31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 26, 2023
Amos 5:18, 21-24
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
This is the Way. Not this is the thought. Not this is the belief. This is the Way. Long before it became the catch phrase of Disney’s Mandalorian, ‘this is the way’ was the calling of the Christian church. This is the way because to us, following Jesus is not about sitting around and talking about what we believe. As the writer of the letter of James says, our faith is about action.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
As followers of Jesus, we are marked with the sign of the cross, a symbol of God’s unconditional love, and it also means we are changed by God’s love. God’s love flows into us, flows through us, and flows out into the world. God’s love changes our hearts, changes our minds, changes our behavior, changes our lives – into lives where we actively trust God, pray, love, serve our neighbor, care for creation, and do justice.
The word “justice” shows up in the Bible a lot! 173 times. “Blessed are those who keep justice, and he who does righteousness at all times!” (Psalm 106:3) “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but dismay to evildoers.” (Proverbs 21:15)
God calls us to do justice. God desires that justice may “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) What is justice though?
Simply, justice is fairness. Justice is about treating others fairly, and justice is about acting to change and dismantle unfair systems, policies that do not treat everyone with kindness and love.
Have you ever seen that bumper sticker about schools having enough money while the military has to do bake sales? That bumper sticker is a message about justice – about our children getting access to as many resources as our military does.
Military equipment is big business and big money though, and big businesses that make big money usually want to keep making money so they lobby our government officials to spend even more money on military equipment. Our children, on the other hand, don’t have money, power, or even a vote. They can’t lobby our elected leaders and advocate for fairness and an equal distribution of resources. In this instance, doing justice, following the way of God and Jesus Christ means speaking up for our children, for the most vulnerable amongst us, working for an equal sharing of funds for children, for their education, for their health care, for their safety.
Our children are not the only vulnerable ones who need justice. Recently I heard the story of “City of Tents: Veterans’ Row” a podcast which tells the story of homeless veterans in Los Angeles. Despite their service to our country and the promise to care for them, over 4,000 veterans are homeless in LA. Some of those homeless veterans set up a tent city, called Veterans’ Row, just outside the gates of a large Veteran’s Affairs campus, which ironically was given to the country to be used as a Soldier’s Home.
On the VA campus, within sight of the tent encampment is a homeless shelter for veterans so why were fifty veterans living just off the campus in tents? Because the system is complicated. You can’t just walk on to this VA Campus and get help – in the same way that you cannot just walk into a homeless shelter and get a place to sleep. You need to call. You need to manage paper work, do this and do that. And like other unhoused people, many of these veterans couldn’t figure out the process or got frustrated, and having no where else to go, they just slept on the sidewalk outside the Veteran’s Affairs campus.
There is a lot of injustice in our world. Veterans who have served our country being unable to access health services because they are not well enough to navigate the system. Children not being cared for because they don’t have a vote and power. Our elders in nursing homes being cared for by people who barely make a living wage and who are often single parents without access to dependable childcare or health care for their families. The entire city of Flint, Michigan being exposed to lead in their drinking water because government officials were trying to save money.
There is a lot of unfairness in our world. What feels unfair to you? Unfair because people aren’t being treated as God’s beloved children, created in God’s image.
I invite everyone to sit each day this week and ask God to show you an injustice in this world, to bring to your heart a situation that needs change, a system that needs to be dismantled so others, so children and elders, so all people, so the earth, so animals can all be treated with the love and kindness God wants.
And then I invite you to take another week to pray about this injustice God has put on your heart, to pray about this unfairness and to ask how God is calling you to respond. And then, go do, do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
Feel the sign of the cross upon you. Be in awe of God’s unconditional love for you and let that love flow into you, flow through you, and flow from you, out into the world, out into a life of service, out into a life of prayer, out into a life of action, out into a life of love.