I preached the following message at a mid-week Lenten worship service I was invited to participate in. This congregation’s theme for this Lent is “Hunger.” I was asked to preach on Hungering for Justice. This is what I came up with…
Micah 6: 6-8
6 ‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Word of God, Word of Life – Thanks be to God.
Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hungering for Justice. As I sat and reflected on what it means to hunger for justice I couldn’t help but immediately think of my family. I am a first year seminarian, the mother of two, and a wife. My husband is African-American, so I’m sure you can imagine that I have a lot of thoughts and opinions on what it means to seek racial justice. What it means to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.
Then I thought… no one wants to hear another sermon about racial justice… pick something else! Pick anything else, Ariel!!! I immediately started running down the checklist of marginalized whom Christ called us to seek justice on behalf of in Matthew Chapter 25. Many are familiar with this passage… “35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
As I thought about who these people are in our society I thought of those who are in prison and realized that the vast majority of those imprisoned in our “justice” system are minorities. I thought of the homeless. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration nearly 60% of the homeless in the United States are minorities. I thought of those who are hungry… according the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 71% of participants were minorities… predominately women and children. I thought of those places in the world where there is no access to clean drinking water… Africa, Central and South America, Asia. Who inhabits these places?
Then it struck me… it doesn’t matter what form of justice I choose… racial inequality is ALWAYS a factor.
So back to plan A… racial justice, and why I hunger for it. My daughter is 8-years-old. My son is 9. As I follow some of the current movements going on in the United States and hear about people like Treyvon Martin, and Michael Brown, and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice; as I follow movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #ICan’tBreathe there’s a part of me that also can’t breathe. That lives in fear because that could be MY son. My husband and I don’t let our son play with toy guns unless they are some fluorescent bright Nerf thing that is CLEARLY a toy. It is unfathomable to me that a 12-year-old child was killed because of a toy. We don’t let our son wear his hood up on his sweatshirt jackets… it may not be a problem now, but when he is 16 who knows? My beautiful, funny, kind, smart, articulate, incredible son could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and become a statistic.
Like any parent, I want the world for my children. I want them to be who God is calling them to be. I want them to grow and to develop their passions and interests and learn and to live. They will have to work harder for the same opportunities others receive, just because of their race.
I’m sure you are sitting here and thinking… wow… this depressing and in some respects it feels a little hopeless. When do we get to the whole grace and Jesus part? To be completely honest… This sat partially completed for about a week and half and I had NO CLUE how I was getting there. I just knew that this message is important.
Then last week my son came home with a writing assignment. He was to write a 150-250 word essay on What Freedom Means to His Family. I posted a picture of this essay on Facebook and it is one of the most popular things I have every posted. It received 115 likes and 28 comments. For someone like me who is not a social media super-star, this is a lot of activity! This is his first paragraph:
“What freedom means to my family is that my family gets to be a family. In some parts of the world people like blacks and whites cannot get married. If my mom and dad did not get married, Izzy and I would not exist.”
Wow… out of the mouths of babes comes Good News! I hope these words give you as much hope as they give me. Because my children do exist. And they are beautiful, amazing, grace filled children of God. God created them to do justice, and to love mercy, and walk humbly in this world. If a 9-year-old boy can so articulately address racial justice, then so can I.
I can do for the least of these just as Christ instructed me to. And so can you. I’m not going to give a laundry list of things to go out and do… you are all smart people and I’m sure you know what injustices in this world make it hard for you to breathe. You know what form of justice you hunger for and you can determine how you are going to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. The beautiful part of being The Body of Christ in the world is that we are all called to act differently and to show Christ’s love in many varies ways. I am called as a church leader, as the mother of two bi-racial children, and as the wife of an African-American to speak to racism and issues of racial justice. How are you called to act? To what are you called to speak out about? What issues squeeze your chest so tight that you feel as if you’re having an asthma attack?
Christ came into this world and addressed justice issues. He hungered for justice just as we do. And he died so that through his death and resurrection we all might receive new life. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism we are drown and reborn into new people. Let us live into that new identity! Let us never forget our brothers and sisters who have less. Less resources, less privilege, less justice. Let us never stop hungering for justice and always seek mercy and humility. Amen.