“Let justice flow on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24)
Inspired by the familiar and challenging verse from Amos 5:24, the theme for the month-long 2023 Season of Creation is ‘Let Justice and Peace Flow’.
On the first Sunday of the Season of Creation as I reflect upon this metaphorical theme of justice as flowing water, I recall a Lutheran youth gathering that assembled under the theme of ‘Walking Wet’. The take-away message was that our journey into the abundant life that Christ came to impart to God’s creation began in the sacramental waters of baptism that flowed over us as we were immersed in the grace of God. From that moment onward, there was a promise from parents and our Church family that they would teach and inspire us to continue to live a God-soaked life, drenched by God’s amazing grace and walking wet in a flood of eternal gratitude on those “paths (or streams) of righteousness” that flow through the Kingdom of God.
So, the urgent question we should ask in this Season of Creation with biodiversity on the wane, ecosystems on the brink of collapse and inequity and injustice on the rise is, “How do we as individuals and communities of faith become these persistent streams of rightness and mighty rivers of justice that our baptismal covenant calls for and the world so desperately needs?” In a message released on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis offered a three pronged answer to that question. He calls upon us all to resolve to transform our hearts, our lifestyles, and the public policies ruling societies.
Here is an excerpt from his message addressing each of these three theological and practical components of his answer:
“As to the first of these relationships, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the urgent need to recognize that creation and redemption are inseparably linked: “The Redeemer is the Creator and if we do not proclaim God in his full grandeur – as Creator and as Redeemer – we also diminish the value of the redemption”.  Creation refers both to God’s mysterious, magnificent act of creating this majestic, beautiful planet and universe out of nothing and to the continuing result of that act, which we experience as an inexhaustible gift. During the liturgy and personal prayer in “the great cathedral of creation”,  let us recall the great Artist who creates such beauty, and reflect on the mystery of that loving decision to create the cosmos.
Second, let us add to the flow of this mighty river by transforming our lifestyles. Starting from grateful wonder at the Creator and his creation, let us repent of our “ecological sins”, as my brother, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, has urged. These sins harm the world of nature and our fellow men and women. With the help of God’s grace, let us adopt lifestyles marked by less waste and unnecessary consumption, especially where the processes of production are toxic and unsustainable. Let us be as mindful as we can about our habits and economic decisions so that all can thrive – our fellow men and women wherever they may be, and future generations as well. Let us cooperate in God’s ongoing creation through positive choices: using resources with moderation and a joyful sobriety, disposing and recycling waste, and making greater use of available products and services that are environmentally and socially responsible.
Lastly, for the mighty river to continue flowing, we must transform the public policies that govern our societies and shape the lives of young people today and tomorrow. Economic policies that promote scandalous wealth for a privileged few and degrading conditions for many others, spell the end of peace and justice. It is clear that the richer nations have contracted an “ecological debt” that must be paid (cf. Laudato Si’, 51).  The world leaders who will gather for the COP28 summit in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December next must listen to science and institute a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuel. According to the commitments undertaken in the Paris Agreement to restrain global warming, it is absurd to permit the continued exploration and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures. Let us raise our voices to halt this injustice towards the poor and towards our children, who will bear the worst effects of climate change. I appeal to all people of good will to act in conformity with these perspectives on society and nature.”
As we we began this post acknowledging baptism, the headwaters of our walking wet journey into the fullness of the Kingdom of God, let us also conclude there at the baptismal font. It is reported by church historians that Martin Luther in the midst of challenging times fraught with fear, would write and/or repeat to himself, “I am baptized.” It was that reassuring and emboldening statement that Emily Bosscher chose for the title of her article in The Banner, a magazine of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. She was selected to be one of the members of her congregation to assist in a first time ritual of baptismal remembrance. Entering the exercise with her own feelings of fear and trepidation, read how the experience left her (and her fellow saints) feeling:
“The congregation started to rise—just a few at first. No one really knew how people would respond to this new idea: a reminder of our baptism that involved standing up, breaching the intimacy of touch, and having water placed on our foreheads. How uncomfortable would people be even with the intentional framing in the sermon? This moment to remember our baptisms and to tangibly feel that we need not fear was something we had never done before.
The first person walked toward me. I knew his name and his story. He is a deacon who came to this church a few years back after having been away from a church home. He joined because his children found a place in Cadets and the community, and they brought their parents along. I dipped my fingers into the bowl, reached out, and placed the sign of the cross on his forehead saying, “You belong, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ.” Behind him was his son, who was baptized when the family joined the church. I remembered the wonderful testimony of this child who claimed Christ as his own at his baptism, and I remembered the promises we made on that day. I leaned down, traced the cross on his forehead, and said, “You belong, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ.”
Person after person came. Moms and dads led young children baptized not that long ago: “You belong, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ.” A mom and her towering teenage boys all received the blessing: “You belong, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ.” Grandpas and grandmas leading grandchildren, old, young, married, single, healthy, frail: I looked each one in the eyes and spoke the words “You belong, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ.” As I struggled to hold back tears, I saw I was not alone.
I turned to the elder standing nearest me. She dipped her fingers into her bowl, raised them to my forehead, and marked me with the sign of the cross. The water was cold, but the pressure of her finger warm on my forehead. As she looked me in the eyes, I was told that I belong, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ. In that moment I no longer only knew it. I felt it. I felt it in the cold water dripping down my arm, in the contact between my fingers and the skin of others as I traced the cross, in the tightness in my throat, the tears, the smiles, and the joy with which I was able to proclaim to everyone I looked in the eye, “You belong, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ.” And because of that, there is no need to fear.”
Have no fear little flock. Walk wet like the mighty river of justice that you were reborn to be, serving as ambassadors and advocates of the Kingdom and custodians and crusaders of creation.