Let Justice Roll
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ~ Amos 5:21-24
The prophet Amos performed his work in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, where life was prosperous and religion celebrated through festivals, rituals, and sacrifices. Yet for God - and so for Amos - there was something terribly wrong.
That professed faith had gotten mixed up and compromised by the faith of some of the neighbors of Israel. More than that even, the lives, values, and morals of God's people no longer lined up with God or with their professed faith. For God - and so for Amos - all the singing, chanting, praising, and celebrating of their religion wasn't going to change that.
What was missing was compassion and justice for those in most need of it. All those rituals, all that music...none of it was what mattered for true worship. True worship - God's idea of worship - meant coming to God with a compassionate, loving heart. It meant seeking justice for those who most needed it: those for whom justice did not come easily.
What are the ways that we might still sometimes confuse worship and true faith? Or what are the ways we might confuse our ideas of worship with God's?
Our recent ventures into pandemic living have sort of hit this point home. In all the understandable desire to return to in person worship - to the rituals and music and togetherness we find comforting - we remember that our practices to keep others safe in the past year was no less worship.
It was in fact compassionate, justice-filled worship.
As we begin again to gather joyfully in person, let's see if that compassionate, justice-filled worship can still roll down in ways that bring us closer to God and to each other.
Holy God, move me toward justice, mercy, and humility in all my dealings with your people. Amen