Thursday Lenten Journey of Justice: “Letting Suffering Speak”

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Reread Micah 6:1-12

Israel’s guilt and hypocrisy were laid bare by the cutting words of Micah, a voice reminding them of what God truly wants from God’s people. His call was not only to the positives of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, it was also to point out the guilt of a people who in verses 9-12 had left wisdom behind and attempted to sidestep correction, to remind them that the houses they went home to were bought from dishonest gains, violent actions, and a host of lies.

Cornell West, the modern civil rights activist, once said:
“The quest for the truth, the quest for the good, the quest for the beautiful all require us to let suffering speak, let victims be visible and let social misery be put on the agenda of those with power”

To let suffering speak to us at times can be a hard thing in our day and age. We prefer our insular lives. We prefer, when questing for “truth,” to stop short of acknowledging other people’s problems, pain, and struggles. Micah reminds us that God calls us to a life of virtue and uses such beautiful and meaningful words, so poignant and rich. But we should be reminded that he did not stop at virtue, he went on to speak of unacknowledged guilt. He went of to drag back up inconvenient truths, and ongoing practices that needed repentance, In short he did what West describes as letting suffering speak, victims be visible, and social misery put on the agenda of those with power.” At times in striving for a life of virtue we need more than the vision putting fire in our bellies, we need to let that fire come out and fix the things we have left unaddressed. We still need to hear the voiceless and let our hearts be broken for the suffering.

Jesus is sometimes referred to as the “Balm of Gilead” a beautiful description of his healing ministry and his heart of compassion for those he ministered to. This is veiled reference to Jeremiah which was picked up in the Old African Spiritual of the same name:

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus and say, “He died for all.”
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Don’t ever feel discouraged, for Jesus is your friend;
And if you lack for knowledge, He’ll never refuse to lend.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

The Balm of Gilead is a powerful reminder of God’s desire to bring healing and wholeness to a world broken by sin and suffering.

Instructions for Fasting:
Fast one meal. Let your emptiness or even boredom be reasons to connect with rather than disconnect with God. During the time of the meal the following passages about Jesus’ life and teaching consider the ways Jesus taught about and lived out the requirements of God to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

  • “Act justly” Mt 25: 31-46
  • “Love mercy” Mt 18:21-35
  • “Walk humbly with your God” John 13:1-17
  • Reread the lyrics of the “Balm of Gilead.” Ask God to put someone on your heart to pray for whose voice is not heard. Seek God’s guidance if there is a need to put this person’s suffering “on the agenda of those with power” or use your own power to respond to this suffering in some way.

About jtower11

Hi there! I am James Tower: A husband, father, dreamer, visionary, thinker, poet, mystic, metal-worker, and scholar. I have served College Avenue Friends since 2013. I like to describe the way God has been at work in my life by saying that "He has been creating in me the heart of a pastor, the mind of a scholar, and the zeal of a missionary." I have an extremely nontraditional background as Jesus has given me freedom from the slavery of addiction to drugs, and my journey to faith came later in life after an overdose in 2000. I graduated with a M. Div with an emphasis in biblical studies from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland Oregon in 2016. I have a love for teaching and revealing the historical and doctrinal context from which the biblical text arises, and connecting its redemptive message to life today. Other interests include teaching a leadership class based on the Friends Testimonies at William Penn University, writing, and metalwork such as blacksmithing, a passion which I enjoy teaching others as a way of discipleship. View all posts by jtower11

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