On the second Sunday of the season of Advent, in the Gospel reading Luke 1:68-79, Christians are confronted by the figure of Zechariah, who became mute when he was informed that his elderly wife was to give birth to a son. When Zechariah gets his voice back after 9 long months of being unable to speak, he delivers a powerful hymn at the boy’s circumcision ceremony. He uses his voice to praise the God of Israel, who is at that moment raising up salvation – Justice and Righteousness – among his people. He sings of the coming liberation from oppression.
Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, will be someone who will call people to righteous living, and he will point to Jesus as one anointed by God. Righteousness means living with integrity, with love for neighbor and for Creation. It means acting with justice on behalf of neighbor and Creation. It means speaking out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.
The Creation Justice Network of American Baptist Churches-USA met for a listening tour of Flint, Michigan, in September 2018, to learn about the water crisis there. Representatives of the Alliance of Baptists as well as Creation Justice Ministries were present. The listening tour was followed by a retreat for people dealing with the water crises in Flint and Detroit. At the retreat Creation Justice Task Force member Kathleen Moore met a woman who is a Water Warrior, whose voice had been reduced to a whisper due to nerve damage from toxic effects of the water in that city. As those who had come to listen, and those who had come to speak of the impacts of the water crisis, sat in a circle in the dark, Moore thought of the phrase, “giving voice to the voiceless.”
Moore explains, “Everywhere environmental degradation occurs, it is the poor and marginalized who are most affected, and whose voices are in various ways unheard. The water crises in Flint and Detroit appear in various forms in urban and rural areas across the United States, Puerto Rico, and many other places across the world. Climate change is dramatically impacting a growing water global water crisis that is primarily affecting the most vulnerable human beings. Does not God require that we do justice for people everywhere affected by environmental injustice and climate change? Each of us can give voice to all those parts of Creation so affected.”
For more information on the Flint water crisis and its link to the water crisis in Detroit, read “The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy” by Anna Clark.
Prayer: O, for a thousand tongues to sing praises of the One who, even now, commands us to do justice. I pray that I will find a voice to speak the Word of liberation for all, to hear it when others speak it, and to act accordingly.