You may be familiar with today’s scripture passage – you may be more than familiar. It is an often-quoted passage, whose familiar version is: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”
In many ways this verse is a good summary of a significant portion of our congregation’s identity statement. Doing justice and loving kindness are essential to what we understand faith to be.
Jesus’ whole message is of giving-life. He came to give life in abundance; to take away the blockages that prevent the flow of God’s abundance. And he calls his disciples to continue this mission of giving-life. He calls us to continue his mission of giving-life.
In Christian community, we understand that God’s love and grace flow through us forthe world. We come together in community not solely for us, but also for the world. The Paradox is that it begins with us, but it is not ‘for us’. If we cannot be welcome, affirmation, inclusion, respect, and justice for one another, then we will not be able to do so for the world. … Nevertheless, it’s not about us; it is about the world.
So, together, as a community of faith, we live with the affirmation that we know a God who cares – and we live with trust, knowing that we do not have to carry the burden for the whole world on our shoulders. But, with God’s leading, we understand we are called to carry some portion of it.
The scriptures – and our own lives – abound with experiences of God’s teaching and actions toward justice and wholeness. … Moses and the people of Israel; the inclusivity of Jesus’ ministry and way of life; Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the 1930s taking a public stance against Hitler and the Nazis; young people in South Africa in the 1940s who stood against apartheid, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, the Rev. Dr. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign – all working to envision a world in which racial domination would no longer exist … and we know of so many others …
Through the Way of Jesus Christ, you and I are called to seek God’s justice and shalom for all of creation. We are called to be environmental activists and pursuers of human rights – of equality and liberty and justice. We’re not called to this because it is some ‘American ideal’, but because it is God’s vision of Shalom – of peace and wholeness and justice for each and every person.
And so we trust. We trust that out of our relationship with God, the Love of God will flow through us to others. We trust that by touching the core of our belovedness in God, and walking together as community in forgiveness and in joy, (we trust) our actions in the world will flow from God’s foundation of loving justice … whether we see its results or not.
You see, we have only to look at Jesus’ life to remember that ‘revealing God’s love in this world’ doesn’t mean the world will necessarily respond in love. But, We. Are. Called. To. Love. Anyway.
I wonder if one reason ‘doing justice’ may be listed before ‘loving kindness’ in today’s scripture is that being nice and turning the other cheek is not God’s message of shalom. … ‘Revealing God’s love in this world’ doesn’t mean being ‘nice’ while keeping our thoughts and dissentions to ourself; being ‘nice’ while other are oppressed and abused; being nice … Revealing God’s love comes through the harder work of loving our neighbors while seeking with them and for them God’s justice and shalom.
Whether our actions are bold or quiet, our community of faith believes that we are each called, in the way of Jesus, to step forward with our lives and proclaim what God’s justice and love looks like in this world. Reconciliation and healing become possible when you and I step forward with courage to oppose exclusionary practices and policies and stand together to reveal love in the Way of Christ.
Now I want to speak a word about ‘equity.’ …
We talk much about ‘God’s justice and shalom.’ (I’ve used that phrase several times in this sermon alone.) But I seldom hear our churches talk of equity.
It used to be that when we spoke of justice and equity in a scriptural sense we spoke of them as part of a continuum that primarily implied a sense of ‘rightness’ in actions and access. In this thinking, if justice wasn’t readily available, we could appeal to higher principles or even to persons in authority – and that appeal would bring about equity. … Equitable. Just. Fair.
However, I believe equity has come to be understood with a different sense and meaning to it – and the way equity is being used in our society today is different than simply ‘just’ or ‘equitable’.
If we look at the world’s economy through the eyes of our faith, then what we are striving to create through our actions of justice is a world that looks and feels like God’s shalom – God’s wholeness. We aren’t seeking to simply make things equal, as if giving someone better boxes to stand on, or taking away a barrier, or counting out quarters or dollars is all that’s needed.
Equity, from a Christian foundation, means we are seeking to create a society based on God’s economy of abundance, belovedness, and care. In truth, we are working to create a new society – for we understand that our current society was created by humans, and mostly in humankind’s image. … And it’s time to use a new image.
So what might that look like? I believe this poem by Anna Blaedel helps us see. The first part of the poem is the dream of justice we hear often – and then the dreamer understands a new way of seeing. ,,,
(by Anna Blaedel)
weeping and weary, i found myself
dreaming of a world where:
black kids can play outside without being murdered by those charged with serving & protecting
black youth can run & create & gather without being criminalized
queer & trans youth can find belonging & sanctuary from a hard world, in faith communities, without being condemned as incompatible, or divisive
elders are recognized as vital to collective wisdom
brown people can gather for prayer without being terrorized or called terrorists
trans folx can pee (& work & date & live) without facing harassment or violence
women can exist (& run & walk & golf & teach & study & work & organize & go on dates & hang outside) without being assaulted, harassed, raped, murdered, and then blamed for the violence inflicted
and then i realized
my dreams were too small, and misdirected
as though the problem itself is the persistent presence & resistance of black lives, immigrants & refugees & migrants & folx forging multiple spaces of home & belonging, queer & trans & female flesh daring to exist & insist on livable life.
[(NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES AND WAYS PER DAY WE ARE BLAMED FOE THE VIOLENCE INFLICTED ON US, HEAR ME: IT IS NOT Y/OUR FAULT. YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. Y/OUR LIVES & LOVES & DREAMS & DESIRES & NEEDS & HOPES ARE GLORIOUS GIFTS, LIABILITIES ONLY TO THOSE WHOSE COMMITMENTS TO DEADLY DOMINANCE ARE GREATER THAN THEIR COMMITMENT TO LIVABLE, COLLECTIVE LIFE.)]
so, i dream of a world where:
so, i dream of a world where:
prisons are abolished, and so is ICE, and so are the police
people have what they need: clean water, nourishing food, safe shelter, public education, public places of support & belonging, affordable & accessible comprehensive health care (physical, reproductive, mental)
sites and sources of trauma are confronted with witness and withness
fierce & tender care is valued above institutional preservation, individual success, & profit
‘growing the economy’ is exposed as a capitalist lie & and we focus on redistributing the vast excesses & amassed wealth of resources already present
political, religious, & community leaders are s/elected for their commitment to vulnerable communities & marginalized populations, not their powers to manipulative or drive profit
black lives matter
indigenous wisdom is honored
hospitality is extended
economy & ecology are grounded in eco-wellness, creating a healthy collective home where we can all flourish
women are believed & respected
queer & trans loves are recognized as sacred
we can slow down, & savor, & grieve, & breathe, & recognize that none of us are free until all of us are free
our liberation is bound up together