Justice For All
Independence Day Weekend
July 5, 2009
Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
Pastor Mary Blessing,
Vicar, St. Philip’s, Scotts Valley CA
Did everyone have a wonderful “4th of July”?? Like those of us who sat out on Scotts Valley Drive waving our flags watching or marching in the parade, did you enjoy those moments of remembrance about the profound revolution the colonists, our fore-fathers and fore-mothers, caused here which resulted in the formation of the United States—a country ruled by the PEOPLE and not some “divinely ordained” monarchy? I was especially touched this week to notice that after 8 years of having shut down the Statue of Liberty as a response against the terrorism of 9/11/2001, our federal government finally allowed people the opportunity to enter and climb up to the crown…one brave young man even proposed marriage to his girlfriend in the crown of the Statue of Liberty. What a story to tell your grandchildren!
It never ceases to amaze me: What we have established here in the United States, with a democracy that works because everyday citizens choose their leaders, who in turn work hard to rule by carefully making wise choices on behalf of all our citizens. We are not ruled by individual tyrants, nor are we ruled by a mob of like-minded, power-mongering fools…we are ruled by a system of representation with checks-and balances, which, in general, serves us well.
Before I continue, I wish to make it clear that I am not preaching a political sermon….no, but I am working to listen for where the living Word of God, as we know it in our scripture, speaks to us today, as we pause this weekend to give thanks for this great country…
In today’s gospel, we read of Jesus coming home to Nazareth, the home of his boyhood, where his mother and brothers and sisters reside. After having gone out into the world, where many throughout Galilee are witnessing his powerful gifts of healing, teaching, and gathering a crowd who follow, Jesus returns home—where his teachings are rejected, yet he is able to “lay his hands on a few sick people and cure them”.
Jesus has begun to spread his wings, to witness to God’s good news, to “evangelize” if you will, yet his own home town does not welcome his efforts to TEACH THEM about God’s eternal Kingdom….some would say that Mark’s inclusion of the instructions to Jesus’ disciples to go away from Nazareth into other villages, knocking on doors, “two by two”, offering God’s peace, but being cautious to move on if they are rejected, is a sign that even the very earliest followers of Jesus struggled to be accepted as they attempted to “evangelize”—and at the same time, people who were ill and suffering were eager to receive relief at the hands of Jesus and his disciples. They wanted the missionary work of practical, tangible healing support for their lives, even if they were not prepared to stop to listen to the teachings that came along with this healing.
Somehow, this message imbedded in our Gospel story today—that there are those who want the “wholeness” they receive in being cared for in the name of Jesus, yet are willing to reject the actual teachings of Jesus, and not LIVE those teachings for themselves—is a problem we still face these 2000+ years later.
In Mark’s gospel, we do not hear what Jesus “taught” in the synagogue in Nazareth; but in the Gospel of Luke we read that he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He read the part that said :
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus went on to remind them that God cared for those on the OUTSIDE, those not considered powerful—widows, prisoners, and the poor. He basically warned them that if they were not careful, if they did not open their hearts to care for oppressed person, they, too would be abandoned by God. He challenged them to PRACTICE what they PREACH; to LIVE the gospel, not just TALK ABOUT IT.
In my life time, I have witnessed many who claim to want freedom for all—lives that are not oppressed--but do not take seriously the need to live as if they are helping God bring freedom to all.
When I was a young teen, about the same age as Jessica, Olivia and Katrina, I began to have my consciousness raised regarding the horrors of war—I learned that in the name of seeking PEACE and FREEDOM, the United States engaged in the war in Viet Nam. We were told that our soldiers were fighting an oppressive enemy, communists, who, if they were to succeed in taking over all of Viet-Nam, it would only be a matter of time before they were taking over the United States.
However, there were moments in this war that showed that we ourselves became the oppressor to some. On March 16, 1968, one such horrific “moment” occurred in which soldiers turned from “freedom fighting liberators”, to savage oppressors. Only one soldier took a look at the situation, and, as he later explained 30 years after this event, he felt he was simply doing what he had been taught in Sunday school—to love others as God loved him; to do for others what he would have wanted others to do for him.
Hugh Thompson was a young helicopter pilot in Vietnam, when, he happened to fly over the village of Mai Lai just as American soldiers were slaughtering dozens of unarmed villagers, women, children, grandmothers and grandfathers….Horrified by what he saw, he set his helicopter down between the American soldiers and the villagers—he ordered his tail-gunner to point their helicopter guns toward the American soldiers, telling them to stop their massacre, or he would shoot them. As he stopped the slaughter, he ordered the American soldiers to collect the wounded children, put them in his helicopter, and he flew them to American based hospitals for treatment. Thompson risked court-martial—losing his status as an honorable soldier—in order to do justice to the poor, the oppressed, the innocent. Years later, at Emory College, Hugh Thompson, a man who went to war rather than being able to complete his college degree, received an honorary degree for being a hero for peace. During his acceptance speech, it is said that the chatty graduates stopped their banter as they truly listened to this Witness from a man who told them that the reason he felt compelled to intervene on behalf of the Vietnamese villagers was because of what he was taught in Sunday School…
When Jesus’ life was threatened by those who did not want to hear his prophetic message, he decided to move out into the world to those villagers who would listen, and who would not only listen, but who would begin to LIVE a life in which they brought about justice and peace for all.
Jesus left his home in Nazareth, and went about doing justice to the oppressed. He gave his life for Justice—can you do the same?
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