True Israelites

Year A
Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8

May the words of my mouth… O God… speak your Truth…

Pastor Chris Glaser wrote that Jesus did not come to save you… or to ensure your financial prosperity… Jesus came to save the world… to help it prosper… and to implement God’s plan for all of creation… even that part of creation which is beyond the edge of the known universe… of course that includes you… but it’s not all about you… and whether you’re Christian or not… you’re a part of that Universal Body… a part of that of Christ Consciousness… and cannot exist apart from it…

When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai… down from communing with this Consciousness… he told the elders what God had revealed to him… that if they obeyed God’s injunctions… and kept God’s covenant… they would be God’s treasured possession… a priestly kingdom… and a holy nation… and they said… Everything that the Lord has spoken… we will do… and I’ve wondered… I’ve thought that perhaps… anyone who keeps God’s commandments… can also be… a True Israelite…

So if True Israelites follow God’s commandments… and if God’s commandments are spoken through the Prophets… we have to ask whether and how well… we listen to the Prophets… in Isaiah 1:17… God said… learn to do good… seek justice… rescue the oppressed… defend the orphan… plead for the widow… and in Isaiah 58:6-7… God said… is not this the fast I choose… to loose the bonds of injustice… to let the oppressed go free… is it not to share your bread with the hungry… and in Ezekiel 16:49… God said… the guilt of your sister Sodom was that she and her daughters had excess food… prosperous ease… and were prideful… but did not aid the poor and needy… most of us remember that in Micah 6:8… the prophet wrote… God has told you… O mortal… what is good… to do justice… and to love kindness… and to walk humbly with your God… and in 1John 3:17-18… the Gospel writer asks… how does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods… and sees a brother or sister in need… and yet refuses help

Everything that the Lord has spoken… we will do… sadly… I think that this country… doesn’t listen or do… too many think it’s all about them… and as Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann has rightly observed… the Gospel has gotten all tangled up… in a white… western… sense of entitlement… we have moved away from God’s will for us… even during this pandemic… many people feel entitled to do what they want… even when it goes against what we’re instructed to do… by the medical health professionals we entrust to lead us…

For example… I went to Meijer on Friday morning… and all over the store… all over the floors… are arrows pointing this way down one aisle… and that way up the next aisle… arrows that indicate traffic flow… and they’re not intended to vex people… they’re not intended to make people’s lives harder… they’re intended to help us keep each other healthy during this pandemic… but in almost every aisle I went… it was as though there were no arrows…

And God’s OK with us going the wrong way… down the aisles… or in life… or with us not wearing masks… God loves us anyway… but we will bear the consequences of our collective actions… we will reap the seeds we sow… and we will risk each other’s health even more… when we fail to do all we can not to…

And we’ve all seen the news reports of employees here and there… who did what they could to gently enforce a store’s mask policy… and who were met with everything from mild disdain to physical violence by those who seem to reject the prophetic voices of medical professionals like Drs. Fauci and Birx… but we cannot have the communities… or the lives we want… without a corresponding level of accountability… and in the days since George Floyd’s murder… and now Rayshard Brooks’… there are indications that people are demanding greater accountability…

Although… one commentator the other night… made a significant observation…there’s been a lot of talk… he said… about how things need to change… and how they ought to be… but there’s been no talk… really… about what we’re willing to give up to make that happen… how much we’re willing to pay… too many people it seems… want systems to change… and want increased social justice… but seem to think it will all be free

And maybe it’s because there’s money on the line… maybe it’s because some people are afraid of what they’ll have to give up… or the work that’ll be needed to dis-entangle the Gospel from notions of entitlement… maybe that’s why it becomes so much easier to minimize or flat-out negate the severity of racism… or voter suppression… or any of the things about which the Prophets spoke… easier for some leaders to say that things will just work themselves out… to say that people just ought to be patient… 

When… what I pray we heard from our highest elected officials… was an acknowledgement that the work we are called to do is difficult work… but it is what we are called to do… and we will do everything we can… to make whatever systemic changes are needed… and one reason why it’s difficult to do these things… is because as we move from systems of injustice… to systems of justice… we also move from higher personal risk when we speak out… to lower personal risk when we speak out…  there’s simply less on the line… when human law… is replaced by God’s Law…

And I lament the immoral and unethical things we do to each other… the way we still find ourselves struggling mightily with being decent to each other… struggle with speaking words of healing instead of hurt… speaking words of unity instead of division… how we still don’t love God with all our heart… mind… and strength… or love our neighbor as ourselves…

The COVID-19 pandemic… and the protests against racism… and the demands for more accountability… the wilderness that we’re in now… is like a learning lab… it’s our classroom… we still have a lot to learn and a long way to go… but who could ever have imagined… that Pope Benedict XVI… or any pope… would make a formal declaration exonerating the Jewish people for Jesus’ death… who could ever have imagined that in South Africa… the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would publicly deal with human-rights violations… and who could ever have imagined… that Ireland and Northern Ireland could heal decades of deadly armed conflict with terms contained in a document called the Good Friday Agreement… and if these things can happen… if people can say I was wrong… if people can say I’m sorry… if people can say forgive me… then the Spirit can work within us… because with God… all things are possible…

God needs more laborers… because there’s so much low-hanging fruit that’s being ignored… because there’s still so much work to be done… so as we slog our way through this new time… through this new landscape… let’s be aware of the countless opportunities to say I was wrong… to say I’m sorry… to ask for forgiveness… and to heal… to welcome and accept all people… and to live in to… and to implement… all of the justice for which God yearns… and spoke through the prophets… and to finally mean it when we say… Everything the Lord has spoken… we will do

About the author: The Rev. Mike Wernick

The Rev. Mike Wernick is a second-career Episcopal priest who grew up in a Reform Jewish family. He relishes his role as the Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Officer for two dioceses and affirms all faith traditions (he has this idea that diversity was never intended to be divisive). He serves on several diocesan and synod committees, including the ELCA N/W Lower Michigan Synod’s Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and is currently finishing the final year of a practicum to become a Spiritual Director.