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On Justice…

“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.”     Micah 6:8

Until I was about seven and a half, we lived in a sub-division in Los Angles, California. It was great growing up in that part of California. We went to Disneyland, Knox Berry Farm, to the port, we sailed the 26 miles across the sea to Catalina Island. We went out to the desert for the date festival and watch the camel races. I even got to go tobogganing in the Redwood Forest among many other fun activities. It was great. I was blessed with a pretty idyllic childhood in California and then in Ohio.

But in California we also had a bully who lived on our block. There always seems to be a snake in the grass in any Eden. I think he was a year or two older than me, I am not sure, many years have passed since I lived there, but we all knew to kind of stay away. He was not a very nice boy. One day, I was probably around 5 and walking down the sidewalk to go to my  friend Gina’s house when I saw this bully (I don’t remember his name) getting ready to throw a large piece of concrete at my brother’s head. My brother was probably around three at the time. And yes, we wandered the neighborhood then. Times have definitely changed! Anyway, I saw what he was about to do, and being the protective sister, I ran toward them both yelling at him to not throw that “rock” at my brother. So, he didn’t. He threw it at me instead with the result that he broke my nose.

It’s funny in an ironic sort of way that when I reflect on this event in my life, I am struck by the simple fact that justice is not easy, and it can be painful. And yet, as Micah 6:8 clearly tells us, we are called as people of God to do justice and love mercy. Acts of mercy and other mercy related missions are not difficult, a lot of work, but not difficult and many times highly rewarding. Food pantries, clothes closets, soup kitchens, mission trips, and other ministries are all mercy related. They all meet individual needs in the moment. They stand in the gap to fill short falls within a families or individuals needs and they are greatly needed.

God also calls us to do justice and that is harder. It is harder because we need to have power in order to go up against the injustices of this world. Justice works for sustainable changes in our world. Justice would be available health care for everyone. Justice would be stopping the school to prison pipeline for many of our students. Where children as young as five have been arrested and taken away in handcuffs. Some because they got into a fight with their brother, and it was deemed domestic abuse. Seriously think about that. Who among us, if you have a brother or sister, didn’t get into a fight with them? Or what about children who took a short cut through someone’s field or backyard to get home and were instead arrested for trespassing? These and other minor offenses have put some of our children on the school to prison pipeline. This is wrong when there are mediation and other remediation techniques that have over an 80% success rate that can be used, but in many areas…too many cases…these techniques are not used. And the sad part is most of the children arrested are children of color. Even though there are many white children who have done the exact same things. This is a justice issue. Affordable housing, available and affordable healthy, fresh foods. Safe schools. Not having to worry about gunfire in your neighborhood. Affordable daycare. Affordable nursing home care. These are all justice issues. And I am sure you can think of many others. And you may think that there is nothing you can do….But there is.

Brevard county churches are beginning to organize to work together to right some of the injustice issues in our area. We would like you to join these efforts. We need your involvement. For those who read my blog and do not live in Brevard County, there are justice ministries around the nation that are involved in working to seek justice for all. Please take the time to investigate justice ministries in your area. But for all you who do live in Brevard County and especially for those who attend Grace, I invite you to become involved. You can do this by hosting house meetings. Inviting at least 10 others to join you as you discern justice issues that we can bring to the larger meeting this fall. Those issues will be voted on and we will then begin the task of research moving toward a rally where we will invite our elected officials and present them with our research around the issues, we believe need to be address but are not being dealt with. We will ask our elected official to commit to make the changes we recommend. As you can see this is something that many take several years. This is something we believe will make significant changes in the lives of our community members as well as changing our community to be a better place to live.

We are asking you to commit to four things: host a house meeting where you invite 10 other people to come and discuss what you perceive to be justice issues in our area. This can be done at the church or on zoom as well and is a one time meeting each fall. We ask you attend the Annual Assembly each year. Attend the Rally where we all gather to let our elected officials know what we need them to do. I mean we did elect them. And finally attend the Celebration event when we get a commitment from those elected officials. This is four meetings each year unless you want to be further involved.

When we think we can’t change the larger issues we face in our communities, we are wrong. While we may not have political power, or the financial resources of people like Elon Musk, we do have people power. When we organize and gather together in numbers with our elected officials, we can get real change done by letting them see our numbers and telling them what we see our communities need. When we do justice, we hold our elected officials, our government, accountable to solve serious community problems. If you think that as churches, we are not called to do justice, that is not true. Again, Micah clearly shows that God calls us as community of believers to do justice. We also have the example of Nehemiah. He stood up to the injustice he saw in his world. He saw the rich taking extreme advantage of the poor. He knew he couldn’t do it alone so called a large assembly and confronted those who were getting rich off the trials and difficulties of the poor. He was able to get justice done. (Read Nehemiah for the full story)

What I am advocating is a revolution of tenderness through our strength in numbers as we work for changes that help our communities, wherever we live, to have equitable practices and policies that are infused with justice for all. Let us all work for the common good above the pursuit of wealth and power. Will you join me?

If you are interested, please contact me at the church office for more information. (321-452-2420) Thank you!

Peace and Justice!

Pastor Beth

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