Repair the Breach to Prepare the Way

(You can watch video of me delivering this sermon here)

If a full-on Prophet showed up today and told you, “Your society must repair the breach” 

What breach would grip your heart?

This question gets at what we mean by Peace when we honor the Peace of Christ and seek to follow Jesus as the Prince of Peace.

For Jesus and the Hebrew Prophets before him the kind of peace they sought is called in Hebrew “Shalom.” Shalom is about restoring what has been damaged, righting wrongs, repairing what has been torn apart. Shalom requires justice, not merely the absence of conflict.

In the United Church of Christ a lot of folks talk about Shalom as “Just Peace,” peace with justice. Time and again in Jesus’ life it’s clear that he shows how following God means seeking to be free of violence and hate while also being ready and willing to confront what needs to be confronted for there to be the repentance, repair, and reconciliation. Throughout all of this is the grace that flows from the nature of God. Blessed are those who work for peace.

If a full-on Prophet showed up today and told you, “Your society must repair the breach,” 

What breach would grip your heart?

In a moment I’ll share with you all various people’s responses when I posed this question on our church email list and on social media,

But first I want to convey some of the force of this prophetic presence, if a prophet showed up.

I said “full-on” Prophet. Someone did respond by joking with me about this. They said, “I’m glad you’re not talking about some half-assed prophet, but a full-on Prophet.” We’re talking about a formidable force.

We have just heard in our reading today from the Prophet Isaiah, from whom we hear a lot in the Christmas season, because Christians see Isaiah as foretelling Jesus and what Jesus means. We heard from a very modern sounding translation, which I think is important because it’s relatable. But let’s hear a little from the more weighty biblical language:

Is not this the fast that I chose:

To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free… to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, cover them, and do not hide yourself from your own kin

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly…

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

… you shall be called the repairer of the breach

Then let’s hear from Mary who sang out these prophetic words when she was pregnant with her son, Jesus:

My soul magnifies the Lord…

God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. God has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of God’s mercy.

What can happen when people come face to face with this kind of forceful prophetic presecne?

Well, there once was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector in Jesus’ time in the city of Jericho. Zacchaeus was Jewish. But being a tax collector meant that he was an agent of the occupying Roman empire. So many of his fellow kinfolk really resented him, and many hated and shunned him. He was profiting off their exploitation, as a tax collector.

This was very much taxation without representation – it was exploitation under the threat of violence by an occupying army. Now, it wasn’t Zacchaeus’ fault that this was the way things were, but he sure was ready and willing to get rich off the situation.

When Jesus came to Jericho there were crowds of people there to meet him. Zacchaeus felt this powerful draw from the startling spiritual presence of Jesus. He needed to get close to Jesus.

As the story goes, he was a short man, so he climbed a sycamore tree to be able to look over the crowds. Jesus saw him up there, saw his soul-yearning and how that was humbling him. So, Jesus called up to him and said, “Zacchaeus, I want to get to know you.”

This was a scandal, because Zacchaeus was shunned as a sinner.

But Jesus shared with him the grace and the prophetic challenge that he embodied. And Zacchaeus knew he had to follow Jesus. What did that require? Repairing the breech that he was complicit in.

Zacchaeus immediately gave away half his wealth to the poor. And he pledged that anyone he had defrauded he would repay four times over.

If a full-on Prophet showed up today and told you, “Your society must repair the breach” 

What breach would grip your heart?

Here’s what you all had to say. And please keep sharing your responses.

Someone was really honest:

VERY scary!!!! And dumbfounding. Making one feel like the rich man who walked sadly away, unable to do as instructed and give all he had to the poor. (This refers to an earlier story in the Gospel of Luke where a wealthy man refused to do what Zacchaeus had done.)

There are so many breaches we’ve allowed or created! One can always work on healing our personal betrayals of trust, but the enormity of our society’s and our government’s betrayals seems almost too great for one’s heart and body.

For me, the paramount breaches are racism and the destruction of our natural world for our own use.

Our faith teaches that peace is possible, but in the context of my life and meager understanding, true peace is a process.

The breach is that so often the smaller differences make us blind to our greater shared similarities. Man woman, citizen immigrant, white or not, we are all human. Human or non-human, we are all beings on this earth.

Racism

Using “Christianity” to promote wealth accumulation and cynicism/fear for others/outsiders

Domestic violence and abuse of children.

I would want the breach of racism and poverty and the ramifications to be addressed. I would like to see someone oversee jobs at living wages for everyone. I would like someone to facilitate discussions concerning racial prejudice so we can really converse and connect. I also would like someone to call out all of us when we ARE behaving with care and compassion to each other.

Erasing the programming that made us forget we are all connected as one … what you do to another is what you do to yourself..

The breach in humanity. Simple issue right?

The breach between humans and all other life.

The answer, of course, is Hate. The Right hates the Left, Straight people hate anyone who isn’t, White people hate anyone who isn’t, and vice versa. It goes on and on and on. It’s nauseating. I, for one, am sick and tired of this merry go round. I’m getting off.

I’m choosing Peace and Love. I refuse to be baited into showing any negative emotion towards another human being.

I really hope your prophet brought an extremely thick skin with her. She’s going to need it. Ha! A prophet could be female.

The breach of not loving our neighbor, of not looking on the heart, of listening to others who are not of God and letting hate and fear take over. God preached love. So should we reflect GOD’s teachings

I wouldn’t even know where to begin fixing America, it is in such a mess.    But having America sit down and listen to Mississippi John Hurt would be a good beginning. “Jesus had to walk that lonesome valley”

The patriarchy

Breech in Compassion with understanding

“Othering”

The breech in “Love one another”

The harm humans are causing earth through pollution of land, sea and air.

Relationship with earth. Compassion towards others. Love.

The first thing I think I would think would be our wealthy society’s treatment of children.

This would probably come first to mind because of the struggles my son is having. He’s a single parent with sole custody of an 8yo second grader. Countries that put their money where Jesus would approve have full-time, high quality childcare for working parents. With high quality pre-K programs. And paid parental leave. And healthcare. My grandson is blessed with loving parents/grandparents and the rudiments of a middle class life style. Too, too many kids in our society have already fallen irreparably behind by the time they’re in second grade. With nothing to make up the gaps. There are a multitude of “breaches” that we could address. But our children are indeed the least of us.

Repair the breach we have with both indigenous peoples and Mother Earth whom they respected and protected.

On the Advent theme of Peace, I’m remembering some thoughts I shared at this time in church a few years ago, reflecting on Spinoza’s definition: “Peace is not an absence of war– It is a virtue, a state of mind. It is a disposition for benevolence, trust, and justice.” As followers of the Way of Jesus, wouldn’t we build on that to say it must be more than a state of mind; it must be a state of the heart and soul, a capacity for empathy that sees “the other” as a fellow child of God. Then we live the truth of the Beatitude, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.” I believe the deepest meaning of that is that we are not only at peace with our neighbor, but we will be blessed by finding peace within ourselves.

That’s a good last word.

Thank you all.

So, the fact is, that this isn’t an “if” kind of question, “If a Prophet shows up today…” Prophets have shown up in the past, have shown up today, and will continue to show up and challenge us to repair the breeches of our times.

When we do our part, we can find that repairing the breech does prepare the way for Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Photo by form PxHere

#BiblicalSocialJustice #Christianity #Zacchaeus #Reparation #Advent #Reconciliation

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