This week, the news was catastrophic, and the lectionary readings were timely:
"Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;for the LORD pleads their cause..."
"Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin."
"If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."
As I joined the corporate confession this morning, I thought about our serving God in newness of life. Surely being freed from our sin means that we are freed from the fear that drives us to hide from tragedy and pain in our world. We are released so that we can roll up our sleeves.
If Jesus heals, and we are the body of Christ, we can trust that God can and will use us to heal. We weep with those who weep, and while we're doing that we get to work. We don't have the strength to do it on our own-- God knows I feel utterly overwhelmed-- but the Spirit who lives in us and renews us is bigger than every news report I see.
It is our job to execute justice for the oppressed, to free prisoners, to watch over strangers, to feed and clothe the poor. Not to imagine first-century Christians doing it, but to look for the needs around us now. Not because we're earning our way into heaven, but because grace of God enables us to do the work of God. My blood boils at the thought of someone watching my son get hurt and not reaching out. My spine freezes when I think of him left starving, sick, or in the path of violence. I imagine God has a much stronger visceral reaction to the suffering of all those created with joy in God's own image.
And if that's not the case, then God is not someone I want to know, and grace is not something I'm interested in. If God is not liberating us for practical, visible love to every one of God's beloveds, then I think we're better off going fishing than being the church.