Amos 5: 18-24
Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
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.
photo credit: Simon Cross
“Good grief, would you look at the size of them…”
I was in Thurston Gardens in Suva, outside the Fiji Museum. Above me a colony of bats wheeled and dipped, they looked like small monkeys with curved, leathery, wings. When hanging from the branches of the nearby trees, they resembled large, dark, fruits.
The Fiji Museum is home to lots of interesting artefacts, including what remains of the rudder of ‘HMS Bounty’ the ship famous for its mutiny. The Bounty was burned on Pitcairn island in 1790, but the rudder survived and was promised to Fiji.
The records for the place where Thurston Gardens and the Fiji Museum now sit don’t stretch back into the 1700s, but it’s understood that in the early 1800s indigenous people moved from the interior of the island to make the new settlement of Suva on that very site.
Later in the century European settlers ‘moved’ the indigenous people out of Suva so that they could turn the settlement into a capital city. The gardens were established in 1913, the museum was opened in 1954.
It was only this year that the Catholic Church formally renounced the doctrine of discovery. That idea, which had held sway since the era of the Bounty, held that Europeans could ‘discover’ and thus ‘claim’ ‘uninhabited’ places. Except that they weren’t uninhabited.
Lust for wealth took Europeans around the world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. That wealth, when it came, did so at the point of a gun or sword. Today we continue to benefit from the legacy of our expansionism, and the doctrine of discovery.
Our society grew prosperous by exploiting ‘uninhabited’ lands and their ‘invisible’ inhabitants. That prosperity continues to work in our favour. Talk of reparations is not enough – an urgent rebalancing needs to take place.
“Let justice roll down like water,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
God you take no delight in warm words spoken by history’s ‘winners’.
Nor yet lavish festivals where injustice sets the table
and exploitation brings the drinks.
You call us to do what is right.
To make amends. To get on with the work.
And so we must. Amen.