Transformative Justice-Love

On August 7, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Transformative Justice-Love Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Transfiguration Sunday 2017 Sunshine Cathedral Moses was known as a great liberator, confronted Pharaoh and led an exodus of oppressed people into freedom. Words attributed to him tell us to Love God (Deut), and Love neighbor (Lev)…and apparently, love means standing up to injustice. Elijah was a prophet who […]

Transformative Justice-Love
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Transfiguration Sunday 2017
Sunshine Cathedral

Moses was known as a great liberator, confronted Pharaoh and led an exodus of oppressed people into freedom. Words attributed to him tell us to Love God (Deut), and Love neighbor (Lev)…and apparently, love means standing up to injustice.

Elijah was a prophet who spoke truth to power, exposing the false gods of greed, violence, selfishness, and oppression…all represented by the deity Baal. For calling out the false religion of fear and the demeaning cult of cruelty, a powerful person named Jezebel put a hit out on Elijah and he had to go into hiding for a time, but Elijah knew that prophetic ministry cares for the least and the lowly, for the marginalized, for the forgotten, for the demonized, for the hurting.

And then there is Jesus. Jesus once took some friends with him to a mountain and on that mountain Jesus is seen with Moses and Elijah – the ancestors return for a mystical pow wow, as if to say that Jesus was now carrying out the tradition of justice-love that they proclaimed.
Jesus’ work is the prophetic work of healing, of sharing hope, of lifting up the downtrodden, and of working for justice.

To love God and neighbor is to care about the health of our neighbors, the welfare of our neighbors, and equal opportunity and equal protection for all of our neighbors, for all the children of God.

The anonymous writer of 2 Peter recalls the Transfiguration story in the scripture reading today. Pretending to be the Apostle Peter, the writer claims to have witnessed the transformational event. The writer believes there is something transformational, or transfiguring, about the message of Jesus if we embrace it and try to follow it. He wants people to know that the message still has transformative power.

The story of the Transfiguration is also in the gospels, and in the gospel account Peter sees Moses and Elijah and he also sees Jesus transfigured into a being of light, and Peter wants to build chapels, shrines to them on the spot. He wants to venerate the experience rather than be motivated by it. He wants to worship it rather than live it. And the gospels say he did not know what he was saying.

It is not enough to build a shrine…(shrines are important as places of inspiration, as safe places to regroup, as community hubs to practice compassion and justice), but the shrine alone is not enough. We have to do the work.

We have to feed the hungry,
we have to advocate for those who need medical care,
we have to say let’s try peace before rushing to war,
we have to insist boldly that gays and lesbians are the children of God,
that transgender people are made in the image of God,
and regardless of our politics or our privilege, when our government tells us that gay people are not protected by civil rights legislation, when transgender people courageously serving in the military are told they will have to leave simply because of who they are,
when church councils in Nashville, Salt Lake City, or Rome say that women are secondary to men,
when governments in Abuja, Kingston, Moscow, DC, or Tallahassee pretend to not notice when people are targeted, vilified, harassed, or excluded for how they look, how they pray, or who they love, we have to say something.
Oh, it is nice to sing about Jesus, but are we ready to take up his mantle of justice-love, of ministering to the so-called “lease of these.”
Take up your cross and follow me involves some effort, and some risk. There is simply no such thing as convenient discipleship.

We may not yet be ready to stand up and declare to the world, “the last will be first and the first will be last, our kingdom is not of this world, be as cunning as serpents and as gentle as doves, turn the other cheek, heal the sick, raise the dead, freely you have received, freely give!”
Jesus said those things, but what was he thinking?
He seemed to be thinking that people of faith can make a difference.

Transfiguration Sunday is on August 6th this year. You see, at the end of WW2, the US military dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Aug 6, 1945. Three days later it dropped another on Nagasaki.

In response to those apocalyptic atomic detonations, a young scholar named Masahisa Goi dedicated his life to working and praying for peace in the world. It was in prayer that a simple phrase came to him, and he would pray and share that phrase for the rest of his life: May peace prevail on earth.

He believed if enough people prayed that prayer, it would inject a healing energy into the life-stream of humanity and we would eventually work to live more harmoniously together on our shared planet. Why do you think it’s a permanent part of our liturgy?

We can come together week after week and pray for peace, for liberty and justice for all. We can come together, and pray together, “May peace prevail on earth.”

Peace, God’s shalom, will be not simply an avoidance of conflict, but a very active expression of justice-love. If we pray for peace, in time, we will become more willing to be instruments of that peace, of justice-love, the ones modeling it, calling for it, standing up for it, speaking out for it, and then, we will be the healing, justice-seeking, prophetic church of Jesus Christ.
Church will be for us not just a place we drop in every few Sundays, but it will be our identity, our mission, our life, the way we engage the world.

May peace prevail on earth.
About 700 years before Masahisa Goi prayed that prayer, St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace.”

About 1200 years before that, Jesus said, “Peace I give to you, my own peace I leave with you, not as the world gives, give I unto you.”

About 500 years before that, the Buddha offered this prayer: May you be filled with loving kindness; may you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease; and may you be happy.

And about 500 years before that, a member of the ancient Jewish community prayed, “May God bless you and keep you. May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God look upon you kindly, and grant you peace.”

We’ve been praying for peace for thousands of years. Are we finally ready and willing to be the answer to our prayers, to be the disciples of justice-love?

Peace… the Shalom of God…justice-love at work in the world. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the peace makers,” he’s saying we’ve got work to do, and we are blessed in the doing of it.

On this Transfiguration Sunday, let us be transformed, transfigured, with word and deed,
with prayer and proclamation,
with time, talent, and treasure,
with worship and work,
into the illuminated and illuminating Church of Jesus Christ, which is the church of justice-love.
God’s peace is possible, and this is the good news. Amen.

May we be filled with loving kindness;
may we be well.
May we be peaceful and at ease;
and may we be happy.
And what we wish for ourselves, we wish for the whole world.


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