Justice

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“If you break a good law, justice must be invoked not only for goodness’ sake but for the good of your own soul.  Justice may consist of paying a price for what you’ve done or simply of the painful knowledge that you deserve to pay a price which is payment enough.  Without one form of justice or the other, the result is ultimately disorder and grief for you and everybody.  Thus justice is itself not unmerciful.

Justice also does not preclude mercy.  It makes mercy possible.  Justice is the pitch of the roof and the structure of the walls.  Mercy is the patter of rain on the roof and the life sheltered by the walls.  Justice is the grammar of things.  Mercy is the poetry of things. ~from Whistling in the Dark by Frederick Buechner

Most people are not aware that slavery still exists in our society, let alone that there are 27 million people enslaved around the world.  In order for the poetry of mercy to rain down on the victims of human trafficking we must first educate ourselves about the issue.   Take 10 minutes today to educate yourself about 21st century human slavery.

Art.

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An old silent pond.
Into the pond a frog jumps.
Splash!  Silence again.

“It is perhaps the best known of all Japanese haiku.  No subject could be more humdrum.  No language could be more pedestrian. Matsu Basho, the poet, makes no comment on what he or she is describing.  He implies no meaning, message, or metaphor.  He simply invites our attention to no more and no less than just this:  the old pond in its watery stillness, the kerplunk of the frog, the gradual return of the stillness.

In effect he put a frame around the moment, and what the frame does is enable us to see not just something about the moment but the moment  itself in all its ineffable ordinariness and particularity.  The chances are that if we had been passing by when the frog jumped, we wouldn’t have noticed a thing or, noticing it, wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  But the frame sets it off from everything else that distracts us.  It makes possible a second thought.

…the most basic lesson that art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as vastly richer, deeper, more myserious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot.”  (excerpted from Whistling in the Dark by Frederick Buechner)

This is what we hope our new worship series “The Art and Resurrection of Justice” will help us to do…put a frame around Justice so that we might more clearly hear God’s call for our lives.

As you go through your day today, what might you be missing?  Try to give everything you see a “second thought”.  The places where people work.  Are those really just massage parlors for anyone and everyone?  What about our hotels?  What about our eating establishments?  Put a frame around them and notice what you see.

Toward Sunday

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While we celebrated the beauty & mystery of Easter on Sunday, the season of Easter will continue for fifty days. We’ll spend the first few weeks of Easter in a worship series called The Art & Resurrection of Justice.

Outline for The Art & Resurrection of Justice

•april 27: human trafficking (John 20.19-31)
•may 4: food insecurity (Luke 24.13-49)
•may 11: listening to the voiceless (John 10.1-10)

Read John 20.19-31.  We will be holding this biblical text in conversation with human trafficking this Sunday.  This will be a challenging topic for all of us.  We will hold the ancient text and the reality of human trafficking as we look for signs of resurrection and new life amidst despair.

Here is a link to learn more about human trafficking at madeinafreeworld.com/slavery.

Many people doubt the reality of modern slavery and most of us turn away from seeing the wounds it inflicts upon children of God. A few years ago a group called Made in a Free World asked the world one question, “How Many Slaves Work For You?”. They received an overwhelming response from every country on the planet. Learn your footprint here and join the millions of people around the world who have started demanding products Made In A Free World.

The Risen Christ says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

How might God be sending you into the world to address the brutality of human trafficking?  For what purpose are you being sent? To whom is God sending you?  How might you be part of offering peace to children and adults caught up in the vicious cycle of human trafficking?

Justice

Screenshot 2014-02-19 20.24.12some words on Justice by Frederick Buechner from Whistling in the Dark.

If you break a good law, justice must be involved not only for goodness’ sake but for the good of your own soul.  Justice may consist of paying a price for what you’ve done or simply of the painful knowledge that you deserve to pay a price, which is payment enough.  Without one form of justice or the other, the result is ultimately disorder and grief for you and everybody.  Thus justice is itself not unmerciful.

Justice also does not preclude mercy.  It makes mercy possible.  Justice is the pitch of the roof and the structure of the walls.  Mercy is the patter of rain on the roof and the life sheltered by the walls.  Justice is the grammar of things.  Mercy is the poetry of things.

What is your definition of justice?  What is your definition of mercy?  Where do you experience justice and mercy in your daily life?

Toward Sunday

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We conclude our worship series, Don’t Talk About That at The Table; with reflection this coming week on prisons.

Outline 

January 12: United Methodist Social Principles (Acts 10.34-43)
January 19: Race (Matthew 5.38-48)
January 26: Immigration (1 Corinthians 1.10-18)
February 2: Abortion (Micah 6.1-8)
February 9: Gender (Ephesians 5.22-24 & Galatians 3.28)
February 16: Sexuality (Romans 1.26-27 & Ruth 1.16-17)
February 23: Prisons (Hebrews 13.3)

This Sunday will invite deeper reflection on prisons.  We welcome Rev. Gary McAnally to the pulpit.  Gary is a United Methodist pastor who is taking a year of sabbatical leave to concentrate on Kairos Prison ministry.  The mission of the Kairos Prison Ministry is to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.  

The United Methodist Social Principles includes this statement, ¶ 164. H)… In the love of Christ, who came to save those who are lost and vulnerable, we urge the creation of a genuinely new system for the care and restoration of victims, offenders, criminal justice officials, and the community as a whole. Restorative justice grows out of biblical authority, which emphasizes a right relationship with God, self, and community. When such relationships are violated or broken through crime, opportunities are created to make things right.

Most criminal justice systems around the world are retributive. These retributive justice systems profess to hold the offender accountable to the state and use punishment as the equalizing tool for accountability. In contrast, restorative justice seeks to hold the offender accountable to the victimized person, and to the disrupted community. Through God’s transforming power, restorative justice seeks to repair the damage, right the wrong, and bring healing to all involved, including the victim, the offender, the families, and the community. The Church is transformed when it responds to the claims of discipleship by becoming an agent of healing and systemic change.

What is your experience of our criminal justice system?  What difference might a restorative justice system as opposed to a retributive justice system make in our community? 

Read Hebrews 13.3

How do you respond to the challenge to remember those who are in prison?