• Steven Marsh

Being a Legacy church: a Reflection on Amos 7:7-17, Psalm 82, Colossians 1:1-14, and Luke 10:25-37

Dying well and leaving a legacy matters. Halter and Smay, authors of AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church write,“Just as the thousands of people who have died in honor of defending our country, there are just as many or even more who have given their lives for the sake of the gospel and the church.”[1] Yet, seven lives ended this past week, not well and too soon. Oh there is a legacy that we must overcome…we are a country of citizens mobilized around racism, hate, and injustice. A legacy of disunity, non-reconciliation, and injustice is forming.

Asaph, a musician hired by David and subsequently by Solomon writes, in Psalm 82, “Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”[2] This is the legacy that every follower of Jesus must breathe and live in. Captain Michael Journey, the homeless individual who worshipped with us at 10:30am last week, received dignity and respect. Members of the LGBTQQ community who joined us Wednesday evening for the “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality” class received dignity and respect.

The story of the lawyer and the Samaritan speak to each one of us who recognize that we are on a journey—“…not just a journey from womb to tomb, but from birth to rebirth, from partial life to abundant life.”[3] The lawyer said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”[4] Jesus responded with a question, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”[5] The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”[6] And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”[7] God created us to love; to love God and to love others. Love should not be limited by its recipient; its extent and quality are in the control of its giver. There was a man attacked by robbers and left for dead. First a priest and then a Levite passed the man by on the other side of the road. The priest and Levite both neglected to show mercy. It was a Samaritan, one who despised the Jewish people, who took the beaten man to an Inn, looked after his needs, and gave the innkeepers money to continue the man’s care. It is clear that the Samaritan “did” loving the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind; and his neighbor as himself.

Christians have an identity and mission according to the Bible. We are loved by God in order to love God and others. Halter and Smay write, “The essence of the Christian faith is that our God intentionally came to lay down his life as a ransom for all. It was a necessary tragedy that brought life. And his…mission had a clear target: you and me. His teaching and way of life and his call to the church speaks as a clarion call to each of us to give our lives away.”[8]

Racism, injustice, and hate persist. The families of the two killings, Alton Sterling (37) in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile (32) in Minneapolis and the five Dallas police officers did not receive dignity and respect. The criminal justice system must undergo reform and gun legislation occur. Enough talk. Action is required.

Two weeks ago at the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Confession of Belhar (1986) was added to our Book of Confessions. This Confession is a strong call to unity, reconciliation and justice and the renunciation of ideologies which promote and tolerate human oppression.

Unity, reconciliation, and justice are values of the kingdom of God. Amos reminds us of this. As in the prophet’s day, so it is today, there is plumb line in our midst.[9] The people of God are being held accountable. Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Our actions have implications.[10]

The legacy you leave must be motivated by real people who have real needs who live in a real world; the legacy you leave must be useful, not theoretical; the legacy you leave must exclaim and cry out your faith; and the legacy you leave must be a positive form of peer pressure, mobilizing others to do likewise.[11] We must live our lives vividly and compassionately so that others see that the weak and the needy are being deprived of justice and kindness.[12] Weak and needy lives matter. In many ways, we are like the prophet Amos, calling humanity to move “…beyond the less-than-adequate place” we are.[13] With the apostle Paul, we recognize the struggle between light and darkness and the progression of bearing fruit which leads to growth.[14]

As individuals and congregations, let us speak out against racism, hate, and injustice. In such a world, God is “the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged.”[15] In word and deed, therefore, we will stand by people in any form of suffering and need; and stand where the Lord stands, namely against any form of injustice and with the wronged.[16]

[1]Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), 190.

[2]Psalm 82:3-4

[3]James A. Wallace in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 239.

[4]Luke 10:25

[5]Luke 10:26

[6]Luke 10:27

[7]Luke 10:28

[8]Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, 204.

[9]Amos 7:8

[10]This idea of actions having implications gleaned from Mark Douglas in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 210.

[11]Adapted from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered, 195-201.

[12]Some ideas in this paragraph gleaned from Lisa Lamb in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 229.

[13]John E. White in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 223.

[14]These two notions captured from Richard L. Eslinger in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 237.

[15]Confession of Belhar, 4.

[16]Ibid.

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