Sermons

pastorEric aug2014Sermon for 22nd Pentecost -

God's Just Behavior (Justice)
By The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer -

 

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

These words from the New Testament book of Romans, chapter 8, are perhaps my favorite in all of scripture.  “If God is for us, who can be against us” this same text tells us earlier in this chapter.

This is the text I hope will be read at my own funeral, an event I hope is many years from today.  More importantly, these are the words to which I return often in my own times of trouble and tribulation.  When all else seems to be going wrong, God is still for us, God is still for me.  When I see so many in pain and conflict I try to remember that nothing can separate them, nothing can separate us, nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I came back to this text often as I reflected on the events of this past week, these past weeks and months.  It has been a tough week for Mt. Olive members and friends – depression, illness, and troubles of all kinds.  Please remember me/us in your prayers, pastor, I have been asked many times in recent days.  And I have and do.

And then there is our national political scene.  I hope the men listening to this sermon understand what these past two weeks have been like for far too many women.  The recent revelations about a certain candidate for US President have exposed what far too many women know too well, the culture of rape in the USA and around the world.  The women coming forward have had their long buried wounds revealed.  And their stories have raised long buried wounds for many other women across the USA and in our own community.  When a tweet suggesting that things would be better if women did not have the right to vote gets distributed by millions of men, it is not a laughing matter to many women.  It is just another assault.

And then there is today’s Gospel lesson, another odd story told by Jesus, the parable called the “hateful judge” and the “persistent widow” parable.

quote loveNeighborLuke introduces this parable by stating its theme – the “need to pray always and not lose heart.” 
I like that theme and I do believe it, but it has been used as a club on far too many people over the last 2,000 years. “If only your pray long enough and well enough, all will be well in your life” is the message far too many have taken, been given, from this text.
Tell that to the non-member family I prayed for this week whose 4-year-old daughter has cancer.  That is certainly NOT the message we expect from Jesus.

I believe that God always listens to our prayers and that God, through our prayers, helps us through all the troubles of this life.
I missed the weekly area clergy text study this week, but Vicar Sharon tells me that our Lutheran colleagues emphasized God’s persistent love for us as this text’s theme.  God is the persistent widow, never backing down from the hateful judge until that judge brings her justice.
Luke is certainly talking about just behavior and his words might even be helpful to us as we choose a person to be our next US President.  Luke defines just behavior, justice if you will, as love of God and respect for others.  For Luke, the root of justice is to demonstrate our love of God, even our awe of God, by respecting those around us.

This is not a new theme for Luke.  Earlier in his Gospel, Luke records a man asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus responds by asking his own question of his questioner, Jesus asks what Jewish law says in this matter and then affirms the answer he is given by quoting from what we Christians call the Old Testament – “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you should love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus’ implication is clear – one loves God precisely by loving one’s neighbor.  And, just to be certain his listeners understand this, Jesus follows these words immediately with what we call the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Now, we can disagree with what justice is in a given area or circumstance – we can all agree that God is calling us to care for the poor, for example, but we may disagree on how to do that.  We may all agree that God is calling us to care for the earth, but we might have different ways to pursue that goal.

Thus, Jesus’ definition of just behavior is rather helpful.  The beginning of justice, according to Jesus, is how we show our awe for God by respecting those around us, by granting them a measure of dignity, by being willing to view them as fellow children of God who are worthy of our respect and fair treatment.

In other words, God expects all of us, including any candidate for political office, God expects all of us to respect others and, Jesus tells us, that God will hold us accountable for that respect.

And, to be sure we understand God’s justice, Jesus introduces us to the persistent widow who keeps coming back to the judge demanding justice. 

I believe Jesus is telling us that we, you and I, not only have a duty to treat others with respect, but also to call on others to do the same.  Locker room talk is not to be tolerated in the locker room or anywhere.  Racial slurs need to be called for what they are anywhere and every time.  This is not being over sensitive or politically correct, according to Jesus, this is simply acting justly. 

As Christians we need to speak up for respect for others as the norm for our congregations, community and society.
We, you and I, can make a difference by calling for just behavior.  And, as we do this, this text tells us the truth of my favorite text from Romans – God is for us.  And, with God for us, no one has the power to be against us. 

And, through and in it all, nothing and no one and no situation in this life can separate us from God’s love, not today or any day, unless we let it do so. God loves and cares for us always, each one of us, each day or our lives.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Nothing.  No one.  No time. Not ever.

Amen.

Thanks to the Rev. Dr. David Lose for his Bible work which I used in this sermon.
 

The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
Senior Pastor - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California


God's Justice
Sermon for 22nd Pentecost
Written by Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
October 15-16, 2016
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California

 

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