One World Family

 

Jeremiah 2:4-13
I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.

Luke 14:1, 7-14
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

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This is the Sunday before Labor Day. Labor Day is a time for our nation to celebrate workers as well as the benefits that labor unions bring and have brought to working families and our nation as a whole.

By the way, with or without a union it would be good if companies such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart paid workers higher wages so taxpayers wouldn’t have to underwrite their lives with so much government assistance. A lot of wealthy companies are getting by on the cheap because others, namely taxpayers like us, are supplementing their low wages. It used to not be that way when unions were strong.

My father worked as a brakeman on the P&LE railroad and belonged to a union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. The union made his life and our family’s life better than it might have otherwise been. We moved up from the lower class into the middle class in just a matter of years. We needed no government assistance. His fair and substantial wages made it possible for me to go to college, something neither he nor my mother was able to do. Without the union I might not be preaching here today.

My father’s father was a coalminer in western Pennsylvania, near Connellsville. Like my own father he was strong as a mule and worked like a mule for his boss. But unlike my father, my grandfather did not belong to a union.

When my grandfather was fatally injured the family physician suddenly switches sides and lied about his injury and thus the judge ruled in favor of the coalmine owner and against my grandfather. My grandfather died young with little security for his family. My father never forgot how easily workers can be disregarded and discarded by certain companies, or what he often called “the capitalists.”

The Hebrew prophets, such as Jeremiah, Amos and Isaiah, raged against such things, raged against the exploitation of workers, of withholding fair wages. They raged against the corruption and greed of the wealthy who blithely walked all over the poor while flaunting power and privileges. You know, their “entitlements.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was weaned on the Old Testament prophets, as was Jesus, and as was John Calvin the 16th century founder of the Presbyterian tradition. That’s one reason Presbyterian ministers preach on public issues, such as corporate greed, gun violence, the glorification of alcohol, the demonization of cannabis, mass incarceration, racism, inequality, pollution and war.

Presbyterians—and Presbyterian ministers in particular—speak out in a way that other churches cannot or will not. The Hebrew prophetic tradition is in our DNA. Not surprisingly, Presbyterian minister Eugene Carson Blake was one of the keynote speakers at the March on Washington 50 years ago.

Thus says the LORD. I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, "Where is the LORD?" Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied falsely. Therefore once more I accuse you, says the LORD.

(Apparently, the LORD God Almighty has an anger management issue!)

The LORD, the Holy One—or as we might say today—the Spirit of Love and Sanity within our hearts, cries out: treat all people kindly and fairly. Do to others as you would have others do to you. After all, you are all one family.

It’s true. We are all one family. For heaven’s sake let’s treat each other fairly and kindly.

Once upon a time women in this country could not vote. Men, yes. Women, no. But certain women had a dream inspired by the Holy One, a vision of a nation that honored and practiced equality for all people.

In 1878, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted an amendment. Forty-one years later, Congress submitted the 19th amendment to the states for ratification. It was added to the Constitution on August 18, 1920. That anniversary was two Sundays ago.

The arc of the universe may be long but it bends toward justice. Without justice there can be no peace. Tranquility, yes. Peace, no.

Once upon a time black people in this country could not vote. Whites, yes. Blacks, no.

Once upon a time black people in this country had few civil rights. Whites, many. Blacks, few. Guess who felt entitled? Guess who won the “birth lottery?”

Blacks could not attend certain schools or universities, could not have lunch at certain lunch counters, could not sit on certain bus seats, could not apply for certain jobs, could not safely walk through certain neighborhoods, could not attend certain churches. Once upon a time, blacks were lynched by the thousands in this country—a history suppressed in many text books.

Once upon a time black people had few civil rights and little protection from mobs. But certain people had a dream inspired by the Holy One, a vision of a nation that honored and practiced equality for all people.

Fifty years ago that vision stirred the hearts of a quarter million people, whites and blacks, to march on Washington for jobs and freedom, to stand up and speak out for righteousness in our land. That march resurrected the dying soul of our nation. That was August 28, 1963. Much, but not all, has improved since then.

The arc of the universe may be long but it bends toward justice. Without justice there can be no peace. Tranquility, yes. Peace, no.

Straight people in this country are and have been protected by law from job and housing discrimination. All straight people including people of color have been protected for a long time. All GLBT persons have not.

But certain people have a dream inspired by the Holy One, a vision of a nation that honors and practices equality for all people. Many states have adopted protective laws. But not all. In West Virginia that law has not yet arrived. But there are reasons to hope. The hearts and minds of West Virginians are beginning to change. It’s gratifying to see that many, including many of you, are working for justice in this land.

You don’t have to know much about the Bible or the Hebrew prophets to know that the God of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar; the God of Jacob and Rachel, the God of Mary, Joseph and Jesus loves justice and hates unrighteousness. As the prophet Isaiah put it: Letjustice roll down like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Where have you heard that before?

You don’t have to know much about Jesus either to know he was all about an inclusive, welcoming community, about welcoming all people to his table. You can hear it in the gospel lesson for today.

Jesus said, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, just so they will invite you in return. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed."

You will be blessed.

As disciples of the Beloved Jesus, we are called to welcome the dispossessed to the table of life. We are called to grant to all people a place of honor and belonging. For only through equally shared goods and power, do we really enjoy the Banquet of God with the one world family the Holy One means us to be.

By our birth we have received certain powers and privileges and by our baptism we have received a vision and certain responsibilities. What, then, shall we do?

And before you go away thinking this is only about big things, about national issues, think again. This is also about kindness and fairness in the small world you meet every day, including the world under your roof and that, of course, includes you. Do not forget to be kind and fair to yourself.

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HYMN: O For a World
O for a world where everyone respects each other’s ways,
where love is lived and all is done with justice and with praise.

O for a world where goods are shared and misery relieved,
where truth is spoken, children spared, equality achieved.

We welcome one world family and struggle with each choice
that opens us to unity and gives our vision voice.

The poor are rich, the weak are strong, the foolish ones are wise.
Tell all who mourn, outcasts belong, who perishes will rise.

O for a world preparing for God’s glorious reign of peace,
where time and tears will be no more, and all but love will cease.

Words by Miriam Therese Winter
© Medical Mission Sisters 1990