In our Narrative Lectionary readings we start making some big hops from the somewhat linear flow of one book after another. Today we jump all the way to the prophet Amos.
Near the end of the reading we have the beautiful passage: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” This is God’s desire, but it comes after a heavy dose of… um I think the biblical word would be rebuke.
As we approach the time of year where there is an emphasis on festivals in the Christian church, we might read a word of warning to us in Amos’ words.
Amos was pointing to those who attend all the festivals of the church year, make all the proper religious gestures, but do not put into practice what God desires. In his day they were things like Passover, and the festivals of Weeks, and Booths, for us it would be things like Christmas and Easter.
What God desires is that justice roll, and righteousness flow, this is a living and active faith it is not stagnate. Faith is in this case not so much a noun as it is a verb. This kind of faith seeps into everything we are and pours out in everything we do, it moves you.
Often if we isolate our faith to proper practices on high holy days, making sure we get to church on Christmas and Easter for instance, but it does not flow through our thoughts and actions on regular holy days (that would be every day btw) God is not amused, but rather, irritated.
I am not saying, nor is Amos or the Lord for that matter, that we ought not participate in the festivals and celebrations of faith, but rather, that we are to let them fuel our righteousness, and drive our working for justice in the small everyday events of our lives. A river does not appear magically, a flowing stream does not arise only on Christmas and Easter.
Things like righteousness and justice often seem like big things, we see people on TV or other media pointing to big policies or grand gestures as they talk about justice, encouraging what I would call righteousness.
We may need these cheerleaders, and goals, but what Amos is talking about here is not so much the big picture, as it is a snapshot of your life. The mighty river of justice, and the life giving stream of righteousness are fed by small things done on a regular basis. The waters of God’s intended justice and righteousness flow as each drop of our lives are lived daily according to His love and will. Drop by drop, the mighty rivers of love, justice and righteousness are formed.