How Justice Can Roll Like A River

January 20, 2014

How Justice Can Roll Like A River

Hearts don’t break. They pour out like a flooded river forgetting her boundary and upturning old oaks and fallow fields. Hearts pouring out flood us with tenderness and tears as their unstoppable force draws us in. When hearts pour out, it is possible to imagine how justice can follow in its wake.

The exilic prophet’s heart did not break amidst the pain of banishment and loss of his nation. Instead Isaiah pours out his heart in a servant's song offered to a God of love who never abandons the people. His words in the fortieth chapter are strong and speak of how God hid him like an arrow in a quiver, waiting for the time to shoot out and speak about the power of love poured out for this world. His life is like a rushing river whose course just carved a path deeper and wider as the rains came.

The story from the first chapter of John describes the calling of the first two disciples who take a journey of the heart to follow Jesus. The story in many ways is heartbreaking as they leave their homes and jobs and embark on a three-year mission in an occupied nation to heal the world, ending with their martyrdom after witnessing the crucifixion of their leader. But their hearts poured out with a clarity and guilelessness that changed the whole world. Their meandering path from the foothills to Jerusalam was as winding as a river, but was always heading toward Justice. Their witness to love itself is beyond measure and exposes the old, stone bedrock of our hearts that sank eons ago, and they open the flood gates of generosity, compassion, and tenderness so no one has to live isolated, cynical, or in fear. 

The story of love being poured out like a river has continued down through the ages and is the powerful calling of our lives still.  Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced over and over how to live into the tremdous power of love. In his speech on the day before his assassination he said, “Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, "When God speaks who can but prophesy?" Again with Amos, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."  He called it Ahimsa, the term meaning non-violent soul force that he borrowed from Gandhi in the movement to free India. Ahimsa is as old and deep as the waters running through this earth. It is the basis for the message of Jesus, the Buddha, and all the prophets. Love is a force as old as the earth and when it is poured out for the world, nothing can stop it.

The harsh realities and hurt imposed by violence, poverty, racism, disease, and frailty cannot break hearts. I know love is stronger than that. Today I celebrate the one-year anniversary of the unexpected death of my sister, Katie Garrett. I am remembering with gratitude that even death cannot break us and love keeps flowing. When Thistle Farms started to make healing oils, we chose Ahimsa, the soul force of love as our oldest blend of clove, cinnamon and olive oil. We have tried to be a witness to love’s force, beginning in St. Augustine’s chapel almost 20 years ago.  There have truly been seasons where the creek bed was dry, but we went on faith that water was running somewhere. Many times we have witnessed love pouring out and seeing the glory of a rushing river flow by. On Monday I sat in our meditation circle at Thistle Farms and marveled at the packed room with folks from England, Iceland, Bolivia, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia who had heard about our healing message of love and wanted to sit with us. One woman said she drove from Kentucky for a cup of coffee and a good word. People are thirsty for the waters pouring from the river of love where the promise of justice lives.

Let us pledge our whole lives to pouring our love out for the sake of the whole world. It is how we live into the truth of the prophecies of Isaiah, James, Peter, Martin, and the community of Thistle Farms. Let us pour out our love as we embark to spread this good news of Ahimsa. We are living proof that the war on poverty and freedom is still being waged in the name of love. We are a living testimony as long as we keep preaching every day of our lives in our words and deeds that love is the most powerful force for social change in the world.

By Becca Stevens

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