Prayer-filled Lent Reflection #3: Praying for justice

given on Sunday, March 8, 2015 (due to the winter weather conditions, the 2nd Sunday in Lent had to be canceled at the rural churches)

Okay, I admit that last week’s winter snow disrupted my Lenten resolve. Snow days can bring welcome breaks from our daily routines and provide us with a day of rest and delightful surprises of nature’s beauty. Certainly these are welcome, but a Sunday snow day? Last week’s Sunday snow day broke into my prayer-filled Lent.

The original plan for the second Sunday in Lent was to focus on Communion and praying for the Church—the universal church, the denomination, and the local churches. The path developed a huge pothole and I hit it!

In fact, I began thinking about re-routing the entire Lenten theme and start all over again. I looked over my notes, reviewed the acronym PATH, read the lectionary, and prayed.

When Jesus met with the disciples for the last supper together, no one present knew—except for Judas—the changes that were about to occur. From our perspective today, that supper was the initiation of the universal church.

The 2,000 years since that supper has created a social phenomena that has sustained cultural and historical challenges that lead to reform creating an institution that reflects all the various ways Christians choose to practice worship and to fulfill the Great Commission. The Church does need prayer for God’s help in maintaining its integrity and its mission.

The mission from that first day was to bring about change in a world filled with corruption. The mission was to transform a rigid, inflexible, intolerant culture that had distanced itself from God.

And snow day or not, prayer is needed for The Church, but today the global culture demands attention and as Christians, prayer is a force that cannot be stripped from any one person, one community, one denomination nor any other cultural unit that focuses on fulfilling God’s mission.

Snow day or not, prayers must continue for the well-being of The Universal Church, and Christians must face the reality of the world armed with all their individual gifts and prayer. Prayer is the most powerful tool Christians can use to confront the social injustice that attacks God’s children anywhere, well everywhere!

Within our denomination, prayer is the foundation for the action we take confronting all the injustice we can. John Wesley was an activist. He did not accept the ‘hands-off’ approach to being Christian. He saw and demonstrated that being Christian meant literally serving as God’s hands and feet.

The Wesleyan method of Christianity meant looking at the world around oneself, as God would see it. What was good was praised; what was bad took prayer and action. The Methodist movement has become so refined and formalized that the action has evolved into a mission force throughout the world.

The Methodist’s have even incorporated prayer into action by including it in its Book of Discipline, the formal document that structures the denomination. Part IV of that document is “Social Principles:”

The Social Principles, while not to be considered church law, are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit. The Social Principles are a call to all members of the United Methodist Church to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice. (p.97)

 

The Social Principles are not law, but an effort to help focus Christians, especially Methodists, to identify problems within the culture that need attention in order to protect God’s creation and his children—us—in this world.

Our prayer-filled Lent must extend throughout the year to put our faith into action. The Christian lifestyle includes dealing with the challenges to our lives, in every facet, most of which are included in the social principles. Just consider the categories, which begin with paragraph 160:

  1. The natural world
  2. The nurturing community
  3. The social community
  4. The economic community
  5. The political community
  6. The world community

 

Simply reviewing the six categories, the completeness of the world is identified. There is no single factor of our lives that is not included within those six categories. And our Christian responsibility is to do all we can to help manage our lives and the lives of all people all around the world.

Such an inclusive list of social concerns easily fills Lent, but can fill each day throughout our lives (not just a season but every day). Looking more closely at each category provides an idea of how inclusive and how diverse the prayer topics are. The list also covers some of the very news topics we are witnessing daily. [The following quotes are taken from the Book of Discipline, Par IV: Social Principles.]

 

  1. The Natural World: “…we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. …Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies.”

 

  1. The Nurturing World: “… We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. … therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. … We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ loved and accepted us.”

 

  1. The Social Community: “The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. ..We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. … We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status.”

 

  1. The Economic Community: “We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation. We believe private and public economic enterprises are responsible for the social costs of doing business, such as employment and environmental pollution, and that they should be held accountable. … We believe that persons come before profits …and encourage the sharing of ideas in the workplace, cooperative and collective work arrangements.”

 

  1. The Political Community: While our allegiance to God takes precedence over our allegiance to any state, we acknowledge the vital function of government as a principal vehicle for the ordering of society. … The rightful and vital separation of church and state … should not be misconstrued as the abolition of all religious expression from public life. … Citizens have a duty to abide by laws duly adopted by orderly and just process of government. But governments, no less than individuals, are subject to the judgment of God. …we recognize the right of individuals to dissent … refraining from violence. … We offer our prayers for those in rightful authority who serve the public, and we support their efforts to afford justice and equal opportunity for all people.”

 

  1. The World Community: “God’s world is one world. … We recognize that no nation or culture is absolutely just and right in its treatment of its own people, nor is any nation totally without regard for the welfare of its citizens. … We affirm the right and duty of people of all nations to determine their own destiny. … We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. … We reaffirm our historic concern for the world as our parish and seek for all persons and peoples full and equal membership in a truly world community.”

 

Lent is a time for prayer and reflection. Our world is complex and it is so easy to become consumed by all the issues that confront us personally and then all those social and cultural issues played out in front of us in real life, reported on the news, or presented in fictional worlds of television, movies, and now games. Prayer must become a constant in our lives if we are to maintain the Christian lifestyle we have committed ourselves to living.

Each day, pray. Each newscast you watch, pray. Every conversation that focuses on the ills of politics, work environments, sports competitions, and more, pray.

Keep God informed. Keep the channel open between you and God. Listen for God. He is telling us what we should be doing all the time he can. Prayer is the conversation and as in all conversations, we must share and we must listen.

We must simply pray, but when God tells us what to do, we must act, too. We must look around our community and call on our own gifts and skills to act. We must find ways to actively be Christians through writing letters to business and political leaders. We must find ways to help feed and clothe those in our communities right here but also around the world. We must identify a problem, then find a solution, and then do whatever we can to get it done. With prayer, I know it can be done.

Closing prayer:

Thank you, God!

(Praise)      You have given us the world filled with glories.

You have given us communities to support us.

You have given us gifts to care and share with others.

(Apologize) And, sadly, we misuse and abuse all you have given.

Time and again, we complain rather than act.

We look away and avoid our responsibility.

(Thank)      Thank you for listening to all our groaning.

Thank you for being patient and waiting on us.

Thank you for guiding us into action.

(Help)        Help us to move our thoughts into prayers.

Help us to hear your words above all else.

Help us to work with one another

to love one another,

to make disciples of Christ,

to transform this world. –Amen

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