Sermon I preached on Isaiah 58.
This one is a bit longer and I don’t hold back. Be warned.
“God seeks to set the oppressed free, to liberate those suffering poverty, and God seeks to transform us into his image by making us his partners in this purpose. That’s another way to describe God’s Kingdom: our partnership with God to love hurting and broken people and seek justice, through which we will become more like Jesus.”
Starts at 0:15, midway through a joke. Oh, well, I kind of messed up the joke, anyway.
One thought on “An Acceptable Fast”
This is a good one, Mike. And I love that you don’t hold back! The world needs more of that. There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get said that needs to be said, and you just said some of it. Thank you.
Some thoughts on a few things you said (I may not have the quotes exact, but close enough):
“The gospel is not just Jesus and me.”
And how! The gospel is about what we do for others. It seems to me that many people who call themselves “Christian” don’t get this. I recently heard somebody say, “I am so glad I am saved!” My first thought was, “A billion people will go to bed hungry tonight, and you’re worried about being saved? Man, you ain’t saved until those people are fed.” I don’t have time to worry about being saved. I’ve got to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and so on. I’ve got to love my neighbors, all seven and a half billion of them. (Even though some of them make that very hard to do.) I assume that by “saved” most people mean “going to heaven.” I don’t have time to worry about going to heaven, I’m working too hard to do THIS life right to worry about the next one. And I think whenever I get to whatever the next life may be, Jesus is going to be OK with that.
“Poverty doesn’t happen in a vacuum. … Choices and systemic injustice. … Other people’s choices. … Rich, powerful, and greedy choices.”
Oh, yes. It is far more about other people’s choices and systemic injustices than individual choices. There are five men on Earth who between them possess as much wealth as the bottom half of Earth’s population. (Notice that I said “possess” and not “own.” There is a difference.) Each of those men possesses as much wealth as 750 million other people. That is NOT how God intended the wealth he put on this planet to be distributed. I often hear people say, “Well, if some people work harder, they should have more.” NOBODY works 750 million times as hard as anybody else, and NOBODY is entitled to 750 million times as much wealth as anybody else. This is a systemic injustice, and that system of injustice is capitalism, which I have concluded is completely incompatible with Christianity. It is capitalism that allows one person to have 750 million times as much as another person, and it is wrong, wrong, wrong. And, I believe, for most of us, when we think about inequality of income and wealth, we think about it in the wrong direction: up instead of down. I know a man who has several hundred feet of waterfront property, with a 14 thousand square foot home, a swimming pool, and two tennis courts. I used to think, “How come he has all that and I live in a 50 year old mobile home that leaks in the winter?” I was seeing things wrong when I thought that. Now I think, “How come I have the luxury of living in a 50 year old mobile home that leaks in the winter, when a billion and a half people live in mud huts and caves?”
“Poverty starts with massive injustice, exploitation, and oppression and greed.”
Yes, yes, yes! And we spend a trillion dollars a year for our military to enforce that.
“Jesus has chosen to be on the side of the oppressed. And has chosen for you.”
Sadly, far too many of us don’t accept the choice that Jesus has made for us. And sadly, far too many pastors don’t preach to their congregations about this stuff.
“Having wealth does not in itself make you sinful or greedy. … How you use your wealth is how God judges….”
And not just how you USE your wealth, but how you GET your wealth. I have to agree with Honoré de Balzac, who said, “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.”
Comments are welcome, and I am especially interested in hearing your comments, Mike. And for anybody who wants to call me a socialist, or tell me I need to read my Bible more, well, as Mike said in his “Inspired By Wonder” post, screw you.