Justice and Jesus
By Sam Askew
If I am going to invest more than a dollar on a greeting card, I want the wording to convey my personal expression appropriate for the occasion I feel obligated to recognize. Sometimes, the card section offering the generic dollar greeting is sufficient, as my grand-nephew’s will open it and the words that get their attention is, “In God We Trust.”
A neighbor graduated from high school this week. One graduation card is like another and I wanted to convey along with the sentiment of congratulations and an enclosed gift, a gift of advice. I began skimming through the pages of my Bible while trying to recall some passage that would be appropriate for a young man that has for 12 years prepared for this moment.
What should I wish for him in particular? When as a freshman he walked along my driveway to and from school each day, his head was down. He did not seem to want to be noticed. In fact, not remembering his name, I thought of him as merely the “walk-through boy.” Through that first summer he would continue to pass through the yard to play basketball at the high school. I did remember his name and gradually he would acknowledge me with a smile and greeting as he passed through. By his junior year, he was walking more confidently, no longer looking at the ground. He had friends at times walking with him and watching them I would reflect upon my high school days and the friends I had. I watched as in his graduation robe his mother took his photo in front of the high school and thought it is not the conclusion to the senior year, neither the graduation day he nor those of his class expected.
In my search for an appropriate biblical quote I skimmed quickly through the books of the Epistles and the Gospels. I glanced through the book of Psalms. Proverbs held some verses of promise. However, there was a directive sternness attached to some that would not convey correctly my thoughts about this moment in the life of a high school graduate. It was looking dim, and yet being confident that the Bible contains the truth I was seeking to share, I was left with Ecclesiastes.
“Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.” – Eccesiastes 11:9
I have gone around my elbow to get to the message I want to share. Hopefully, I have provided a groomed path to follow my reflection and concerns for the current life challenges that we face. How we invest ourselves, our words, time, and our resources most often reveal who we are and how we choose to be known. We do not live static lives for the world around us is continuously changing. To quote Geoffrey Chaucer, “Time and tide wait for no man.” And passed down to us we have been given the words of wisdom to live in harmony with creation and with each other.
There is little power in the voice of one to change circumstances that are deeply imbedded in culture. There is the consistent word that comes through God if interpreted with integrity for the truth and wisdom it contains. For instance, when Samuel is appointed to select from the sons of Jesse a king to replace Saul, David was the less likely choice. But the choice he was instructed to make is a word of guidance even in our time. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – I Samuel 16:7
The one voice that is no stranger in the modern world, who spoke as one who had authority, who had compassion for those who had eyes but did not see, who brought together Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, men and women of whom were the outcasts, the diseased and dying. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
The Gospel of Jesus is the truthful means to free us from the parts of our native and national cultures that foster and promote division, distrust and injustice. We turn to the passages of Scripture which remind and encourage us not to worry or live anxious about our possessions, rather, that we should trust in the Lord. If we want to be free from the burden of injustice it is our choice.
Hear the words of the poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) a national organizer of the NAACP:
“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou who hast by thy might, led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee; Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand, true to our God, true to our native land.”
Your servant in Christ,
The Rev. Sam Askew is pastor of Windsor Congregational Church. Contact him at 242-4794.