Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 19 September 2017


By Jim Jordal

Several Sundays ago we used this confession in our morning services at Trinity Lutheran in Lindstrom. As we confessed our failures and frailties the thought struck me that this short passage was much more than a confession of sin---it also was a signpost pointing the way into the prophesied Kingdom of God on Earth.

The portion of the confession that struck me so forcefully was this: “Reform us to be a church powered by love, willing to speak for what is right, act for what is just, and seek the healing of your whole creation. Amen.”

I don’t know who wrote this, but it has immense power to transform our religious community if we took it seriously enough to act on its words. Confession has little power unless accompanied by sincere contrition matched with an intention to remedy the situation leading to the confession. This portion of the confession calls for intent to better follow the Lord as evidenced in the phrases “willing to speak for what is right, act for what is just, and seek the healing of your whole creation.”

In another prophecy in which God appeared to Solomon by night, the message is similar: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal there land” ( 2 Chron. 7:14). The motivating concept in both of these writings is God-directed action to speak, act, seek, pray, and turn away from present values and behavior.

Some of us take the position that we can’t seek God, he only seeks us. But I’d be careful with this view because it seems to remove any responsibility from us in the God-human equation. It sort of enables us to blithely continue religious posturing about the love-based demands of God for the human condition, without the necessity that we act in response to that love.

If we wish to be a church “powered by love,” as the confession maintains, then to complete the cause-effect relationship we must obediently respond to that love, not only with our minds, but also with our hands and hearts. It’s easy to “play church,” but harder to “be” church.

To “speak for what is right” means to cease being quiet and accepting in the presence of great evil. Our example for this kind of resistance to evil is found in the life of Jesus, who on many occasions publicly criticized the Jewish temple authorities for their connivance with Roman political power in cheating and oppressing the common people through their forms of taxation and extortion. In the end Jesus was killed mainly because his continuous agitation for justice and his ability to bring it to public attention greatly threated the existing power structure.

Proverbs 31:8-9 puts it this way: “Open your mouth for the mute, In the cause of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And serve justice to the poor and needy." Social status systems tend to structure themselves based on money, power, and prestige. Groups at the top have immense say in what happens in the society, while those further down the pecking order are often denied a voice in events. That’s why we open our mouths in support of and service to those who have no voice and are left desolate in society.

“Justice will finally come when those who have not been harmed become as incensed as those who are” (author unknown). Obviously it helps more when the people speaking against injustice hold positions of power in the government or within institutions committed to the formation of morality in the public arena. But generally it is people rather far down the status structure who cry out at their oppression and marginalization because those at the top either don’t care or are afraid that speaking out might cost them friends or position. So it’s the little people who often ignite the fires of change.

To “act for what is just” means to take action against oppression and injustice. You can literally “vote with your feet” as you walk away from what is oppressive and unjust. “Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps perpetuate it” (Martin Luther King).

We’ll save the phrase “to seek the healing of your whole creation” for next week.