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Rooted Growing Branching

Jan 8, 2017

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JUSTICE FROM SEA TO SEA

Doug Hatlem, preaching

Psalm 72:8                     May he have dominion from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Dominion theology, manifest destiny, and a whole sordid strain of thought and action through the centuries of US history, holds that the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean was and in fact is a European, Christian colonial birthright. The former inhabitants of the land, like Canaanites in the Hebrew Bible are per God given sanction, subject to complete wipeout wherever possible. This kind of thinking is not unique to the United States either. The latin phrase in the official Canadian motto also comes directly from this verse, Psalm 72:8: A Mari Usque Ad Mare. From sea to sea. Recent discussions in Canada have considered changing the motto, perhaps by adding a 3rd sea to acknowledge Nunavut and the Arctic. From Sea to Sea to Sea.

We are at a time now when there is no broad consensus in Anabaptist thinking as to what it means for us to declare that the baby born in a bethlehem manger is King. Light of the world. Lord of Lords. Given the many different kinds of answers possible, there is not a simple theological answer that I can present to you neat and tidily in a short sermon like this. I am leaving many things hanging this morning intentionally, including the question about our relationship to the land under our feet and its original inhabitants. However, I do want to point to an important portion of any meaningful answer to these questions, while returning to our passage from Psalms and introducing the series we are embarking upon over the next several weeks of worship.

One important way that we proclaim the reign of Jesus our God is through our acts of service, mercy, justice and love. Social justice is not the only way we declare Jesus is Lord. We also proclaim that in our worship, in song and sermon, in prayers personal and communal, in our rest and work and play, and in our study of scripture. But when we do search the scripture we discover that perhaps the most important way we declare Jesus rulership of all is in relational giving and receiving with those in most dire need. Immediately after the section of the Psalm declaring God’s dominion from sea to sea and calling for gifts accordingly, the Psalmist begins verse 12 with the important word “For” or “Because.” Why is God the ruler of all? Psalm 72:12-14

“Because he delivers the needy when they call.

The poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life

and precious is their blood in his sight.”

And so, while on Epiphany Sunday we do affirm that blinding lights and angels in the skies declare the great and terrible glory of the Lord, even more importantly we affirm that that Lord comes meek and lowly, riding on a donkey, born into a feedbox for common animals, one at once with the poor and the outcast, those for whom their is no room in the inn, alternatively neglected and sought out for death by the principalities and powers.

This is our King. As the words to our responding hymn put it, Where Jesus shall reign/The pris’ner leaps, unloosed his chains/The Weary find eternal rest … Death and the curse/Are known no more. When will we know that our God reigns from shore to shore to shore? When there is justice from sea to shining sea. When tears shall be no more. When all that has been lost is finally restored.

 

Isaiah 60:1-3

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Psalm 72:1-15

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more. May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust. May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live! May gold of Sheba be given to him. May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long.

(NRSV)