Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Dear Faith Family,

When I was in middle school, there was a social hierarchy that was very evident in my class. It was as if we were constantly competing in the game “King of the Mountain”. Have you ever played that game? It’s where you find the highest point on a hill or a platform and the goal is to be the one who occupies the high ground when the game ends. It’s a rough game! At my school, the athletes and pretty students always seemed to be at the top. The awkward and goofy students always seemed to be at the bottom. The rest seemed to battle for the “higher” ground in the middle. It’s no wonder middle school was so exhausting! It always felt like I had a long way to climb to be valued as a person.

It’s amazing even as we grow up, the social hierarchy still remains. We’ve just become more sophisticated with how we practice it. From the very beginning, God never intended for people to be considered above or below one another in their value as human beings. It is why he created us in his image. People have value because it has been given to them by God. And yet, as fallen humans we either actively or passively participate in our own “King of the Mountain” game with people around us and people around the world. It begins in our hearts, but flows to our words and actions and inactions.

In Micah 6:8, the prophet makes it clear that God is calling us back to his original intention for us when he says this:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly with your God.

How do we let go of our silly games and embrace this call? How does Jesus’ life and work make it not only possible but certain for us to be this kind of people? In a world where suffering is real and the sufferers seem to bear more of the brunt of this pandemic, we need justice. We need a way forward that restores hope and advocates for those who need it most. We need renewal. We need Jesus.

This week our BibleProject study is entitled “Justice”. Below you will find the link to the video and some discussion questions that will help you explore this theme in the Bible. You do not have to go through all of the passages and questions. You can just choose one for study. There are both Old Testament and New Testament options available to see the beauty of the gospel message on every page.

If you are a part of a Sunday School Class or Life Group, consider finding a way to connect online or in person. If you are not in a class or group, contact a friend and see if they would be interested in joining you in a discussion of this theme. Please be sure to practice safe social distancing practices if you get together in person. Let me know if you would like to get connected with others.

Here is this week's “Justice” video:
Discussion Questions

Scripture Reading Option One: Deuteronomy 24:17-24
In passages like this one, we can see that God deeply cares for the vulnerable––the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. These laws address equality and care for the vulnerable. Notice that the motivation given is, “you used to be slaves in Egypt.” In other words, everyone shares this in common. 
  • What stood out to you as you read this passage?
  • Who are the vulnerable today?
  • How does recognizing that you have also been redeemed by Jesus impact how you think about yourself and others?

Scripture Reading Option Two: Isaiah 58:1-14
In this passage, we find that God’s people are neglecting the vulnerable in their communities, while continuing in their rhythms of worship (the Sabbath, prayer, and fasting). But what God cares about most is that his people do justice and care for the oppressed in their community. 
  • Did anything in this passage surprise you?
  • In what ways do we sometimes focus on external practices rather than what matters most to God?
  • What injustice grieves you the most right now? What do you think God thinks and feels about this?

Scripture Reading Option Three: James 1:26-2:5
James describes genuine devotion to God as being aware of the needs of vulnerable people in our communities and doing something about it. He talks about how we are easily blind to inequality and sometimes even play a part in it. James actually sees the poor as having a privileged position because they can more easily see their need for God’s provision and grace.
  • Who around you might need support in this crisis?
  • Where do you find hope when there’s injustice in and around us?

May we together do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God!

Pastor Doug
Longview EPC