by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

February, 2000

In Brazil, in the state of Macapa, there's a special boat that travels up and down the Amazon. This fifty foot riverboat is a floating court, with all the necessary accouterments: there's a prosecutor, a defense attorney, a bailiff, a court reporter -- and a judge. It's called the River Court and it leaves from the port of Macapa and travels one hundred and twenty miles along the Amazon and back for six days at a time, taking one of a group of six judges with it. It takes law and justice to remote areas where both are in short supply. The River Court handles small claims, criminal cases and more mundane items like marriages. People come to the river to get their share of whatever the River Court can provide but sometimes they literally "miss the boat."

The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a river that flowed from the temple through the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea (Eze. 47:1-12). When the water from the river reached the sea, the water there became fresh (Eze. 47:8). Where the river flowed, the water brought life (Eze. 47:9, 12). Fish and other creatures thrived in the water and trees grew on both sides of the river.

About six hundred years later, another prophet began baptizing people in a different river that flows through the Jordan Valley (Mark 1:4-5). His name was John and he became known as John the Baptist.  He offered "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (Mark 1:4b NIV) and promised the people he baptized that the Christ would come and baptize them with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:7-8). As John continued to baptize in the Jordan, the word spread to all the surrounding countryside (Mark 1:5). People told their families, friends and neighbors, "Come to the river! There's a man named John there baptizing people. He says the most amazing things and he says there's another coming who is even greater than he is!" Finally, Jesus came to the river and was baptized by John (Mark 1:9). When Jesus came out of the water, the Spirit descended on him like a dove (Mark 1:10).

We can say and do amazing things for God too. We can tell about the one who is greater than we are. When we have been cleansed and refreshed in God's holy river, we can tell others. With God's help, we can heal broken lives and relationships. We can work to bring about justice for people who have received none. There are people today who need what only God can offer, people who have "missed the boat," people who need justice. "The righteous care about justice for the poor, . . ." (Prov. 29:7a NIV). The same God who commands us, "But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (Amos 5:24 NIV) expects us to spread the call: "Come to the river!" Don't miss the boat! Come to the river for new life! Come to the river and be refreshed! Come to the river and be forgiven! Come to the river and discover the spirit! Come to the river for justice!

"Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. . . . Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing." (Eze. 47:6b-9, 12 NIV.)


Copyright © 2000 by David Phelps