Tag Archives: Doing Justice

Nurture with Justice

Advent
December 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11

See, the Lord God comes with might,
   and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
   and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
   he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
   and gently lead the mother sheep.
–Isaiah 40:10-11

Isaiah reminds us whose we are. Almighty God protects God’s children, nurtures, and feeds us. The Lord expects us to partner with God in assuring that all children know God’s love and care. Advent is a time when we remember the darkness of life as we await the coming of the Light of the World. My church has a long Advent tradition of collecting warm hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves for those left out in the cold. We pray that each gift does share with each recipient our love as well as a bit of relief from the elements.

The symbolism of the act may be just as important for those of us with enough resources to provide these small gifts. They remind us that in God’s world everyone is to have enough: shelter, clothing, food,  medical care, and love. We are responsible for doing the justice to make enough for all possible. Nigerian author Chinua Achebe states it best, While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary. His words may sound familiar as I have quoted them before and I will continue to quote him until a world that needs no charity exists.

This year we needed more scarves for the ones we targeted to serve. The store where I was shopping did not have enough and referred me to another of their stores in a part of town nearer the inner city. On my way into the store, I walked past one man talking to someone only he could see and another seated on the sidewalk with his back to the wall of the building one hand grasping his grocery cart full of all of his possessions. I experienced first hand the humanity in need of warm clothing, but more importantly in need of justice.

Prayer: Holy One, let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary. Let it be so.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Feeding the Hungry by Doing Justice

Living in the Spirit
August 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:13-21

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ –Matthew 14:15-16

Not having enough food to eat is not a resource issue in most instances; it is a justice issue. I support through my local church a food pantry at a sister congregation; the Regional Food Bank, a not for profit; a backpack weekend food program for our local inner-city school; the City Rescue Mission, a not for profit; and a sister congregation that primarily serves the homeless. While desperately needed these are bandages on infected sores.

  • Everyone who works should have the resources to feed his or her family. About 70% of food stamp recipients work. In some of these households, more than one person works, or one person may have more than one job. In some instances, people work at the convenience of their employer. Thus their hours of work vary from week to week. I find it shameful with the amount of money we spend on the military industrial complex every year, we have soldiers whose families qualify for food stamps. The ceiling for food stamps is 133% of poverty. Food stamps are wage supplement for big business including the US government paying inadequate wages.
  • Our mental health services system is broken. People with mental health issues who get the right supervision, treatment, and medication can become self-supportive. The opioid problem in our country is extreme and growing. Many with mental health issues live on the street with routine stops at the local jail for minor offenses. The jail may be the only place they have a safe bed and routine food. Crime records are often not welcomed by employers.
  • The poverty level serves as the base for computing the amount of Social Security received by people who have a disability or are aged. Raising the base for Social Security to 133% of poverty would provide a higher level of income for these people and reduce the cost of administering the food stamp program for them. Of course, 133% of poverty is a bare necessities income. The base could be increased even more if we raised income for the program by eliminating the cap on income taxed for Social Security. For earnings in 2017, this base is $127,200. Why was the cap created in the first place? No one knows.

While we do our good works, we must remember to seek justice also.

Prayer: God of the Harvest, grant us the wisdom to provide from your bounty the food that all need to sustain life in fulfilling your call to do justice. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Doers of Justice

Living in the Spirit
June 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 13
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
   and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
   Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’;
   my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

 But I trusted in your steadfast love;
   my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
   because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Futility is a dangerous state of mind. Futility results when one feels ineffective, unfruitful. The population of the futile in our country is growing. Most work and still may go to bed hungry at night. The rate of low or very low food insecurity is 16.5% of the Oklahoma population*. Many of the working poor rely on food stamps to supplement their low wages facing the denigration that accompanies paying for groceries with a food stamp card. Many service industry jobs limit hours of work by whether the employee is needed making it impossible to know what income to expect. Most such jobs offer no sick leave and certainly no leave for parents to stay home with sick children. The vast majority of child care facilities do not take sick children and could call a parent in the middle of the day to pick their child up if he or she becomes ill. Too many of those incidences can get one fired. Two many firings listed on a job application can restrict one’s employ-ability. Living from one paycheck to the next is the only option. This first verse of this hymn is their song.

Our call as followers of Christ is to pave the way for the futile to learn about God’s steadfast love. One introduction to God’s love results from the example of our steadfast love exemplified in working together to form a just society where all earn a living wage and businesses flourish because all our citizens are a part of a vibrant economy.

Prayer: Lord, makes us each doers of justice for all your children.

*http://okpolicy.org/fact-sheet-hunger-in-oklahoma/

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Self-Actualization

Epiphany
January 14, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 1:29-42

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ –John 1:35-39

What are we looking for? Psychologist Abraham Maslow identified what he believed to be basic needs of all people* that have become a standard:

  • Basic needs—food, clothing, shelter
  • Safety
  • Love and Belonging
  • Self-Esteem—feeling that we matter
  • Self-Actualization—Achieving one’s full potential

I like to describe this last one as fully becoming the person God created us to be. Maslow viewed these needs as accumulative. For example, when our basic needs and safety are not met, it becomes much more difficult for us to feel we are loved and belong. The housing first movement for the homeless based on this theory assures stability in meeting basic needs and safety as service providers enable a transition to belonging for those on the street.

If Jesus asked us what are we looking for, how would we answer that question? My guess is that most reading this would answer wanting to make a difference or achieving our full potential and that is a good thing. Christ’s question though is for everyone. Our call to do justice is to work toward all becoming self-actualized in Christ.

Prayer: Lord, make our work toward justice for all be a path toward our realizing our full potential and everyone else’s. Amen.

http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Cockeyed Optimist

making-all-things-newAdvent
November 24, 2016

Scripture Reading: Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light
                                                  –Romans 13:11-12

I guess you might call me a cockeyed optimist*. This phrase in from the musical South Pacific which dealt with a time during World War II, in a place caught in the strife, and among a population dealing with racism. We too live in turbulent times. We fear fear itself in many ways. Our choice is to run and hide in our fear or accept this as our challenge to be a part of making all things new. I believe that with God’s help that is entirely within our grasp. I did not say it would be easy. It will require sacrifice; it will take all the best we have and then some.

A few more lines in the song further describe our dilemma:
I hear the human race Is fallin’ on its face
And hasn’t very far to go
But ev’ry whippoorwill
Is sellin’ me a bill,
And tellin’ me it just ain’t so*.

Advent is a wonderful time to take stock of our fears and any resulting negative thoughts or behaviors we might have. Do we love ourselves? If not, let God make us whole. Do we love all our neighbors as we love ourselves? If not, let God make us one. Do we see injustice in the world? If so, let God make us doers of justice. By Christmas Day, let God renew our hearts and minds readying us to assume our job in making all things new.

Prayer: Lord, walk with me each day during Advent as I examine myself. Help me see myself clearly and cleanse me where needed, preparing me for service to you. Amen.

*Line from the Song “A Cockeyed Optimist” from the Musical South Pacific composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. See at https://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/southpacific/acockeyedoptimist.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Living by Faith Not Fear

votingLiving in the Spirit
May 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24)

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” –1 Kings 17:8-14

It seems to me that we are living in a world of fear. I think part of that is the result of the fast changing pace of our society. A bigger part though, perhaps is lack of control over our lives. A sense that all is not right and we can do nothing about it. A loss of purpose and focus may be included. Time was when building a better life for the next generation was important. Now we seem to be moving in the other direction. How did this all happen? What can we do about it?

I have probably said this before, but it is scary how closely our lives today mirror that described by the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. While the rich get richer the poor get poorer. What once was middle class is quickly becoming the working poor. Leaders are more concern about maintaining their own status and wealth and have lost interest in meeting their obligation to assure the Common Good. Even the Kings of Israel were responsible to care for the poor not to chastise them for failure to meet their basic needs on salaries that are woefully inadequate.

The prophets worked for a just world as we are also called to do:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

What does a just world look like to you? How would you make it happen? On November 8, 2016 you will have the opportunity to take steps toward living in a just world by exercising your right—obligation?—to vote. Start now to identify, how your faith guides you. Pray for God’s guidance and seek reliable facts to inform your decision.

Prayer: Lord, show us what your justice looks like and let it be a guide to our being a part of doing justice in this place at this time. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Ride On

Jesus enters JerusalemLent
March 28, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 12:12-16

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
   the King of Israel!’
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
   sitting on a donkey’s colt!’ — John 12:12-15

The time had come. We have all been there whether it was getting ready for a wedding or a funeral, preparing for a family reunion, or graduating from school. There may be a few last minute runs for more food or a quick wash when a child appears with food all over but the day is finally here.

I have wondered what Jesus thought as he rode through the masses. We know that he had sat looking down over Jerusalem and said: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’ (Matthew 23:37) That ride into Jerusalem must have been heart rending. The people are still so innocent, still so lacking in understanding. Had he prepared them enough?

As followers of Christ we are continually preparing to live our love to show mercy to do justice, but all our preparations do not mean a think unless we initiate and act. We may never feel ready but we will learn along the way and we are never alone as we journey toward the Kingdom of God.

Prayer:
God of grace and God of glory,
 On Thy people pour Thy power.
 Crown Thine ancient church’s story,
 Bring her bud to glorious flower.
 Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
 For the facing of this hour,
 For the facing of this hour.* Amen.

*From God of Grace and God of Glory by Harry E. Fosdick
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.