Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I had the opportunity to meet Joe while doing a J-term class in Washington D.C. which revolved around hunger and caring for the oppressed within our society. Joe had quite the story and he was not afraid to share it with our group that was learning about the many ministries taking part in Washington D.C. to assist the homeless and those that lived in poverty.
Joe had quite the story to share with our group. He himself had recently been homeless and was not in a position where he could assist others and advocate for their care and well-being. Joe moved around the country being homeless. Starting in Colorado and then transitioning to Florida where it was just a little bit warmer. He found that Florida was not to his liking and moved to New York City. He would have to really search for a spot to sleep at night and if he took someone else’s spot he would be sure to pay for it, either by having his stuff stolen and/or being beat up. He struggled to keep himself looking like he belonged with everyone else in the city by keeping clean. Eventually it got to the point where he did not care about what he looked like or what most people thought. Some of his mental health issues he had began to overrun his life. He eventually hopped on a train and headed to Washington D.C. It was here that he found the help that he needed and would start to pull himself out of the deep hole that he was in by people that truly showed their love for him. Now he had the opportunity to be a voice for those whose struggles matched his.
When there is a voice that can step up amongst a group that is experiencing much of the same struggles and challenges it is a wonderful thing. Quite often though many of these voices go unheard or are silenced by those that are just a little bit louder. There also comes a time when it is easier for us to go about our own business and let others worry about the problems facing others in our state, country and world.
Our lack of interest in or concern for those things that interest others or the ability to just look past their struggles with no emotion is Apathy. If Jesus expressed apathy for all of those around him we would not even know who Jesus was today. Jesus was born into this world to show God’s love in a physical form and to squash those same ideas of apathy 2000 years ago. As Jesus shares the story of the good Samaritan it is those that just walk right by that are apathetic.
In our reading from the Old Testament this morning, Isaiah steps up for the people of Israel and Zion.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. Isaiah 62:1-2
Isaiah remains persistent that he will walk with Zion through their time in the wilderness and now their return to their homeland. It is not an easy return. It is one that takes time and adjusting back to a way of living that they are not familiar with. This is now a new generation that has returned and are once again returning to the land that was given to them by God and which Moses began a journey to. Isaiah will not remain silent! He speaks up for those that are oppressed and for those that are mistreated by others and feeling no love. God made a promise to the people of Israel and Isaiah is present to make sure that God holds fast to that promise. He will not remain silent! God is capable of doing wonderful and miraculous things because this is a God of the oppressed first. God comes bearing hope and a promise for those whose hope has vanished.
Mary, mother of Jesus, does not remain silent in our gospel lesson this morning because she knows Jesus can do wonderful things in the midst of the guests at the wedding. This is an opportunity for Jesus to begin his ministry in the gospel of John and to begin to share with people the miraculous things he can do. She speaks boldly and does not remain silent because God has made a promise in his son Jesus.
History is ripe with people that have not remained silent. People that have passionately spoke up for those things that they believe in and to ensure that others are cared for and loved as Jesus would have loved them and does love them. Martin Luther did not remain silent when it came to his belief that the Roman Catholic church had step outside of its boundaries. There have also been other numerous church leaders that have stepped up in times of conflict and struggle throughout the history of the church.
Gandhi refused to remain silent when it came to the fight for independence from Great Britain in India. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu refused to remain silent in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa, which we are finding is still an ongoing struggle. Bishop Oscar Romero refused to remain silents as he stood up for the rights of those that he served in El Salvador. Even the current #Blacklivesmatter movement within our own country refuses to remain silent and brings to light the struggles that we are quite often apathetic towards.
This close to Martin Luther King, Jr. day I cannot forget him. He refused to remain silent as he fought to end segregation and proclaim God’s Word at the same time. In his letter from a Birmingham Jail, King addresses the church’s calling at that time and honestly I don’t believe it has changed to this day
But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century, (or today, the 21st century).
Part of our call from God is to listen to where those that are oppressed need help in their time of struggle. We must not remain silent! We must reach out with love and care to those that are in need. One such area for us to reach out today is to the city of Flint through the Southeast Michigan Synod and assist Salem Lutheran Church in caring for and loving their neighbors through this time of uncertainty. We must not remain silent! It is my hope that you have prayed about assisting them financially, in prayers or both as they shine the light of Christ for all to see in a city that is angry and upset over what has transpired. May we help them in sharing the love of God with people that feel oppressed and not heard.
May we all continue to proclaim God’s Word for all to hear. May we refuse to remain silent when we see our brothers and sisters silenced in their own struggles and challenges. May Jesus be with us in all that we do as we spread love wherever we go.