justice, Shekinah, practicing presence, glory of the Lord, glory of God, light, shining

A river of justice


  • 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. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 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.

Galatians 6:2 

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.








Sermon: Love Thy Neighbour

As you know, when I talked earlier this month, I spoke about Social Justice, in light of Isaiah 58 and the call to prayer and fasting that was pleasing to the Lord.  In the current political climate, in the US as well as in Panama, where there is such a backlash against “immigrants” and “illegals” and so much discrimination, I find it challenging that once again today’s readings focus on aspects of social justice and what it means to be a follower of Jesus and to really and truly love our neighbour.

We all know pretty well the text in Matthew, chapter 22, where one of the Pharisees asked Jesus about the greatest commandment of the law, to which Jesus replied (Matthew 22: 36-40):

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

The ENTIRE message of the Bible can be summarised in this short paragraph!  You can ignore all of the small print of the Bible, if you just do these 2 things.  Easy, right?

Maybe not so easy, because we find that in another part of the Gospels, (Luke 10: 22 and following) a lawyer who wished to justify himself by asking “who is my neighbour?”, to which Jesus responded with the parable of the good samaritan.  I’m not going to look at, this morning, “who is our neighbour” – but rather focus on what it means, in a very practical sense, to love your neighbour.  What is the visible expression of your love for God and the commandments that were given to the people of Israel through the Law and the Prophets?

In Romans 13, verses 8 to 10, Paul says:

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Our readings this morning, especially from Leviticus, give a context to the response that Jesus gave the Pharisee and then his conversation with the lawyer and the parable of the Samaritan.  When Jesus spoke of “Love your neighbour as yourself” he was making reference to these particular verses from Leviticus 19, which would have been well known to the Pharisee and also to the lawyer. We might not know them so well; so I’d like us to take a moment to review the verses we read this morning and the examples of what it means to love your neighbour in a very practical sense.

  • Verses 9 and 10 – be kind to the poor and the alien by leaving something for them in your fields and vineyards: do not reap to the very edges, do not gather the gleanings that fell, do not go over your field a second time picking up what you missed and do not pick up what has fallen.  The poor and the alien still have to work for it, but it is made easy for them to find and forage for food.
  • Verses 11 & 13: teach us compassion and absolute honesty and justice in our relationships
    • no lying
    • no fraud or dealing falsely
    • no stealing
    • no defauding
    • and don’t keep for yourself an employees wages until the next day – always pay on time.

It’s interesting this last point, because under the Law it was perfectly legal to pay the labourer the next day for his work – you didn’t have to pay him the same day.  But God’s law says – it’s just and right to pay him that day, so that he can take food home to his family.  It wasn’t about what was legal, it was about what was right.

According to an article I read recently, it says that a persons lies 2 to 3 times every 10 minutes.  Yes, mostly totally white lies:  “How are you doing?”  “I’m great!” – the lie may be the person asking how you are doing – when they really don’t care, or the lie may be the “I’m great” when they really aren’t feeling that way…  And of all the lies we tell, 25% of those lies are for the sake of the other person!  Very thoughtful of us, isn’t it!

Nietzsche said:

What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on, I can no longer believe you.

  • Verse 12:  Don’t swear in God’s name
  • Verse 14:
    • don’t curse the deaf
    • don’t put a stumbling block before the blind

It’s very easy to make fun of someone that can’t hear what you are saying or see what you are doing, but that doesn’t make it right.  Verse 14 reminds us to treat every person with empathy according to their situation and not take advantage of any weaknesses that they might have.

  • Verse 15:  be just and judge your neighbour with justice
    • do not be partial to the poor
    • do not defer to the great
  • Verse 16:
    • Do not speak badly of others
    • Do not profit at your neighbour’s expense
  • Verse 17:
    • Do not hate in your heart anyone of your family
    • If your neighbour makes a mistake, be the one to tell him so that you aren’t an accomplice to his actions.    When you give feedback to an employee, do you care about them enough to tell them the hard truths, the mistakes or omissions that they are making that are holding them back from doing better?  Do you love someone enough to tell them that they are messing up and that they need to turn their life around?  Or do you just want to be seen as the nice person that loves them just the way they are?   Loving your neighbour is more than just being nice – it’s also practicing tough love, to become all that they can be.

Imagine, if you will for a moment, your child:  when they make a mistake you correct them – because you love them enough that you want them to grow and learn.  You know that this mistake now may cost them dear later on in life and so you make a point of having the hard conversations now, so that later on in life they do better.

Do you do the same with other people in your life?  Or is that simply not your problem?

  • Verse 18:
    • no taking revenge
    • no holding grudges

And it ends with “but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Because God is God, you should do this!  Because God is love and we are children of God, we do this!

Matthew 5, part of the Sermon on the Mount, illustrates this love for your neighbour in greater depth.  If you haven’t already done so, re-read the entire sermon on the Mount!

In today’s passage, we read the following:

  • turn the other cheek if someone strikes you
  • give your cloak and not just your coat
  • go the 2nd mile
  • give to everyone who begs from you
  • do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you
  • love your enemies
  • prayer for those who persecute you
  • be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect

Because if you only love those who love you, what reward do you have?  If you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  God sends rain to all: the righteous and the unrighteous – and so, as children of God, we should follow this example and not only treat well our family and friends, but treat everyone well.   The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies – probably because, generally speaking, they are the same people!

So, make an effort today to love your neighbour:

  • your homeless neighbour
  • your immigrant neighbour
  • your poor neighbour
  • your uneducated neighbour
  • your gay, lesbian, trans neighbour
  • your jewish neighbour
  • your right wing neighbour
  • your fundamentalist Christian neighbour
  • your athiest neighbour
  • your disabled neighbour
  • your drug addict or alcoholic neighbour

And let us all remember, 1st John 4: 20

If anyone says “I love God” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  

Let’s pray.

Sermon: Naked & Vulnerable

Genesis 3: 8-15

1 Samuel 8: 4-11, 16-20

I can’t tell you how excited I am to stand up here today and let you know that today we’re going to talk about getting naked, and not going with the crowd!

I’m going to give you a moment to let that sink in…

We just read in Genesis about Adam’s reaction when his eyes are opened, and he realises he and Eve are naken – they sow together fig leaves and make themselves clothes, and in verse 10, Adam responds to God:

“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Yesterday, I was giving Isabella a bath, and I can tell you, two-year olds are not ashamed of their bodies, and have nothing to hide.  If I would let her, I’m pretty sure Isabella would’t put on clothes at any time – she doesn’t understand what she needs them for. She struggles against you when it’s time to get dressed and routinely says “NO” when you say she needs to put clothes on.

More importantly, Isabella has no need to put up defenses and barriers between her and other people – she wears her heart on her sleeve. She laughs without reserve, she cries without reserve, and she simply shows every emotion that she is feeling.  She even manipulates without reserve and then laughs when you call her out on it, totally living in the present moment and without shame. When she’s uncertain, she lets you know, reaching out for support.  And if she gets scared, she seeks immediate shelter!

Take a moment – when was the last time you were truly authentic?  How long has it been since you allowed yourself to take off your armour and defenses, take down all those barriers you’ve built to protect yourself, and actually allowed yourself to live and feel?  We talk about “putting on our face”, rather than putting on make-up, or “keeping a poker face” instead of showing emotions.

How long has it been since you were naked and vulnerable before the people that matter the most in your live?  Most of us have lived for far too long in a society where naked has a sexual connotation, and we’ve forgotten that it also means to be open and discovered; it means to be honest, sincere and real.  Like Adam, we hide.  And then, when those who know us best get through that defense and find us, we give excuses like Adam did – it was HER fault, not mine.  That woman that YOU gave me, God, SHE made me do it!  It couldn’t possibly have been my fault!

In coaching we talk about secondary and primary emotions – and most of us are only in touch with the secondary ones, and fail to accept to even admit that below that emotion there’s another one that we’re too afraid to even acknowledge.  Many times our anger is simply a mask for impotence or pain and hurt; or our coldness and indifference is a mask for pain and vulnerability.  We put on a brave front, when we are really scared and insecure.  And we get so busy trying to convince the world that this is who we are, that we lose touch with ourselves and our true emotions.

All of this seeps over and into our Christian life and our relationship with God.  How many times do we try to keep on the mask, saying hollow prayers and just going through the motions?  When was the last time you were completely unarmed and defenseless before God?

Ephesians 6: 10-18 tells us to put on the full armour of God.  I have a really simple question – have any of you ever tried to put on a suit of armour ON TOP of another suit of armour?  If you are already wearing your own suit of armour, how could you possibly put on the suit of armour that God has to offer?  I’d like to look at this quickly:

  1. You have a belt of TRUTH – when was the last time you had truth in your life? Blatant, honest truth?  Where you didn’t have to mince words and keep up appearances? When you were who you really are?  What if, instead of being protected by all these lies, you could be protected by truth? What difference would that make in your life today?
  2. There’s a breastplate of righteousness.  I don’t what your definition of righteousness is, but when I think of righteousness, I don’t only think of holiness or blamelessness – it’s all tied in there together with fairness, goodness, justice, honor, and virtue.  And once again I’m going to ask – how can you wear a breastplate of righteousness when you already are living a lie?  If there is no authenticity and you are not being true to yourself, what kind of goodness and fairness can you offer to others?
  3. Next we have your feet fitted with the gospel of peace.  Oh! That’s deep.  How many of you can say your feet are shod with peace and tranquility?  Or are you so busy, keeping moving and always in a hurry that you fail to truly have a moment for peace?  Why the busyness? What’s the hurry? Does it make you feel more important? Does it give you self worth? Are you hiding from other feelings and simply filling up the void and emptiness in your life with “I’m too busy”.  Is there room on your body to put on the gospel of peace on your feet? Or do you need to get naked in order to have this possibility?
  4. Then, you are to take up the shield of faith – faith in humanity, faith in yourself, faith in God’s goodness and greatness, living a life of conviction and constancy, with the certainty that “it is well with my soul”.  Did your faith get broken, like a child’s toy, when life’s struggles trampled on it?  When did your heart get broken, such that you could no longer believe?
  5. We’re called to put on the helmet of salvation – does it fit on your head? Or are there too many ideas and issues rolling around in there?  When was the last time you took time to accept that perhaps salvation doesn’t depend on you, but only on God’s grace!  Can you accept God’s grace and undying love for you?  Or are you once again, too busy, trying to earn it and deserve it with everything you are doing? Be still… and know that I am God! The helmet of salvation is simply knowing that it’s not all on you.  You aren’t in this alone.  And keeps your mind clear and free.
  6. We are each given the gift of the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  Yes, there’s the Word of God in the Bible, but there’s also the word of God in our hearts.  Have you taken a moment to listen to what God would say to you today?  Are you busy fighting your battles alone, rather than with God’s help?  When you ask God for guidance in your daily battles, do you actually sit quietly and listen to God’s answer?  Or do you just plow ahead into “this is what I need to do” without listening?  Who else are you not listening to?  The words of wisdom and advice we can find in the Bible are only available if we are willing to listen.
  7. And finally, we have praying in the Spirit – when was the last time you let you spirit pray directly in tune with God’s spirit? Have you taken the time lately to quieten all the senses and stop the rush, to be able to allow your spirit to pray, rather than your mouth, your emotions, your thoughts, your brain?

When we stand before God, we are supposed to be naked! Not naked, afraid and ashamed – naked, unashamed and vulnerable, open, holding nothing back, masking nothing.

Are you so busy trying to show everyone that you have it all together, that you’ve started telling this to God as well? Living your life as if you don’t need God’s help, assurance and salvation?  God wants us to get real! To get real with him. Get real with each other.  Talk from the heart!

To quote Kevin Smith:

  • Stop fakin’ the funk!
  • Stop fuontin’ and Stuntin’!
  • Stop trying to be something that you’re not before God!
  • Stop coming before God with “Oh holy, most reverent, wise & eternal God”!

GOD DOESN’T BELIEVE YOU!  As terrifying as it may be, he sees through the whole facade – you can’t keep pretending.

God wants us to be free! And freedom starts with being who you really are, and then building from there!

Speaking for myself –

I am terrified of being vulnerable and opening up – my facade is cold and unfeeling – and God says – “be vulnerable, risk being hurt, and open up” – then, and only there, will you be able to truly show God’s love to others.

My facade is being “too busy”, and always having excuses – and God’s response is “take time to simply be still and know that I am God”, there’s peace there.

My facade is that I am self-centered and ego-centric – and God’s response is that God is love, and there’s more than enough to go around!  I don’t need to live looking out for myself and my own interests, because the lie that I have been told that “there’s not enough” to go around is simply that, a lie.  There is abundance! I can always afford to give, because God promises to each of us:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

God’s gift for us is that we are a special people – we don’t need to live like everyone else does.  We can be different and live in abundance.  But most of the time, we want to have a king to rule over us, like the people of Israel in Samuel – without realising the blessings that we will lose as a result.  Everyone else lives with barriers and facades, and so we should to?  I don’t think so – we are intended to live naked and exposed before God and men – covered in the armour that God has given to us, rather than the armour of our own making.