“No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied ‘until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’.”
These famous words of the prophet Amos were quoted on 28th August 1963 by Martin Luther King in his celebrated “I have a Dream” speech. In the eighth century BC, Amos, came to chastise Israel, affirming that God’s idea of authentic and pleasing worship, meant redefining the way they lived their whole lives. True worship meant, and still means, living a life that embraces God’s passion for justice.
Words for the Week
Amos 5:21-24 (NIV)
“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)
“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Luke 11:42 (NIV)
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.”
Taking a taxi through the Kolkata (Calcutta) streets, my head spun with images from the day before. The shock of the rawest of poverty amidst the outrageous hues of the Mullik Ghat flower market, the endless lines of children sleeping on the hot streets as I returned to my lodgings at the end of the evening.
My taxi pulled up at its destination. Finding a wooden door in a back alley, I entered. Coolness and calm drew me into an unexpected oasis. The rush of the inner city ride and the onslaught of fumes faded. Inside the Missionaries of Charity complex a priest was taking mass. I stood at a respectful distance, but he beckoned me to draw a little closer, closer to the white marble tomb.
Mother Theresa’s tomb is plain and unadorned. The words of John 15 verse 12 are carved on it “Love each other as I have loved you” and then, spelt out on the top in saffron coloured rose petals, the words “Jesus is my all in all”. Finally, there above her tomb, on a hanging: “We have been created for greater things – to love and be loved”
My limited and restricted definition of worship was redefined by this brief visit. Returning to Bristol from Kolkata, I experienced the most intense moment of re-entry shock as I stood singing songs of worship in church on a crisp winter’s evening, knowing that everything that worship might previously have entailed had been forever changed.
I was overcome with a profound dissatisfaction. Martin Luther King’s famous speech repeatedly declared: “We can never be satisfied”. In worship, we move deeper when we take that sense of dissatisfaction and mobilise.
Mother Theresa challenged the world to rethink what a life of authentic worship looked like – imitating Jesus’s selfless care for the marginalised. And yet she emphasised too, that the profoundest acts of worship often originated in the simplest of actions, rooted in the deepest of love.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one… There are no great things, only small things with great love”
Own it personally…
- Reflect on scenarios or events in your life where you have been overwhelmed by a sense of injustice.
- Ask God to help you see such situations with His eyes. Ask him to show you new and practical ways of worshipping Him that bring Him pleasure.
- Make a list of five small things that this might involve and ask God to use each individual action of compassion to usher in a bigger work of kingdom transformation.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
Martin Luther King – from his “I have a Dream” speech.
Speak it Out – Pray and Prophesy
You might like to pray using some of the lyrics of Hillsong’s “Hosanna” which make an amazing prayer, asking God to provoke us to live and worship in a way that authentically brings Jesus’s kingdom of love to earth:
“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity”