How’s it going? Feeling congested in your soul?
This post is a little longer than most, but I want to bring you up to speed with what God has been doing in my heart and the hearts of the people at Restoration. Thanks for reading.
We just finished our 4th week in a sermon series about Justice and the Generosity of God. Each week I gave you an invitation to go deeper into what God is saying to us. Here is a summary if you need to catch up…
Week 1 We began by defining ‘the justice of God’. It is grounded in his never-ending steadfast love. God’s justice rectifies wrongs and distributes rights. The prophet Jeremiah tells us
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9: 23-24
If we want to know God and be a part of the things He is doing, we will do justice by practicing these things as well. I invited you to consider 4 categories that might define your posture as you come to this topic of God’s justice: the sentimentalists, the suspicious, the frayed, and the hardened. What have you decided regarding the state of your heart?
Week 2 We recognize that all of us are maxed out. We have a hard time coming to this justice conversation because we are so pressed and working constantly. It makes us get so caught up in counting ‘what we deserve from our work’ that we don’t notice ‘what we have received by grace.’ I invited you to make space for justice by practicing the disciplines of gleaning and sabbath– gifts that God gave to His people so that their lives would look different from everyone around them. How is it going making space?
Week 3 I invited you to own what you have been taught about who is on the outside of God’s justice. We must recognize that each of us learned in our families, our homes, and the places where we grew up– the people it was ok to leave on the outside. None of us comes to this conversation with clean hands or completely open minds. Everyone has their personal criteria for determining who is in or out: race, social class, level of education, work ethic, place where you live. We must be vigilant in searching our hearts and admitting our assumptions that this person or group of people do not deserve the steadfast love, justice, and righteousness of our Lord. How is it going with your searching confession of the criteria you use?
Week 4 I invited you to own what’s been done to you. It is difficult to have compassion for others when you are bitter about the injustice that’s been done to you. “Why should I care for someone else when no one cared for me?” It’s almost impossible to do justice unless you have experienced justice. It is almost impossible to extend grace unless you have experienced grace. Our experience of justice often releases us to do justice for others. So, I carefully, tenderly invited you to remember your injustice: The things you have done. And the things that have been done to you.
Walking into the memory of injustice will push you to this question: Do you believe that God will vindicate the just? Vindication is the experience of being made right in the eyes of others. It is the opposite of shame, which is the experience of being exposed as guilty in the eyes of others. We looked at the heart wrenching story of Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech in Genesis 20. For those who have perpetrated injustice like Abraham, there is the hope of forgiveness. For those who have been placed in the way of harm like Sarah, there is the hope of vindication. How is it going walking into your memory of injustice?
If you have accepted these invitations and engaged these questions, then God has been doing a lot in your heart over the last month. These are inquiries that probe the depths of our soul and shake our foundations. It’s hard work.
Some of you may be asking, ‘David, why are you doing this series this way? Why start with us rather than the systems and cycles of injustice in the world?’
It’s because I am more of a pastor than an activist. There are activists who are excellent pastors and teachers (people like Soong-Chan Rah or Shane Claibourne or Brenda Salter McNeil). But my calling is to create, nurture, and pastor a community of people who will be transformed by the Holy Spirit and be sent out into the world to do the work God has given them to do.
And so, in a sermon series on justice, my first priority is to expose and heal the stuff that is broken in US. I do that first because I love the people of Restoration. My heart is crushed by so much wrong, harm, evil, and pain that is in the world– that comes from broken systems and broken people. But (and!) out of all the injustices that I want to see God change by His power through His people, the place where I bring all the prayer, love, intellect, and creativity I can muster is the church gathered and scattered on Quincy Street each week. I am called to you.
We’ll get to some of the big topics. But we had to start with the place in which we have the most visibility and ability to change– our own hearts. How’s it going?
See you soon.
With love, David