Monday, December 1

Longing and Anticipating a Just World

    • So much emotion, in these texts.  So much is at stake.  Where’s the focus, it is all bewildering.  I’m not only speaking of our scriptures this evening, but also the events in Ferguson Missouri, or rather what the killing of the unarmed Mike Brown by a police officer Darren Wilson and the decision of a grand Jury not to indict the police officer, has awakened.  If you've followed the events since the death of Mike Brown at the hands of the police, you know a movement has grown up around this because Mike Brown’s death is larger than his own death and larger than whether or not Mike Brown’s civil rights were violated in away the Federal Government could act upon, or even whether or not on these same criteria City and it’s police are consistently engaged in violation of the civil rights of its African American citizenry, as important as that reality is.  Rather, the movement has emerged because the killing of Mike Brown by a police officer, Darren Wilson isn't an isolated incident, as a number of similar incidents where police have shot African American men (and most recently a boy of 12) occurred at the same time and have continued to occur, since.  What we are awakened to is that   the U.S. Justice system and policing is unjust and racist.
      Many are awakening to these injustices. Most likely those of us here this evening weren't completely unaware, but if you are like me you have been further roused and more attuned, to the enduring racism that floats mostly unseen, hidden behind laws, and state sponsored violence. In the midst of all this Jesus tells us to stay awake, to be watchful.
      The anger, frustration and grief expressed on our streets in protest and rioting, isn’t far from Isaiah’s wrenching call, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence”, such deep longing and pain behind such a statement.  A longing and desire for justice and for God to act.  For God to act like God did in the past, when God delivered the Israelites at the Red Sea by the complete and total destruction of the structures of the Egyptian law and order that oppressed the Israelites
      If we pay careful attention to Isaiah, we hear a more complex story:  the people of God have moved from victims to being complicit in sinful systems.  There are two movements in this lament and prophesy, a deep longing for God to act and a confession that responsibility for the situation from which there is the need of deliverance is the people of God themselves.  For white Christians in this country that is certainly also true when it comes to systemic racism first as slavery followed by policies of segregation and oppression and Jim Crow, continued now in mass incarceration and policing.
      Isaiah cries out in longing and deep pain for God to act and for justice , echoing the cries from our streets since August  and Isaiah expresses the complicity with these systems of injustice, reflecting for us the place of White Christians in relations to racism in the United States.
      Isaiah though almost seems to throw up his hands, God isn't acting, and this lack of action seems to make matters worse.  In the end we are clay in the potter’s hand, and even what Isaiah sees on the horizon and even being experienced by God’s people is on some level God’s doing.  Our Isaiah text leaves us with deep longing and anguish and helpless in our own sin and failure.
      But our psalm points us toward the hope of being clay in God’s hands: the hope of restoration, or of a remolding.  The Psalmist holds out for us the the hope of God transforming us , renewing us and the whole world.
      And Paul expresses this hope as grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ
      Where might all this lead? 
      What conclusions if we take Ferguson also as our text, as revelatory of God at work in our midst?
      I want to draw attention to the language of shaking, and of tearing, the disruption of the fabric of what seems unalterable and just the way things are.  But also that this shaking is the shaking of governments, nations, powers.  In these images and if we reflect on the deliverance of the people of Israel from their oppression in Egypt, their liberation and justice doesn't come from the systems and the state, Egypt isn't the source of their liberation, nor even that which cooperates with that liberation.  And if we hear Isaiah well, not even the people, can be the source of justice, transformation, and liberation.  The people of God also fail at justice and righteousness.  The state and the powers can and will be forced to deal justly, but they aren't the source nor the guarantor of justice nor are we the people the source or guarantor of justice.
      Justice comes from beyond, our hope is in that we don’t create justice rather we submit to it.  But what we submit to is a caring and loving reality.  Justice isn’t abstract and cold and unmoving.  Rather the source of justice is a shepherd, an artist, and a lover.
      Lastly Jesus says that when you see systems and the powerful sun and moon and stars shaken and upended, darkened blood red showing their violence, these are simply signs of something else.  That is if we are waiting for the United States to become a place devoid of all injustice and racism we are looking for the wrong thing. We have misinterpreting the signs.  Human government and systems of justice are just that human, mortal, limited and passing away, and fallible.  Our human systems will fail us.
      Our hope is in a more lasting and radical transformation of the world in which the world once again shows forth completely the love and justice of God who is the very source the very life blood of our existence.
      And Tonight I proclaim to you that God did tear open the heavens and come down, and is now forever bound to the physical created universe.  The systems of the world were shaken to their knees, and then went on their merry way because it was just a Jewish Galilean peasant wonder-worker easily dispatched through human justice and state sponsored violence.  But in that the governments and powers exposed themselves for what they were and are systems of violence set against the very source of life.  The good news is we can turn to this one and find God at work transforming us into citizens of a more just and loving world.  Since God became incarnate in the Virgin Mary, God has been at work in matter and the physical world, in our very bodies transforming the world into what it should be. Are you ready for that world? Are you awake to that world?  Wake up stay awake. Be a citizen of the world that is coming in which racism and all forms of oppression and injustice are shaken from the earth.
      Stay awake and watch for that world is coming, the signs of its coming are in the protests even the riots in Ferguson, but also right here in our midst. Right here as we take in each week the justice of God in human flesh, who awakens you to this transformed and transfigured world, slowly making you, in your very body, into a person of love and justice, a citizen of the present and coming reign of God.