In the Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent, 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 their oppression.
Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, 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 the 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 also present. The listening tour was followed by a retreat for people dealing with the water crises in Flint and Detroit. At the retreat I 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 we – those of us 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, the phrase “giving voice to the voiceless” reverberated in my mind.
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 reappear in varied 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 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 that 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.
American Baptist Churches USA is a proud partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of faith leaders committed to serve as faithful stewards of creation. Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering faith leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.