Psalm 75:5-6 “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up; for it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” NRSV
As i consider our situation in St Louis, that for years our church has advocated for more regional shelter and resources and instead we’ve seen the tragedy grow. When I consider that our own shelter has been ruled a detriment despite the fact that we raised over a 100k for our defense and I spent 18 mos. on call to gather files and mount a defense, it makes me wonder where our hope lies. Have we sought our hope within the legal system, which is easily manipulated by the rich and powerful, instead of God? Or have we just exercised our rights as citizens, raising money not simply to defend ourselves, but the many thousands who we help? Now we have filed a federal lawsuit against the city itself and we will have a hearing. This is a very expensive way to simply exist, and it takes away from much needed resources.
I am reminded in this Psalm that God is the One who executes judgment. As I consider what Michael Brown’s family is undergoing at this time, when they looked to the highest law in the land for justice and got the verdict that Darren Wilson is not guilty, acted within the law to use deadly force, I know that our redemption is not from our government. I recently sat with Steve, a brother in my church who is facing cancer. They found a lump in his jaw that it turned out was a tumor, and in removing it he was hospitalized. (He still awaits Medicaid, by the way.) Now he walks with assistance and can only rest to recover. And because he doesn’t have a phone or transportation, us pastors take him to appointments and he uses my phone. He’s looked after by all the brothers here in his room. He said to me, “I asked the Lord for healing, and if chemo and radiation are what it takes then I figure it’s worth it.”
And that word inspires me, that when we pray and believe God, and then take action as citizens to advocate and represent ourselves, we are never losers. Our situation may be uncertain, but we know God is in control. The real focus of Scripture is not the evil in the land. It is not corrupt politicians or the functioning of government. The focus is on God’s action to save. Scripture is salvation history.
I fully expect that even as so much of our advocacy, though right in front of the public eye, is overlooked or forgotten by the majority of our region’s fair citizens, our efforts are not for us or for them, but are for God alone. Before God we can honestly say we did all we could to bring the message “when I was a stranger, did you take me in? What we do for the least of these we do for Jesus.” Our question is not: What will we do next to take on the injustice in society? But rather, in serving Christ how shall we show His love in this world which is chasing frivolity and rewarding injustice? Lawsuits are the least we can do. It is an important something, but it is certainly not the same as our daily service. “For God alone my soul in silence waits.”
For too many suffering people life is a nightmare. It can only end where we act intentionally out of the love and suffering of Christ. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free.” Lk 4:18 (NIV) How this gospel of justice ever became a sanguine, domesticated, feel good American religion is beyond me.
There were many who did not welcome the transformation and healing that Jesus brought about in His own day. And it is no different now. But if we understand that our redemption is bound up with the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, we can understand what good news it is indeed.
I must still ask myself the question: Am I of any use? Have I let the world harden my heart and soften my body? Am I “laying my body down on the gears and the wheels on the levers and on the whole apparatus to make it stop!?” (Mario Salvio, 1964) Or am I affirming the system and the machine? Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:2)