Called to Action
July 29, 2018 Series: Summer Sermons
Topic: Evangelism & Community Scripture: Isaiah 6:8–6:8
A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of leading 13 of our youth and six adults down to central Appalachia to work to make homes warmer, safer, and drier. These kids (and adults) worked hard, got dirty, woke up tired, went to bed tired, took on responsibilities that they might never have before, all on top of having to learn what it is they are actually doing. Not very many of us have laid VCT tile, drywalled, moved an entire porch, dug for a septic tank, or insulated a home before. I would bet that not very many of them could tell you what a putty knife was, or a dimpler bit, or tell the difference between a reciprocating saw and a jigsaw. These guys got uncomfortable, and in the process, they got flexible, adaptable, and teachable. Everything they did and accomplished was in the name of the Lord. I told them this would be hard and uncomfortable work, they still came. I told them there would be snakes and spiders, Dylan Elder still came. From my perspective, there was a lot that went into the planning of this trip, why we are doing this program, the long-term plan, etc. but when it comes down to it, we saw a need and we did our best to fill it. Central Appalachia is a very different place, it is rife with extreme poverty, a lack of education, and health problems due to coal mining, geographical isolation from larger urban areas. It is an area of the country that has been largely forgotten by the rest of us. In my eight years of going on this trip, I cannot count the number of times that I heard a student ask “How could we let this happen?”
Justice is a word that we use a lot, and it can mean different things. The two most often used in the Bible is retributive justice and restorative justice. Retributive justice is the way that we most often use “justice”, you stole something, now you go to jail. Restorative justice is what I want to talk about today, and it can be a little tougher to understand. Fundamentally, it is focused on putting right what has gone wrong, protecting the community, and restoring the integrity of its life and its relationship with God. Generally, biblically, this is done by denouncing the wrong, arresting its power, and rectifying its damage. As Christians, we have been shown the ultimate act of restorative justice through the cross when Jesus took our sins, was declared righteous by the resurrection from death, and restored our right relationship with God in the process. We are also called to be a part of Gods continuing story of restoration. In our Romans passage, Paul is talking about what it means to live out Love, he says,
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
We have a mandate to live out the love that God has shown us, it is not a suggestion, nor is it a thing that some people are called to and others not. It is a characteristic of one who understands the immense love and sacrifice that was shown by God through Jesus Christ on the cross. It is something inherent in an individual that understands grace and has been changed through it. This love that we have should drive us to seek out the naked and the hungry, the poor and the broken. This love shows us how God places value on people. Equally and liberally. It gives us the ability to look at the world, at the way some things are, and see that it is not just, that it is not good, and reminds us that we are complicit but that we have the strength and will through God to change it.
We got to be a part of Gods restorative plan on our trip to Kentucky, where we got to seek out the downtrodden and the hopeless and share stories and meals with them, to rebuild parts of their homes and make them safer, to give them the chance to raise their families and live their lives in a better situation. We saw the difference that a layer of paint can make in someone’s life. We saw how a ragtag group of high schoolers in a van can do some simple home repairs and restore hope and peace to the lives of some of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what it means to love. There is a direct correlation between our profession of faith and our expression of hope to the hopeless. This life of love is not an easy one. It inevitably leads to being uncomfortable, but it is the most worthwhile thing we can do. As Christians, as Presbyterians, as a church, and as individuals, we need to seek justice in our world. That can mean changing social structures, which can mean giving a bus pass to someone who needs it. We need to see justice always. We cannot do otherwise.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”