Advocate for Christ!  Advocacy Day Sermon

Micah 6 and Luke 4–Too frequently they serve as the double barrel shotgun of the social justice wing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We pull them out, take aim, and pull the trigger, in much the same way that another wing of the church fires off Leviticus 18 and 20 and Romans 1. When they do it, they’re ignoring the passage’s cultural context. When we do it, well, we’re right.

I use the image of a shotgun to describe our readings intentionally. We find ourselves engulfed in a culture of violence–in thought, word, and deed–and we need to own our lack of “gun control” in our discourse and the violence we’ve done using sacred scripture as a weapon.

On more than one occasion of late, I’ve caught some Biblical buckshot in the behind from people committed to social justice concerned that I am concerned about some of the communication on social issues and politics that has been brought to my attention. So, I can tell you that Micah 6 and Luke 4 are lethal weapons spiritually when they are used to shame others or to defend what are, in essence, outbursts masquerading as advocacy.

 For example, criticizing parishioners for wearing red, white, and blue to worship on Memorial Day weekend signals that we judge people by what they wear to church.

Making fun of people’s physical appearance because we disagree with them makes the church petty and small.

Wishing the President of the United States dead in the name of the environment because he pulled out of the Paris Agreement is contrary to the Fifth Commandment, not to mention the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Drawing a line in the sand between one’s voice as a pastor or Christian and one’s voice as a citizen with its first amendment right of free speech signals to others that they too can draw a line in the sand between their Christian selves and their political selves by, say, praying for immigrants on Sunday and advocating for a wall the rest of the week.

Add after 30 years serving this church, currently as a person entrusted with power who gets a lot of truth spoken to him, I can honestly attest that, regardless of the cause, when advocates for social justice are uninformed about, uninterested in, and dismissive of my realities and needs as a person who lives with a disability–a largely oppressed population in our nation and in the world–those advocates give me just what I need to discount them and to dismiss whatever it is they have to say.  

And to use Micah 6 and Luke 4 to justify and defend any of this.  Well, lock and load. These are not examples of thoughtful, biblically based, theologically sound, social commentary. This is not advocacy. It’s certainly not prophetic. This is stupidity. You know what they say: There’s no defending stupid.

For followers of Jesus, the end does not justify the means. It is not enough that we advocate for the things for which Christ would have us advocate. We are to advocate for Christ. We are to advocate for Christ. Not in the personal-lord-anti-savior manner, but on Christ’s behalf, in Christ’s stead. We are to advocate in persona Christi–in the person of Christ. Christ advocating through us.

Perhaps the epistle reading we need is from Second Corinthians:   “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (5:18-20).

God appeals through us because Christ lives within us. Christ lives within us. We received Christ at baptism and we will receive Christ again when we come to the table. Jesus moves your spirit and energizes your life to advocate for immigrants, prisoners, people who live with disabilities, the planet, people of other faiths, people who live in poverty, victims of trafficking, any sort of violence, addiction or abuse, people discriminated against because of race, gender, or sexual orientation, or whomever fills your heart. The spirit of the Lord anoints you. The “Today” Jesus proclaimed in Nazareth is fulfilled in and through you.

And Jesus will work with you. Jesus will work in you, so that your advocacy is his advocacy.  Do not hear me saying silence, passivity, and acceptance; Jesus certainly didn’t do that. But neither did Jesus overthrow the Roman Empire. So we shouldn’t expect Jesus to overthrow the Trump administration. Our hope and prayer and goal is that both the person for whom we advocate and the person to whom we advocate, will see in our advocacy the presence of Christ who is the power and wisdom of God that transforms the world. After all, that’s mostly what Jesus did.

So Micah is right. It is not enough to do justice. We also have to love kindness. And we have to love kindness enough so much that we are kind to those with whom disagree, those whose words and deeds we hate, those who would silence us and silence Christ. Jesus says, ““Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” And Jesus does. “Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.” Love kindness that much.

And walk humbly with your God. Jesus’ humble walk with God led him to the cross. Jesus’ walk with God led him to victory, yes, to resurrection, but not apart from the cross. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” And still, now, today, Jesus is bringing good news to the poor, release to the captive, recovery of sight to those who are blind, and the year of the Lord’s favor–humbly, often one heart, one life at a time.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,” Jesus says, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Advocating for Christ–on Christ’s behalf, in Christ’s stead–is humble, kind, justice-doing, life-changing, world-transforming stuff. And how we do it–in persona Christi–is at least as important as what we advocate for. And so we come to the table to receive Christ once again so that in our advocacy we might be Christ, anointed by the Spirit and walking humbly with God for the sake of the world.

`© 2006 Craig A. Satterlee ● North/West Lower Michigan Synod ELCA ● 2900 N. Waverly Rd. ● Lansing MI 48906 ● 517-321-5066