I was asked to do a short sermon as part of a series about ‘Answering God’s Call’. It has a different focus from most of my posts, but I wanted to share it anyway.
Working in the predominately Muslim city of Hebron, I have learned a lot about Islam. While I find it similar to Christianity, I have noticed a major structural difference between the two. Mainly that Islam has always had structure, while Christianity hasn’t. Muhammad gave explicit instructions on what it meant to be a Muslim, how often to pray, how much to give, what it takes to join the religion.
Jesus did not leave us with such tangible instructions. We are told things like, the whole law is to love God and others. Care for the least of these. Be just. Free the oppressed. Then we have to figure out how to do that. While Islam gives tangible instructions, Christ does not make it that easy for us. We need to decipher how to live out those intangible commands in our tangible lives.
In college I studied the Bible and Christian tradition a lot, hoping to gain a better understanding of what was required of me as a Christian. What stuck out to me throughout the Old and New Testament was
God’s call for God’s people to act justly and care for the most vulnerable in society.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.
Then connecting the Old Testament prophecies to the New, Jesus frames his ministry by quoting Isaiah, saying:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
These are the themes that I see shining through all of scripture. These are what resonated most with me. This does not make them any more tangible. I still wonder, “What Justice actually looks like?” Or “How does one bring freedom to the oppressed?”
This is one of the reasons I was drawn to working with Christian Peacemaker Teams. They appeared to give one option of how to live out the teachings of Christ. I was drawn to this organization that saw the duty of a Christian to work for peace and justice, and found tangible ways to do it.
So now I am living in the city of Hebron, living and working with an oppressed people, non-violently struggling with them against forces of oppression. Daily I am learning how to do this. Daily these intangible tasks of bringing peace and justice, and ending oppression are becoming more tangible as I learn my job a better. As I am taught what non-violent resistance looks like by the Palestinians who have been struggling so long.
When a subsistence farmer is denied the right to harvest his fields to feed his family, its easy for me to see what bringing good news to the poor looks like.
Or when 27 schoolboys are arrested on their way to class for no reason, it’s easy for me to see what bringing release to the captives looks like.
Or when an entire village is threatened with being wiped off the map, and their way of life being destroyed because of their ethnicity, it’s easy for me to see what freedom to the oppressed looks like.
And when a nation thinks that God gave it the right to do all these things, it’s easy for me to see what bringing sight to the blind looks like.
This is how I am trying (with fear and trembling) to answer my calling to work toward the kingdom of God.
Pray that I allow God to speak through me, with a spirit of love
Pray that those I speak to come with open minds and hearts
Pray for peace