God does not want empty words or rituals; God wants God’s people to draw near to God, to “hate evil and love what is good and establish justice.” (v. 15) The word translated as ‘justice’ is the Hebrew word mishpat. (v. 7, 15, 24) Mishpat is the vindication of the oppressed, the restorative action of God on behalf of those who are silenced, ignored, or forgotten.
When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed more than 250,000 people in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, he echoed the prophet Amos, declaring,
No, no, we are not satisfied,
and we will not be satisfied,
until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty spring.
In San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens, a public art installation memorializes King. Granite walls and a roaring 20-foot waterfall surround engraved quotes from King’s speeches, including this one from Amos. The thunderous waterfall sets the space apart and drowns out the city sounds, inviting you into a sacred space or thin place.
Streams of water, mighty springs and waterfalls all remind me of baptism. I learned later that in fact, the installation, titled “Revelation”, was designed to evoke the image of immersive baptism. In baptism we are made children of God and find life in loving who and what God loves, and whenever we affirm our baptism in worship, we promise again to “work for justice and peace among all people.”
Fifty-eight years after King’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, we still are not satisfied because our thirst for justice has not been quenched, but we can be confident that in the waters of baptism, God makes everything new, and forgiving our many trespasses and offenses (v. 12), calls us to live and speak in ways that allow abundant justice and righteousness to flow unobstructed.
Pastor Christina Auch serves Ascension, Shelby and as a staff chaplain at Atrium Cleveland. She and her husband Jamie delight in porch sitting, campfires, and watching their two 20-something daughters take on the world.
1. How do you remember your baptism? Find out your baptism date and put a reminder on your calendar. Every year, light a candle and say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for giving you life.
2. How do you work for justice in your congregation, community, or in the world? (Looking for ideas? Check out the synod’s Racial Justice Network or ELCA Advocacy)
Good and gracious God, make us relentless in loving You and each other. Help us remember our baptism and let us never be satisfied until your abundant justice flows freely to all people. Amen.