Wednesday, 15 August 2018

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Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

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Faith and Justice Revisited

July 15, 2018

FAITH AND JUSTICE RE-VISITED

July 15, 2018 (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost)

New Millennium Church – 9 AM

Lakeshore Drive Baptist Church – 10:45 AM

 

Steadfast God,
your prophets set the plumb line
of your righteousness and truth
in the midst of your people.
Grant us the courage to judge ourselves against it.
Straighten all that is crooked or warped within us
until our hearts and souls stretch upright,
blameless and holy,
to meet the glory of Christ. Amen.


Amos 7:7-15

7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. 8And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said,
‘See, I am setting a plumb-line
   in the midst of my people Israel;
   I will never again pass them by; 
9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
   and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
   and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’ 

10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said,
“Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
   and Israel must go into exile
   away from his land.” ’ 
12And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’

14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am* no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am* a herdsman, and a dresser of sycomore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

 

PSALM 85:8-13

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
   for he will speak peace to his people,
   to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.* 
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
   that his glory may dwell in our land. 


10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
   righteousness and peace will kiss each other. 
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
   and righteousness will look down from the sky. 
12 The Lord will give what is good,
   and our land will yield its increase. 
13 Righteousness will go before him,
   and will make a path for his steps.

 

Today’s sermon is like the saying we have heard people utter about walking and chewing gum at the same time.  That idiom often has a negative connotation that speaks of ineptitude. When we say someone can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, we are saying they can’t do more than one thing at once.  Because walking and chewing do not involve the same faculties or bodily functions, saying that someone can’t walk and chew gum at the same time is a way of calling them functionally inept at doing more than one thing at once.

 

Another way of looking at the walk and chew gum idiom is to think of it as a commentary about multi-tasking.  Many researchers who study the way our brains work have concluded that we can’t function at our best when we try to do several things at the same time, such as when we try to drive while using our mobile devices to make calls, read messages, or switch channels.  

 

Nevertheless, today I’m asking you to walk and chew gum.  I’m asking you to multi-task.  Balancing the messages in the scripture lessons for today’s sermon requires that you and I think about the tension between living by faith in the love and justice imperatives of God.  Doing that kind of living requires us to walk and chew gum.

 

The passage from Amos 7 involves a confrontation – a face-off so to speak – between a governmental preacher/priest named Amaziah and a visiting prophet named Amos.  Amos was preaching about injustice in the northern kingdom of Israel.  Amaziah, as high priest in Israel, was on good terms with the ruling authorities and power structure.  So Amaziah wanted Amos to leave Israel.  Amos, on the other hand, insisted that he didn’t choose to travel to Israel and preach against the corruption and injustice of that society.  He was an orchard grower, not a religious professional.  Amos was simply keeping faith with God.  

 

Among other things, the passage from Amos 7 shows that faithfulness to God sometimes takes us where we hadn’t expected to go. Faith sometimes leads us to do work we had not planned to do.  Faithfulness to what God reveals to us about love, truth, justice, peace, and hope can – and will – put us in challenging situations.  

 

The passage from Psalm 85, on the other hand speaks about a hope for justice and peace.  The Psalmist calls us to “hear what God the LORD will speak” (Ps. 85:8), and later envisions a reality where steadfast love, justice, and the well-being of all (peace) co-exist.  At verses 10 thru 13 we read these moving words.

 

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.  Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.  The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.  Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

 

  These passages from Amos and Psalms present images that seem to challenge each other.  In Amos, we read about a person struggling to confront societal wickedness in obedience to his sense of God’s call.  Amos isn’t living in the kind of society described in the passage from Psalm 85.  

 

The same is true for us.  We sense that God has called us to be forces of love, justice, truth, peace, and hope in the world.  Yet, we live in a world that seems to be infested with injustice at every turn.  Our challenge is to hold onto the vision the Psalmist mentions at Psalm 85 while living in a world like what Amos condemned.  

 

This is the age-old challenge of faith.  We live in a cruel world, yet are called to believe God has promised a time of steadfast love.  We live in an oppressive world, yet we are called to believe God has promised a time when righteousness (justice) and peace (well-being of all) “will kiss each other.”  

 

Despite what the neuroscience researchers have concluded about the ineffectiveness – and risks – associated with multi-tasking, people who live according to God’s promise of justice and peace must walk and chew gum.  We must walk by faith in God’s promises of steadfast love, justice, and peace while confronting oppressive realities, situations, people, and powers. 

 

These passages are presented together today because God’s promises always require that we wrestle with the reality of injustice while believing in love and justice and peace at the same time!  God calls us to believe in love, justice, and peace knowing that we live in an unjust, unloving, and cruel world.  We are not only called to walk and chew gum.  God calls us to walk, chew gum, and dare to blow bubbles.

 

If God calls us to do it, is God crazy?  Are we crazy to believe in love, justice, and peace when there is so much evidence to the contrary?  No!  This simply is the reality of faith.  Faith requires us to believe that the vision of love, justice, and peace we do not see is real.  Beyond that, faith calls us to believe that hoping for that vision, living in service to that vision, and daring to even die trying to make that vision real is worthwhile.  

 

God calls us to engage in moral and ethical multi-tasking.  God calls us to believe in justice while fighting injustice that seems to be overwhelming.  We aren’t crazy when we act like Amos and engage in that fight.  We are simply living in the power of the vision the Psalmist described.  

 

God calls us to believe that vision is worth our living.   Jesus, like Amos and prophetic people before and since that time, has shown what living for that vision will cost.  The Psalmist describes that vision as worth the cost.  

 

Yes, God calls us to walk and chew gum.  God even calls us to walk, chew gum, blow bubbles, and sing of a time when steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, and righteousness (justice) and peace (shalom) will kiss each other.  Let’s press on believing that God’s call and vision is worth our living.  

 

Amen. 

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2018