Reflection August 18, 2019 by Rev Sunny Kim
Isaiah 5:1-7/ Hebrews 11:29-12:2/ Luke 12:49-56
Run Towards God’s Reign of Justice
Again, I’ll start with one fact about myself; before coming to Kimberley United Church, I was doing graduate studies in biblical studies in Montreal. The concept of the kingdom of heaven from the Gospel of Matthew was the topic of my research, and apocalypticism was the theme. What do you picture when you hear the word apocalypse? The end of the world, I presume. But that’s not what it means. The word apocalypse comes from the Greek word apocalypsus, which means ‘revelation’. Apocalypticism was a minority Jewish idea from desert communities that believed that God chose them to impart an esoteric knowledge about their history and their fate in the future, after the final judgement and in the heavenly realm. Not all contents of the apocalyptic literature were about the end, so we cannot define apocalypticism as such. When you think of apocalypse as the end of the world, you are in fact thinking of another Greek word eschaton, which means ‘the end’. So, in biblical studies, things that concern the end is called eschatology.
In the Old Testament times, judgement and salvation of God’s people concerned delivering the nation of Israel from the many foreign invasions and occupations. The messiah that the Prophet Isaiah talked about was a powerful king from King David’s bloodline to free his people from the foreign oppression. The reason why we Christians believe in personal salvation or heaven and hell is because our teacher Jesus came from one of the apocalyptic communities of his time that believed in esoteric revelations and condemned the mainstream Jewish group for being corrupted. I’m sure in the future I’ll have more opportunities to tell you about the fascinating things I learned from my research, so I’ll stop here for now.
Today’s text in Isaiah shows us what the Old Testament people believed in. God is disappointed that the vineyard that God had carefully taken care of didn’t yield healthy grapes. God’s chosen people who got into a covenant with God failed to fulfill the conditions of the covenant. Yes, God’s covenant with the nation of Israel was conditional. God would bless them, but only if they are faithful to the commandments. The Jewish Law, which can be found in the Book of Leviticus, as well as in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, is very long and complicated, but as Jesus said, they all boil down to two principles; love God and love your neighbours. They are filled with the principle of social justice. You should read it some time and learn things like it’s wrong to covet your neighbour’s animal AND wife. Good stuff. Anyway, what God is lamenting in Isaiah chapter 5 is in verse 7; “He expected justice, but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but head a cry.” This is not the only text that talks about God wanting social justice. Very clearly, justice is God’s will.
Today’s gospel text, which pictures something dark and ominous, mentions failure to read the signs of the time. This is like a medical diagnosis. The signs that Jesus is urging us to read is about how well God’s people are doing in their responsibilities. We are created to be God’s stewards caring for all of creation as we heard in the story time. How well have we been taking care of Mother Earth and all of God’s creation? It’s probably as bad as a third stage cancer. What about social justice? Are there bigotry, alienation, discrimination, and oppression in our society? All these questions, you probably don’t have to answer them. We know the answers. We can see them happening everyday. Racism is not even close to being overcome; in fact, extremism is increasing. People of different cultures and religions are discriminated against, homosexuals and trans people get fired from their jobs and youths become homeless because their parents kick them out. Big corporations destroy the environment for profit, and a lot of girls and women in the world get treated like possessions. We should be able to take a look at our world and see the signs everywhere, and hear God’s voice saying, “I expected social justice, but saw bloodshed, and heard too many people’s cries of suffering.” Read about what’s going on at the US/ Mexico border; you can hear people’s cries of suffering. These are the signs we should be reading.
Now, every diagnosis requires actions. If we examined our world that God entrusted to us and found a problem, what shall we do to fix it? Listen to the Book of Hebrews; “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,” following the examples of “the cloud of witnesses,” which is our ancestors in faith, and following the footsteps of Jesus, not the crucifixion part but his uncompromising faithfulness to God’s kingdom values of compassion and social justice.
So, there it is, our action plan following our diagnosis of God’s world; we who have been blessed with God’s love and grace should get up and go out into God’s world to act. Let us treat each other with kindness and compassion. Let us not ignore God’s people in distress; by feeding the hungry and comforting the sad, by speaking out against bigotry and participating in protecting the marginalized. Let us work to bring God’s reign of justice to our world. Let us run towards God’s reign of justice.