RACIAL JUSTICE WITH LOVE…
This is Racial Justice Sunday in the church calendar, but with a Valentine celebration so is delivered with a message that LOVE is justice in action. The gospels are the unfolding story of Love that invites people to belong to the Kingdom of God as one family regardless of race, faith or culture. It is Love beyond our understanding because it embraces differences we don’t understand into one diverse family. So you are invited to meet God of the rainbow where colours merge as one in the sky and to meet the Artist who paints flowers of many colours into the beauty of our gardens. Different colours bring energy and vibrancy to the world so that we can celebrate the beauty in our differences.
So today please read MARK 9: 2-9 and listen to what God might be saying to you….
I sometimes think we need to get our heads out of the clouds and come down to earth… It’s like coming down from the mountain top and into the valley below. It can be like living in another world and coming down to earth with a bang!
The mountain top is a wonderful symbol of a quiet space away from the crowds where we can meet with God and listen to the voice in the clouds, but we can’t leave our heads there. It is unrealistic to live with our heads in the clouds full of impractical ideas and dreams without knowing the reality of the valley.
I can believe, preach and dream of the Kingdom of God from the mountain top but unless I know what is happening in the valley my words will float away with the clouds. So, as I reflect on that voice from the clouds, I listen and hear Jesus saying, “follow me!” — and today he comes down from the mountain, so I know what I must do.
I will be careful on the descent as I don’t want to come down to earth with too big a bump, but the valley is the place where I am confronted with the reality and shaken out of any sense of a fantasy world shaped on the mountain top.
Jesus is the “down to earth” image of God that is practical and humble in character with LOVE to share in equal measure with the whole of humanity whatever faith, race or culture. When you listen to LOVE you listen to Jesus, but if you reject LOVE you reject the Father who sent him down the mountain and into the valley below. (Luke 10: 16)
What kind of love would it be that lives on a mountain far from the crowd that only the strong can climb to receive….What kind of love can that be? NOT THE LOVE OF MY BELIEF that came down at Christmas to save the people who are like lost sheep without a shepherd.
What kind of Father would it be watching from a mountain, far from the children struggling in the valley with no signs of hope….What kind of Father can that be? NOT THE FATHER OF MY BELIEF who grieves for the lost and watches the distant horizon ready to welcome the lost children home with a loving embrace.
What kind of hope would it be hidden high on a mountain far from the crowd seeing how the oppressed are being excluded…What kind of hope can that be? NOT THE HOPE OF MY BELIEF that walks hand in hand with faith and love to conquer mountains that people create.
What kind of justice would it be that hides on a mountain out of reach of so many who are guilty of nothing but whose voice is not heard….What kind of justice can that be? NOT THE JUSTICE OF MY BELIEF that will sacrifice life so everyone can be forgiven and freed from their sins through a love freely given.
What kind of Church would it be built on a mountain high above the valley where the lost and lonely are always excluded…What kind of Church can that be? NOT THE CHURCH OF MY BELIEF that is a place of sanctuary and welcome with open doors where everyone is made to feel they belong.
What kind of World would it be balanced on a mountain so far from the people who are divided and broken and at war with each other….What kind of World can that be? NOT THE WORLD OF MY BELIEF where in the beginning God created everything good and plans to restore with a love beyond measure.
I believe the Word came down with Love to lower the power of the mountain and raise up the poor of the valley so that together we can walk a great highway to the Kingdom of God. I believe Love came down as a Word to be heard to drive away the demons, heal broken hearts and reconcile all people into the one great family following the will of our Father. THIS IS THE LOVE OF MY BELIEF and it isn’t for the few on the top of a mountain, but for the many who struggle in the valley. It’s not the healthy on the mountain who need a doctor, but the sick in the valley who want the healing so that’s where Love goes. (Mark 2: 17)
In John’s gospel (chapter 4: 21-24) Jesus tells a Samaritan woman: “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem.” The Father won’t be contained into one space by religious leaders, but will live everywhere among the many.
Jesus continues to tell the Samaritan woman: “The time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” The Father seeks them in the valley of the many while a few think they have found what they seek on the mountain — and want to stay there.
What I SEE in this gospel reading today is a transformation from religion that places God on a mountain watching the world from a distance, to a Father who fills humanity with a dazzling bright light, brighter than anything ever seen, that will reveal LOVE into the dark places of the world.
What I HEAR is a message to get our heads out of the clouds and listen to the Word that has come among us in human flesh to fulfil the will of God. We can’t listen to the Son if he’s in the valley and we’re still on the mountain so he brings us down to earth with a bump or two.
What I FEEL is a fear in my heart that makes my knees tremble so much that I fall to the ground and then Jesus touches me, helps me to my feet and tells me ‘not to be afraid.’ (You must look at Matthew’s version for that experience!) I must follow down the mountain and worship in the valley in Spirit and in truth.
I don’t like the truth I see when I get my head out of the clouds and come down to the earth of the valley with a bump because all my prayers, policies, papers and promises made and written from my place on the mountain have done nothing to drive out the demons or heal the great sickness of injustice for so many. Love is the healer. Love that comes down from mountain top to valley below to understand how people feel when they are excluded and persecuted for being different.
We make so many promises from our mountain tops with heads in the clouds in prayerful reflection, but we don’t understand why people are so different and we fear what we don’t know. I heard a voice asking me ‘do we understand God’ and has ‘love overcome our fear?’
We exclude people from belonging if they don’t fit OUR vision of OUR community, church or club, but God created the differences. Jesus was different and didn’t fit with the religious faith of his day so another question is, “does he fit with our day?” Is Jesus shaping us into the image of his Father or do we shape him into an image that we like and hear what we want to hear as we listen to him?
For people who look and feel different today, and are persecuted because of it, there is encouragement that they already belong to the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 10) They don’t need to join us on the mountain because the Kingdom is in them so we need to come down to earth and join them in the valley where we belong together.
Only a few can go up the mountain so many are excluded, but there is space where everyone can belong in the valley so have we got it the wrong way round and are excluding ourselves from belonging to the kingdom because we’re not following Jesus into the valley?
Jesus was different in how he believed and behaved so he knows better than most what it is like to be different today and the voice on the mountain top tells us to listen to him and be different, like him. Don’t colour his skin white and build his home on a mountain where only the strong and the powerful can find him, but give him a home in the valley with Love in your heart that makes everyone long to belong in one family of cultures and nations.
We can hear a voice speaking from the clouds, but don’t leave your head there because Jesus is leading us down to the earth of the valley to be where we belong and living the love that is justice in action….. which brings the kingdom much nearer!
The truth is in what I find in the valley because the sickness to be healed is caused by the many demons of greed and pride