Sunday, January 28, 2007

What Justice Looks Like

We started a new study on last Sunday night on N.T. Wright’s new book, Simply Christian.
Our discussion of the book began with the place from which Wright begins his book -- on the topic of justice. N.T. Wright believes that we all have in our minds an ideal for the perfect world – a world in which everything is fair and all things work out for the best. This ideal is a world where we not only are aware of what is right and what we should do, but how we actually live our lives in a way which is right. Yet, just as we gain a glimpse of what is right, we wake up from our dream and step into reality.

N.T. Wright pens on page four, and I quote, “It’s as though we can hear, not perhaps a voice itself, but the echo of a voice: a voice speaking with calm, healing authority, speaking about justice, about things being put to rights, about peace and hope and prosperity for all. The voice continues to echo in our imagination, our subconscious. We want to go back and listen to it again, but having woken up we can’t get back into the dream. Other people sometimes tell us it was just a fantasy, and we’re half-inclined to believe them, even though that condemns us to cynicism.”

As part of the discussion last week, we were asked to share what this dream looks like for us. What is our dream of justice?

One of the things I mentioned in response to the question is how my dream of justice is one in which there are no more gray blankets filling the nooks and crannies, window wells and alleys of this city. I have noticed these blankets more often in recent weeks than I have ever noticed them before. I have found the blankets on the steps of our church and in the corners of our porches. The blankets have caught my eye as I have walked through several public parks. One can see them stuffed behind trees and hidden behind bushes. They are worn as capes by homeless men and women. The blankets seem to be everywhere, and each blanket I see represents a person whose body is colder than mine is on this night. Each blanket I see represents a person whose body is colder than mine on most winter nights. Each blanket I see reminds me how not everything has been made right – at least not yet.

But in my dream, there are no blankets. In my dream, everyone has a place to call “home” – where their belongings are kept safe, where the seats around the kitchen table are occupied by family members having dinner together each evening, and where a warm, cozy bed is readily available for all people – a bed covered not with a gray blanket but with a down-filled, colorful comforter on top.

We have a long way to go before this dream is a reality. In fact, there are times when I don't even have a clue as to where to start making the dream a reality. But one thing is for certain -- the blankets no longer fade into the scenary of the city as they once used to do. Instead, the blankets remind me of our neighbors -- the men and women who sleep near the church -- the people who will be covered with gray blankets on this chilly night.

God, may your presence be known to Caroline and Clifton, Michael and Dennis, and to everyone else who does not have a place to call home.

What is your dream of justice?

NOTE: This discussion inspired today's sermon. You may read the full text later in the week on the Mount Vernon Place UMC website. You may also come and join us as we continue the discussion on Simply Christian.

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