He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
I was a young mom, heading to the check-out lines at the grocery store. A kind cashier invited me to the “express check-out” lane. I didn’t have many groceries, but I explained that I needed to write a check (checks were not allowed on those lanes at that time). He encouraged me to come anyway, and I was grateful. I had been feeling blue about my recent miscarriage, and it was nice to be treated with this kindness.
Another shopper arrived as I was writing my check and probably assumed I wasn’t following the rules. He impatiently kept pushing his cart into my side as if to hurry me along. I wanted to tell him what had happened but I couldn’t speak… I knew I would cry. I felt so vulnerable, as I was overcome with embarrassment, grief and an inability to defend myself. I wished the cashier would have noticed what the angry man was doing and explained the situation to him.
Our Lenten practice for today is justice. Our calling as followers of Christ is to work to make things right for people who can’t. My incident was minor, but it serves as an example of how we might help others who suffer great injustices and who desperately need our help.
Justice begins when we refrain from jumping to conclusions but instead take the time to learn someone’s story. Or at least to give them the benefit of kindness when we don’t understand their actions. Things may not be what they seem. There is always another story behind the one we see before us.
Justice is practiced when we learn to speak for those who are vulnerable, who are unable to speak for themselves. I remember standing aside when another classmate was treated badly. I regret the many times I have listened to gossip- or even joined in-when I should have been speaking up and defending. I wasn’t the instigator, but I was still part of the problem. In the 1700s, the Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Justice is lived when we become vulnerable ourselves. To be willing to stand with those who need us, help others even if we put ourselves in jeopardy, open ourselves to criticism for speaking hard truths, and challenge others to rethink the social systems that lead to injustice and inequality. After the Pulse shooting, Jim and I were a little nervous about attending a Pride parade in Columbus. But we knew that our vulnerability was nothing like the injustice and vulnerability that our dear son, brother, and many loved ones face, every single day. We knew our vulnerability was nothing like the vulnerability our daughter faced as she marched IN the parade. While we make ourselves exposed and vulnerable, we learn to trust that God’s love is covering us, no matter what.
What does God require of us but to do justice- To love kindness- And to walk humbly with our God?
Our symbol for today is a pitcher of water, from Amos 5:24 (NRSV): Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. If you have a small fountain, this would be ideal! May the water inspire us to keep clearing any obstacles that prevent justice and righteousness from flowing freely.
God of ALL,
You call me to do justice. Help me not to remain silent or idle, but to courageously speak or stand for those who are unable to defend themselves.
You call me to love kindness. Help me not to assume or judge, but to look with kindness on people or situations I may not understand.
You call me to walk humbly with you. Help me not to be self-protecting, but to feel your presence as I walk with those who are vulnerable and marginalized.
May I move as your river of love where streams of justice and righteousness flow.