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With the Bible spread before him, Anderson read from the Book of Amos — describing a scene of people chanting angrily in the streets, taking over the town square and grieving for the dead.
“Amos said until justice is established we will be forced, we will be called to wail,” he preached before pivoting from the past into the present. “We will wail and say ‘Si, se puede.’ We will wail and say ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We will wail and say ‘No Justice, No Peace.’”
In an article exploring some of the disconnect between the Black Lives Matter movement and traditional civil rights leadership in Los Angeles, writer Angel Jennings highlights response from clergy. In the quotation above, we see an example of utilizing scripture to connect a congregation with the continued search for justice.
Amos is set in the divided kingdom and he is from Judah but he is preaching in Israel. He is the outsider who is both the recipient of injustice and the herald for reconciliation. He begins by declaring the judgement that awaits the nations surrounding Israel (which would have received support and applause from any audience in Israel) before turning his message to challenge Israel itself for how the elite have oppressed the poor.
Amos uses a phrase, looking forward to the Day of the Lord when God will act to establish justice against all oppression. In this scenario, the surrounding nations are called enemies of God, but so is Israel! The prophets message is that a nation’s history is not a replacement for righteousness and covenant as God’s people. As an extension, a church’s history is not a replacement for pursuing justice and righteousness in imitation of Christ.
Michael Shepherd is the editor of Global Theology and an adjunct professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA.