That’s not fair …a universal human cry from cradle to grave

When Jesus spoke of justice and liberation of the oppressed, many people listened to him. Whether we are a victim or offender, we all need to know God’s justice and mercy for us. You might think of the former Post Office managers, wrongly prosecuted for monies missing from their accounts, but caused by errors in the software used by the Post Office, or the injustice of farmers paid less than the cost of production of coffee, chocolate or milk. The people of Jesus’ time lived under the oppression of the Romans; the Jewish leaders wanted a quiet and peaceful life, so when Jesus spoke out against this, his days were numbered.

We often talk about giving something up for Lent – wine? beer? chocolate? And that might help us focus on what Lent is about, but this year the churches in Belton and Burgh Castle are thinking about Living Lent Embracing Justice; a 40 day challenge to reflect and react to various themes. We shall cover justice in creation and relationships, communities of justice and the way Jesus dealt with justice and mercy, not forgetting the lack of justice for Jesus himself on the way to the cross.

The Bible contains many stories of justice, probably the most wellknown would be the Exodus of the Hebrew people from the oppression of the Egyptians, or perhaps the parable of the Good Samaritan, which challenges our thinking and the way we exclude or pass-over people who don’t fit into our way of thinking, our tendency to “write people off”.

The prophet Isaiah speaking God’s words said “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice?” When we reflect on the injustices of the world we can be transformed to be a people who live by a vision of God’s world, where all are created equal. No matter what laws and guidance are given to human beings, we seem to struggle to do justly and love mercy. It is only in Jesus that justice and mercy are perfectly united – in one perfect life, a sacrificial death and a glorious resurrection. Exploring this line of thought might be difficult, but justice is costly.

Jesus’ life revealed God’s heart for justice. The first recorded occasion of Jesus standing up to speak in the Synagogue, when he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” Luke 4: 18-19

Throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth he showed real concern for the poor, and for those on the margins of society; he fed the hungry, he ate and drank with the people that those in leadership considered unworthy, he washed the feet of his disciples when no one else was prepared to carry out that function before eating dinner. Jesus placed himself on a par with those who were normally ignored by people who lacked humility and grace, but he also challenged those who were disadvantaged or despised, to account for their own choices. Those who thought they already led good lives tended to disassociate themselves from him. It was surrounded by great and powerful men that Jesus experienced the abuse and perversion of Justice that so many endured then, and too many suffer today. All too often the powerful justify their actions and choices whilst the powerless suffer in silence.

“Even when we know that Easter is coming, the resurrection of Jesus does not take away the cross or its scars. Much of the world lives poised between the pain of the cross and the hope of resurrection.” The followers of Jesus are called to “weep with those who weep, and sit with those who have no tears left to cry. We might rage at injustice and the way it so often seems to triumph”, so writes Isabelle Hamley in the reflection for the day between Good Friday and Easter Day.

God’s invitation is for us to join his mission of transformation; it is an invitation to churches, communities and individual Christians today – even as we live in a fractured and hurting world. We are people made in the image of God who need God’s loving and challenging embrace, if we are to respond. And respond we must!