January 2013 Archive for Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

The Rev. Dr. Robert Rimbo shares regular thoughts and reflections about our life together.

Justice, Not Just Us

Jan 23, 2013

Micah 6:8

 

Preached at The Interchurch Center, New York City  

 

In a wonderful coincidence, this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has presented opportunities to think and pray about justice in various venues. The convergence of the Second Inauguration of President Barack Obama and the annual remembrance of Blessed Martin Luther King Jr., the promise held out with a new year of grace and the hope that at least some of us have that a new Congress will actually be able to accomplish something: all of this is about what Martin Luther identified as the Two Hands of God’s Reign, the Two Kingdoms. (I just had to at least mention Luther.)

 

The temporal order, the world in which we live, the government by which we are guided – all of that is part of God’s work and God’s will, designed to let us live in peace, to worship as we desire, to freely proclaim God’s Word to all people. But it’s not some vague, abstract idea. It is CBS and the CIA, the Pentagon and our public schools, board rooms and court rooms, media and medicine, Chase and Calvin Klein, the projects and the country club. It’s our world, this absurd little earth, where more than a billion human beings fall asleep hungry while the First Lady helps us take on the problem of obesity, where the guns in our streets take as many lives in a year as two world wars, where men and women die for one another and kill for one another, where more people of color languish in jails than attend college, where "equal justice for all" remains a dream.    

 

A small portion of the Micah reading says "What does God require of us?" and then reminds us that it’s really not just about us, but about God and what God expects of all of us: Justice. Micah reminds us that Justice is Not Just Us.

 

You see, the justice the prophets like Micah preached was not simply an ethical construct, did not mean merely giving to others what they deserved, what they could justifiably demand because it was clear from philosophy or written into some constitution. God’s people were expected to care for the orphan and the alien, to protect the powerless and comfort the stranger, not because the needy deserved it, but because this was the way God had acted toward them. In freeing the oppressed, God’s people were mirroring the God who had freed them from oppression. In loving the loveless and the unloved, God’s people were imaging the God who time and again wooed them back despite their unfaithfulness. For God’s people – and just to be clear: that means all of us – justice is not merely something we "have to do" to reflect the good will and kind hearts of women and men in a civil society, but something we "get to do" as we demonstrate the desire and intent of God.

 

Without that clear and fundamental understanding, we simply live in the temporal kingdom, trying desperately and without success, to obey the letter of the law. And human law, for all its value, cannot save, cannot make us one with God. Only God can do that, only love, loving God above all that is not love, loving our every sister and brother at least as much as we love ourselves. The equality we dispense on the basis of law is not enough to unite black and white, Israeli and Palestinian, the haves and the have-nots, the restless young and the rest-home aged, the crack pushers and the police who imprison them. Only God can do that, working through us.

 

The challenge before us as we seek to do what God wants us to do, as we seek to live the truth that justice is not just us, is to give to each what each deserves and to give to all more than they deserve. That’s how God works. And that’s how God wants us to work too.

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo