Lecture 1:  Racial Injustice in the Church

Welcome!

  1. Limitations of Zoom-  please don’t try and do something else.  We will break into smaller rooms and we will ask you to talk.
  2. Limitations of 3 weeks-  
  3. I am a white evangelical, which is not defined by party alliance but by submission to Scripture and the way I get treated in society because of the amount of melanin in my skin.
    As a white evangelical, I am inviting my church to think about racial injustice.
  4. I am the rector of Restoration Anglican Church and I am your pastor.  In order for you to be fully formed into the image of Christ, you have to consider this history and be open to lament, repentance, and repair.  That is me speaking as your spiritual authority.  This is an important part of our discipleship.
  5. We have all experienced injustice.  Many of us have experienced abuse and trauma.  Our personal experience influences how we come to this conversation and we need to be aware of it.  If we can acknowledge our personal experience, we can actually set it next to us, knowing that it is our experience, but working to hear the experience of another.  

Ezekiel 34:  a snapshot that illustrates Biblical Justice

Explain the fall of Jerusalem and what went wrong.

The prophet Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC.  He was called by God to his office at the age of 30 and his particular ministry extended over 23 years.  The city of Jerusalem and the temple of God were destroyed by the Babylonians in 586BC.  “Like all the prophets, this book is not a manual of theology, but the word of God to a battered remnant in exile that is experiencing what the theologians of the time had considered impossible.”  Ezekiel experienced exile—  the consequence of Israel’s sin.  From exile, he wrote of a future restoration.

Why did this happen?  Chapter 34 is one snapshot that explains what Israel did wrong which lead to this consequence of exile.  It is a chapter that helps us understand and see the heart of God for justice and mercy.  

Read verses 1-2

1   The word of the LORD came to me:  2  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD:  Ah, shepherds of Israel  who have been feeding yourselves!  Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

The shepherds were the leaders of Israel—  politically the kings and leaders, religiously the priests—  those who were entrusted with the care and protection of the people.  Those who were called to feed the sheep.  Of course!  Righteous leaders are called to create systems where people have the opportunity to flourish—  systems of justice. 

Shepherds, leaders create systems where people experience justice and have access to what they are due as image bearers of God.  Biblical justice begins in being created in the image of God.

The Problem (3-4):   Instead, the shepherds have created a system of injustice that benefits themselves.  They are feeding themselves instead of feeding the sheep.

  • They use them:  They eat the fat, clothe with the wool.  They don’t feed the sheep.
  • They don’t take care of the vulnerable:  you have not strengthened the weak, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought.
  • And…  as leaders over systems of injustice often do, they have ruled with force and harshness.   Because when some people get more than they are due and others get less, you have to keep them in line—  mute their voice, limit their access. 

The result (5-6):  They were scattered.  

5  So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and  they became food for all the wild beasts.  6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth,  with none to search or seek for them. 

Being scattered is such an effective picture of the results of sin, of what it means to be in exile, of the fruit of injustice.  Scattered sheep are vulnerable to wolves and predators.  They are unable to take care of themselves.  Bad things can happen and good things (like rest and food) can’t happen.  Systems of racial injustice scatter, create vulnerable people.  It grieves you.  It grieves God. 

God’s Character:  

10 Thus says the Lord GOD,  Behold, I am against the shepherds, and  I will require my sheep at their hand and  put a stop to their feeding the sheep.  No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves.  I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. 

He is against the shepherds.  God holds people and systems accountable for the way they treat the least, the last, and the left out. 

God becomes very personal and very possessive.  I will require MY sheep at their hand.  

“God is talking about his own people.  This is repeated no fewer than 5x up to v. 10 alone.  It not only expresses Yahweh’s personal concern for the flock that is being so badly treated, but also makes clear where the true ownership lies.  The shepherds did not own the flock; they were simply employed to look after it.  The Kings did not own the people; they were simply entrusted with exercising justice and leadership in their midst.  But the temptation to regard those entrusted to one’s care or leadership as one’s personal property, a mini-empire, is powerful.”  Chris Wright

Because they are His, God will do what the shepherds did not (verses 11-12).  He will search, seek, and rescue.  His response corresponds perfectly to the problem.  What is scattered must be gathered.

God’s intervention in a system of injustice is His means of rescue.   

God’s purpose in rescue is to restore, to make right, to make what is what was intended to be.  In response to His question in v. 2—  should not shepherds feed the sheep?  YES! He answers it himself in v. 14 ‘I will feed them with good pasture….and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land.  There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.  15  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep…’  

Which is of course what He always has been.  God is always God.  He is always King over the universe.

They were never NOT his sheep.  He didn’t stop shepherding.  He entrusted HIS sheep to people and to systems where they could flourish but instead they were wronged, abused, and scattered.  //  God does not miss that.  God will make it right.  Now his shepherding is to be against those who were supposed to be shepherding on His behalf.

READ THIS:  16  I will seek the lost,  and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and  the fat and the strong I will destroy.  I will feed them in justice. 

Let me remind you of the Biblical arc of justice:

Creation.  What ought to be—  shepherds feeding the sheep.

Fall.  What is—  shepherds consuming the sheep

Redemption.  What can be—  rescue, God feeding us in justice

Restoration.  What will be—  the renewal of all things, security, provision, abundance

The Bible begins with creation:  every person has been made in the image of God with inherent worth and dignity.  The Bible ends with restoration:  a beautiful picture of heaven where people from every language, tongue, and tribe gather around the throne to worship the risen Christ.  

In between, we know that we are called to love our neighbor and we know that the Lord hates injustice.  

Today…

These are precious truths and a high calling.  Which brings us to our current experience as American Christians.  We ask for humble discernment as we talk about our history and the racial injustice of the church.  We recognize that we have come a long way from 1619 and we acknowledge that many agents of change have been followers of Jesus and we accept that we still have a long way to go to see God’s justice for all people.

Notes on TCOC Chapters 1-4

Chapter 1:  The Color of Compromise

“Our country’s complicated, imperfect history…”  Lecrae

He defines terms and identifies objections.

p.15 ‘History and Scripture teaches us that there can be no reconciliation without repentance… no repentance without confession… no confession without truth.  TCOC is about telling the truth so that reconciliation-  robust, consistent, honest reconciliation- might occur across racial lines…’

p. 16 Racism:  a system of oppression based on race.  Beverly Daniel Tatum

prejudice plus power-  not only personal bigotry toward someone of a different race, includes the imposition of bigoted ideas on groups of people.  

p.16 white supremacy-  identifies white people and white culture as normal and superior

p.17 complicity-  involved

p.21 ‘people who will reject this book will leave several common objections’  What are yours?  

  • too liberal
  • too Marxist communist
  • the extended discussion reduces black people to a state of helplessness and a ‘victim mentality’
  • point to counterexamples and say that racists do not represent the ‘real’ American church
  • the historical facts are wrong or misinterpreted
  • a discussion of race is ‘abandoning the gospel’

Chapter 2  Making Race in the Colonial Era

Thesis of this chapter:  Nothing about American racism was inevitable.  1500-1700 race was still being made.  The foundations were laid for race-based stratification.

p.18  Things could have been different.  At several points in American history-  colonial era, Reconstruction, demise of Jim Crow, Xian’s could have confronted racism instead of compromising.  Although the missed opportunities are heartbreaking, the fact that people can choose is also empowering.  Christians deliberately chose complicity with racism in the past, but the choice to confront racism remains a possibility today.

p.19  skin color is simply a physical trait.  It is a feature that has no bearing on one’s intrinsic dignity.  People invented racial categories.  Race and racism are social constructs.  

p. 27  No biological basis for the superiority or inferiority of any human being based on the amount of melanin in her or his skin.  The development of the idea of race required the intentional actions of people to decide that skin color determined who would be enslaved and who would be free.

African Slave Trade in N. America

1619 arrival of slaves in VA.  

p.34 Colonists may have initially seen Africans in America as laborers just like any other and patterned their economy and politics to allow for their full inclusion.  American history could have happened another way.  Instead, racist attitudes and the pursuit of wealth increasingly relegated black people to a position of perpetual servitude and exploitation.  

p. 35 shift towards slavery over indentured servitude happened gradually over the last few decades of 17th century.  

  • life expectancy increased making lifelong labor a more lucrative investment
  • scarcity of labor, fewer new Europeans, indigenous population decreased.  

p. 35 mid 17th C-  slave codes  

p. 36 hereditary heathenism:  tethered race to religion.  European meant ‘Christian’ and native American or African meant ‘heathen’.  Could be interrupted by marrying into the ‘better’ spiritual lineage of English Christians.

p.38  the separation between spiritual and physical freedom.  “You declare in the present of God… that you do not ask for holy baptism out of any desire to free yourself from the Duty and Obedience you owe to your master…”  

p.39  a way to spread faith without confronting the exploitative economic system of slavery and the emerging social inequality based on color.

“It took decades for patterns of unfree labor to harden into a from of slavery that treated human beings as property and dictated a person’s station in life based on skin color.  Christianity became identified with the emerging concept of ‘whiteness’ while people of color, including indigenous peoples and Africans, became identified with unbelief.”  p.39

Chapter 3:  Understanding Liberty in the age of Revolution and Revival

Thesis:  The ironic formation of the Declaration of Independence

p.41 “While white soldiers and political leaders were declaring their inalienable right to independence, they were also enslaving countless women’s men, and children of African descent.  

p.43 ‘Whatever religion they practiced, the authors of the Declaration of Independence appealed to the idea of universal human liberty passed down from an all-powerful deity.  Many Christians of the time would have understood this language as a reference to their God.”  

Great Awakening: 

p.44 moved American Christians toward more informal and less structured forms of worship.  

Enslaved Africans did not merely adopt Christianity, they made it their own.  

p.45 Why were Black people attracted to Christianity?  To revival preaching?

p.46 George Whitefield.  moderation on slavery morphed into outright support.

1738-  planning for the Bethesda Orphanage.  purchased a 640 acre plantation, with slaves, to support the work of the orphanage.

p.49 Jonathan Edwards.  

1731, compromised Christian principles by enslaving human beings.  Purchased his first enslaved African, owned several other people.  

p.50  He seemed to accept slavery, so long as masters treated their enslaved persons with dignity, on the basis of slavery’s apparently tacit acceptance in the Bible.  

p.51  a moderate view of slavery:

both accepted spiritual equality of black and white people

both preached message of salvation to all

neither had concern that extended to advocating for physical emancipation

neither saw anything in the Bible that forbade slavery

white Christians believed that the Bible merely regulated slavery in order to mitigate its most brutal abuses.

p.54 “Racial segregation in Christian churches occurred in the 18th century in large part because white believers did not oppose the enslavement of African persons.  Instead, Christians sought to reform slavery and evangelize the enslaved.  In the process, they learned to rationalize the continued existence of slavery.  Many white Christians comforted themselves with the myth that slavery allowed them to more adequately care for the material and spiritual needs of enslaved Africans.”  

Chapter 4 Institutionalizing Race in the Antebellum Era

St. Philips-  not admitted to diocese of NY in 1846

p.57 ‘At the outset of the 19thC, the USA could have become a worldwide beacon of diversity and equality.  It could have adopted the noble ideals written in the Declaration of Independence.

Instead…  

  1. Fugitive Slave Clause
  2. 3/5s Compromise-  south did not want to be taxed for its slaves, the north did not want slaves counted for representation in congress.  

p.59  The nation’s political leaders used black lives as bargaining chips to preserve the union of states and to gain leverage for other policy issues.  Although the abolition movement started gaining momentum during this time, America made its peace with slavery for the next several decades.  

p.60 The Chattel Principle-  the social alchemy that transformed a human being made in the image of God into a piece of property.  “The being of slavery, its soul and its body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill of sale principle:  the cart whip, starvation, and nakedness are its inevitable consequences.”  

  • break up of nuclear families and marriages
  • black women valued for productive and reproductive abilities
  • rape was inevitable aspect of slave life.

p.66  Paternalistic and Proslavery Christianity

interracial interaction in church did not come from the egalitarian aspirations of white Christians; rather, interracial congregations were an expression of paternalism and a means of controlling slave beliefs and preventing slave insurrection.  

p.69  Charles Finney, president of Oberlin College, great preacher of the 2nd Great Awakening.  

He stood for abolition but against integration:  social reform would come through individual conversion not through the reform of institutions.  Social change comes about through evangelization.  ‘Once a person believes in Christ as Savior and Lord, he or she would naturally work toward justice and change.’  

“This belief led to a fixation on individual conversion without a corresponding focus on transforming the racist policies and practices of institutions, a stance that has remained a constant feature of American evangelicalism and has furthered the American church’s easy compromise with slavery and racism.” 

Breakout Rooms

1.  What did you notice in pages 1-70 that was new to you?  This is very open-ended.  Please make note of any themes and repeated questions.

2.  What is the connection between the points that David made about Ezekiel 34 and the experience of racial injustice in the church?  

3.  From the opening third of the book, how might God be leading Restoration to respond?  Very open-ended.  We will ask this question regularly, listening for congruence and repeated themes

A statement on the death of George Floyd and so many others

God formed all of us in His image: male and female. He said that we are good. He delighted in what He had made.

But each of us, in our own way, chose something besides God to trust and worship. We ended up far from Him- alone, burdened by guilt.

God did not forget us. He came for us. Jesus took us and stood in place for us and died for us and rose again as a promise for us.

One day, all of us, every person of every skin tone and culture, who has been redeemed by Christ’s finished work will reign together in the renewal of all things. Together.

This is our confident hope.

The tragic murder of George Floyd and the resulting protests around the country have exposed how busted this world is. They have reminded that while we have been focusing on the ‘new normal’ that is coming out of this pandemic, there is an ‘old normal’ that has caused longstanding fractures, injustice, and suffering in our communities. We got rightly distracted by a pandemic. But the pain that was there before is still there. The evil of racial injustice persists.

Restoration mourns the death of our brother in Christ, George Floyd. We mourn the loss of yet another precious human who was made in the image of God and was taken out by the injustice and evil in this world. Every person is of immense worth because they bear the fingerprint of their Maker. We work urgently to help them be reconciled to God and to each other. We feel the loss when one of us dies.

A couple days before Pentecost, four Anglican bishops composed a statement on George Floyd’s death that articulates our grief and our hope. We are grateful for these words and they describe Restoration’s viewpoint on Mr. Floyd’s death. I commend them to you. May these words keep your heart tender and guide your prayers.

-The Rev. David Hanke, Rector

A Letter Concerning the Death of George Floyd and So Many Others

George Floyd was made in the image of God and as such is a person of utmost value. This is not true because a few Anglican Bishops issue a letter. This conviction arises from our reading of Scripture. The Psalmist said:

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:13-14).

The opening book of our Scriptures declares the value of all human life:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)

What happened to George is an affront to God because his status as an image-bearer was not respected. He was treated in a way that denied his basic humanity. Our lament is real. But our lament is not limited to George and his family. We mourn alongside the wider Black community for whom this tragedy awakens memories of their own traumas and the larger history of systemic oppression that still plagues this country.

George’s death is not merely the most recent evidence that proves racism exists against Black people in this country. But it is a vivid manifestation of the ongoing devaluation of black life. At the root of all racism is a heretical anthropology that devalues the Imago Dei in us all.  The gospel reveals that all are equally created, sinful, and equally in the need of the saving work of Christ. The racism we lament is not just interpersonal. It exists in the implicit and explicit customs and attitudes that do disproportionate harm to ethnic minorities in the country. In other words, too often racial bias has been combined with political power to create inequalities that still need to be eradicated.

As bishops in the ACNA, we commit ourselves to stand alongside those in the Black community as they contend for a just society, not as some attempt to transform America into the kingdom of God, but as a manifestation of neighborly love and bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ.  We confess that too often ethnic minorities have felt like contending for biblical justice has been a burden that they bear alone.

In the end, our hope is not in our efforts but in the shed blood of Jesus that reconciles God to humanity and humans to each other. Our hope is that our churches become places where the power of the gospel to bring together the nations of the earth (Rev 7:9) is seen in our life together as disciples. Such work cannot be carried out by an individual letter in a time of crisis. We commit to educating ourselves and the churches under our charge within a biblical and theological frame to face the problems of our day. We likewise commit to partnering with like-minded churches in the work of justice and reconciliation.

The Feast of Pentecost is here in a couple of days. The power of the Spirit is loosed to convict of sin and deliver us from its power. Our prayer is that in a country as diverse as these United States, the church will be united in the essential truths of Christianity including its concern for the most vulnerable. So…Come Holy Spirit. Mediate to us and all the earth, we pray, the victory of Jesus over the principalities and powers that seek to rule and cause death and destruction in this time between the times. Come Holy Spirit.

Almighty God, on this day, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you revealed the way of eternal life to every race and nation: Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, you created us in your own image: Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and help us to use our freedom rightly in the establishment of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishops Jim Hobby, Todd Hunter, Stewart Ruch III, and Steve Wood

2017 Fall Retreat Speaker

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Joe Ho, Vice President of Focus Ministries

The Problem of Race and the Power of the Cross

The tragic events that unfolded in Charlottesville over the summer are a vivid reminder that racism and racial tensions are alive and well. Senseless violence and hate is leaving us at a loss desperate for answers. But what are we to do – and what can the Church do during these heart wrenching and incredibly difficult times?

During this year’s annual retreat, we will confront these difficult questions head on thanks to our special guest speaker – Joe Ho, the Vice President of Focused Ministries. Since 1993, Jo has worked at Focused Ministries in a number of capacities taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cultures of all backgrounds.

Having earned an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary, Joe is well equipped to talk about race, race relations and the redemptive power found on the Cross.

Joe is planning to bring a convicting, heartfelt and inspirational message to our congregation:

There is good news for Christians. God hasn’t left us to figure this out on our own. The Bible does indeed speak to the issues of ethnic differences and conflict. Following the Biblical art of creation, fall redemption and renewal, we will consider the Bible’s Good News about race and ethnicity, in hopes that we as a church can offer this good news to the world.

The time to register for this fall’s retreat is fast approaching, but there is still time to sign up and gather as our church listens to Joe Ho, and his message about race and the power of the Cross.

Sign up here: http://restoration.formstack.com/forms/fall_retreat_2017

Financial aid to cover all or a portion of the expenses is available upon request. Please contact a staff member for further details.

Contending for Shalom

I am sitting in IAH–  the Houston airport–  waiting for a flight to Austin.  I have been asked to serve on the steering committee for a conference in February 2016 called The Anglican Justice Gathering:  contending for shalom.  I am joined by my good friends Cliff and Christine Warner, Bill Haley, and Sami DiPasquale.

We are meeting to pray, talk, and build out this purpose statement for our time next February:

The purpose of this gathering is to identify those in the ACNA who would like to be part of this conversation, gather them together, consider together our unique contribution to the Kingdom of God in our North American context as Anglicans, dream together, pray together, and begin discerning together how the Lord might be leading our denomination to engage the systemic brokenness of our country.

It is a conversation that is always close to my heart and one that is increasingly a part of our life together at Restoration.  As we take concrete steps to provide immigration legal aid; as we partner in the good work of Casa Chirilagua;  as we pray and give and contend for the end of human trafficking; as we think about how to leverage our pastoral staff for building of God’s Kingdom in places like Phnom Penh and West Asia.  We are beginning to grow as a church that contends for shalom.  And we have so much more that we could do.

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Last week, I had the immense privilege to participate in a different conversation that was also contending for shalom.  13 men and women from places like Minnesota, Florida, Atlanta, and Washington DC gathered to talk about America’s original sin:  chattel slavery and the trafficking of Africans for economic gain.  We were almost evenly divided between white and black.  We considered how to name the awful legacy of racial oppression in the US for the past 375 years in various forms and to recognize the ongoing effects in the black community.  We mourned the general lack of recognitioin, awareness, and ownership of this reality in the white Christian community.  We considered concrete ways the white Christian community might be able to make a meaningful statement recognizing this reality and the ongoing injustice across racial lines.  We talked about reparations.

In the middle of our day, we walked to a slave cemetery that is on the property of Corhaven.  It had been neglected for 150 years and just recently Bill and Tara Haley had begun the work of cleaning and restoring it. 

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On this day, we went to remember the lives of those buried there and to repent of the evil conditions in which they lived.  As we looked walked amongst the grave stones, depressions, and vegetation, there was a sweet, soft breeze.  It was very comfortable.

One of our fellow conversationalists lead us into prayer by telling us the story of Israel being delivered out of slavery from Egypt.  That story begins with God telling Moses to take off his shoes because he is standing on holy ground.  Max, our prayer leader, invited us to take off our shoes before we started praying.  

Inwardly I groaned.  I was wearing boots.  We were standing in the woods.  I didn’t want my feet to get dirty.

And as I was thinking those things, Max added, “It’s time to get uncomfortable.”  I agreed. 

Standing in bare feet, in crisp leaves, broken sticks, and broken rocks, Max talked through the story of the Seder and the Passover and all the experiential elements that God provided for Israel to remember that they were delivered from slavery.

Then Bill told the story of spending a day clearing brush from the cemetery, piling it up, and burning it.  And how– INCREDIBLY-  a stump that was 30 feet away from the fire started to smoke and then burst into flames.  Seemingly by itself.  As if something was spiritually being released.

David, a black man from Richmond, was the first to pray.  As he started, I could hear what sounded like wind increasing in the distance, but I soon realized that it was approaching rain.  We were holding hands, standing barefoot, praying in the woods in the midst of slave graves and it started to rain—  gently.  David started to cry as he gave thanks for the lives of these men, women, and children and as he mourned the reality of their lives—  that they had to be buried at midnight because their masters would not give them time to do it during the day.  As David closed and others began to pray, the rain increased.  We were soon soaked.  Normally, etiquette would require ending the prayer and getting to shelter.  But there was an unspoken agreement that God was doing something profound:  

  • He didn’t want us to forget this conversation and these prayers so he was giving us a tangible reminder.
  • He was demonstrating his tears over this evil institution
  • He was washing us in our repentance.
  • And a deeply tangible sense that through fire and rain, God was saying, I am with you in this.  Keep going.

Yes.

Here is the incredible part.  As we finished praying, the rain stopped.  A specific grace for a specific task.  We walked back to our meeting room in sunlight and heat that dried our wet shirts and pants.  What a day. 

The conversation will continue.  God is with us in it.

Contending for shalom.  I love that Restoration is beginning to figure out the unique ways it will be part of God’s Kingdom work for justice.  I hope you are listening, making space, and asking how your gifts and talents will be used in this work as well.

Time to get on my plane.

-David

Spiritual Formation for Kingdom Action

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June 28, 2015 – Rev. Bill Haley

Galatians 2.17-21 : Psalm 8 : John 20.19-23

Listen to the songs here.

Bethany Hoang

Bethany Hoang

As promised…  When we began this series, I mentioned that we would have a few ‘experts’ who would take the pulpit and talk to us about justice.  On May 17, we will hear from Bethany Hoang who is one of the premier voices in North America on the theology of justice.  From her bio…

Bethany is an author and speaker who is passionate about helping others live the connection between justice and spiritual formation. She serves as special advisor and founding director for International Justice Mission’s (IJM) Institute for Biblical Justice

She has been profiled for her leadership in the justice movement by Christianity Today (one of “50 Women to Watch”), Outreach! and Relevant magazines, the White House, Fuller Seminary, as well as organizations such as Catalyst, Q Ideas, The Justice Conference, Urbana, Lausanne, and Ideation.

Bethany has published two books:  Deepening the Soul for Justice (IVP, 2012) and forthcoming The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance with coauthor Kristen Deede Johnson (Baker, 2016).  In addition to these longer works, she has written numerous essays and articles, as well as notes/commentary on Zechariah for the “God’s Justice” global Bible project (Biblica, 2016).

Bethany holds a BA in religion and history from Miami University of Ohio, and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she received the distinguished Fellowship in Theology. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives with her husband, two kids, and a puppy in Minneapolis.

I like to say that Bethany Hanke Hoang is ‘the famous one’ in our family.  She is an incredible speaker with a compassionate heart who is living these things out in her one, small life on a big, influential stage.  You don’t want to miss this.  I’m a huge fan and a proud big brother.

-David

Ascension Day

Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience,_copy_F,_object_38_-HOLY_THURSDAY-And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,  and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11 ESV)

Forty days after Easter we remember Christ’s ascension into heaven – with his promise that he would send the Holy Spirit. And so today marks the end of Eastertide, we extinguish the paschal candle and  we wait in eager anticipation to celebrate Pentecost on May 24.

As I thought about the ascension and looked for poetry that would help me pray, I came across the William Blake poem ‘Holy Thursday’ (from his Songs of Innocence and Experience) which tied in so well with  this season where we are exploring the ‘Justice and generosity of God’. An expressive reminder that we are in the ‘now and the not yet’ of the Kingdom of God.

And so today, we pray with gratitude and expectation this collect (BCP, 226)

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.

 

~Liz

 

 

a pastor more than an activist

congestion

 

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?

Hard Work

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.

Why?

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

Reading about Justice

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As we run, jump, shuffle, walk, tiptoe, hop, skip or leap  into this series on justice we are already starting to encounter some great big ideas; certainly I’ve realized there are quite a few ways I need to face up to my patterns of behavior and some perhaps pretty deeply-held previous convictions. Processing these things in small group is amazing (we had a wonderful discussion last night about Sabbath – I hear others did too), but sometimes it’s simply time to read….

We don’t have a library (yet!) at Restoration – but if you buy any of these why not lend them to others in your small group, order them through your library, read them in your book clubs or give them as birthday presents. Feel free to donate old copies to Restoration if you have them! Perhaps we can start a little lending book area?

So to start with some of the books David has been referencing include:

I haven’t read all of them yet… so I’m looking forward to working through the list.  When you’ve read all of  these – come back to us and we’ll suggest some more 🙂 or perhaps you’ve got suggestions of your own to add to the list? Please add comments below. Happy reading!

~ Liz

critical moments

critical moments

Jesus was never afraid to ask the hard question.

In fact, sometimes that seems like the sum of his entire work…  a ministry of hard questions.

On Tuesday night, our Tri2 Small Group Leaders got together for a bit of training as we head in to this trimester.  We spent our time talking about the well-resourced young man in Mark 10.  It is such an encouragement as we think about the critical moments that God gives us with all kinds of different people.

It begins with this man, who seems to have everything (financial wealth, moral obedience, good standing in society) running after Jesus to ask him a question.  And what a question!  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  It gets at our core longing to know peace and security, to be right with our Maker.  It picks up on our ubiquitous insecurity–  have I done enough.  Everyone asks it in one way or another…  and it is especially poignant coming off the lips of one who seems to have all the answers.

Everyone has an entry point to hear about Jesus-  no matter how much they appear to not need him.

In response to the most important question this man could ask, Jesus says the most difficult thing he could hear—  sell everything you got and come follow me.

The guy balks.  Then walks away in the opposite direction from Jesus.  The answer was too much.  He had too much of his worth, identity, and security invested in his stuff…  and Jesus was not compelling enough to make him leave it.

In between the most important question that one can ask and the most difficult thing that one can hear, Mark notes that Jesus looked at the man and loved the man.  These details of seeing and loving are almost ‘asides’ but they hold the key to the entire interaction–  Jesus says this most difficult thing because he loves him and he sees what he most needs.  Critical moments become life-changing moments when the difficult answers to the hard questions come from a posture of being seen and loved.  

As followers of Jesus, we are called to regularly speak REALLY difficult things.  And, like Jesus, we may very well experience the rejection of others in response.  It happened to Him.  It will happen to us.  Regularly.

Love is how we share in the cost of what is difficult to say.

Our obligation is to say things from a posture of knowing/seeing the person and loving the person.  Love is what allows us to share in the cost of what is difficult to say.  And love is what turns critical moments in to life-changing moments.

We have 2 critical moments on the horizon for our church:

  1. Tonight at 7pm, Dan Allender will begin his To be told conference at Restoration.  Over 350 people will get to consider the critical moments in their story when Jesus intervened to change their life.  It’s happened for all of us–  the invitation is to live God’s story as one who has been restored by grace.
  2. On Sunday we start a new sermon series:  Justice and the Generosity of God.  This is one of those watershed series where almost every part of our private and corporate life comes under the scrutiny of the Gospel of Grace.  As we will see, we can’t escape that ‘doing justice’ is a central (maybe the central?) part of being the people of God.  ‘Doing justice’ is how God expected Israel and then the church to be known.  And the way God described ‘just’ will challenge us every week.  I hope you won’t miss a Sunday between now and the end of June. And I hope you are in a small group during the week to wrestle through the consequences of these passages.

None of us wants to miss the critical moments that Jesus brings in our life.  All of us want to know we are loved.  Some of us will put it together and run after the author of life who loves us more than we ever hoped.

Grateful to be running with you,

-David

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