Embracing Justice Sermon (Mark 5)
This morning, as we gather in this church to sing our songs and offer our prayers, we do so within the context of a war in Europe. For many of us, our hearts are heavy, and our souls are saddened as we witness the brutality and barbarity unleashed at the command of Putin and the warmongers.
Ukrainians suffer and die, with 10 million displaced from their homes. The forces of injustice and oppression may seem overwhelming, leaving us as a continent, as communities, and as individuals feeling disoriented and powerless.
For some of us here this morning, particularly our Iranian brothers and sisters, this feeling of disorientation in the face of injustice is nothing new. Within our own community, many carry wounds inflicted both by the unjust actions of others and by systems of domination.
In a world filled with injustice, what can we, as followers of Jesus, do? I want to suggest that by looking to the Scriptures and looking to Jesus, we can find a much-needed reframing of the issues of our day. My hope is that we can be reoriented so that we can face injustice with hope. Here this morning, we are called afresh to be the justice-shaped people of God who look to Jesus and are empowered by the Spirit of Jesus, so that we can look and love like Jesus.
So here goes,
In the Bible, justice is about setting the world right. It stands in stark contrast to injustice. Justice opposes oppression, domination, and economic exploitation. It stands with the poor and powerless, speaking out for those without a voice.
Justice is the dream of the prophets. As the prophet Amos imagines, it's a day "when justice will roll on like a mighty river." Justice is also at the heart of God, as Isaiah says, "For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." To know God is to do justice.
Justice finds its place within love. God is love, a holy trinity of love – the Father loves the Son and Spirit; the Son loves the Father and the Spirit; the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. From this wellspring of holy love, God created a world meant for human flourishing, shalom, and justice.
But as the Scriptures unfold and our news feeds testify, this world, once full of wonder, has become a place of suffering and injustice. The beautiful has turned broken, justice to injustice, and shalom to violence.
The compelling story of Scripture is how the triune God is on a justice-shaped mission to set the world right. The goal is the reconciliation of all things, the healing of the nations, a time when swords are turned into ploughshares, and all tears are wiped away. Lord, let your kingdom come.
In Jesus, the Word made flesh, we see justice embodied and entwined with extravagant mercy. He welcomes the weak, gathers the oppressed, and challenges the unjust structures of his day.
Cornell West aptly states, "Justice is what love looks like in public," and in Jesus, we see a public demonstration of what a just life and community should resemble. In a world of economic exploitation, Jesus advocates for the Jubilee principle, good news for the poor. In a world of despots and warmongers, Jesus proclaims, "Blessed are the peacemakers, love your enemies, and lay down the sword." This is good news for a world entrenched in militarism and conflict.
The Christian faith isn't a privatized, romanticized individualism. It envisions the rule and reign of God in all spheres of life, including the social, political, and economic.
Cornell West continues, "Justice is what love looks like in public," and he adds, "tenderness is what love looks like in private." In our reading today, we see Jesus, not only proclaiming the kingdom of God but also showing tenderness toward individuals.
From our reading, three points about the tender compassion of Jesus emerge:
1. Love looks like something: Jesus responds to both immediate crises and long-term issues, embodying justice in both.
2. Love transforms: Jesus' love brings transformation, not only to individuals but also to communities and cultural norms.
3. Love makes the invisible visible: Jesus highlights the value and dignity of marginalized individuals, making their suffering and stories visible.
In a world where injustice appears to hold unstoppable power, we are called and equipped by Jesus to be justice-shaped people who demonstrate love that transforms and makes the invisible stories of injustice visible.
As ambassadors of the kingdom, we work toward the reconciliation of all things, the healing of the nations, and a time when swords turn into ploughshares and all tears are wiped away.
In the name of the Holy Trinity of Love,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.