- Joshua 24: 1-3; 14-25
- Amos 5: 18-24
5:24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
As you walk out of Church today, what will have changed? What difference will it have made to come to church this morning and worshiped God? What does choosing God, rather other gods, mean today? How does worshiping God change our lives?
Noris read for us this morning Amos, chapter 5, verses 18 to 24. I want to re-read those to you now, from the version “The Message”:
18-20 Woe to all of you who want God’s Judgment Day!
Why would you want to see God, want him to come?
When God comes, it will be bad news before it’s good news,
the worst of times, not the best of times.
Here’s what it’s like: A man runs from a lion
right into the jaws of a bear. …
At God’s coming we face hard reality, not fantasy—
a black cloud with no silver lining.
21-24 “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.
God’s anger in Amos was because the religious festivals were not followed up by just actions. God gave the means to reverse the people’s systems of injustice, to end inequity and oppression. But the river of people who were supposed to flow out of the temple (like when we all leave this Church this morning) to fulfill God’s promises walked out of the temple and did nothing.
You were given arms that can reach out to those who suffer: who are those arms wrapped around? Yourself? You were given feet to take the first steps towards those who feel alone, afraid, oppressed: where are your feet planted? In your comfortable life? You were given ears to hear the stories of justice denied: are you listening? You were given a mouth to speak Truth: but words are used to harm and tear down, rather than to build, and certainly not to speak Truth!**
Thursday, November 9th many Panamanians waited expectantly for a reveal of names and details regarding the Obredecht corruption cases. A nation waiting and hoping for justice to prevail and corruption to set a food on the proverbial banana skin and the other foot in the grave. It wasn’t enough.
This brings to mind, for me, Proverbs 24: 24
Whoever says to the guilty “You are innocent” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
All I read on Twitter & Facebook is frustrations and cursing of the lack of action and lack of justice. What more can and should be done? Panama needs to restart and rethink fighting corruption from a grassroots level. It needs to start in the home. Social justice and righteousness are needed from each person and member of society. And for us, it starts as we walk out of Church today. Worshiping God is not just about what we do for one hour on Sunday morning. Worshiping God is in each thought, each word & each deed.
1 John 4: 20 through 5:3 remind us:
20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. …
How do we love our brother and sister? Well, let me warn you, it’s not sentimental. It’s not that “feeling” of love. It’s about your actions -and they speak much louder than any words. John warns us about this: “we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fat, this is love for God: to keep his commands.”
Let’s take a quick walk through the Bible and discover the ways we show love to our neighbours – children of God – all created, like you and me, in the image and likeness of God:
Leviticus 19: 9-18
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. …
… The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. …
… You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people. …
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor… ou shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD”
Proverbs 29: 7
The righteous care about justice for the poor…
Isaiah 1: 17
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 58: 6-7
… this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
Jeremiah 22: 3
… Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
Matthew 6: 14-15
For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 25: 35-36
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Romans 14: 13
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
Carry each other’s burdens…
1 Thessalonians 5: 11
… encourage one another and build each other up…
1 Peter 3: 8
be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
I want us to imagine, just for a moment, a world in which all Christians lived according to all these rules and fulfilled these commands. In Joshua 24 we read how the people of Israel chose to follow God and follow his commandments. What would this look like for Christians? Let’s take a moment, just to imagine this:
- no sexual harassment
- no hunger
- everyone paid a fair wage
- no slander
- no hate, no vengeance, no grudges
- justice for the poor
- oppressed people who are defended vigorously, fatherless children who are protected, widows who have someone standing up for them
- no one wrongly imprisoned
- no human trafficking or slavery
- the homeless living in proper shelters, the hungry given food
- relatives receiving hep from their families
- no wrong or violence against the immigrant
- no innocent blood shed
- forgiving others graciously when they make mistakes, even if they intentionally act wrongly
- strangers invited in
- sick cared for
- those in prison visited and encouraged
- no one passing judgement on you
This is justice rolling down like waters. This is an ever-flowing stream of righteousness! This is loving your neighbor and loving God.
As we go out today, let us remember this promise from Psalm 106: 3
Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.
Always. It’s such a big word.
So, as we leave this Church this morning, may we be a small stream of water, a trickle in the giant ocean of injustice… going against the tide and shining our light in this world of darkness.