SCREAMING IN THE STREETS:  People of Justice   Proverbs 29:7, 31:8-9, 16:11, 21:3

The stories we tell as a culture, in many ways, shape the lives that we live.  They shape the direction we go, they shape the values that we hold.  It shouldn’t be any surprise to you that the same was true for the nation of Israel. The stories that they told and that God commanded them to tell and retell were intended to shape the lives that they lived.  One of the most prominent stories that the Israelites told over and over and over again, both through festival and ritual and through direct command from God, was the story of their exodus from slavery.  All over the pages of Scripture we find this command “Remember where you came from Israel.”  Israel was under the mighty, oppressive hand of the Egyptians for 400 years.  They were commanded to make bricks without straw; they were beaten down; they were oppressed, and God miraculously and mightily stepped in….and you may have seen Charlton Heston reenact it….but He stepped in and led them out of Egypt.  He parted the Red Sea; they walked through it on dry ground.  They wandered around in the desert for 40 years and God shaped them and formed them as a people, then eventually led them into the Promised Land.   He gave them this command: Never forget where you’ve come from.  Don’t forget what it’s like to be on the bottom as I bless you, God said.  You are intended to be a people who bless those around you and don’t forget…don’t forget…don’t forget about the least vulnerable people.  Remember, that’s who you were when I took you by the hand and I led you into freedom.  In the book of Deuteronomy, it’s not unique and just one passage, we start to see this shine through.  Speaking to the nation of Israel, God says:   You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner (foreigner or immigrant) or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. (Deut. 24:17-18)  This is a formative narrative for the people of God.  Never forget where you’ve come from.

Why does God have to command Israel to remember?  Because they’d forget.  The same is true for you and me. It’s easy to forget where we’ve come from when we stand where we are.  So he says to them, my nation, my people, my voice, my light, will be a people of justice.  Not just a people who can serve you back, and not even to people who are part of your nation, but you’re going to be a unique people amongst all the people of the earth, because you’re going to do justice to the sojourner, to the fatherless, to the widowed, to the groups of people that everybody else takes advantage of.   You’re going to be unique, Israel.  Why?  Because you remember what it’s like to be on the bottom.  The hard part is….you forget.  The hard part is we trend away from justice naturally because it typically doesn’t benefit us.

My oldest son has a strong sense of justice.  So when it’s his birthday he expects to get presents….because that’s what’s right.  But the thing is, he expects to get presents on everyone’s birthday!  He’s going, “Why did Avery get that?”  Well, because it’s her birthday. Well, what am I going to get?  Why did Avery get to have that friend over?  When is my friend coming over?  Your friend’s been….he lives at our house, man!    {Ethan} has a strong sense of justice through his own lens.  Only when it benefits him does he want justice!  {Will you look up at me for a second?}  We never grow out of this.  This is part of what it means to be human.  We have this deep longing for justice in our souls.  If you disagree with me, explain to me why we have CSI:Lincoln, NE?!  We have twelve different versions of CSI…Crime Scene Investigators because we love justice.  Nobody’s rooting for the bad guy who murdered all the people to get away.  Have you ever wondered why that is?  We’re all rooting for the person to get caught, for what’s right to be done. It’s the reason the podcast “Serial” was so compelling. Episode after episode.  I’m going, “Well, is Adnan guilty or is he innocent and are you ever going to tell me?” The answer’s no, they’re never going to tell you.  Spoiler alert—if you’re in the middle of it, you’re going to be disappointed….because you love justice, just like I do. It’s the same reason “Making a Murder” on Netflix was so wildly popular…because we love justice.  We want things to be fair.  We want things to be right.

I would consider this to be the image of God that’s stamped on the human soul.  We want justice, we want right, because we’re made in the image of God.  What sin does to us is it turns us and it fractures us.  Instead of seeing justice as it is, we start to see it through our lens.  We start to see it through the lens of….what benefits me?  What serves me?  What God says to his people all throughout the Scriptures is listen:  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner (the immigrant, the wanderer, the person without a country to call their own), giving him food and clothing.  Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:18-19)   Don’t forget the story!!  Don’t forget the bigger narrative that you’re a part of.  I redeemed you, I rescued you, and you are to be a people who do the same.

As we see in this passage, justice is really, really, really important to God, because all people are important to God. That’s why it matters.  That’s why it matters to God, that’s why it should matter to us as God’s people. Justice matters to God because all people matter to God.  In our time together in the Scriptures this morning, we’re going to ask God to press on us a little bit, because, like I said, we start to see things strictly from our point of view and what benefits us.  It’s not because we’re intentionally evil or we’re wrong, it’s because it’s part of our human condition.  So let’s just admit this morning that we may have some blind spots. Maybe there are some things in our life that we don’t see, so we’re going to go to the Scriptures and we’re going to ask that God would open our eyes and that justice would matter to us because it matters to God.   And that justice would matter to us because people matter to us.  So even if it costs us something, let’s be people who pursue justice.

You may be going, alright, Paulson, that’s great, but what is justice?  There’s two words in the Hebrew scriptures that are typically translated ‘justice.’  They’re sort of like two sides of the same coin.  The first word is the word “mishpat.” {mish-pawt} It’s used over 200 times in the Hebrew scriptures and it simply means “that which is equitable or fair.”  To do what’s right.  {So, you have this scale in your bulletin….and I understand that if I put all the good things on one side of the scale, it’s going to be uneven.  I get it.  The metaphor’s going to break down at some point, so we’re going to stack the justice things on one side and injustice on the other.} Equitability means that things are fair and that’s what mishpat means.  But it’s more than just correcting wrongs.  It’s both punishing the wrong doer, but more than that, it’s restoring the person who is wrong.  All throughout the Scriptures, you see this word mishpat that carries with it this relational component…that the person who was taken advantage of is somehow made right again.  That they’re made whole.  So sometimes when justice is talked about in the Scriptures, the wrong doer, as it were, gets off, but the wronged is restored and God says that’s justice, that’s mishpat.  It’s this idea that the wronged is made right and is restored.

We see this all throughout the Scriptures.  It tends to focus, in the Old Testament, around Israel being the kind of people who have mishpat, or have justice, towards the people that everybody else takes advantage of. Deuteronomy 27:19 — Cursed by anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and widow.   If you add “the poor” in there, what you have is what many people refer to as the quartet of the vulnerable.  The people that everybody takes advantage of simply because they can.  God says, no, no, not my people.  They do justice or they’re right in their dealings with everybody.

The second word is similar.  It’s the word “tzadeqah” (tsed-aw-kaw’).  It means ‘righteousness.’  It means to treat others the way that you would want to be treated.  It’s the type of thing where if everybody lived with tzadeqah, mishpat wouldn’t be necessary because people would be treated right.  Here’s what God presses on his people.  In fact, early on in the Scriptures, you see the calling over Abraham’s life is this —  For I (God) have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness (tzadeqah) and justice (mishpat).  (Gen. 18:19)    It’s the first time the word ‘justice’ is used in the Scriptures and it’s tied together with this term ‘righteous.’  Living rightly in relationship to the people around you.  Justice isn’t just this judicial ‘somebody’s wrong and somebody’s right.’  Justice is this relational ‘somebody’s broken and restored.’  That’s what’s at the heart of God when we talk about justice…..people who are fractured being made whole and being made right.  So this righteousness is living in right relationship to God and to everyone around us, and mishpat is God stepping in and saying, “I’m going to right the wrongs and restore the broken and heal the hurting.”  God says to you and I, “That’s really important to me and it should be really important to you too as my people.”  He doesn’t mince words about this.  It’s all over the pages of Scripture.

As I said, in your notes you see a scale.  It’s a scale of justice.  The book of Proverbs is going to take this idea of God’s justice and put it on the ground for us.  The book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom literature, of short, little sayings that reflect the way God has designed the world to work.  One of the ways that God’s designed and wired the world to work is that it would be fair, that it would be just, that it would be good.  As his people, he presses on us and says this is not something you get to pray about.  You hear me?  We don’t get to pray about whether we want to be people of justice.  We get to pray about HOW we’re people of justice, but we don’t get to bring this before the Lord and go, “God, do you want to be just?”  He’ll come back, “Have you read my word?” This is something I’ve commanded my people from the beginning of time; that you would reflect my heart for all people.  So as a follower of Jesus, this just in, you don’t get to pray about whether you care about justice.  God cares about it and therefore, he calls his people to care about it.  Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision, says: “So often there’s a hole in our gospel when it comes to justice.”  There’s a lack.  There’s a lack of care, sometimes.  There’s a lack of voice, sometimes.  As we go to the Scriptures today, let’s go with the heart attitude that maybe, just maybe, there’s something that God may have for us.

If you’ve been with us over the course of the summer as we’ve looked at the book of Proverbs, you know that after chapter 9, it turns into a potpourri of wisdom sayings.  There’s not one single thread per chapter, or per section, there’s a number of themes that the author of Proverbs wants to draw out, but they’re scattered all over the book.  We’re going to draw together this theme of justice and see the way it plays out over the course of this book of Proverbs.  Proverbs 29:7.  A righteous (tzadeqah) man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.  Other versions say a righteous man remembers the poor.  Doesn’t just walk right by.

I was reminded of a story I read a while back — In January 12, 2007, a man by the name of Joshua Bell took his 3.5 million dollar violin and went and sat at the entrance of a subway in Washington, D.C.  It was during rush hour and thousands of people walked by him as he played this beautiful instrument, in the way only a professional could, because that’s exactly what he was.  He played for 45 minutes, six different pieces by Bach. At the end of the 45 minutes, he had $32 in his case.  He had 20 people that had stopped, for just a short period of time.  The most compelled was a child, who leaned in.  The ironic part about it was that three days earlier, Joshua Bell sold out a stadium in Boston to play the same violin, the same songs, for the same amount of time…$100 a seat.  Context matters.  He had dressed like a homeless man to play the violin in the corner and people just walked right by him.  Didn’t even notice him.  Just in the background.  Just noise.

I started to wonder how many people do I just walk by?  How many people are in my background?  How many people are just noise?  The reason God tells his people to remember the rights of the poor is because it’s easy to forget.  It’s easy to forget that if we perceive that people don’t add something to our life they don’t deserve something from us or the people around them, or they don’t hold or have value.  But God says that in my kingdom things are different.  Instead of ignorance….I don’t mean that in the sense that we are actively ignorant, I mean in the literal sense that we ignore things, we ignore people.  Instead of that, God says my people are people of compassion.  They see the foreigner, the fatherless, the widowed, and the poor and they care.  In a book that is all about the Gospel, the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul slips in there what he longs to and hopes to do as he goes to visit the churches in Galatia.  Listen to what he says:  Only, they asked us to remember the poor…  {In the midst of all this beautiful, marvelous, gospel proclamation….Paul says, the one thing I want to do when I’m on the ground, I need to remember the poor and he says…} …the very thing I was eager to do. (Gal. 2:10)   His preaching was accompanied by his living.

{Will you look up at me a moment?} I’m not, at least in this section, I’m not making a political statement.  In fact, I think it’s way too easy to put our calling as a church on politicians.  This is our calling as a people of God, not a politician’s calling.  Our calling as a people of God is to remember the poor.  Let’s not give somebody else the church’s job.  This is our job.  I think… of the reasons I absolutely love pastoring this church is because I think you guys do it in a real beautiful way.  In the course of a given month, did you know that there would be over 425 people that come through our food bank to get food?  Seventy to a hundred families every single week. We collect between 3,000 – 3,500 pounds of food every single week.  This last year, we’ve hosted Family Promise four different times, because you are a church that says if there’s anything within our power to do, we want to provide a place for homeless people to sleep.  We partnered with twelve other churches around the Denver area to open the doors of our church to 21 families, to 69 people, with over 100 volunteers (you guys) saying, “This matters to us.”  We’ve been able to provide housing to those people four different times throughout the course of this year, because we believe that all people matter to God and therefore, all people matter to us.

I love this picture of Jesus….when it would have been so easy for Jesus to be on his “mission” and miss the people, we see that your king is the kind of king who, when he sees the crowds, he doesn’t just walk by and he’s not so busy that he looks passed, but he actually sees them.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:36)  Maybe the question back to God today is God, are there people in my life that I don’t see because of the position that they have?  Are there people in my life that I just walk by that have become background noise?  That you want me to see, that you see, God, and that you want me to see differently?  Did you pray that prayer today?  Did you ask him if there are people that you’re not seeing because of where they’re situated or what they lack?  God says that my people are the kind of people who take note of the poor and we’ll see what they do in the light of that.

Proverbs 31:8-9 give us this next invitation to be people of justice.  Open your mouth for the mute, {For people that don’t have a voice.  God’s people are designed and intended to be a voice.}  ..for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.   The tendency throughout all of history is to trend away from the poor, away from the needy, away from the oppressed, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  There’s never been a time—-unless people were intentional about saying that’s not who we’re going to be—-that it didn’t happen.  So God’s says, “I want my people, when they start to see injustice, to not be people who remain silent, but to be people who raise their voice.”  To be people who say something.  Who, when they see something, they say something.  So, it’s this movement from apathy to advocacy.

Let’s have a quick talk.  We cannot raise our voice, if we have not first opened our ears.  If we haven’t heard the stories of people who are oppressed and listened without a judgmental attitude.  Or, if only you would have pulled up your boot straps.  Or, if only you would have done what I’ve done.  Listen, if they were in your situation, they may have done what you’ve done.  But they’re not, they’re in their situation.  Until we start to hear people’s stories and start to actually listen to people’s hearts, we will not be able to stand up and speak on their behalf.  So before we speak, we’ve got to first listen.  What if the church became known as a community where people listened to the stories of the broken?  Instead of deciding whether or not we think that they were right or wrong or what they should have done, what if we opened our heart and listened?  The tendency in all of us when we are in a system (and we are) that benefits us, it’s hard to see the way that it hurts others.  That’s true of human nature, you guys.  When we listen, what we start to do is we start to say there may be a different narrative going on that’s other than my own.  You do know that’s possible, right?  When we listen, we open ourselves up to go, okay, maybe the systems we’re in have some flaws.  This just in—they’re designed by humans, they DO have flaws!  They do!

How do we become the kind of people…..all throughout the Scriptures, God gives people power so that they would leverage their power for those who don’t have it.  That’s the invitation of our God.  You do know that Jesus is not down on power?  You do know that Jesus is not down on influence?  He’s not down on authority. He’s actually down on people in positions of power using the power to benefit themselves rather than to advocate for the people underneath them.  You’re looking like you don’t believe me.  Mark 10:42-45 — And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, {See, Jesus isn’t down on power or greatness, he’s down on people of power using greatness to benefit themselves rather than those around them.}  and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. {The narrative came in again—don’t forget where you’ve come from.} For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”    Silence isn’t an option.  Richard Stearns, again, said:  “A church that’s lost its voice for justice is a church that’s lost its relevance in the world.”  Elie Wiesel, Jewish author and concentration camp survivor, said: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Let’s be honest, guys, as a Church, capital “C” Church, we’ve got a checkered past.  I’m going to be an equal-opportunity offender today.  We have a checkered past.  In Great Britain in 1787, William Wilberforce and his friends started to speak out about slavery in Great Britain.  In 1807, they passed the Slave Trade Act that dramatically limited the way that they were able to not only obtain slaves, but for the rightful treatment of slaves.  In 1833, that same group abolished slavery in Great Britain.  They were holding their Bible in their hand while they did it.  Praise be to God!  At the same time, on the other side of the Pond, we had people in the United States going, “No, no, God’s for slavery, God wants slavery…”  What happened was people that were greedy and needed a system that would perpetuate itself based on free labor, because they wanted to line their pocketbooks, neglected the invitation from God to value all people.  They were blinded and they were greedy and it drove them to do things that we would say were wrong or evil. Oftentimes the Church was silent.  That’s what prompted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to say:  “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

It got me thinking, what are the issues that need the Church’s voice today?  We saw one of them last weekend on full display.  The issue of racism needs the Church’s voice.  It does.  It needs us to say that all people are created equal, that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.  Nobody is better or worse because of the color of their skin.  It needs the Church to rise up and say, what happened in Charlottesville is symptomatic of what’s in all of us, not just a unique thing that happened one weekend, because a statue was removed.  The removal of a statue didn’t create a monster, it revealed it.  As a church we need to go, “No, no, there’s a better way. His name is Jesus.”  We need to say something about racism.

Did you know that there’s 45.8 million slaves in the world today?  Here’s the deal, you guys.  Even as I say that—-I had lunch with Dr. Jeff Brodsky, JOY International, this week—-I’ve got stories in my mind.  It’s such a huge number that it feels insurmountable.  Will you pray about what you and we can do to say with our voice, THAT’S. NOT. OK!  I’m not okay with people being treated like that.  We believe that justice matters to God because all people matter to God, and we want to be the kind of church that advocates and says yes, we believe that’s true, not only with our mouths, but with our lives.

The issue of abortion.  Talk about someone who has no voice.  In a room this size, I know that some of you have walked through abortion, you’ve walked through that pain.  One, I want you to know that you are welcomed here and loved here.  We want you here.  We also need to say that our position is that life begins at conception. God cares about all people and God cares about those babies; the one million babies that are aborted annually here in the United States.  How do we become the type of church, the type of community, that says no, no, no, these things MATTER to us?   We can’t just turn a blind eye.  So we choose advocacy instead of apathy.

Proverbs 16:11 goes on to describe another scene — A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.   Proverbs 20:23 — Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good.    Here’s the picture — If you were selling goods, before 600 B.C. when they developed coinage, you did it by weights.  Some people would have a stone on one side of the scale and then put goods on the other side of the scale, but depending on who they saw coming to their business, they would use a different stone. Ironically, if they saw somebody rich coming, they would use the lighter weight so they could give a better deal if you were buying.  WHY?  Why would you do that?  Because you can.  Because the poor people didn’t have a voice to stand up and say hey look, can we remeasure?  What about that rock behind your table?  All throughout the Scriptures, God talks about his scales; the people who use scales and represent Him and carry His name use equal scales.  They don’t have one measure for some people and a different one for others.  They operate with tzadeqah, righteousness, rightness.  They operate with integrity instead of exploitation.

Exploitation is simply taking advantage of somebody because you can.  Because you’re in a position of power or authority where the person underneath you doesn’t have a voice.  You can rip them off because they don’t have a place to raise their hand and go, “Hey, are you sure that’s how much I should get for working in this factory all day?”  The implications for us as people that value right scales are huge, are they not?  I’ll admit it…..ALMOST so big that we don’t know where to start.  Here’s the thing, if you start being a person that cares about scales, as it were, you’re going to pay more.  It’s going to cost you financially…..because you’re going to go, “I might not be able to shop there anymore, because they don’t pay their workers right.”  I might not be able to go there….it’s going to cost you financially.  Make no mistake about it, it will!  You can find out where your clothes are made, and whether or not the farmers who grew the food that goes onto your table got paid a fair wage. You can find out.  One of the changes we’ve made at Solid Grounds is that now we’re working with a direct trade source for our coffee.  It’s better than fair trade because fair trade gives a fair wage, but direct trade means that the buyers are in direct contact with the farmers and we KNOW that they are helping women who are downtrodden and in need (especially in Uganda).  Are we going to pay a little bit more?  Yep.  Is it worth it?  It is to me.  It’ll cost you financially.  It’ll cost you relationally because you’re going to have people who stand up and say, “I don’t see it that way.  I’m not sure I agree with you.”  That has to be between them and the Lord.  It’s integrity versus exploitation.

And finally we’ll land the plane here.  The book of Proverbs (21:3) says — To do righteousness and justice (mishpat and tzadeqah) is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.   Here’s what’s going on.  What the author of Proverbs just did is attacked and, in some ways, supplanted an entire religious system that was based around when we offer these sacrifices for sin, when we offer these sacrifices for thanksgiving, when we offer THESE sacrifices we are then in right relationship with God.  What the book of Proverbs says is whoa, whoa, whoa, hold it there!  If you’re not a type of person who does what’s right (righteousness) to the people around you, and you’re not a person who cares about what’s fair and you don’t advocate for people who  don’t have a voice, and you use your power to get up one more rung on the ladder, but you sacrifice……..He goes are you kidding me?!!  The prophet Amos (5:21-24) says it more strongly, recording God’s words —- I hate, {and just in case you think I stuttered..} I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.  Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.  {You get this picture of God up in heaven and as his church gathers to worship and doesn’t care about justice he’s going, “La-la-la-la!”  But, but, but……}  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.    He’s going listen, if you’re not going to be people who care about the foreigner, the fatherless, the widow, and the poor then don’t come into my house and sing songs about how great I am.  I care about those people and I’ve commissioned my body to be a body who cares about those people.  As we look at justice, what we find out is that what God is looking for is surrender not singing. He’s not just looking for people that would go through the motions of ritual, but ignore the people that he says I care about.

Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is and he responds by saying — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. {But he goes, I can’t just leave it at one, lest you think you could come to worship and that that would be the end of the game. Jesus says, no, no, no, no, no, the second is like it.  It’s from the same place.  It carries the same DNA.  It’s of the same origin.}  ….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.   Look up at me for a moment.  God never, never divides, in the Scriptures, loving Him and loving others.  It’s always vertical and it’s always horizontal, throughout all of the Scriptures.  This is God’s call for God’s people.  If you’re going, “Hey, Paulson, sounds like a social gospel to me,” I would say to you if the gospel doesn’t have social implications, it doesn’t sound like the gospel.  It doesn’t sound like the gospel Jesus preached and lived.  It certainly doesn’t sound like the gospel the apostles preached and lived.  It doesn’t sound like the gospel that I read about in our Scriptures where God says absolutely do I care about your soul so much that I’m going to give my own Son that you might be redeemed, that you might be made whole, that you might be forgiven, that you might be made right with God, that you would then therefore be like a city on a hill whose light shines.  That you would be a people who do justice, who love mercy, and who walk humbly with your God.  The mantra of the church from the very beginning is there is no difference between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but we are all one in Christ. Anybody who comes to Christ comes saying, “I am broken and I am in need!”

The beauty of this all is—-as we see these scales in our bulletin—-the beautiful picture of what the gospel does.  It doesn’t extinguish or wipe out the scales; what we see is that the cross overshadows the scales.  Here’s what we remember in the cross — that we were in slavery and he’s brought us out.  That’s our story too.  He’s moved us from darkness into light.  In the cross we remember that we are better than absolutely no one.  The only way we get in is being broken and destitute and receiving the grace of God that’s ours because of the work of Christ.  In the cross we remember that we were loved when we were God’s enemies and we’re given the ability by his Spirit to love ours (enemies).  In the cross, what we see is that God’s mercy and his justice kiss. Friends, we are people of that cross.  Not in a way that extinguishes the scales of justice, but in a way that empowers us to be people loved deeply by God, knowing that we got more than we deserved, that we’ve been freed, and therefore, we say we’re going to be people who use our voice for the oppressed.  We’re going to be people who open our eyes and do our best {please, Lord} not to just walk by.  We’re going to say integrity’s important to us.  It’s hard in a global economy, but integrity is important to us because it’s important to God. And by no means do we want our worship to end with our singing, but we want it to be demonstrated through our lives.

In 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College.  In that speech, he began with the story of Rip Van Winkle.  Rip Van Winkle had climbed up to the top of a mountain and he’d fallen asleep for twenty years.  {Sounds sorta good some days, doesn’t it?!}  Here’s what Dr. King says — “And this reveals to us that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution.  {He woke up and a different person was in charge.}  And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands.  They end up sleeping through a revolution.”  Friends, I believe that we’re at a significant point for us as a country.  The question for this church, for our church, for God’s Church is are we going to sleep through this revolution or will we join in?  Let’s pray.

Good God, we know, we trust, based on your character and based on Scriptures, that justice matters to you because people matter to you.  We’re here to say we don’t just want to sing worship songs to you, we want to live lives of worship along with you.  That you would empower us to be a voice.  That you would empower us to carry your name.  That you would empower us to demonstrate your love.  That even if we benefit from systems that are wrong, that we would have enough integrity to stand up and say so.  That we’d have eyes to see people that maybe we walk pass.  That we would have a voice to raise on behalf of people that don’t have a voice for themselves.  May we be people who remember our story, and may that story shape the lives that we live.  That we’ve been rescued and we want to live it.  It’s in your name, Jesus, that we pray.  Amen.