Monday, October 5, 2009

A Stained-Glass Justice

Amos 5:23-24, The Message,
When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.

Amos 5:23-24, NRSV,
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


In Holy Scripture and in the climate of today’s world is there a more loaded term than “justice?” Most think of punitive measures and punishment and retribution. At the least, justice is what is fair, right?
God’s justice is different. God’s justice is found in the faithfulness of a people who trust that God alone will get it right. That won’t always mean fair. God builds up the lowly. The Creator lowers the rich. He is not interested in fair—not on the world’s terms.
My friend Meredith has stain-glassed justice to look like:

For me, Meredith has captured God’s justice. This blue is so beautiful, a hue that could only come as part of God’s beautiful created order. It’s even perfect where this glass is hung with the green tree filling in the clear spaces and creating a border outside the border. But look fairly at this glass. It’s not just easy to behold. The waves are not just peaceful and calm. They are as tumultuous as the storm that laid siege to the Egyptians when the water walls broke over them. Look inside the wave, the pipeline has a storm inside of it. There is the beating water of a rainstorm. Scientists explain storms inside storms—the layered affect of a hurricane. I bet the glass has a textured feel as those bubbled rain drops come up off the main surface of the clear glass. These drops would hurt the skin, leaving marks. They are so big and falling so hard.

This is the image of God’s justice?

Rivers and oceans of justice come with a price. God’s price. God’s tears shed as the many drops in a rainstorm.
So the writer, the prophet Amos, does not want to hear the noise, the cacophony, of the world’s songs anymore. Are you ready for God’s song? It’s not just a warm blanket, a nuzzling puppy. It is also a storm of such force and strength to knock you down—a storm that lowers mountains and shifts valleys. God’s storm is so powerful that rocks are heated to lava in the blink of an eye, oozing and forming and filling spaces and voids that men said could never be filled. Lava filling wounds that men said could never be cauterized. God’s justice will come by the bucket-fulls, by the plane-fulls, by the ocean-fulls, by the solar system-fulls. Do you really want justice—the kind of righteous justice that God offers?

I’m afraid…and yet…I lay in waiting.

Waiting at the foot of cross, because I don’t know where else I would wait. I have no other story. Some days I’d like a “Co-Exist” story where every story imaginable were accommodated or a story where I was the author pulling the puppet strings, but this is not my story. I just lay in waiting at the foot of a cross--a beachfront stilt as this wave of justice pours over me in a hurricane come ashore. He punishes me for iniquities. He blesses me for goodness I do not deserve. He thanks me for showing mercy to the stranger when naively I was so stupid I did not even mean to help the stranger in my midst. He raises me up at my lowest mark. He snuffs me out just when I was riding atop this wave of justice in a standup kayak of arrogance that deceived me into thinking that I would never again feel the flesh ripping affects of the coral reef just below the surface.

Why God? Why must I ride the wave in limbo? Why must I never feel real blessed assurance? Whenever I claim total optimistic assurance, I know it’s a deception. You have not given me unfettered access, not yet, if ever. Always in the shadow of the cross and then back in the sun and then back in shadows. Won’t you leave me be? Let me alone so I could just be.

It seems you never will. Always laying claims on me that I am not worthy of. You never seem to misplace the baggage claim. You’ll wait forever as luggage passes by, waiting only for me. You don’t need to go to customer service. You flew the plane and unloaded the baggage and I’m the only piece you seem to care for. Yet, you have equal time for all the others, but it does not seem that way to me. I feel trapped in a beautiful and exhausting sequel to Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t want to eat them, just let me be. But God won’t—always hovering and watching and caring.

Go and buy something from Meredith at: http://www.brightandbeautifulglass.com/All_Things_Bright_&_Beautiful/Welcome.html
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