Sunday, December 11, 2016

Who Executes Justice for the Oppressed

When I’m not sure what to read in the Bible, I sometimes go with the daily lectionary.  It’s a three year cycle of daily readings used by some parts of the Church.  So, I meant to read Psalm 145.  But, due to sleepy brain, I read Psalm 146.  All that to say, I found some cool nuggets to share.  Thanks for letting me share them with you!

               5Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
                              whose hope is in the LORD his God,
               6who made heaven and earth,
                              the sea, and all that is in them,
               who keeps faith forever;
                              7who executes justice for the oppressed,
                              who gives food to the hungry.
Psalm 146:5-7 (ESV)

Check out the contrast of this passage between verse six and seven.  First, the Lord God made everything—heaven, earth, the sea, and all of us in them. All the birds, plants, animals, and people.  At the pivot in between, the psalmist reminds us that this Creator God keeps faith forever, always, non-stop, without ceasing.  Then, this grand, majestic God concerns Himself with the least of us. He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  We humans don’t give much attention to the oppressed.  It seems the less we know, we don’t have to feel uncomfortable and the oppressors can keep and grow their power.  And the hungry we help out around Thanksgiving and Christmas, maybe drop a coin or two in the red kettles and let those organization help those people. 

But.  But!  The creator of all—pause right there.  How much attention do we give to the creator of Apple or Microsoft?  How much attention do they give us?  But God, the Creator, keeps faith, and executes justice for the oppressed.  He notices them, He notices their oppression, and makes justice happen for them.  The oppressed aren’t a statistic or an infographic in a newsfeed to God.  He is with them, Immanuel.  He is the God who sees, El Roi.  He recognizes that they are oppressed, and He does something about it.  He keeps faith forever.

And another amazing thing?  This Creator, faithful, seeing, with us God, invites us to create, be faithful, really see people, and be with them.  He invites us to recognize the oppressed—in our community and around the world.  To recognize our human sister or brother and their experience.  To name and call out their oppression.  And to work for their justice. 

Too often, though, I find myself like this: 
Ostrich with its head in the ground
If I don't see it, it doesn't exist, right?
My heart hurts when I start seeing the oppressed and I feel too tiny, powerless.  I can bury my head in the endless sand of silly cell phone games and entertainment, letting my heart atrophy to avoid the pain.  But then, I’m denying who I was made to be.  With my head and heart deadened by entertainment, my silence and my dollars inadvertently prop up the oppressors. 

If my heart breaks when I see the oppressed, I must remember that the creator of all is faithful forever.  And that includes being faithful to me, too.  This Advent, we remember that God came, that He is the God with us.  We are not forgotten.  So neither should we forget.  The most often repeated command in the Bible is, “Fear not!”  Don’t fear when your heart hurts.  Don’t fear when you feel too small.  Don’t fear to see and be with people, to really love.  God keeps faith forever. 

Here are verses seven through nine reworded to encourage us—me and you—to put feet to our reflections on this psalm.                              

The Lord, who executes justice for the oppressed.
How can I concretely work for justice for the oppressed today? 

Who gives food to the hungry.
Who can I feed today, who would have otherwise gone hungry?

The Lord sets the prisoners free.
In a literal sense, how can I work for prison reform today?  In a figurative and very real sense, who do I know, including myself, that is in mental, emotional, or spiritual bondage that I can touch with kindness today? 

The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
How can I help to open the eyes of the blind today?  How do my own eyes need to be opened today?

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.
What burdens can I lighten or remove from people today, to allow my sisters and brothers to stand upright in their dignity as a daughter or son of God?

The Lord loves the righteous.
How can I love those quietly working to put things right—the righteous—today?  And, how can I tangibly love the self-righteous?

The Lord watches over the sojourners.
How can I protect the vulnerable today, those fleeing everything they’ve ever known, seeking safety and stability?

He upholds the widow and the fatherless,
How can I provide help to those experiencing the crushing grief and financial burden of losing a husband, wife, father, or mother?

But the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
How can I bring ruin to the way and systems of wickedness today, while loving those perpetuating those systems—unknowingly and knowingly? 
That’s a tall order of actions to take.  But—I’m preaching to myself here—don’t be an ostrich.  Don’t be afraid to let your heart hurt.  God came, He is with us!  There is hope!  Small acts of kindness and justice add up.  Do what you know and are called to today—however small, huge, or scary.  God will mend our hearts and be with us. 

               The LORD will reign forever,
                              your God, O Zion, to all generations.
               Praise the LORD!
Psalm 146:10 (ESV)

May I suggest one act to take today?  My friend Danielle is participating in Dressember, where she wears a dress every day in December to raise awareness about the grievous oppression of sex trafficking.  You can watch this TEDx talk to learn more: “How a Dress Can Change the World”

You can also donate to her fundraising page, supporting International Justice Mission.  And bonus!  Every donation will be matched by an anonymous supporter of Feet for Freedom, up to the first $1,000 donated. Thank you for your generosity!   

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