Like an Ever-Rolling Stream - Reflections 11-5-2020

Texts for Sunday
November 8, 2020

In his 1963 speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Martin Luther King, Jr used the final verse from this Sunday’s text in the book of Amos to call for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States, starting with voting rights for people of all colors of skin. At that time, there were sharp divisions in the country about these issues that led to protests and riots.

The context of the book of Amos is also time of sharp division in the history of God’s people. The major division results from conflicts on who is the acceptable leader for the country. Eventually, they split into two countries in the midst of ugly rifts over leadership. But another division existed: the chasm between rich and poor ran through both sides of the border. This gulf seemed invisible by leadership in both countries. 

Amos is only speaking to the nation of Israel. Amos brings the word of the Lord regarding the consequences the nation will face for perpetuating this chasm (note: less than 200 years later, the nation of Judah will receive a similar message from the Lord through other prophets). In earlier chapters, Amos uses strong imagery for their transgressions – they “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and shove the afflicted out of the way”; they ‘oppress the poor and crush the needy”. The word from the Lord, spoken through Amos, demanded that they move from their self-centeredness and turn to justice and righteousness in their community.

Decades after King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial, those words from Amos echoed across time during and after the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of George Floyd’s death. Since that day in May, in the midst of a pandemic, economic crisis, and an election revealing the deep divisions in our country, people have been on the streets calling for civil and economic rights and an end to the racism that has continued, tucked into our criminal justice system and built into the structure of our economy. 
God stills calls for justice and righteousness for all people. It has been a long time since that speech in 1963 (and even longer since Amos said it). 

We still wait.

In Thessalonians, Paul urges us to strengthen one another in the wait remembering God’s promises in Christ. The Gospel reminds us to wait and trust that the promised Bridegroom comes. 

We are called to hope.

Our final reading, Psalm 70, is a multi-purpose song of lament for individuals and for faith communities. I am fond of psalms of lament. They don’t polish their accusations or restrain their emotions toward the enemy, but under their pleading and complaints there is always the implication and understanding that the reason they ask is because they trust that God will hear and act in their behalf. 

In the midst of it all, they hope.

May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245