Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | March 13, 2016

2016.03.13 “Roll Down, Justice: A Lenten Biblical Reflection – Session 5: God Has Work for Us to Do” – Isaiah 58: 6 – 12

Central United Methodist Church
Roll Down, Justice: A Lenten Biblical Reflection
Session 5: God Has Work for Us to Do
Pastor David L. Haley
Isaiah 58: 6 – 12
March 13th, 2016

 MightyFlowingStream copy

Note: This sermon series is adapted from the study, “Roll Down, Justice: A Lenten Biblical Reflection,” developed by the General Commission on Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church, written by Faye Wilson and featuring the music and reflections of life-long Methodist and musician Mark A. Miller. http://gcorr.org/resources/roll-down-justice While I drew upon the suggestions of the study guide for each session, my reflections are my own. Before reading my reflection, please watch the video of Mark Miller’s reflection and music. – Pastor Haley

Session 5: God Has Work for Us to Do
‘Til all the jails are empty
and all the bellies filled;
‘Til no one hurts or steals or lies
And no more blood is spilled.

  • By Carl Daw

 

Isaiah 58: 6 – 12 (The New Revised Standard Version)

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger,
the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

Note: For this session, Session 5, “God Has Work for Us to Do,” we watched Mark Miller’s spoken reflection in the video (here), and then watched his musical reflection after my comments below. I commend readers to do so as well. – Pastor Haley

 

Is it just me, or do we live in scary times? Are you concerned – as I am – about the anger and even violence breaking out at some of Donald Trump’s political rallies?
In some ways, it was only a matter of time. The anger on both sides is raw; from supporters of Trump who are terrified they are losing their country, and from protesters who fear he is leading the nation down a dark road of hate. “I don’t see where that anger goes,” the historian Heather Cox Richardson predicted a few weeks ago, “except into violence.” (Michael Barbaro, Ashley Parker and Trip Gabriel, “Donald Trump’s Heated Words Were Destined to Stir Violence, Opponents Say,” the New York Times, March 12, 20160

In the last week, that is what has happened: first at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Wednesday night, and then here in Chicago at UIC on Friday night, where – due to its potential for violence – police advised Trump that the event be cancelled.

Maybe I am completely naive, but two years ago or even a year ago I thought this would be a dull election. I thought that if Hilary Clinton decided to run, given her qualifications and experience and despite her baggage, given that there were no equivalent commanding Republican candidates on the horizon, she would likely win easy election as the country’s first female President. That may still happen, but now between now and November, who knows WHAT’S going to happen?

I did not foresee what has happened, that this would be the year of political insurgencies, both from the right (Donald Trump) and the left (Bernie Sanders). Both insurgencies are the consequence of the polarization of the races and the classes in our country, both of them are potent expressions of the deep dissatisfaction in our country with our political establishment.

This I understand, but what I’m concerned about and a little frightened by is the anger and racism and violence that has emerged. Political turmoil and violence are no stranger to Chicago (you’ve heard about the 1968 Democratic convention?), but it’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything like this, with an potential for even more conflict and violence, now that it has begun. It is indeed appalling and frightening.

Throughout this series, utilizing Mark Miller’s spoken and musical reflections, we have consistently affirmed two things: first, the importance of our faith, and secondly, that our faith is connected to these problems we face in the world.

This week, in regard to faith, don’t you love Mark’s affirmation of faith, with which he began: “God is love, and we are God’s children. That is my statement of belief, and by faith, I will try to live my life to make the love of God real to everyone one I meet.” That is a great statement of faith: theological, practical, and inclusive. We would do well to emulate it.

But I also liked what he said next: “Although I believe this statement to be true, it does not mean that our world is a just place or that life is fair.” However deep our affirmation and experience of faith, we all also experience this to be true, early on, do we not, like a second shoe dropping? Life is not fair, and the world is not always a just place, some less so than for others.

Throughout this series we have touched on some of the problems in the world that make life less fair and unjust, such as racism, homophobia, xenophobia, injustice, and violence, especially gun violence. Today Mark shared other societal problems that alarm him (and us), such as:

“The for-profit prison industry still benefits from incarcerating young brown and black men at an alarming rate, the skies over certain cities are too polluted to venture outside, the water isn’t safe to drink in many towns, women are still being denied access to equal pay, corporate greed is draining the wages of the working class, affordable health care is beyond the reach of too many, the cost of an education is crippling a generation of incoming students.”

As Mark says, “the list goes on.” But here’s the question: Given our faith in God AND our concern about such problems, what should and what can we do about them?

A too common answer is often, “Nothing.” The temptation is to privatize or individualize our faith, and to seal it off from the problems of the world? Isn’t religion, as William Temple once said, “What you do with your solitude?” Or as it’s sometimes called, “Me and Jesus.” Shall we gather in our churches with the noise of solemn assemblies and seek sanctuary from the problems of the world, praying about them, especially praying that they don’t distract us from our praise songs or affect us personally.

Long ago and far away there were some religious people that felt that way, in ancient Judah, in the time of the prophet Isaiah, around the 5th century BCE. Some have suggested Isaiah did not know how good he had it; evidently his people could hardly wait to get out of bed on the Sabbath and get to worship, presumably even on those days when the time changed. They “sought God” and “delighted to know God’s ways,” and there was nothing they liked better than fasting, unlike anybody I know, including me.

The only problem was, as sincere as they were and as good as their worship was, God was not amused. Because while they worshiped, what they did not do was let worship trouble their consciences. While they worshiped they thought they connected with God and each other, but they were disconnected with the concerns of their community or country. While they worshiped they were concerned about love and forgiveness, but they forgot about justice and righteousness, especially outside the walls of their temple. And so God said, through the powerful words of the prophet Isaiah that have disturbed the self-righteousness of all worshipers ever since:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”

How would that set with you? How would you respond to a Call to Worship that says:

“Welcome to worship today. We hope you are not planning to go through the motions of worship, singing the songs but never engaging your hearts; hearing the Scriptures but not listening for God; giving an offering but not giving yourselves. Because if you do, you are not doing God any favors. You do not get points for attendance. Be advised, if we really worship God today, then we will share with the poor, listen to the lonely, and stop avoiding those in need.” (Brett Younger, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, p. 319)

Or, as Mark Miller puts it: “While God is love, and we are God’s children, I also believe God has work for us to do.” While no one of us can tackle all the problems (because the list seems to get longer, not shorter), each one of us should pick one problem, make it our cause, and go to work, to complement our worship. What then, will your work be?

Carl Daw, who wrote the words to “God Has Work for Us to Do,” is an American Episcopal priest, who teaches at Boston University School of Theology. Before we hear Mark sing Carl Daw’s words to the music Mark wrote, let’s note the words:

“Till all the jails are empty and all the bellies filled; 
Till no one hurts or steals or lies, and no more blood is spilled; 
Till age and race and gender no longer separate; 
Till pulpit, press, and politics are free of greed and hate: 
In tenement and mansion, in factory, farm, and mill 
In board room and in billiard hall, in wards where time stands still, 
In classroom, church, and office, in shops or on the street; 
In every place where people thrive or starve or hide or meet:   
By sitting at a bedside to hold pale, trembling hands, 
By speaking for the powerless against unjust demands, 
By praying through our doing and singing through fear, 
By trusting that the seed we sow will bring God’s harvest near.
God has work for us to do, God has work for us to do 
Believe in the promise, “I make all things new” 
God has work for us, work for us to do.” 

In this sometimes scary world, what will our work be?

Please return to the video (here) and watch and listen to Mark sing,
“God Has Work for Us to Do.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: