8th Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray.

Oh God, may we seek justice

That your will may be done on earth

As it is in heaven. Amen.

………….

I love lists.

Lists are the best.

I love making them,

I love looking at them,

I love revising and updating them,

And I particularly love

Crossing them off.

The satisfaction that comes

When I get to click the box

On my To Do List app

Is immense.

I have been known to add already completed tasks

To the list

Just to get that thrill

When I get to check it off

Just minutes after it went on.

The problem is that I am also a profoundly lazy person.

So I will often seek cheaper and cheaper thrills,

Prioritize the quicker of the tasks,

Not the most important,

Because important projects generally take time and effort.

Checking off “sermon prep”

Offers the same amount of thrill as

“Check voicemail,”

But one of those sure takes longer.

You can see why I might check off the quick and easy boxes

Before putting in the hours it takes

To really do something like “sermon prep” well.

It would be easy for some of the most crucial tasks

To fall by the wayside

Because they were crowded out

By those more conducive

To instant gratification.

So I understand how the Israelites

Have let their priorities get out of whack

In our Old Testament readings today.

Both the prophet Isaiah

And the Psalmist

Have got some words of judgment for us this morning.

They both describe

In exquisite detail

God laying out his case against his people

As though he were prosecuting them in a court of law.

God’s not just offering a quick word of correction.

God calls for witnesses

To observe his judgment,

Rendered by the one who calls the morning

And bids the night,

Robed in consuming flame

Wreathed by raging storm.

God’s judgment is not against the Israelite’s worship practices.

They are doing a great job

Of offering the animal sacrifices he has prescribed.

The problem is not that they are neglecting church attendance.

The problem is that they have spent all their time on the easy tasks

And neglected the important ones.

As Jesus will later tell the scribes and Pharisees,

The problem is that they tithe mint, dill, and cumin,

And have neglected the weightier matters of the law.

It’s an understandable mistake to make.

It is easier

To focus on getting our worship right.

It is easier

To follow the rules about which bull to sacrifice when

And how many birds ought to be offered.

It is easier

To go to church on Sunday.

To see our friends,

Sing songs we love,

Hear a word of encouragement.

Yes, it is easier to do these things

Than it is

To do the justice God calls for.

The world we live in

Is an unjust world.

It is a world that exploits workers

And oppresses people of colour.

A world that sacrifices human beings

Who get in the way of the almighty dollar.

A world that engages in short-term thinking

About the next quarter’s report

Without regard for the cost that will be levied in the long term

For our plunder

Of this fragile earth.

And Christians,

God’s chosen people,

Too often make not a peep

In the face of such injustice.

Whether it’s because we’re afraid

Or because we have succumbed

To the world’s way of thinking,

I’m not sure.

But we continue to gather to pray

Without having upheld the weightier matters of the Law

Because we get a thrill of checking that item off our list.

And it is an easier thing to do

Than face the overwhelming task

Of doing justice in an unjust world.

I think,

I hope,

We want to see justice done in the world.

But we are daunted by the enormity of the challenge,

And ready to accept the cheap thrill of right worship instead.

Let me be clear:

The rites that God decries through the prophet Isaiah

Are the same ones that he decreed in the Law of Moses.

New moons and Sabbaths

And the burning of incense

Are not what’s wrong here.

Neither do I, or, I think, the prophets seek to discourage church attendance!

These quick tasks

That are easily accomplished

Still need to be done, after all.

(I do, in fact, need to make sure I check the voicemail).

But God

Does not sort his priority list

By degree of difficulty.

God

Does not consider the hazard of the predicament

When addressing its remedy

At all.

After all,

It’s not as if God’s work among us could be called easy

Or quick.

In world consumed with efficiency and ease

With invincibility

And a sure thing

God came among us

As a tiny baby.

His mother, Mary,

Went through all the labour and difficulty

Of a normal pregnancy.

She suffered all the pains

Of a regular childbirth.

And her son,

Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Was just as vulnerable

To all the assaults and snares

Of a regular childhood

In a community with a high infant mortality rate.

He waited 30 years, at least,

Before beginning his ministry,

And then,

When pressured to resort to violence

In order to achieve the specific goal

Of Rome’s overthrow,

He went and died on a cross.

A condemned criminal,

Cursed according to the very same law he had written

And had come to fulfill.

God does this

Precisely because God does not share our same love for efficiency.

God does not share our desire

For the cheap and easy thrill

Of crossing the easiest item off the list

So we can get it out of the way.

God, robed in consuming fire

And wreathed by raging storm

Reminds us

That that which is easy

Is not always the same

As that which is important

And if we are going to follow him,

We have got to get our priorities in order.

“Cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.”

These are God’s priorities.

To care for those who fall through the cracks

Demanded by systems that care more for their own gain

Than for individual human dignity.

These are the people God loved so much

That he came among us as one of us

And let himself die

Rather than crush them beneath the wheel

Of violent insurrection,

Even for a just cause.

We who follow after him

Must not allow ourselves to become complacent,

Complicit

In the injustice of the world,

For to do so is to accept as acceptable loss

The children of God for whom Christ died.

As a collection of Jewish teachings says,

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

Do justly, now.

Love mercy, now.

Walk humbly, now.

You are not obligated to complete the work,

But neither are you free to abandon it.”

It is not too late to make a change.

It is not too late to embrace God’s priorities.

God is always ready to wash away our sins

That the blood on our hands

May become white as snow.

Even now,

God calls the heavens and the earth to witness

That we might heed his judgment

And turn around

To follow after his way.

To do the work he has given us to do.

For where our treasure is,

There our heart will be also.

Amen.