JUSTICE: The Value of Values Sermon
Message: Justice: The Value of Values October 21, 2018 at Harbor Church
It’s Roll Call Sunday. Why are we reading the rolls today? (because it is in our by-laws).
Sunday closest to the Founding date of the church, October 23rd 1765.
Roll Call as an event used to be an almost day-long celebration of the gathering of our church as a congregation.
Roll Call dinner originally started to raise some funds for the church.
Early in the 1900’s when this tradition began, the church was the meeting place for most public events. Thanks for the harvest, school graduation ceremonies, other town assemblies. It still does that, but it has become much more than that as well. The Block Island Times recently called it an Island Tradition. It has become an opportunity for virtually the whole island community to come together, the share a meal, and to support the work of our church because , regardless of their faith tradition or spiritual convictions, many recognize the value of Harbor Church as an institution that affords many blessings to the people of Block Island. Today, with joy, we celebration the generations that have gone before us. With enthusiasm, we rejoice in the state of our church today. And with humility, we consider what we can do in the days ahead to continue to make our church a vibrant part of our town – a beacon of faith and hope and light, a church that continues to proclaim the good news of God as we understand it through our Lord Jesus Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is something to celebrate! Harbor Church is something to celebrate - 254 years of a continuous positive spiritual presence on this island . 254 years of good news, and helping hands, and generous hearts and open doors.
So today we remember the birth of our church. And This Tuesday night is our actual birthday party – our Roll Call dinner- Our banquet meal.
Our reading today talks about a banquet. What is special about the banquet in this parable? It tell the host who to invite, and it instructs the guests on how to participate in the celebration . Two things to remember, to take away-First, all are welcome, and second, the party is for us, but its not about us
Our take-aways? Invite the humble, and then join in the party with humility.
As Guests- It’s not about us. None of us is the guest of honor. This party is a celebration of the Lord and His church- of God’s goodness. Of God’s reality in our lives; of how being in relationship with the living God can change us and our lives for the better.
As Hosts- Check the guest list. Is it full of dignitaries and celebrities? Only Church members and committee leaders? Or Does the list include those outside the church that really need to ‘taste and see that God is good” [Psalm 34:8]. Those are the folks to be inviting to the table.
A dinner party. When we host a party in our home, we usually invite friends and family. We strive to serve good food and drink, and ensure that everyone has a wonderful time. We thing of this as hospitality.
Biblical Hospitality is a little different. it focuses on the stranger, the alien, the foreigner, the other. When we host our Friday night movie and a meal we open the doors to everyone, even to people we don’t know or have never seen before who may wander in looking a little rough around the edges. Biblical hospitality is not too different from Biblical Justice which is our theme in our sermon series today. It is about treating others rightly , in the same way that God has treated us in Jesus Christ.
Biblical Justice concentrates on the value of the other, on treating them as more important, or at least as important as ourselves. It is about honoring all others, and affirming the dignity and worth of all God’s children.
Our first reading today is often read around Christmas time. But it is about much more than the birth of Christ, its about the kingdom of God and addresses the coming of its king, Jesus the Christ, the and the kind of justice that he will bring as he ushers in a new age of understanding. We are told:
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge [decide for] the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” Justice proceeds from the righteousness the character of God. God defines what is just and right by who God is and by what God does.
So God is just and offers justice. But God is not fair, and Life is not fair and God never promised to be fair.
The Difference between Fairness vs. Justice? – remember the wisdom of Solomon who offered to cut the baby in half and give 50% to each woman who claimed to be his mother?
Fairness is getting what we think we deserve. BUT, God does not treat us as our sins deserve. In a human court of law, a criminal is found guilty and a sentence is pronounced. In the divine court, we are found guilty of transgression, and then we freely receive a pardon. Jesus pays the penalty and we are released in the freedom of God’s grace and forgiveness. Fairness gives what is deserved; Justice gives what is not earned; it is a gift from the Lord.
God’s Justice Just-Is because it comes from God’s righteousness. And This is the model that we have been given in how we are to treat others.
Biblical justice Defined. It is not defined by abstract notions of fairness or equality (often interpreted in terms of oneself - ‘we demand justice’. Human justice emphasizes our rights; Divine justice emphasizes the rightness of God. God always acts justly and he always calls on people to do the same. While there may be some generally agreed principles of justice (eg that slavery and starvation are wrong) the biblical concept of justice is not defined by concepts determined by the modern, western world. Contemporary values are largely considered to be private matters. In that context justice tends to be reduced to the attempt to allow everyone to do whatever they think is right as long as it does not hurt anyone else. Justice is thus interpreted subjectively as something like ‘equal rights’ for everyone and so injustice is largely any attempt to stop someone doing what they want. Biblical justice, however, is a more robust notion. The kind of justice that the Scriptures present is not even defined primarily in either selfish terms or by abstract notions of fairness or equality. Biblical justice means very practical, down-to-earth actions which take place to ensure that the weak are protected from abuse, that the poor have what they need, that the stranger in the land is shown hospitality and that the socially disadvantaged are cared for. Even when this means giving them what they do not ‘deserve’! God’s justice is gracious. God is just and will do what is right. His standards are the measure for people to follow and they are seen, in particular, in the person and the work of Jesus. Christians are called to do justice not only because God is a God of justice but also because God’s justice means that they are ‘justified’, that is, treated as ‘righteous’ or blameless even by God when they are not. Forgiveness means being given ‘a righteousness that comes from God’. This is not ‘justice’ as the world understands justice, it is an undeserved act of grace. To be ‘justified’ in this way not only means that we are treated as God’s children and given eternal life but also that we are to ‘live justly’ and ‘do justice’ for others in the same way that God has done this for us. Note that Christians do not become justified by living just lives, it is rather that because they are justified they are called to be doers of justice.
The Psalmist cry out a repeated lament in Scripture – “O Lord, why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer?” One day we are told that God will put all things right and completely remove injustice and all sin from the world. Until that day, the responsibility for advancing divine justice rests upon God’s people
The humility asked of the guests at the banquet in our parable gives us further enlightenment on this subject. Justice is not primarily about seeking rights for oneself or one’s own group , it is more about acting on behalf of others. This does not mean that one has to ignore injustices to oneself but it does shift the focus. ‘Justice’ is not for ‘just me’. This means that Christians will be more keen to protect others than themselves.. Christians should certainly seek justice and liberty for themselves and their brothers and sisters, but will be committed to justice and liberty for others, including the strangers outside of the church with at least as much enthusiasm. -Brian Edgar
So get out there and invite everyone to Roll Call Dinner. Tell them that you are glad that they came. Tell them that they are important. That they matter. Thank them for coming.
But also invite all of them to the other banquet as well. Invite them to experience the church of Jesus Christ by making them feel welcome and give them a seat of honor in your church, in your hearts, and in your homes. Tell them that you are glad that are in your life. Tell them that they are important. That they matter. Thank them for being a part of your community.
TOTAL COMMITMENT: The Breakfast Banquet. The story about The chicken and the pig invited to a breakfast buffet featuring ham and eggs. Let’s go in, said the chicken! Wait a minute, said the pig, all they want from you is a contribution, they are asking me for a total commitment.
Friends as member of the church and representatives of God’s kingdom on earth, God asks us for total commitment as well. We are asked To treat others rightly rather than fairly, regarding them as citizens of God’s kingdom regardless of where they come from or what they look like. And as we do this in humility, God’s justice will go forth, the Gospel will be lived out as well as proclaimed, and in the words of the prophet Micah, “The world will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters that fill up the seas. Amen.