“We are a people more concerned with ruling than loving. This is a mistake that positions us in places where we are no longer close enough to another person or thing to perceive its pain or need. To be human in an aching world is to know our dignity and become people who safeguard the dignity of everything around us. To protect everything may seem like too great a call. But we will not survive without it.” -Cole Arthur Riley.
October 30, 2022
“This Here Flesh”
Justice and Liberation
Amos 5: 23-24; Matthew 11:28-30
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Amos 5: 23-24
Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Matthew 11: 28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Justice and Liberation Amos 5: 23-24; Matthew 11:28-30
Since we are talking about Justice and Liberation this Sunday, I decided to review a former sermon from a worship series we did a little over a year ago. This series was and is based on this particular verse from Amos. I thought, you know it might be interesting to see how far we have come as a community of faith in our conversation about justice and liberation. I thought it might be interesting to see if these words from the prophet Amos spoken over two thousand years ago, a verse which we spent over six weeks, reviewing, exploring, inviting its words to challenge us and transform us, I thought it might be interesting to see where we are as a community of faith now, a little over a year or so since we really spent any time with this particular text.
The good news is we are farther along in our conversation about justice than we were a year ago. This past year, we decided to be intentional about becoming an anti-racist/ pro-reconciling community of faith. We gathered for book studies which focused on this work, books written by authors who offered a different voice to our predominantly white convervations. We invited speakers to help us explore Midway Christian Church’s and Kentucky’s history of racism, help to bring to light how our community of faith supported the system of racism in explicit and implicit ways. We also named the difficult realities of racism and injustice which still continue in our community, in our state, in our nation, and in our world, realities which before this time, tended to ignore or pretend didn’t exist or affect us at all. We named the harsh truth that we did this because it was more comfortable for us to pretend none of those incidents out there involves or implicated us right here. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that we still are not there yet. Even after spending a year in conversation about anti racism/pro reconciliation, we know we are not there yet. Because our conversations were just that… Conversations. These conversations didn’t push us to do more to make this world more equitable for all of God’s people. These conversations didn’t challenge us to go out into our community and make justice. Instead, we simply shook our heads and said, “I didn’t realize all that was happening. That’s so sad” and moved on with our lives.
Even after spending a year naming the racism of Midway Christian Church’s past, we still haven’t figured out what to do with this knowledge because it was just that. A naming of the racism. But we haven’t made any reparations for these actions in any way shape or form.
Even after our eyes were opened to the injustices in our midst, we still aren’t necessarily engaged in work that dismantles the system which supports them, bringing to light the Truth that we are still not there yet. We are still not a community which can call ourselves an anti racist and pro reconciling community just yet.
As I went back and reheard the words I shared with everyone a year ago, words like, “When Amos shared thes words with the people of Israel, to remind them, to remind us that we cannot sing songs in God’s house about bringing about the Kingdom of God here on Earth without being moved to action on behalf of the oppressed in our daily lives” or words like “ When Amos used this phrase of justice rolling down like waters, it was to remind the people of Israel, to remind us that it is not enough to simply say the words which seek justice, which seek equity for all in our worship services. Rather as people of God, our lives, our actions, our very character, as ones who are made in the image of God are called to reflect the vision of God’s Shalom come to fruition here and now for all of God’s people”,
When I went back and reviewed the words I shared a little over a year ago, words like, “what Amos understood and what we tend to ignore when we call for God’s justice to roll down like waters is that the work of justice-making is not “transactional. Rather it is relational.” It is messy. It strips us bare. It challenges us to see, to acknowledge, to fully embrace the humanity of each other”, When I went back and review the words I shared a little over a year ago, I stand amazed at how far we have come as a community of faith in our conversations, in our justice making within our own community but I also realize that we still have a long way to go before this beautiful image of justice rolling down like water, this beautiful image of justice being available, being accessible, being not such an unusual thing but rather seen and experienced as the norm, I stand amazed at how far we have come yet realize that we are still not there yet in seeing this vision of God’s Beloved Community come to fruition here on earth for all of God’s children.
I stayed in this here but not yet place, in this mind set all week, a very frustrating yet encouraging place to be as a person of faith.
The reason why I say that is because well, this glance again at the prophet Amos reminded me all of it is a process. It is a beginning, a start to transformation. This glance at the Amos words, this encounter with the spiritual practices of justice and liberation became an invitation to begin again a long journey, a needed journey so that we can truly become a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
This glance at Amos’ words, is a reminder that justice, just like water is essential to life. And without it, communities cannot survive. Without, people die. Without it, healing and wholeness cannot happen.
As I thought about this call to make justice, this call which will make ripple effects in our world, this call to make justice which begins this process of healing, which begins the process of moving towards wholeness, the spiritual practice of confession came to mind.
Now I fully admit that I struggle with this practice, partly because I have seen, I have experienced the guilt and shame which is often tied with this practice and its association with sin. Usually in the church, confession is taught as a way to make a bad person be better.
For many years, I never understood this practice of confession until someone way smarter than me helped me to reclaim the tradition. It wasn’t until I read the words of Richard Rohr, who redefined these terms for me. He said, to think of sin as missing the mark. “We try to get the arrow to hit the bull’s eye, but so often we miss. We try to do the right thing, but as often as not, we make a mistake. We mess up. Yes, we sin … And, unless you know something I don’t about how to become a perfect person who never does these things, then forgiveness, according to Jesus, will always be necessary. Because we’re always going to sin.”
And that’s where confession comes in…it is the process of telling the truth, of taking a look at where we have missed the mark, where we have not been the person God created us to be or calls us to be. “Confession is a way to dismantle and disentangle ourselves from the destructive systems around us.”
Part of making justice is telling the truth…not because we are bad, awful people. But because sometimes telling the truth helps us name the times we missed the mark, to name what is blocking our visions, what is preventing us from becoming the person God created or calls us to be. Part of making justice is telling the truth, about ourselves, about the brokenness in our relationships, about where there is hurt in our lives, in our communities so that we can fully embrace the humanity in ourselves and in other people. Part of making justice is truth telling so that healing and wholeness can begin.
So I invite us to do that now…
Telling the Truth:
Begin with today. What has happened in your life today?
What have your interactions with family, friends, co-workers, strangers been like? Where are the points of struggle? What is your history with those struggles? Where are points of joy, gratitude, contentment? What makes you feel this way? If you could change something about your interactions with people, what would it be?
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, October 30, 2022 – Justice and Liberation Amos 5: 23-24; Matthew 11:28-30.
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