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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

June 2013

~Doing Justice~

“God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
~Micah 6:8

Dear Members and Friends,

            There are religious words that have aged well—like “grace” and “spirit.”  They’re as fresh today as they were two millennia ago, when St. Paul first dictated them to his scribe.  Then there are other religious words that have aged less well.  They’ve been so misused for so long that many people no longer hear them.  Sadly, I think the words “belief” and “repentance” fall into this camp.  One powerful emotional buzzword in some religious circles (admittedly, far too few religious circles!) is the word “justice.”            

            Think about it.  Unless you’re an attorney, you might go weeks without hearing the word “justice” outside church.  You occasionally hear it in courtroom dramas, where it typically means “retribution.”  I remember one cartoon superhero who used to call for “truth, justice, and the American way.”  And yet, “justice” is one of our sacred words.  Here at Bower Hill, we might hear it two or three times every Sunday.  The concept of justice whispers through the Law of Moses.  The Hebrew prophets cry out for it.  Jesus fleshes out its principles without much using the word at all—which is good pedagogy.  Paul sees justice in the light of God’s mercy.  Justice is simply God’s dream for creation.  It can mean “rightness,” “balance,” “fairness.”  It has to do with treating things and people with the respect that is due them—honoring God’s ownership of all things.  We sing about justice.  We pray for it.  We go out into the world to seek it.  But do we consider its implications in how we speak, how we treat our loved ones, how we drive, how we spend our money?

            I recently came across this story about justice:

            In the 1740s, when Frederick II of Prussia was constructing his vacation palace, Sans Souci, he wanted to lay out the formal gardens on the ancestral lands of a miller.  He liberally offered the miller more money than the land and the mill were worth, but the miller refused to give up his family’s property.  The king made many offers, each one more generous than the last, but the miller remained unwilling to sell.  After months of trying to bargain with the man, the king finally summoned the miller to his court.   Annoyed and perplexed, he said, “I have been more than fair with you, but you’re trying my patience.  Do you know that I have the power to take your mill without offering you a farthing?”  The miller replied, “Yes, lord, that power is within your reach...except that you rule not by power alone, but also by justice.”  The king peevishly dismissed the miller and built his palace gardens around the mill.   

Justice might mean denying ourselves a luxury that we can well afford.  It might mean putting aside power and privilege.  It always means looking out for the interests of the powerless—the poor, the weak, the plants and animals of God’s creation.  Justice makes its way into our relationships, our parenting, our partnering, our giving, and even our driving and our eating.   Justice is an attitude for living.  And it’s one of only three things that God requires of us: kindness, humility, and justice. 

In Christ’s Peace,