Feb 5, 2005

Sermon Title: Social Justice

David Castner
M.Div. Student, Luther Seminary
Honorable Mention, Feburary 2005 Round

I grew up next to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. I have seen a good many reservations in my life and I would have to consider the San Carlos Reservation to be one of the poorest. I had a good friend who lived there. He did not have a father that I knew about but he had a very loving mother and a sister. One weekend he invited me out to visit. His house wasn’'t much more than a shack with two bedrooms. There was a central heater that heated the entire house which meant that Augie had no heat in his room.

It came time to sleep so I was to sleep in his sister’s bed which was in the living room next to the heater. Augie went so far as to take many of the blankets off his bed and piled them on mine so that I could be warm. I still remember how thickly piled my blankets were and how hot I was under them. The next morning I realized just what sacrifice Augie had made for me when I could feel the cold draft coming out of his room and realized how few blankets he had. I never forgot his friendship or kindness; much less his selfless act so that I might be warm.

I think often about Augie and the other people in my life who have so selflessly given of themselves. I am also reminded of the story of a group of chaplains in WWII who gave away their life jackets and perished when their ship was struck by a torpedo.

What is it that these people believe? I get so disgusted with myself and others who complain about so little in our lives while others have such grave needs. The guilt can be horrible and weigh so heavily on my shoulders that I can feel guilty for any good fortune and blessings.

The law of God is written in scripture such as Luke 16. Scripture also tells us that it is written on our hearts. This is the moral side of the law. The law is wonderful in that it tells us what is expected of us by God and gives us something to measure ourselves against. The unfortunate part is that it is either black or white. There is no gray in the law. You keep the law or you break the law.

Luther taught that we are human and as such we are prone to sin. In his explanation of the third article of the Apostles Creed says, “
I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord
” In this he acknowledges my frailty and shortcomings. He teaches that not only can we not keep the law by our own strength, but we cannot even have faith in God without the Holy Spirit to strengthen us.

It is in Jesus that we are finally given forgiveness. It is Jesus who makes up for our inadequacies so that we can finally be righteous in God’s eyes. In our baptism liturgy we read, “Let your light so shine before others that they will see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.” These good works are the deeds of Christians that are committed in this world. These works though are not in order to earn your way in heaven, because that is already freely given through Jesus; these works are done out of joy in knowing you are forgiven freely. Basically, the energy that one would have expended in trying to earn your way in to heaven can now be freely devoted to help people out of the joy and love in your heart for your God because he is your refuge from not only death, but from your own darkness.

1 Timothy and Psalm 91 tell us many things. We learn that God protects us under his wings and punishes the wicked. But what about if you are a slave? Paul tells Timothy that Christian slaves are still to be very respectful to their Christian masters out of love. We realize from these texts that sometimes we are put in situations we dislike. Sometimes we are slaves or poor, diseased or disabled. Christians can find themselves in as many situations as any non-Christian but we have a staff to lean on. God promises to take care of us in this life and eternally in the next life. This is where our strength comes from.

People, maybe you also, ask how God is taking care of his people today. What about that person lying on the street; how is God taking care of him. God is taking care of him through you. The Old Testament shows us a God who was very active in the world but he still chose to work through people. Today is no different; God works through us now. God speaks to you through the Holy Spirit so that you might do the work he needs done in this world. That is why you have those urges to help people for no reason or do unexplainable things. I can'’t give you any secret formulas other than to listen to your heart. Your Lord is still speaking to you but not from the fiery bush or the voice from above. He often speaks in the most benign ways.

Social justice is an important part of Christianity. We are blessed in so many ways by God. We may not all have money, but we all have God’s saving grace. Our other blessings are all different but that is the way it should be. The person blessed with money but lacks faith can help the person who lacks money but has abundant faith. Do you see? We are to help each other and share our blessings. It’s not rocket science! What the Psalmist, Luke, Paul, and Luther are all trying to tell us is to LOVE EACH OTHER, not just talk about it.

I ask myself what is it that I could have possibly given Augie in return for his generosity that night in his freezing house. I thought hard about it, and the answer came to me finally in 1 Corinthians 13:13; what I gave Augie was love and friendship. He never wanted or needed anything other than that.