Do Justice: “Do the Work”
Follow Me: Biblical Practices for Faithful Living
Rev. Tully M. Fletcher IV
Decatur Presbyterian Church
June 4, 2023
Prayer for Illumination
Before reading the Bible today, we seek the illumination of Your Holy Spirit and we call upon You to make us receptive to the Word we receive this day.
Open our hearts to hear your grace.
Open our minds to receive new wisdom.
Open our eyes to see injustice.
Empower our hands and feet to do the work.
I will admit, Isaiah is not my favorite book of the Bible. It is confusing. It is full of allegory and metaphors. It takes a lot of knowledge about the Jewish People and history of the Old testament to understand much of it. And then there are these parts where the writer asks rhetorical questions, and sort of goes back and forth, often as if God is speaking.
This passage from chapter 58 is the that way. God asks a question, and then God takes on the voice of the people, to give a satirical answer, and then God using God’s own voice offers the real answer.
To avoid some of the confusion I’ve enlisted some help with this reading.
One voice will be like the “people of Israel” the other voice will be that of “God’s.”
1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.
3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say,
Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
Intro = Theme of “do Justice”
We started with = Recognize injustice
Then we did =Check your prejudice
Last week, Pentecost = Speak up
Today is = Do the work
Before we really jump into it, I think we need to talk about Fasting.
It is an important spiritual practice that we Presbyterians don’t do very often.
Mostly we talk about ‘fasting’ during Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter.
But you don’t have to wait until ash Wednesday to begin a fast.
Some Christians fast often, and frequently.
Some churches will do a special fast weekend or season in conjunction with a revival, or after some church conflict, or even in the lead up to a capital campaign.
I read that at one point the Catholic church had as many as 150 fast days.
You’ve heard of the whole eating fish on Friday, that is part of the fasting tradition, of giving up “meat” once a week.
Other religions practice fasting as well.
Jews and Muslims both do.
Fasting in Isaiah
Fasting is a spiritual practice to help you get more in tune with God.
To help you listen.
To help you focus.
The Israelites in Isaiah have missed the point. For them The fasting laws have become like tax laws.
“What is the bare minimum” you have to do?
They want the benefit of God’s Love, but they don’t want to do the work.
What is Isaiah saying?
In this passage, God is laying it out very clearly.
God doesn’t care about the “fasting”
God doesn’t care about how famished, or miserable one looks or acts during their fast.
God doesn’t even care that much how humble you are.
What god wants is Justice, equity, and for the “least of these” to be cared for.
To “loose the bonds of injustice”
Us to “share bread with the hungry”
To “bring the homeless into our houses”
“To cover the naked”
God wants the people to stop:
Blaming each other, pointing the finger
To stop speaking evil
To stop oppressing workers
To stop quarreling, fighting, and being violent
These words from Isaiah were written down 2700 years ago.
We’ve had a minute to solve these issues.
And we’ve done it right?
We’ve solved injustice in the last 2700 years?
Sometimes the Bible has challenging things to say to us.
If you have never been rubbed the wrong way by the Bible, then you aren’t reading it enough.
My point is that there are injustices today, as there were thousands of years ago. Things are better now, but they are not perfect, and we’ve got work to do.
Doing the work include forgiveness.
We can’t separate injustice & sin.
All of the injustice in the world is the end product of a long chains of sins.
Likewise, we shouldn’t separate the work of Doing Justice from forgiveness.
You, me, each of us, is in some small, or big way part of the problem.
We can’t solve the problem if we don’t admit our fault in it.
We can’t move forward if we keep perpetuating the same old issues that have plagued humanity for thousands of years
But the Good news, is that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Yes, we are at fault for the injustices, but we don’t have to feel guilty.
We don’t have to beat ourselves up for our mistakes.
We can acknowledge them, and we can move on.
You may have noticed the liturgy was different today…
The act of confession and forgiveness go hand in hand, and both are part of “doing the work”
Look at your bulletin…
Forgive yourself, for the injustices you have caused.
Forgive each other, for the injustices of the world.
CE director at my previous church
Once a year she would preach, the little kids would all do liturgy, and some kind of skit, and she would offer the sermon.
Let me tell you a little bit about Bernale.
1–She was tough as nails…
Came to work the day after her knew replacement
…order to take her home…
2–She had high expectations for others…
10things I leaned in Honduras sermon…
3–But most of all she was loving!
She loved the kids she worked with
Loved their parents
Loved the staff, and all the church members
So, Once a year she would preach, the little kids would all do liturgy, and some kind of skit, and she would offer the sermon.
In one of her sermons she talked about the idea that
We are the hand and feet of Jesus out in the world.
And we need to go out and hit the road.
This is not a new idea, and doing the work of Justice was something I preached on often, and I preached more than once a year. Pastor Ken talked about it too. It was a common theme at that church.
But when Bernale said, “we are the hands and feet of Jesus” out in the world, people listened.
They listened because they had known her for 25 years.
They listened because they had seen her love.
And oh boy did they listen.
They started a new campaign of mission work out in the community.
They made t-shirts.
Hold up shirt.
See hands & feet
The idea was instead of a new shirt for every youth trip or special event, we just always had the same shirt.
And you were supposed to wear it when you did community service, even if you were the only one from our church at the even you wore this bright, orange…
this ugly orange shirt.
Babies in the river story…
List of actions you can take
Use your Wallet
- Give some money to a charity that helps those in need
- Particularly the widows, the orphans, and the hungry
- Use your money & spending habits to fight injustice
- Shop Local,
- shop business which reflect your values
- shop at place owned by people from a minority or disenfranchised group
Use your Mind
- Learn, and educate yourself
- We talked about how to recognize injustice, and the need to examine your prejudice… so work on those things
- Read a book, talk to people, do a bible study, lots of choices
- Share your knowledge and stories with others
- Particularly with those you know well,
- tell them about the injustice you are working to correct,
- and the steps you are taking
Use your voice (speak up)
- Attend a demonstration or peaceful protest
- Emphasis on peaceful protest
- Jesus was all about non-violence
- So be like Jesus
- Write a letter
- Letter of support for someone in need, in the hospital or in prison
- Write a letter to those in power, asking them to change things
Use your (Whole Body) hands & feet
- Give of your time, volunteer with a charitable organization
- Give your time, , and resources directly to a person in need
- (skip the charity organization)
- Most importantly, Pray
The world’s needs are overwhelming, and our efforts are a very small drop in the bucket. It is hard to do justice in such a world. But that is our call and our responsibility.
Rev. Tully M. Fletcher
June 4, 2023