Them that's got shall get
“Them that's got shall get, Them that's not shall lose, So the Bible said and it still is news” sang the great blues singer Billie Holiday. And it sounds like she could be singing those words today about our world, but is it truly the way of the Bible. Jesus uses the words in the context of a parable and although interpretations may vary, the overwhelming message of Jesus’ parables is a vision of a community where God’s justice is central; where members of the community are tasked with the responsibility of care for each other and live in the equity of love through God’s way of justice. For those to whom much is given, Jesus continually expects them to give more back, and economic justice is not just an ideal but a responsibility of people of faith. Jesus calls the church to live into this vision even when the state did not, but Jesus did not refrain from calling to task the state for its blindness to the needs of the people. So while we as people of faith believe strongly that we are not called to establish a state religion this does not mean we do not speak to that government from the position of our faith’s call for justice. We are called to see those who are poor as our brothers and sisters and are free to call an intolerable a system that rewards the wealthy and places all the blame upon the poor for their poverty unjust. Jesus spoke out; indeed this is exactly what led to his death, his unwillingness to not be quiet about injustice both in the church and in the empire. So I invite you to prayerfully consider ways to add your voice to the conversation, whether it is through talking to your elected officials, attending a Moral Monday rally or finding ways for your church to be involved in caring for and speaking for the least of these. Share your passion as we work together for justice.
One way HUCC is responding to this call is by being cosponsors of a Resolution that will come to the Southern Conference in our meeting this week. After discussion and prayerful reflection the council believed it represented the core values of HUCC so we added our name as sponsor of The Resolution to Reaffirm Justice. The Resolution calls the churches of the Southern Conference to find ways individually and a communally to work for God’s justice. In many ways HUCC is already living out this calling. I invite you to read the Resolution below and continue to pray for our state, pray for our country and pray for all who stand in need of justice.
A RESOLUTION REAFFIRMING JUSTICE AS GOD’S PROMISE AND OUR CALLING
BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION
Justice is Standing with and for the Vulnerable: Scripture reflecting a pre-modern agrarian society champions again and again, the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor. Before entering the Promised Land, Moses spoke to the people of God in Deuteronomy 27:19, “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” Later, the prophet Isaiah proclaims, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10:2) In our day the vulnerable, those without social or political power would include the refugee, the immigrant, the homeless, too many single parents and elderly, or any whom Jesus would have embraced as "the least of these." (Matthew 25)
Justice is God’s Character: A core attribute of our God in scripture is that "God is just." In Psalm 33:5 we hear, “God loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of God.” The psalmist calls God “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:4-5). Matthew makes justice an attribute of Jesus when he confirms Jesus’ identity, “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.” (Matthew 12:18)
Justice is Right Relationships: Too often we diminish "righteousness" into personal conduct (chastity, devotion, discipline, etc) which can be interpreted as self-righteousness. Biblical righteousness is about relationships being "right" or, if not, being "righted." The God of justice is thus seeking "to right" a world that has been divided into the sick and well, the fast and the slow, the satisfied and the hungry. Thus the prophet Micah witnesses, “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:2)
Justice is Generous: Forgiveness is when generosity overtakes "fairness." The parent that runs to greet the prodigal child is a classic parable of Jesus. Charity is too often undertaken grudgingly or as a small payback for good fortune. But justice is the extravagant welcome of each person and all human beings as God's own and our brothers and sisters. “…let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15: 23-24)
Justice is Inclusive of the Whole of Creation: The psalmist proclaims, “The earth is God’s and all that is in it; the world, and those who live in it; for God has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1). Justice is not just for human community but is intended for the whole created order, all that God has established out of turmoil and ordered out of chaos. The ordering of creation is more than for human community or even this generation. Thus justice is sustainable throughout creation -- the earth and all that is in it; the world, and those who live in it – and throughout all time – from generation to generation.
Justice is our Hope: Though the world we see is not just, we wait and work with faith in God’s steadfastness for God has promised justice. In Isaiah 51:4-5 we hear, "Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.” Justice is God’s everlasting covenant.
Whereas we have been claimed and chosen by a God of justice, we reaffirm that we are to be advocates for justice in an unjust time as the fellow citizens, brothers and sisters in Christ, children of Abraham, and people of God’s creation have been denied Medicaid benefits, unemployment benefits, Earned Income Tax credits, public school funding, racial justice and access to voting;
Whereas we have been claimed and chosen by a God whose character is justice, we reaffirm that as those made in the image of a just God and as those who follow Jesus, a proclaimer of justice, justice is also our character and that we too are to be proclaimers of justice;
Whereas we have been claimed and chosen by a God who seeks to right relationships that have become bent, broken, hurt, alienated, distorted and disparate, we reaffirm that we too will advocate for justice to make things new, to make things better;
Whereas we have been claimed and chosen by a generous and forgiving God, we reaffirm that we will be generous with “the least of these,” the poor and the downtrodden, the widow and the orphan, the alien and the sick, all God’s children, our sisters and brothers, not only with our charitable giving but with our advocacy for increased medical care, just and proportional taxation, strengthened public schools, racial justice, expanded access to citizenship and to exercising one’s vote as a citizen;
Whereas we have been claimed and chosen by the God of all creation, we reaffirm that we will care for the earth justly knowing the earth is a gift from God to us and all that is it; the world and all who live in it.
Whereas we have been claimed and chosen by a God of hope, we reaffirm our faith and trust in the promises of God that justice will be a light to nations and God’s reign will come with a just world, a future with hope for all and a people who are one.
Therefore, let it be resolved,
(1) that congregations in the Southern Conference and the members of those congregations will individually and collectively advocate for justice:
speaking with the silenced to amplify their voice,
expanding “the table” to include the marginalized,
extending the right to vote to all citizens,
going to their elected officials for redress,
strengthening their public schools,
standing for racial justice,
caring for creation,
contributing to and participating with the needs of their neighbors,
writing compassion and mercy into our laws, and
partnering with all allies of justice – other churches and faith congregations, Justice & Witness Ministries, the North Carolina and Virginia Councils of Churches, the NAACP, Interfaith Power & Light, social service agencies, prison ministries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, mental health agencies, recovery groups, domestic violence prevention programs, housing initiatives, all who are seeking to do justice; and
(2) that the Southern Conference bear witness to the God of justice by forwarding this resolution to elected and governing officials of North Carolina and Virginia.
And may the God of justice, the God of Jesus Christ, bless us and use us to make all things new, all things better, all things just.