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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, January 18, 2021  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Amos 5:24                         

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. (NRSV)

As a child, more summers than not my family made a trip to visit my aunt and uncle in Buffalo, New York. Driving all the way from Chicago and through Canada, the final approach to Buffalo almost always included a trip just past the mighty Niagara Falls. Years later, reading more about Niagara’s history, I realized that with the diversion of the Niagara River’s waters to hydroelectric power plants, tourists do not really see the full power of the falls. So it takes a work of imagination to understand how powerful the falls were centuries ago, when every second millions of gallons of water flowed untrammeled down the 160 foot drop.

The pure and wild power of a waterfall is likened in scripture to the force of justice and righteousness unleashed in our world by God. True justice, the prophet Amos tells us, is bold and mighty, running an unpredictable path through our individual and collective lives. These twin qualities of the good life disrupt our routines and practices, trouble our wallets, and frustrate our public policies, promising to transform everything in their wake.

These days it is all too easy to name problems that require such divine power to be resolved. And yet justice that rolls down like waters is also a form of power we fear. Amos reminds us of this when in the verses before these famous words he refers to the worship, prayers, and sacrifices we use to manage our relationship with the divine. These rituals are not unimportant. But they can easily mask our insufficient commitment to the fundamental virtues of God’s beloved community. They can be tools fashioned to channel God’s goodness in ways that put our comfort or convenience above all else.

Amos’s powerful water imagery reminds us that we cannot give God half-hearted measures. We must yield our whole selves to God’s justice and righteousness until we reflect the same constancy and vigor as God’s mighty and unending waters.

Holy God, let me not hide from your justice. Let me not stumble over your righteousness. Let my life be an unending fount of blessing to all your beloved children. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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