Change the world #3
I have some disturbing news that I must share with you this morning.
This week a sheriff named "Mic Ah" made his way back to the church office, asked for me and handed me these papers. Apparently, the church is being sued.
Let me read the charges directly from the text
GRUNDY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
GRUNDY COUNTY IOWA
Mountains, hear God's case;
listen, Jury Earth—
For I am bringing charges against my people.
I am building a case against Israel.
3-5 "Dear people, how have I done you wrong?
Have I burdened you, worn you out? Answer!
I delivered you from a bad life in Egypt;
I paid a good price to get you out of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you—
and Aaron and Miriam to boot!
.. Keep all God's salvation stories fresh and present.
Fortunately, the lawsuit is long ago forgotten by the courts because it was filed 8,000 years ago. UNfortunately, God's charges are still accurate. Maybe not all of us, but many of us have forgotten God's salvation stories. We have forgotten all that God did, and does, in our lives.
We have forgotten that God's concern is not JUST that we make it to church and Sunday School on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. God's concern is not JUST whether we participate in a Bible Study. God's concern is not JUST that we are giving 10% of our income into the offering plate. God's concern is not JUST that we know all the right places to sit and stand during the worship service. God's concern is not JUST that we sing loudly and pray eloquently. God is not complaining about that. God is suing us because we have not been world-changers.
Our defense is along these lines. "What was I supposed to do. What you do want from me? Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves? Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin?"
In other words, should we sing more songs? Take more offerings? Have communion more often? Maybe we aren't singing the right songs, or maybe we aren't singing them loud enough. Tell us, what do we have to do to get God off our backs?
Do you want to know? Do you want to know how to get the lawsuit dismissed? It is simple, friends, what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
What God is saying here, is that I brought you out of Egypt- I brought you out of oppression- I brought you out of slavery to sin and death to change the world, and you spend your time rearranging the pew cushions on the country club, which you call the church. God is saying true faithfulness is not contained in the church. True faithfulness is not restricted to one day a week. To be truly faithful we must become a church without walls 24x7.
In the last 2 weeks, I have talked about changing the world with radical love and service. This week Amos says change the world by doing justice, and loving mercy. "Loving mercy" kind of overlaps with the love and service, so I am going to focus on DO JUSTICE today.
When is the last time you stood up for something important? I don't mean supporting your team. I don't mean backing up a friend or family member, even though that could be a justice issue. I am talking about taking the risk of speaking out when you see the strong taking advantage of the weak. I am talking about standing up to be counted when it would be easier and more popular to remain seated with the crowd and watch the trampling of the poor, the condemnation of the innocent, the slander of those who are different, or the silencing of the powerless.
Every single one of us should have a just cause bigger than ourselves for which we would be willing to sacrifice and perhaps even die.
I'm not about to tell you what your cause should be. Robyn does a great job of lifting up justice issues before us, one of her favorite being religious persecution and her work with Voice of the Martyrs. One of mine is mental health advocacy.
Perhaps you have a heart for education, or welfare reform, or gun control, or stopping gun control. Perhaps you have a heart for advocating for adolescents, or at risk children, or single mothers, or abortion rights, or abortion prevention. Perhaps you have a heart for immigrants, or the elderly, or, minimum wage workers.
You name any situation where the weak are being abused, ignored, or victimized and you have a justice issue. If you can't think of any, here are a thousand pages of justice issues and the church's suggested position on each one that we publish every 4 years.
The catch is that you have to do more than just pick one… you must "DO JUSTICE." Micah doesn't say be interested in justice he says DO JUSTICE. Act on it. Be counted… stand up… protest… write letters... make donations…volunteer…take a mission trip… vote accordingly… be a voice for those who have no voice. That is DOING JUSTICE.
Justice is also closer to home... It might be far away, but it is also something we do in our daily lives. God says ACT JUSTLY.
How about the waitress, who doesn't provide tiptop service... are you like me and ding her on the tip? Or are you the bigger person who wonders how the preceding customer treated her, what is happening in her family, or why her day got off to a bad start, and responds by leaving a bigger than usual tip with a note of encouragement saying "I'll be praying that you have a better day tomorrow."
Are you one who gossips about the single mother who is having a hard time, or are you one who comes along beside her and offers to baby sit or gives her a gas card, or buys her something pretty because she deserves it?
Are you one who says I don't want "those people" next door, whoever "those people" might be for you… immigrants, homosexuals, noisy college students, democrats, republicans or any other "those people." Alternatively, are you one who says, "Who is my neighbor?" They are, so I will do justice and love mercy.
Are you one who says, "If the cashier was dumb enough to give me change for a 20 instead of change for a ten that is her or his problem?" Alternatively, are you the kind of person who will make a special trip back to the store to right the wrong even if the mistake was to your advantage?
Are you one who says I don't care whether coffee growers in Columbia are paid a fair price for their product as long as I get a good cup of coffee? Alternatively, are you one who will look for fair trade coffee to assure fair working conditions, fair purchase contracts, and a living wage to hardworking farmers who happen to live in Columbia rather than being lucky enough to live in Grundy county Iowa?
DOING JUSTICE it is the big issues like human trafficking, health care … AND it is the small things like treating our neighbors with respect, and being aware of how the little guy is being treated.
Big issues or small issues, Justice is a big deal. God's call to justice comes from God's very nature. God created all things, including the line between right and wrong. As much as our culture would like to say that there is no such line, there is. God always hates sin. God always abhors our wrong choices; especially (however)… God especially hates sin that harms the oppressed, the poor, the powerless, the outcast, and the stranger. What did Jesus say he came to do?
Proclaim good news to the poor.
To proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
and to set the oppressed free,
That is what God expects of us too.
God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to change the world.
God brings us out of slavery to sin and death in order to change the world.
We have talked about changing the world by our Radical love. Love, however, that is kept inside the walls of the church, or our home, or our community is a pretty small love.
We have talked about changing the world by becoming servants. Service, however, that is kept inside the walls of the church, or our home, or our community is a pretty safe service.
God calls us to break out and reach across the road, and down the highway, and over the mountains, and across the oceans of cultural differences and misunderstanding with love, and service and justice. God calls us to reach out beyond 60 minutes, to be 24x7 Christians in love, and service and justice.
God calls us to change the world by standing up for him. No matter where we are and no matter when we have the opportunity. Stand up for love, and service, and justice… and change the world.