Sunday, December 14, 2014

ACKNOWLEDGING THE JUSTICE OF GOD: SCS No. 30


(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life.)


Scripture for Today:
Luke 7:24-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. 30 But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)
31 “To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; 34 the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”



Sermon for Today:


The news is full of people demonstrating in the streets for what they call justice. Around the world we see wars being waged and the people fighting them saying they are doing so to bring justice and for a holy cause.  Their adversaries call them terrorists.  Justice does not seem to have the same meaning for all human beings.  

I was detained with my parents in the Nairobi, Kenya airport in 1965 for more than a day because we were white and Americans.  To the Kenyans it was just because we did not have the proper papers.  To my father it was unjust because usually an overnight visitor’s visa was always granted at the airport, but at the time Kenya was having diplomatic trouble with America so we were caught in the middle.  My mother and father were worried.  Being a teenager, I found it nothing but an adventure.  My father did not like being told when he could eat.  I had been told when meals were by him for years.

There were marches yesterday (12/13/2014) in a number of cities.  Most of the marchers were against what they perceived as recent police and grand jury injustices. However, a few people marched in support of the police.  Deciding what justice is will never be as simple as it seems at first glance.

Our Scripture lesson for today says we should acknowledge the justice of God.  Jesus said the least in the Kingdom is greater than John the Baptist and it says they all saw the justice of this.  Do you see the justice of this?  It can only be understood if you understand that things changed when Jesus was baptized and His ministry was the beginning of the new covenant with all peoples.

“Therefore the one who is least in the kingdom of God (one who has believed in Jesus and has become a member of the new covenant kingdom) is actually greater than John, for those who come after John live in the age of fulfillment, following the coming of Jesus. This underscores the qualitative difference between the old age and the dawning of the new kingdom age.” ESV Study Bible Notes     

The justice of God does not and will not look like anything we conjure up in our heads today as we live out our lives.  We perceive wrongs and unfairness each day, but the grace of God may paint a picture that will surprise us just as the Pharisees and the lawyers were surprised in our Scripture lesson.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) who by their own statements influenced numerous politicians and activists with his speeches and writings such as U.S. President Barack Obama, former President Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hubert Humphrey, Dean Acheson, Madeleine Albright, and John McCain. Arthur Schlesinger described Niebuhr as "the most influential American theologian of the 20th century" and Time Magazine posthumously called Niebuhr "the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards".  Niebuhr faced with Hitler and Japan dropped his long held pacifist beliefs and friends and supported World War II.  What was just took on a different meaning when he looked Hitler in the face.  He then wrote about something he called Christian Realism.

What is most real is that one day there will be justice, but I am not objective enough to even attempt to tell you what God’s justice will look like.  What I can say is that God’s grace is real.  Read the story that follows our Scripture lesson.  Remember it? A woman washes Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then with her tears.  He says to her “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”(Luke 7:50 ESV)  That makes me know God’s justice will also be done with God’s grace.



Prayer for Today:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.


(This version is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)


© Ed Cooper, December 14, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

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