty of noise and busy activity, but we don't bear nearly enough fruits of justice or righteousness. When I see the violence we continue to inflict upon each other in one horrible incident after another in out culture, I can admit that maybe God has a point.
This passage always makes me think of Paul's letter to the Corinthians. He said that we can do all kinds of impressive things, but if we do them without love, we are just clanging bells or a crashing cymbals. Amos says something similar - that all our worship and 'good works' are empty if they are not soaked in compassion for those who are suffering. Amos reminds us that if our worship is not saturated in love of God and neighbor, it too will be nothing but clanging bells and cymbals.
I'll be off at SSJE with our group from St. James this weekend, introducing them to silent retreat. I know Derek Scalia will do a wonderful job with the preaching this week, and Sanford Johnson will greatly enjoy celebrating communion. Blessings to us all as we worship God from the heart.
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE. During ordinary time, we are using Track 2