Thursday, October 20, 2016

Public Policy--a matter of faith

10.16.16

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Rev. Kirsten Sermon:

Our Gospel asks the question, “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"    Jesus assures his disciples that God will be faithful to God’s people.  He gives his disciples the parable of the unjust judge.  Surely if the unjust judge grants justice to the widow, then surely God will grant justice to God’s faithful people.   But when the Kingdom comes, will Christ find faithful people?

What is faith in this parable?  The widow doesn’t give up, she keeps on asking.  When the judge, who has no fear of God and no respect for people ignores her, she keeps on demanding, she keeps on bothering, she threatens to wear him out with asking. 

I think about that widow and whether we might not be that widow—struggling, demanding, praying again and again, day after day.  I think that this parable tells us something about God’s faithfulness, but the parable also shows us how we must struggle, asking again and again for God’s justice on earth—this is what it means to be faithful.

I hear in our other passages this morning similar themes about faithfulness.  In the passage from Genesis, we see Jacob struggling with man and with God.  In this epic battle, his hip gets displaced and he continues the fight.  Finally when morning comes, God reveals God’s self and blesses Jacob saying.  Jacob confesses that God has saved him,  “I have seen God face to face and yet my life has been preserved.” 

And then in Paul’s letter to Timothy, he instructs Timothy that the work of an evangelist is going to be hard.  People are going to turn away from the truth and turn to myths.  But Paul tells him to have convince, rebuke and encourage, even when the time is not favorable.  He encourages him to have the utmost patience in teaching, to be sober and endure suffering. 

In all three passages we have examples of faithfulness that include struggle, perserverence, consistent—maybe even badgering.  The parable of the badgering widow suggests that maybe faithfulness is about constant prayer for justice.  So it’s about our consistency in our relationship with God.  But in the letter to Timothy, we hear about consistency in living and teaching the Gospel.  Faithfulness is about struggle with other people to spread the Gospel.  And in the Hebrew Bible text, we see the struggle both with men and with God—Jacob is blessed when he prevails and sees God face to face.

In today’s passages I notice that the struggle is not about getting something from God for the individual.  These are not passages about struggle as a precursor to healing, these are passages about a struggle for justice—justice for the individual, but justice in relation to other people. 

Phil and Ruth, Rebecca and I went to Diocesan convention on Friday and Saturday (yesterday).  Over the course of two days, we and the hundreds of other delegates struggled for justice.   For some of us, it might have seemed that the resolutions we were debating aren’t going to make a huge difference in the world.  But in light of today’s Scripture, I can see that the debates were about really about our prayers, our consistent, difficult prayers to God for justice in our world.  And our votes, our motions, amendments, re-votes—this struggle with one another was also in the service of  justice and evangelism, seeking to articulate the Gospel as it must be lived here.

At convention we did our best to stay consistent and patient with one another.  We named justice in some of the most important issues of our time—gun control as a measure to address the violence in our communities, violence that disproportionally affects the people of color and poor people.  Some argued that Proposition 62, which seeks to control the sale of ammunition was chipping away at the 2nd Amendment.  But the body concluded that we will support this ballot proposition that will enact new gun control measures.

We updated an old resolution which requires congregations to switch incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent ones.  We realize that compact flourescents are  no longer the most efficient bulbs.  It”s time now to adopt the latest LED lights.  Our efforts are an important signal of our care for convention. We had vigorous debate about bill prohibiting boycott of Israeli companies in the occupied territories of Palestine.  People spoke passionately about not wanting this resolution to express an anti-semitic perspective.  Some argued that boycott is a necessary part of “free speech” while others find boycott hypocritical because it takes jobs away from the Palestinian people who most need the work.  After this debate, we voted to express our will to the legislature—we support repeal the prohibition on boycott.

We also passed resolutions pledging our support for the Church in Jerusalem, opposing the death penalty, seeking an end to slavery and trafficking, and expressing our solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and other native peoples at the encampment at Cannon Ball preventing the Dakota Access Pipeline from destroying their native lands.

While some of these resolutions were straightforward (there was unanimous support for the LED lightbulb resolution for example) they expressed our prayers for justice.  So many years now of naming global warming as a problem.  But still we haven’t solved it.   

I hear in our Scripture today the promise that God will be faithful to us.  God’s justice will prevail.  But our persistent naming of injustice.  Our struggle with hard issues, our fights with one another to articulate the Gospel way forward.  We seek to act as faithful disciples. When we name these issues we are engaged in the evangelism that Paul was calling Timothy to.  When we struggle with one another about these issues we are participating in making justice.  We engage in these issues as a diocese to faithfully act—reconcilling us to our mother earth, to our sister and brother humans and with all creatures on earth.


It is in this work that we become God’s chosen ones, the faithful people that the Son of Man will find here on earth.  God’s justice will prevail, the Kingdom is coming and together we are wrestling.  In the process of wrestling we will come to know God face to face, and our lives will be preserved.

See the DioCal resolutions:  http://www.diocal.org/sites/default/files/media/PDF%20Docs/Certified_Resolutions_2016.pdf

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