Let Justice Roll Like a River

Let Justice Roll Like a River

We hear a lot these days about “returning to normal”, or having a “new normal”, which for most I suppose means the way we were. 

But this may never come.  For those who survived COVID, some had to learn to walk again, because their muscles didn’t get enough oxygen and had to be rejuvenated.  Many felt helpless and terribly frightened by the ventilator which kept them alive for days or weeks.  For these, there will be no “normal” again, not as they once knew it. 

For others like us, who are safe and healthy, but who watched George Floyd being asphyxiated by a policeman, we have become more aware of the frequency of racism within our society at so many levels.  If that is “normal”, then we hope and pray there will never be a “back to normal” again!”    Those who have experienced this long-standing embedded racism long for something very different. They desire a promised freedom to simply live as Americans as who they are, with the skin they have and the dreams they haven’t let die.  They long for a change of heart in this country regarding racism. 

The first reading for Eucharist was from the book of Amos, and the words that found a place in my heart were “Let justice roll like a river.”  I thought about how water actually flows by following a principle of physics to seek its own level.  As it flows, the water falls into crevices at an equal level. It is so powerful that it can split rocks this way, destroy cities with the force of a typhoon or tsunami, feed fields with moisture needed for crops, and bring about new life. When the water in a mother's womb breaks, she knows the arrival of her baby is coming.  Water can mean life or death.

What does it mean to say let justice flow like a river?  When we think of the Mississippi and the floods we have experienced, we think of devastation in the wake of those floods.  However, where Amos lived, in the desert areas of the Middle East, they had rivers such as the Nile in Egypt on which they relied to overflow.  The water made the land fertile again enabled their crops to grow.  So, when justice rolled like a river, it was a total blessing.  This is what Amos meant when he begged the people to change their ways and seek good, and let justice roll!

Our country was founded on freedom and justice for all, and we grew up saying those words daily at the end of the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet recent events show us that freedom and justice have never been for all.  We too are called to justice – to do justice, to promote justice, to speak justly. So many people came to this country to seek freedom and justice.  That is why they still come – fighting their way across rivers on our southern border, even knowing they will not all be welcomed. 

Most of our ancestors came freely these past several hundred years since our nation was founded.  However, some were forced to come as slaves, and seeking justice wasn’t a choice for them. 

We recently celebrated our nation's freedom, and it is both a national and secular holiday.  When Jesus spoke of freedom, he told the disciples: the truth will set you free.  A small group of people declared our independence 244 years ago and unleashed a firestorm of belief in themselves and the people of this nation, and then they fought for that independence. We are fortunate to know the beauty of this country – from the mountains to the shining seas, to our own gardens and the determination and vigor of its people. We also know the joy of freedoms of religion, speech, peaceful assembly, due process under the law, and many others. 

We too are called to let justice roll like a river in our hearts, to show to others what justice is and what it means through hospitality, caring for creation; tenderness, and acceptance of all.  Our river must flow from the heart of God to our own hearts and spread wherever we are with life in its wake. 

Currently, we cannot do some of the ‘justice actions’ such as reaching out to the poor, or feeding the hungry, or participating in protests, but we can let our prayers and desires be those of justice in our hearts.  We can continue welcoming one another, rejoicing in the beauty of our surroundings, never forgetting to give thanks for all the freedoms we have, and praying that all forms of racism and bigotry will be defeated. 

May our prayers continue for all those who long for the freedoms and justice we know, and especially the freedom to live as a child of God now and for all eternity.

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