Tag Archives: justice

O God, our help in ages past

We used to say that church was the safest place you can be. That façade was cracked when stories of abuse on the part of ministers and other adults began leaking out. Now, with the painful echoes of the Charleston church shooting that took nine lives still reverberating, we learn of the massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty six lives snuffed out. The tragedy left another twenty wounded and an entire community in shock.

Why church? Every church is vulnerable. While some have taken elaborate precautions and beefed up security, it is still hard to conceive that houses of worship are subject to such horror. The congregation of First Baptist Church was an easy target. The assassin simply walked in and opened fire.

I wish I had an answer. We can talk about banishing certain kinds of guns. We can talk about stricter laws. But we know it goes deeper than that. Evil runs rampant. Disaffected individuals like the 26 year old who committed mass murder cannot be easily identified or stopped when they have mayhem on their twisted minds. A lunatic poisoned by a perverted ideology rents a truck from Home Depot and runs down people on bike path in Manhattan. The stories are many and it seems inevitable that more horrific events are on the horizon.

When you are riding your bike on a crisp New York day, you never expect to be crushed by a madman in a truck. When you come to worship with your family and friends, you never anticipate a hail of gunfire.

On yet another day of pain, may we beseech our God to bring comfort but may we also determine to cherish life as we work even harder for justice. God, heal this broken world as only You can. May your children strive for peace through the love and grace of our Lord Jesus.

Justice

The observance of MLK weekend seems particularly poignant this year. The pulse of our country indicates an unhealthy nation with frightening and discouraging symptoms. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Currently, it seems that our steps are not toward the right goal. The divisive climate that fosters resentment, distrust, anger, and violence makes our land darker, not brighter. We could use a Jubilee. Jubilee was a year of emancipation and restoration provided by ancient Hebrew law to be kept every 50 years by the emancipation of Hebrew slaves, restoration of alienated lands to their former owners, and omission of all cultivation of the land.

It was a season of starting over, beginning again. It offered the oppressed hope. It restored social balance. It brought dignity to society as a whole and as individuals. In a world too often characterized by that which is damaging, destructive, and disheartening, people of faith must rise up to strive for that which is enlightening, hopeful, and constructive.

The life-changing power of the Gospel offers what human ingenuity and effort will  never accomplish. We are resurrection people, saved by grace. We are fueled by the greatest force the world has ever known. Dr. King claimed, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

Our God of love is also God of holiness and justice. The prophet Micah recorded the response required of us: “To live justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” No one said it was easy, just necessary.

 

Weary and wary of the storm

Fidel Lopez and Bennie Newton met on the corner of Florence and Normandie avenues in Los Angeles in the spring of 1992. The backdrop of their meeting was the eruption of the city after the acquittal of the LA police officers in the Rodney King incident. Anger boiled over into the streets. 100 fires were set as businesses and homes were looted and destroyed. Roving mobs attacked vehicles and dragged the occupants out of their cars and trucks.

That’s what happened to Fidel Lopez. His boss had given him almost $3000 to buy drywall and insulation for a project. His truck was surrounded and he was pulled into the street. As the Latino man was being pummeled, Newton, an African-American pastor of the Light of Love Church in South Central LA, pushed through the crowd. He covered Lopez with his own body and screamed at the mob, “Kill him and you have to kill me, too!”

The mob moved on. Newton tended to Lopez until he regained consciousness. Trying to summon an ambulance, the pastor realized that no emergency vehicle was going to respond. He put the injured man into his own car and drove him to the hospital.

When Lopez was released from the hospital, he met with Newton. The minister explained that members of his congregation were collecting an offering to replace the money that had been stolen from him during the beating. Lopez was overcome, “I thank you. You saved my life.” Newton told him, “Out of tragedy, good will come. The storm is over.”

I wish the storm was over. People of God, we have work to do. May we have the courage of Bennie Newton to make a difference in a world still covered with threatening clouds.