Sermon for February 5, 2017 5th of Epiphany “Our Life, Our Worship”
“Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!”
It seems the all-encompassing water cooler conversation has been the USA election and the past two weeks of a new presidency. I had conversation with colleagues about what to say in church or more specifically from the pulpit. Quebec notwithstanding, our context and in recent days the global context is all about executive orders. It is my opinion that not one of the orders is fitting of the president for the good of the people and not within the framework of Christianity (to which the president subscribes).
It almost seems that Isaiah is peeking into the scene through his words in chapter 58. There is mention of needing to seek God, yet there is no seeking. There is fasting and humbling oneself but only seek self-serving interests and lash out at others with a wicked fist. And then you call this acceptable to God. Isaiah says he will not take or speak to God of these false actions.
Isaiah continues with a series of questions that challenge the status quo about the current relationship with God. Your actions should: loose the bonds of justice, to let the oppressed go free, to share bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless to your home, clothe the naked. Then your light will shine. The same words can be spoken to the President of the USA who swore on a Bible to do his job diligently. And yet his orders are oppressive, they leave the hungry to starve, they slam the door on the homeless and leave stranded in foreign countries those American citizens he deems unworthy. This is not letting a light shine for all to see. This is protecting the wealthy few at the cost of many.
The later part of Isaiah starts with a gigantic if for the elite of Israel. I am sure that we can update the date and heed the same wisdom in 2017.
“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”
The Gospel, which is the narrative following the Beatitudes is directed at us. You are the salt and light, on whom I depend. In the midst of call to be about the ministry of Jesus, there is a caution. If you lose perspective of the mandate of Jesus, to do justice, reach out to the downtrodden, feeding the hungry, and replace them with your own agenda. Then you lose your saltiness and light and not of much use.
Alongside religious leaders from all faith groups and denominations I will speak up for justice. I stand with those who believe that the executive orders are oppressive and contrary to the will of God. I will not be silent, for myself, the silenced or for the Gospel. We need to be jolted from the proverbial “watching the train wreck and not wanting to watch it, as we stand frozen in place”. It the Christian imperative to speak out boldly for those who cannot speak and act justly. It is the imperative of all faith groups to speak boldly for those who cannot speak and act with justice.
For the last two weeks we have heard the Gospel message of Jesus asking: Follow. In our day we know the path is challenging and fraught with danger, which means it is even more important to follow.
Jesus believes that you are a light to the nations and that you have zeal and saltiness yet. Do you believe?