August 20, 2023
*SCRIPTURE READING Angela Gay Kinkead
1 Corinthians 12:12-18
12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell?
18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted.
LEADER The Word of God that is still speaking.
ALL: Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE Let Justice roll like an ever-flowing stream Amos 5:2a
But how can we do justice??? Pastor Donna Goltry
Key insights: We can’t do it alone, but…
We all have an important part in making it happen
And, we must remember: it is about putting God’s love into action
These three guiding principles align with the Biblical teaching
Paul gave us the model of what it means to be in Christian unity. We are all one body in Christ – but by no means alike. It is our very diversity that makes us strong – that makes us complete.
At the congregational level. Can we say we are alike? BY NO MEANS! We don’t even think alike. But each of us is necessary. Think of yourself as one part of the body, maybe the eye, and the person next to you as the mouth. Across the aisle and farthest away as the ears. Together we are complete.
And it is completeness in this diversity that gives us the strength.
And think of faith communities around the county this way. The congregation down the street? Or around the corner? Are we all alike? By no means. Yet each seeks to worship God in their peculiar way. We are part of the body and need each other, with God’s love as our guiding light.
The Book of Judges in the Old Testament illustrates this point. It’s a long and complex book, so I will limit my focus.
After the Israelites settled in Canaan after being brought out of slavery and wandering for 40 years, soon the people turned their eyes away from God, following other gods, powerless wooden objects. False gods. One called Ba’al.
It became their predicament – God had led them to from slavery and opened the way for them to settle in Canaan, and gave them instructions: ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live. But you have not given heed to my voice.” Judges 6:10 They lost their way, becoming overtaken by a nearby tribe, the Midianites.
A call from an angel came to Gideon one night – The angel told him he was to deliver Israel from the hand of their enemy, the Midianites. Gideon responded, “But, sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manas’seh and I am the least in my family.” The Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” Judges 6:15-16
Gideon had a time of testing and preparation before he assembled the Israelites from three tribes for battle with the Midianites. And, Gideon did not go off in haste but first confirmed his call, asking for signs. His 1st sign, his offering to God was consumed by fire (an ancient kind of sign) followed by the angel instructing him to take strong bulls and companions to tear down the altar of Ba’al and sacred pole of Asherah, false idols of the Midianites. Under cover of night, he did. But then, he did not proceed alone. He sought God’s favor and assembled three Isrealite tribes to be as “one man” in their battle.
The Action – To shorten this very long story, God instructs Gideon to take only a few of the many he had assembled into the battle. He weeds them down until only 300 remain, chosen because when they were tested by asking them to lap water from a stream. Only those who lapped with their tongues like a dog stayed; the many others who used their hands were sent back, to be support in the community but not on the front lines. Through God’s direction, the Midianites fell into the hands of the few Israelites.
There’s an organizational insight in this detail: only a small number went into battle, but many more stood behind Gideon. Likewise, the faith-based justice ministry being envisioned for Sedgwick County has a goal of 3,000 ultimately coming together at a Nehemiah assembly next May, but those tasked with leadership will be a smaller, more workable number. Still, all have a unity of purpose: to bring justice to a community already awash in vibrant acts of mercy. All are part of the building passion for doing justice.
Like the story I told last week of villagers pulling babies out who were floating down the river, but with the villagers finding more and more coming downstream as time went by, the villagers united to go upstream and see why they were in the stream in the first place.
Right now, over 40 churches are coming together to seek justice in our county – where we know there are many injustices, not just inhospitality or abuse, that the prophets of old would still decry. We have four people here who have stepped forward to lead justice teams for St. Paul’s. All of you will be invited to join one of the justice team networks. What will be your role? Will you come to a listening session where the team leader guides us to bring forth those community justice issues that concern us. And then continue to support and join with other churches in a gathering on November 9th where, as the larger faith-based community, we will seek consensus on issues to research. Like the biblical example from Judges some of us will have a role of making our voices heard and known, while others lead. As it said in 1 Corinthians 12, all roles are essential, are vital; all are honorable.
Quoting from Rev. A. W. Tozer,
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.”
I see his observation as a parable in disguise. When the pianos are the many faith practices being tuned to the tuning fork of justice, great things are in store.
We must not be like those Israelites in the Book of Judges who so quickly turned from God to other idols, but focused instead on how we, as a diverse group of faith practitioners, can we keep our focus on justice.
And remember, We can’t do it alone
Yet we all have an important part in making it happen
And, remember, what justice is really about is putting love like Jesus taught into action!
 Sermon materials on Justice, prepared by Kathy Williams and provided at Sedgwick County Justice Ministry Sponsoring Committee Meeting, June 15, 2023, held at First United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS.