Sermon Summary, 10/8/17, “The Minor Prophets”
We’re in a sermon series on the Old Testament, today “The Minor Prophets.” You know at least one of them even if you’ve missed the meaning of the story: Jonah, a whale of a tale, a fish story. Jonah runs away because he hates Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and God has called him to call them to repentence. They do! Israel had gotten exclusive to an extreme. God was showing Jonah, and us, that God can show grace even to our enemies. What does that tell us today?
The Minor Prophets, minor in length, but not in message: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an every flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) God had seen the northern kingdom become fat and prosperous and entitled, “trampling on the poor,” and “pushing aside the needy in the gate.” (the gate is where the elders adjudicated disputes.) But the people said, “O, we go to church, we give offerings, we’ve got a great choir and bells.” But God said, “I despise your festivals, I take no delight in your assemblies...but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” God expects fairness in our dealings with one another. God expects justice in the gate.
After all, Jesus began his ministry in the Gospel of Luke with statements of justice and fairness: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has snet me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery o sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:15-19) Jesus’ ministry was about justice.
Another Minor Prophet speaking to the southern kingdom about the same time as Amos, was Micah: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) Justice. Some would argue that issues of social justice are political agendas rather than religious issues. The Minor Prophets tell us otherwise. Jesus too. “he has anointed me to…”
John Wesley told us that balanced discipleship includes both works of piety and works of mercy, the latter including compassion and justice. Compassion is easy: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, quench the thirsty. Issues of justice are difficult: Attack the causes of hunger, homelessness, thirst, etc. Far more difficult. We often joust at windmills.
If I drill down into nearly every social ill facing us, I’ll find many I cannot address, but if I examine the root causes, nearly every one of them includes education. There are things I can do about education. I listened to my own sermon and signed up to read to third graders this year.
One more thing: We have equal justice before the law in this country, “As long a everybody pays the same.” That’s a challenge the Minor Prophets would call us to, “Pushing aside the needy in the gates.”