Sunday, September 19, 2010

Let Justice Flow Like Streams

The danger of putting a particularly meaningful hymn (ELW 717) during communion is that not enough people sing it!  I thought this hymn did a superb job of capturing the theme of engagement.  Not only does the imagery match perfectly with my latest "Make Joyful Noise" theme of the sounds of nature, but the text also brings to mind themes of the civil rights movement.  It's a reminder that the ideals of justice, righteousness, respect, and peace should pervade all political and social dialogue.

Among the things I value about the ELCA is our emphasis on reasoned debate and respectful dialogue.  Last summer's Churchwide Assembly may have had its share of contentious issues, but we had first taken years to pray and study and consider those issues from a variety of perspectives.  In this election year, I wish more people of faith were driven to collect facts and quietly reflect on motives and implications before rushing to judgment.

Rather than rambling on with my own opinions, I simply offer the full text of this hymn:

Let justice flow like streams of sparkling water, pure,
Enabling growth, refreshing life, abundant, cleansing, sure.

Let righteousness roll on as others' cares we heed,
An everflowing stream of faith translated into deed.

So may God's plumb line, straight, define our measure true,
And justice, right, and peace pervade this world our whole life through.


  1. PS The picture is of Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Falls National Park. It's a remidner to me that another beautiful fall season is about to arrive in NE Ohio!

  2. It's interesting that the hymn writer chose Amos 5:24 as the basis for the text, when the context for that verse is far less comforting.

    21 “I hate, I despise your feast days,
    And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
    22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
    I will not accept them,
    Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
    23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
    For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
    24 But let justice run down like water,
    And righteousness like a mighty stream."

  3. An even broader reading of all of Amos chapter 5 shows that it is basically a rebuke for worshipping false gods. Are justice and righteousness still discomforting to us in that setting? If we truly believe that we are following God's will and teachings to the best of our ability (and confessing and asking for forgiveness for our failures), perhaps we should rejoice when justice and righteousness prevail...just a thought on why I think such a potentially dark verse might be seen as uplifting.

  4. The problem with justice, righteousness, and God's plumb line is that so many people are convinced that they, and only they, know what God intends these to be. The world is rarely the contemplative place we might all desire, and especially during the election season.