This past Sunday, I preached the final sermon in our church’s 5-part series based on Tim Keller’s book, The Reason For God. It was a real privilege to do this, both given the significance of the series (we used it as an opportunity to give away a ton of books and invite many people to New Hope) and my admiration for Keller and enjoyment of learning/working from his material.
But it was difficult. My task was to address the question “why is the church responsible for so much injustice?” There were so many different directions that I wanted to go. I ended up trying to give an account of why the question matters, why justice matters to God (and how God’s passion for justice is embedded in the story of scripture through Creation, Fall, Israel and Redemption through Jesus, final Consummation), and why we fail at it. Rather than used a single main text, I worked from Psalm 50:1, 6; Isaiah 58:1-12; Luke 4:14-21; and 1 Timothy 1:12-17 (many, many others were left scattered through the notes). The message concluded with a call to confession of our great sin and our great Savior. If you like, you can listen to the sermon at New Hope and please, don’t hesitate to offer any criticism or critique. I know that I need it.
It was also hard from a sense of style and communication. I abandoned my usual favorite ways of structuring a message and tried to speak to what might be in the hearts of those present that day. I didn’t want it to be an academic question: I wanted to directly address where people were both inside and outside the church. Two days later, I wish I’d made more of an appeal at the end to those on the outside and given better illustration of the on-the-ground struggle to be just in our world.
Now that it’s over, I would like to do a follow up message sometime that tackles where the church struggles with injustice in our day and what we must begin to do about it. It’s easy to judge the church’s historic sin with spiritual hindsight. It’s far more difficult to exercise the grace to be prophetic about our current failures in our own moment and tackle how Jesus is calling us forward. Why? Part of that is we’re blind and just don’t know what we don’t know. I am certain there are things right in front of our nose that we struggle to see but that the next generation will have no problem calling out. But the other part is that we might already know (we probably don’t have to think hard or long on where we are dropping the ball – the Spirit is already convicting us through the Word!) but lack the courage or will to speak the truth in love to one another. Lord willing, I’d like to have the chance to do that. In our service Sunday we sang the remarkable hymn “At the Name of Jesus” and I want to leave you with the third verse (from our Trinity hymnal):
In your hearts enthrone him; There let him subdue
All that is not holy, All that is not true:
Crown him as your captain In temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you In its light and power.