Justice and Restoration

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S (Scripture): Isaiah 42:1 But here is my servant, the one I uphold; my chosen, who brings me delight. I’ve put my spirit upon him;
he will bring justice to the nations.

3 He won’t break a bruised reed;
he won’t extinguish a faint wick,
but he will surely bring justice.

6 I, the Lord, have called you for a good reason.
I will grasp your hand and guard you, and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations,
7 to open blind eyes, to lead the prisoners from prison, and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon.
8 I am the Lord; that is my name;
I don’t hand out my glory to others or my praise to idols.
9 The things announced in the past—look—they’ve already happened, but I’m declaring new things.  Before they even appear, I tell you about them.

O (Observation):  As God’s people of Israel stand almost totally decimated, a word of hope comes from God.   God declares that people can recount history’s, but only God can look forward in time to tell us what may happen.  

God declares that His servant will one day come to bring justice throughout the earth.  The servant will not fight for justice…but would live out justice, and in a new way.   The Servant will bring justice by restoring folks into community: the blind will see, the prisoners and those sitting in dungeons will be freed. 

These indeed are words of good news when you are sitting in a dungeon or cannot see, and are thus separated from one’s loved ones and friends.   

God is the one who will do justice through God’s own servant.  God will rely on no one and no other thing.   

A (Application):  In the battles that rage in our nation’s government, in the discomfort around the dinner table, God provides a ray of hope: Jesus Christ.   

Jesus wishes neither to conquer anyone nor command our words and actions.   Jesus – God’s servant described in Isaiah? – is the new thing that God has done in the history of the world.  Jesus, the Suffering Servant, has entered our governmental proceedings and sits with us at the dinner table.  

Do we let Jesus speak in these places?   Is Jesus’ version of justice allowed to be heard?

How will we live as people of hope?  How will we be living out Jesus’ justice?  Will we use our hands and voices in God’s name?   

How will we bring about restoration in the name of God?  I think of an old picture, tattered, beat up, maybe even torn…and some skilled person can reassemble the pieces and bring forth what was originally intended for the picture.    This is what justice means: being restored to our original intention, as God sees us.  

Let us remember this as we speak and act in the name of Jesus in our day.  And let us remember that OUR version of justice should always give deference to Jesus’ version: restoring outsiders to the community.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, restoration comes through you and you alone; help us to be your hand and feet and voice  Amen.   


Trust the Pregnant One: “God with us”

S (Scripture): Isaiah 7:10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign from the Lord your God. Make it as deep as the grave or as high as heaven.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I won’t ask; I won’t test the Lord.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? 14 Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign.  The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [“God with us”].  15 He will eat butter and honey, and learn to reject evil and choose good. 16 Before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. 17 The Lord will bring upon you, upon your people, and upon your families days unlike any that have come since the day Ephraim broke away from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

O (Observation):  King Ahaz is the king of Judah, the remnant of God’s chosen people.  They are less than perfect, and God has called upon Isaiah (touching a burning coal to his lips, remember?) to speak truth to God’s people.   Isaiah called upon God’s people to trust God and believe that Judah is NOT beyond redemption.  

What will this redemption look like?  

The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [“God with us”].

Sound familiar?   See Matthew 1:23 : )

In Isaiah’s time and in the time of Mary’s pregnancy, God’s people are in a time of difficulty.   They are in need of salvation and help from the Lord.   

God remains faithful.  God gives them hope. 

Isaiah reminds King Ahaz that Judah’s enemies – in the span of about 2-3 years (or, about the time it would take for the pregnant woman to give birth and teach the child right from wrong) – will be no more.  They can trust that God will provide for them.   

A (Application): So many things to do and so little time and motivation.  We all hit roadblocks.  We see obstacles and challenges and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We feel trapped. 

We want to be smart enough to figure a way out. We want to work harder to make the work “ours” – to put our stamp on it.    We want to prove to God how worthy we are.   

And the sad thing is, we sometimes make it not realizing that it was God who gave us what we need to make things work.  We forget that God gave us the relationships and the skills we need to make things work out.   We forget that God called upon others to provide us guidance and wisdom.  

We claim for ourselves what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.  

We forget that hope came through a pregnant woman – Mary – which was not our doing.  We forget that God is our protector, choosing instead to protect ourselves by shouting on social media about how we need to be stronger as Christians.  We shout about how we need to really step up and claim God for this nation and to push back all others.   

Instead, I call for unity, in the midst of diversity.  We come together, people of varied nations and tongues, seeking goodness and mercy and justice for all.  We do this, confident that the Lord will provide us with merciful and just leaders.  

This starts with you.   Where do you see a need for justice?  Where do you see a need for mercy?

Remember that you need others to be just and merciful for you, too.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, make us wise not in the ways of the world, but wise in your ways.  Amen.  

One Nation, Underwood

S (Scripture): Proverbs 29

25 The fear of others lays a snare, but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.
26 Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.
27 The unjust are an abomination to the righteous, but the upright are an abomination to the wicked.

O (Observation): Peace and security comes from the Lord, not from any earthly ruler or authority.   Trusting in God brings one justice and hope.  

And who is an abomination?   Depends on the viewpoint.   The unjust acquire wealth and status in ways that make the righteous jealous – though it shouldn’t.  The upright are an abomination to the wicked, because the upright are genuine and receive eternal favor without working lies or deceit.  

A (Application): The freakiest line from the latest House of Cards series is the title of this blog post.  President Francis Underwood pontificates on the future…and he says, “One nation.  Underwood.”  How creepy.  

How often does the “bad guy” win?   How do we allow this?   We do allow it, by the way, either because we stick our heads in the sand or because we are complicit with the system.  

…until we lift our heads…until we are no longer complicit…

We reach a true freedom when we begin to believe in and trust the Lord.   We can walk upright (repenting as we go) fearing no ruler.  We will do no battle.   Instead, our upright nature will drive the wicked ones crazy.   

Our trust will be in the Lord, and as we trust the Lord, we will see that our spirit is not captured.   Our will is set free in order that we live upright lives in the midst of an unjust world.  

Francis Underwood rules through wicked means.   Will you?  Or will you let genuine love for your neighbor guide your ways and your will?

P (Prayer):  Lord, lift up our heads to you!  Amen.  

Overcome Evil with Good

S (Scripture): Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. 19 Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

O (Observation):  Paul so often gives us words as difficult to swallow as the words of Jesus himself.   

In the midst of a violent regime in Rome, rather than fight, Paul calls upon the people of God to stand united in a peaceable front.  Their relationship with the rulers in Rome was tenuous, but peaceable…most of the time.  Rome was violent towards Christians, yet if they kept to themselves, the government would leave God’s people alone, for the most part.     

And so, through acts of random kindness, God’s people would survive and eventually thrive.  Not by their own direct action, but by confusing the people in charge by showing them love…letting God take on the big stuff.  

A (Application):  So hard…with the divisive nature of society these days, how do we move forward united?   Maybe one act of random kindness at a time?   Maybe less talk, and more action…action out of love for our neighbor.  

Perhaps we simply be polite to those who dislike us.  But how?  That can be so damn difficult.  

But ours is to do good.  Ours is not to believe in the falsity of “redemptive violence” (nod to Rob Bell for that phrase in his recent podcast).   Real life is not Hollywood.  The cycle of redemptive violence tries to bring an end – I win, you lose.   But the truth is that cycle never ends.  Instead, we always try to one-up each other.  So…Paul steers us away from this.  

The cycle of redemptive violence drives entertainment (like in tv shows like The a Walking Dead, or movies like The Avengers).   There is no end.  We adapt this violence to our way of thinking, rather than subject ourselves to Paul’s (and really Christ’s) words.   

This is my struggle today.  How is it for you?

P (Prayer): Lord, you call us to bring words of peace and hope, where there is despair.   Help us in this monumental task. Amen.  

Lord, Rise Up through Us

S (Scripture): Psalm 21:13 Rise up, O Lord, in strength! We will sing and praise your power!

O (Observation):  Admittedly, this verse is meant for king and country.   That is, the political and military leader who serves the Lord (and that nation) gives thanks to God for God’s mighty acts.

A (Application):  Sometimes, we try to assign positive movement forward with God’s will.  Sometimes progress, though, isn’t helpful.  Depends on what’s being accomplished.   Are the poor, the marginalized, being served an injustice?   If so, we speak up, we speak out. 

Why get involved?   Because justice cries out for action.   To be idle in times of injustice is to be complicit with the injustice.  

We rely on the Lord to Rise Up and take action.  Yet we must realize that we may be the ones through whom God wishes to act.  So we move into a state of readiness.  As bridegrooms awaiting the bride.   We remain vigilant and seek the Lord’s wisdom on what to say and when to say it.  

P (Prayer): Lord, give us strength…give us wisdom.  Amen.  

Called and Equipped!  Baptized and Sent!

S (Scripture): Joshua 1:1  After Moses the Lord’s servant died, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Get ready! Cross the Jordan River! Lead these people into the land which I am ready to hand over to them. 3 I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north. It will extend all the way to the great River Euphrates in the east (including all of Syria) and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to resist you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone. 6 Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. 7 Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do.

O (Observation):  Joshua assumes leadership of God’s people, ordained by God.   In the midst of this “transfer” some expectations are set.   

Be strong and brave!  Do not swerve from the Law.  Obey the Law, like Moses!  You must lead this people in the conquest of this land. 

That’s a tall order…but Joshua is not left to his own devices to see that he is obedient.  

Instead, we also see God’s actions in these word today:

  • God promises to hand the land over to God’s people
  • “As I was with Moses, so I’ll be with you.”
  • “I will not abandon you or leave you.”

God remains a constant in Joshua’s life.  Joshua knows that God is with him.  Joshua can only be obedient in as much as God is with him, reminding Joshua of who and whose he is.  Joshua is God’s. 

A (Application):  Believe it or not, we are all called into the challenge of Joshua.  We are not called to claim land promsied by God; rather, we are all called, in baptism, to live out God’s peace and justice in all the earth. 

That means that in some cases, we stand with the marginalized, which can be unpopular.  That means that in some cases, we take actions or say words (for the cause of peace and justice) that will surely bring criticism or fear into our sphere.   

Should those challenges cause us to change our courses of action?  Certainly not!

But how will we be sustained?!?  The same thing that causes us to move forward for the sake of peace and justice is also that which unites us with God: our baptism.  

God called Moses and Joshua to lead, to step forward.  God calls us, as well, through baptism.   And while our baptism urges us to stand for peace and justice, we are also sustained by the gift of the Holy Spirit to be with us as we step forward.  

We are urged onward, but with the help and guidance of the Spirit.  We are called and we are equipped.  Fear not.  God is with you! 

P (Prayer):  Lord, we are unsure and uncertain.    Remind us of our baptism.  Guide us.  Love us. Protect us.   Amen.  

Love & Justice

  S (Scripture): Psalm 36:5 O Lord, your loyal love reaches to the sky; your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your justice is like the highest mountains, your fairness like the deepest sea; you preserve mankind and the animal kingdom.

7 How precious is your loyal love, O God!  The human race finds shelter under your wings.

8 They are filled with food from your house, and you allow them to drink from the river of your delicacies.

9 For you are the one who gives and sustains life.

O (Observation): The psalmist gives thanks for God’s justice and gift of life.   God’s love and faithfulness are practically endless: to the sky and clouds above.   God’s justice covers the heights of the mountains and the vast depths of the ocean!

God gives the gift of life and sustenance!

A (Application):  Sometimes simple adoration is enough.    God provides.    Thank you, God!!!

P (Prayer):  God, I give you thanks today for providing me with my needs and bringing love and justice to the earth.  Amen.