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Meditation on the Trinity

The readings for Sunday, May 27, 2018: First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 Psalm: Psalm 29 Second Reading: Romans 8:12-17 Gospel: John 3:1-17 Ah, Ho...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Amos 5:6–7, 10–15 October 11, 2009

Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.
Here Amos presents God’s three point plan for how to live in the world.
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.

The problem begins almost immediately, doesn’t it?
We might think that what is evil is obvious and we might think that what is good is obvious and we might think that we know what justice looks like, and what it takes to enact, but do we?
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.

I was raised to hate evil, love what is good and on the notion of charity. Justice, which many people confuse with charity, was not a word that we heard all that often.

When a family known to my parents experienced an oil burner fire on their home, smoke and water running practically everything they owned, my sisters and I with help and encouragement from mom, went into our own dressers and found them clothing to wear. This is what Scripture calls charity – taking care of someone’s immediate needs. The hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the homeless are given shelter – these are all acts of charity. We encourage and practice charity here – using what God has entrusted to us to care for the immediate needs of one another, our neighbors, and those most vulnerable in our community. Feeding the Hungry at First Lutheran once a month, The Trinity Food Pantry, our semiannual participation in the Coalition to End Homelessness’’ Church-Based shelter program, Thanksgiving and Easter baskets, collecting money for world hunger, participation in the Souper Bowl of Caring, WELCA’s donations to local social service organizations, our summer Vacation Bible School’s donations to needy projects all over the world, Church Women United’s Travelling Bassinet to help mother’s in need, walks for MS, Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer, Autism, and more, the Bloodmobile, folks who give their hair for wigs for those who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, the list goes on and on. Charity we know. We drop the change in the plate, write the checks, donate the food, bake the dinners, collect the clothing and cell phones, walk the miles. We give; we give and by and large our giving impacts immediate and particular needs.

When one of our member’s homes caught fire we raised money to help them out. When one of our members needed assistance to continue his fight against bone cancer, we gave generously. When one of our members needed a lot of blood due to their illness, we bled and banked blood for them. We give; we give and by and large our giving impacts immediate and particular needs.

Justice and charity are not the same thing, yet we confuse them all too easily.
To work for justice at the gate is to take on the root causes of injustice, to take on the powers that exploit the vulnerable, the poor, the marginalized. To declare systems in violation of God’s very plan for creation - for God’s intention for God’s people. To hold those systems accountable, To expose them and demand the justice that they have been withholding. To act and act decisively. To act boldly for justice.

Listen to Amos’ description of the injustice in his day:
11Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins — you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.

The images from Amos before and after our passage paint this picture even more fully:
The righteous being sold for silver; the needy being sold for a pair of sandals; the heads of the poor being trampled into the dust of the earth - all the while those who considered themselves righteous feast on good food and drink good wine and push the poor out of the way at the gate, the very place where justice was supposed to be asked for and given.

In a Baptist church near Atlanta, I and a few classmates from the Doctor of Ministry program at Columbia Seminary took our seats. We were immediately recognized as visitors and a member of the congregation came over and began to tell us a story. They began by pointing out three ladies in the front row, the first row of pews, dressed up for church and chatting amiably amongst themselves in the minutes before the prelude began. The three ladies sat in the front pew of First Baptist as they had nearly all of their adult lives. They were in their seventies now and decades before they had fought to integrate the railroad near Atlanta. These women, these church ladies, these women of the south, had gone to the tracks one day and lay down in front of a locomotive and refused to move. Could you imagine these three young ladies, housewives, neighbors to some, friends to many, in their Sunday best laying down on dirty tracks in front of a diesel locomotive? They were arrested, of course, but the point was made. There would demand through their actions that justice be done at the gate. They would not talk about justice as an idea, but embody it – make it deliberate, as natural as breathing. For them, God’s justice would not dwell alone as words that they heard Sunday mornings in worship or Wednesday evenings in Bible study, but there on the tracks in front of a segregated train as well.
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.

Trinity is not about to pour itself into works of charity and forget God’s call to be doer’s of justice. Charity and Justice must work together: compassionately tending to immediate needs with one hand and demanding justice from the powers of this world that defy God by denying that justice to God’s people with the other. We do justice because in Christ Jesus, the very Kingdom of God has broken into the world and that Kingdom has God’s radical justice at its very heart.

One of the key opportunities that we share here at Trinity for the cause of justice is our participation in BOLD Justice, a community-based justice organization here in Broward County. Trinity is one of its founding congregations and our folks are some of its key leaders. In just two years BOLD Justice has won funding for low cost dental care for those in need, fought for affordable housing in Broward county, and won the addition of personnel at Workforce One to help people fix flags on their unemployment applications that were preventing them from receiving their desperately needed benefits. In all of those efforts, members of Trinity joined with folks from 28 other congregations and synagogues to take stands for justice, to deliver wake up calls to powers that had been deaf to the cries of the poor and needy, the most vulnerable in our society. - those who cried at the gate for justice and were not being heard.

Today at 12:15PM and in the next week or two there will be house meetings held by justice leaders at Trinity to ask you what issues BOLD Justice should tackle next. Please spare an hour or so and learn about what we have accomplished so far and share your concerns to help shape our future. Our rummage sale this Saturday will help fund Trinity’s Justice Ministry network, our primary ministry of doing justice in and for our community. Please help out by volunteering your time, donating your gently used treasures, or purchasing someone else’s.

Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.

Once this would have been impossible. But Christ by going to the cross has broken the power of sin and has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us – the spirit of wisdom and might; to teach us charity and demand from us the work of justice. Friends, Jesus invites us to meet him at the gate. Will we meet him there with hearts burning, ready to do this work?


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