Saturday, January 29, 2011

Justice, kindness, humility, Beatitudes

Micah 6:1-8
Matthew 5:1-12
You might remember that during the 2010 elections, the national discourse was particularly nasty, and people pointed fingers and vehemently took sides for or against people and the issues they represented.
In Tucson a month ago a judge, a nine-year-old budding politician, and three others were killed, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords was seriously injured. This incident happened in part because the shooter is mentally ill. It also happened, it is believed, because of the extreme political language we have all been exposed to for so long.
For the last year or so, there has been a call for all leaders and all people to speak in more civil tones with and about each other. We all need to remember we are American citizens, entitled by the constitution to have differing opinions.
Even Congress seems to have received the message that we all need to speak more respectfully to and about each other. Tuesday evening Republicans and Democrats sat mingled together instead of separately during the State of the Union address. One night of modeling increased respect and courtesy does not mean that things will from now on be different, but it is a simple attempt to say, let’s try.
Sometimes, even we Christians forget this need to respect and speak kindly of each other. It’s then that the Beatitudes and the messages of the prophets remind us of this and call us to accountability for how we treat each other.  
The Beatitudes describe for us the kingdom – or reign – of heaven. In God’s reign, all people will know God loves and forgives them; in God’s reign, all people will be comforted; in God’s reign, all people will receive their due inheritance; in God’s reign, all people will be righteous. In God’s reign, all people will see God.
To bring about God’s reign, God’s people will be merciful and peacemakers. To bring about God’s reign, to challenge and change the status quo of injustice often means persecution for those attempting to do God’s work. Remember for example, Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King.
In the US changing the status quo means a lot of very heated conversation, because we all want to have a voice. As I see it, the independent American spirit is both blessing and curse. Our independence makes it too easy to ignore the needs of others, especially those who are oppressed and invisible. And our independent spirit often fails to consider that we can’t always to do everything for ourselves.
For just one example, think about the challenge of providing health care for all people in the US. I believe that in God’s reign, we as a nation are called to make sure that all people, the very healthy, the moderately healthy as well as the homeless, the unemployed, the chronically ill, and the disabled all have health care.
I know that to cover only ill and disabled people would be very expensive. So, to ensure that costs are as low as possible, the pool of covered people must be as broad as possible, and must therefore include the very healthy.
I also see the need to be aware of the costs of providing such complete health care coverage. I understand how independent folks (and I am one pretty independent folk!) resent the notion of being forced to have coverage when they don’t see the need.
So, I suggest that on matters like health care, we use the wisdom and challenges of the prophets, and the description of God’s reign as portrayed in the Beatitudes to help us all see the whole picture.
We are called by prophets like Micah to seek justice, kindness, and humility.
We are called to make sure there is justice for all people, not just those who are in control.
We are called to offer mercy and kindness to all, including those who may not be offering it to us.
We are called to be humble before God, recognizing that God may know more than we do, and we should check often to make sure we are not forgetting that.
We are called to be peacemakers, mediators willing to help opposing parties find the middle ground – or the most just ground, the most blessed ground.
We are called to seek justice, kindness, and humility in our congregation as well.
We do well to remember that the way we speak with and about each other reflects the health of the reign of God at Hope.
So, let’s be sure that all people have a voice in what we decide, and that our way of “doing church” is just in God’s eyes.
Let’s be sure that we offer kindness and mercy to those within and outside the congregation.
Let’s be sure that we do not hold so strongly to an opinion that we forget to be guided by God’s Holy Spirit and reign.
As we come to worship, to study, to serve, let us remember that we are guided by the Beatitudes to be blessed by God and to bless others so that all may know and receive justice, kindness, and humility.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, you spoke to the disciples and to the crowds with a message of justice, kindness and humility. Help us to live with these words in mind, in our individual lives, in our congregation, and in our nation. Amen