Last week we as a church started a conversation around Justice. And chances are when you hear the word justice you think of a courtroom, judge and jury, and that certainly is one important kind of justice. And yet the biblical call for justice is far, far bigger than that. It’s about humans partnering with Jesus in restoring, re-creating, re-ordering this world into all that God intended for it to be.
And for today, we’re going to focus on the who of justice. Who are we called to show justice towards, who are we called to love and serve? In one sense, the answer here is everyone, and yet, truth is, there are some people that are in greater need than others, some people groups are more vulnerable than others, and because of this, time and time again in scripture, the bible points us towards four people groups in particular that we should be on the lookout to love and serve. And each is mentioned in Psalm 146, the scripture passage that Kora just read. And so, here are the four. I’ll mention them all up front, and then we’ll address each one.
Widow, Orphan, Poor, Immigrant
Again, these four aren’t the only kinds of people in our town and beyond that we’re called to love and serve, and yet, truth is, if we focus on these four we will be well on our way on the road to justice.
So, let’s start with the first:
A widow is woman whose husband has passed away.
Throughout the Old Testament, God continually pleads with his people to care for the widow among them. And the reason is, as I best understand it is that widows typically faced greater financial challenges with their husbands no longer in the picture.
And that still can be true today, that widows experience financial hardship. And yet, maybe an equal, if not greater hardship for widows today, is not a financial one, but rather a relational one, and by that I mean, loneliness. Where all of a sudden, their favorite person in the world, the person that they shared life with each and every day is no longer with them.
A few of us from church last week were sharing Home Communion with members from the Beehive (formerly known as the Legacy), and the women there, many of them widows, were sharing how loneliness is a daily companion.
Whether it be the shut in next door or the widows who call our church home or a relative you know and love, how can we love and befriend the widows in our midst? One way is to join us next Sunday at the Beehive for our church’s monthly worship service where we worship alongside our dear friends there.
In addition, consider others who fit within this category … the widower (that’s a man whose wife has passed away), or the single parent who is raising kids all by themselves and totally exhausted, just barely hanging on. What would it look like to love and serve them?
Kids, parents – here might be a great opportunity to invite your classmates to Kids Night In, where we invite you all to join us for a fun night here at church while parents go out for a date night or run errands or go home and take a nap. Parents, consider the single parents among you – who might you invite so that that parent can get just a couple hours of much needed rest?
All this to say, who comes to mind when you think of the widow in your life?
That’s the first people group, here’s the second:
An orphan is a child whose parents are not a part of their lives. Now, this one might be a little tougher to think of, but maybe think this way …
Kids, think of the kids that you go to school with or live nearby who don’t have a mom or a dad? Or adults, be thinking about the children among you who are in the foster care system, or parents who are physically or emotionally absent?
As many of you know, my dad passed away when I was nine, my mom has been widowed for almost 30 years now. When I was young, the senior pastor at the church I grew up at told my mom and a room full of young parents, “What you don’t have, borrow.”
What that meant for my mom was finding positive male role models for my brother and me. And she did - in the church, in the neighborhood, at school – you name it.
And so, to the single parents in the room, what you don’t have, borrow. And don’t be ashamed about it. It’s part of what it means to truly be a church family.
And to everyone else here, be borrowable. I know that’s not a word, but you get the idea. Be willing to be borrowed.
Friends, who comes to mind when you think of the orphan in your life? The widow, the orphan, here’s the third:
Our church, along with a bunch of other churches is part of a long standing tradition here in Dillon known as Lunch Bunch – where most Thursdays, high school students are invited over to a local church for a free pizza lunch as we share a short gospel message.
And a few weeks ago I was sitting next to a high school girl and in the midst of our conversation she shared that this was the first meal she had had in the past couple days. She said that with limited food at home she went hungry so her younger siblings could eat.
As she shared, I was deeply moved and yet deeply heartbroken. Moved because as I told her, she is an incredible older sister and yet heartbroken, because no high school student here in Dillon, no high school student period, should ever be put in that position.
Truth is, poverty is a complex issue and the causes of poverty are many. And yes, one of the causes the bible gives for poverty is a lazy work ethic or unwillingness to work. And yet, I want to give you two numbers that might tell a different story.
The minimum wage currently in Montana is $9.95. And a 2 bedroom apartment at the Beaverhead Villa is $731/month. And that might be the best deal in town. You see even if you’re unbelievably frugal, those numbers don’t add up.
Addressing and solving the problem of poverty is complex and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. But here are a couple.
Maybe invite a family that’s struggling over for dinner. Or kids, maybe invite a friend or two to camp next month. Many in our church family have generously given camp scholarships so that any kid can go to camp whether their families can afford it or not.
Friends, who comes to mind when you think of the poor in your life? The widow, the orphan, poor, here’s the fourth and final:
An immigrant is someone who is from another country who comes to our country. More broadly speaking, we might think of the immigrant as someone who is from another home who intends to call Dillon home whether it be for a night, or a few months, or possibly a few years. So when we think about the immigrant, think about:
The homeless and transient population, who go up and down I-15, who are trying to get to their next destination, who need a place to crash for a night.
Or consider the high school students from Youth Challenge who are away from their families, hours from home, who are a part of our community for 4 or 5 months.
Or consider the college students from all over the world who attend Montana Western.
And of course, we must remember all the migrant workers who work tirelessly on farms and ranches all across our valley, who are instrumental in putting food on our plates.
Sometimes you’ll hear this sentiment of “If you’re going to live here, you’ve got to learn our customs, you’ve got to learn our way of life, you’ve got to learn our language.” And sure, I can understand that to some degree.
And yet, what if it was just the opposite? What if we learned theirs? Like, what if we took it upon ourselves and learned how to speak Spanish as a way of welcoming the immigrant among us?
At the end of Jesus’s ministry, he gave his closest friends The Great Commission, which begins with, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.”
Truth is, sometimes the “go” part requires us to travel halfway around the world. And yet, what happens when the nations come to us? In so many ways, the opportunities are right in front of us.
And so, friends, who comes to mind when you think of the immigrant in your life?
The widow, the orphan, the poor, and the immigrant. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list of those we are called to love and serve, and yet, if we focus on those four, we’ll be well on our way to pursuing real justice and partnering with Jesus in restoring, recreating, re-ordering this world into all that God intended for it to be.
And we’ll finish with this:
Verse 5 of Psalm 146 tells us this:
5 joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper
It’s not a message written to the widow or orphan, the poor and immigrant among us, rather it’s a message for us all.
5 joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper
You see, In order to have the right motivation for bringing justice, we must know God as our helper ourselves.
In other words, we are needy people helping needy people. We must see ourselves as people in need called to help people in need.
Friends, this is the message of Jesus, a message throughout all of scripture.
That we too, all of us, need God, in more ways than we can even begin to count. And Jesus invites us to see reality as it really is and that he is our helper.
If we fail to grasp this, then chances are we will serve people out of pride, or look on them with pity. Or we may fail to serve them altogether, thinking that they should be able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
And yet, 5 joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper
If you and I, as followers of Jesus, know God as our helper, as our provider, as our savior, as our redeemer, then we will be positioned to serve those around us from a place of true joy and deep humility.
5 But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.