Sermon March 28, 2010: Holiness and community transformation
- Presenter: Roberto Miranda
- Date: March 28, 2010
- Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA
Let’s go to the Word of the Lord Isaiah Chapter 58. Why does the Congregation Leon of Judah invest so much time, so much money, so much energy in the work of transforming the society? And I want to establish some biblical and sociological reasons or platforms for the community work, the social work the Congregation labor.
For many Christians work in the community may seem secondary, perhaps, even unnecessary. Perhaps in the Hispanic community you have not had much evidence of the involvement of the Evangelical church in the transformation of the society or in social work. And we want our Congregation to understand why we do, why we feel such an urgency to do this community work here.
Because it would be counterproductive if the leaders of the Church were leading in one direction and the members of the church, the congregation was thinking in another direction. We want to be in the same page biblical and theological way. So let’s go to Isaiah Chapter 58. ‘Shout it aloud, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people the rebellion into the house of Jacob yourself. For day after day, they seek me out, they see me in all my ways as if they were a nation that knows what it’s right and it’s in the sake of the commands of his God. They ask me for just decisions and see me eager for God for coming down’.
And here in Verse 3 the Lord begins to unite what we will call the Spiritual focus with the social, with the community focus. The Lord begins to weave together what we will call spiritual pyedity with the ethical and social concerns. ‘Why have we fasted, they say, and You have not seen it. Why have we humbled ourselves and You have not noticed us. Yet on the day of your fasting you do as you please and exploit all of your workers’.
So the Lord is saying “Yes, you fast, that’s spiritual exercise but on another level, how you treat others is evidence of injustice”. That’s the ethical part of the Christian world. ‘Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strive and in striking each other with a feast. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high’. You see the Lord is connecting something as spiritual as the exercise of fasting with the way we deal with one another on a social level.
It’s not enough to come to church. It’s not enough to speak in tongues or worship the Lord with enthusiasm. It’s not even enough to fast, it’s not even enough to tithe. In fact, it’s not even enough to invest much of your time and your energy in different activities in the church. To be complete and to be significant, that spiritual activity, that ecclesiastic activity it needs to be complemented, it needs to be connected with a life, with a behavior that reflects the spiritual life, the supernatural life that we’re seeking.
Your spiritual declarations need to be complemented with ethical actions. So the Lord asks sort of rhetorical questions: ‘Is this the kind of fast I have chosen? Only a day for a man that humbles himself? Is it only for titling one’s head like a reed or for lying on sacks of ashes? Is that what you call a fast? Are they acceptable to the Lord?’
In other words, is it enough just to focus on exercises that we will call spiritual or there’s something more, something deeper that the Lord is requiring of us if we want to please Him? And look how the Lord clarifies something that we call uniquely spiritual but it’s key to how this church pleases the Lord and interacts with Him on a spiritual level.
He asks ‘Is not this the kind of fasting that I have chosen to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yield to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?’ ‘Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wandering with shelter?’ ‘When you see the naked for clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’ And verse 8 is the consequence of this vision, this comprehensive complementary vision.
‘Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear and your rights will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard’. And I will not read the entire chapter although every verse here is wonderful. But you’ll see that as we live this life that it’s consistent and balanced, the blessings that arrive from them are huge. What the Lord is promising us as a congregation is that if we care about the needs in our society, if we care about the spiritual parts of our work with the Lord but we complement them with this ethical and social vision.
If we care about our souls and about our spiritual out but also about mercy and about love, if we care about the supernatural, if we care about the glory of God, but we care about this community and its basic needs then we will see the manifestation of the Glory of God. Say ‘Glory to God’. Amen
And this is the balance that the word of God is calling us to. You can almost read this passage and hear the Lord saying: “I don’t care if you fast, I don’t care that you seek my face”. But that’s not true. This is a false dichotomy. God absolutely cares about fasting; God absolutely cares about our spiritual seeking. But He says “Don’t just focus on that, don’t just isolate that but care about the other ethical, social parts as well and link them together in a complete integral way”.
That’s been the tragedy of the church throughout the centuries. We have not known how to maintain this balance in our ecclesiastic life. Historically, churches or religious groups have been to bind to one extreme or the other. There are so many churches we’re so spiritual, spiritual, supernatural. We speak of spiritual war and fasting and worship. We speak of Holiness and the second coming of Christ but you don’t hear anything about caring about the needs of our young people, improving the quality of fragile marriages in our community, of correcting the economic condition of our people, to be a moral voice for justice in an inequitable world.
And our voice to make sure that the powers are aware that there’s a church that’s observing their behavior because the church is the moral voice in the society, without the moral voice of the church that community lacks of moral sense. If the church is not advocating for the voices of those who are voiceless, those who are powerless, those who have no access to the resources of our society so then the poor and the needy are always at a disadvantage.
They endeavor to leave the innerge of their lives but they don’t have the resources to leave that and that’s why we need, the Lord needs the generous hand of the church. That’s why the church needs to invest its resources and take that theological, biblical love and manifest it through works of justice and love. And unfortunately, there’s been another wing of the church, another extreme that has fallen so enamor with social justice and with social action. They have been so in love with social justice that they have forgotten that ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and high places”. Amen.
And despite our best intentions or the social efforts without the fueling power of the Holy Spirit many of those efforts will be fruitless. And if we forget about morality and Holiness that the Scriptures require and the spiritual part of the Gospel our best efforts are destine to failure. What we would merely have is social action indistinguishable from the social action of those who have no fear of God with a very, very thin veneer, a deodorant, of spirituality covering the stand.
We need a balanced vision. We need both. Give the Lord a handclap in His house. Amen. I believe that that is the tension that the Word us calling us through this text. I am so glad that this text is in the Old Testament because many people would think that ‘Oh! It was only when Jesus came incarnated that the Lord remembered that we had a society that needed social justice’. Another false dichotomy is that the Old Testament is somehow balanced and complemented with the grace and mercy of the New Testament.
And the love of God is actually manifested from day one, from the very beginning of all creation. God has always cared about us exercising stewardship over the creation He has given to our care that includes the environment. That’s not just for the liberals anymore. We need to take care of this creation. And we need to bless and protect the maximum evidence of the creation which is human beings or human dignity.
Often we would think of the Book of Deuteronomy just about a book of sterile laws, about diets and feasts and things of that nature. But if we look carefully you’ll see that the Lord even in Deuteronomy cares a great deal not only about spiritual things but ethical and social issues.
Look at Chapter 10, for instance, in Deuteronomy verse 17 says: ‘For the Lord, your God is God of gods and Lord of lords. The Great God, mighty and awesome’. That’s the spiritual part. We cannot take our eyes off the awesomeness and grandness of this God. We cannot discount worship and praise in the seeking of this mighty God. Neither can we overlook at the just character, the character of compassion of this God that we worship.
This ‘Great God, mighty and awesome who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes’. For God the rich and the poor they are in the same place before His eyes. Those who are highly educated and those who are illiterate these are two spirits that the Lord loves equally. ‘And He accepts no bribes’.
And here we have, implicitly in the idea that He accepts no bribes, is our calling to our governments to account, to also look at people the same way and not to sell their justice. To exercise their justice with equality. You know from time to time the church does need to raise its voice and announce the injustice of our governments. And by the way injustice manifests itself in many ways.
I can’t wholly repress, by the way and first of all I give thanks to the Lord, because the Lord has been mighty towards us and I believe we have had a great leap forward this week. But the church often is the object of injustice in a society that drives every day further and further into secularism and humanism and discounts spiritual things so our governments would reflect that secularism and humanism.
So the injustice would literally target spiritual institutions and we living in times that are going in that direction and so the church has to rise its voice and say “This far and no further”. In the name of Jesus. There has to be a balance in both directions. And by the way, if the church does not involve itself in social things in political things and what would happen is that we would be painted and they would paint us into a corner and we would not be able to escape from there.
If the church does not let its presence be known in a proactive way and if the church does not affirm its moral and spiritual values in addition to its love for the poor and the weak and those who are voiceless then de fault of the church losing its rights it’s all ultimately ours and nobody else’s. And that’s why there’s need to be a balance and we will participate in all sorts of exercises. That’s why the ministry of Alpha was in Washington DC recently marching and rising its voice for the immigrant community among us.
And that’s why ‘Vale esperar’ has heroically battle against an entire culture that it’s over sexualized and it’s overwhelming our youth. This society is tearing away from our young people their innocence through the media and through a consumerism that is soulless. They victimize our young people and it’s often in the name of a certain kind of freedom or plurality and the church must rise up and counteract that destructive wave with its own authority, spiritual, moral voice.
That’s why the Boston High Education Resource Center does what it does in all of its academic pursuits because we have African-American and Latino young people that generation is not functioning at the level that they should via their education. They’re not receiving the ethical nutrients, the ethical stimulus, and the formula that they need in order to be functional ethical human beings. Because this society is a confused society, believing its own lies and trapped in its own vice.
The government of our society is in a place where they’re incapable of helping our young people and children release themselves from this knot they find themselves in. And that’s why this society urgently needs the illuminating presence of Jesus Christ to go beyond its forming laws to involve itself, to rescue this generation of young people so that they may become, they may be able to assume their positions in society that God has laid for them.
Verse 18 declares: ‘He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the aliens’ and there are so many aliens here and we’re not from outer space. ‘Giving him food and clothing’. Pastor Miranda: And by the way these aliens are being a great blessing to this nation if I may say so myself. Amen.
‘And you’re to love those who are aliens for you yourselves where aliens in Egypt’. Verse 20 declares ‘Fear the Lord your God, and serve Him, hold fast to Him and take your oaths in His name’. You see that balance between social action, mercy and passion? And this consciousness of this God who is the foundation of all that we do and the urgent need to stay close to the source of power.
It’s not one thing or another, it’s one thing AND the other. So love the stranger, love the widow, and love the orphan. But it also says ‘Fear the Lord, your God, serve only Him, you’ll follow Him and swear your oaths under His name’. And the verse 21 says ‘He is your pray, He’s your God, who performed for you these great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes’.
I will not insist any further and leave this here. Say ‘Glory to God’. Amen. And there are many texts in the Scripture that we could use where the Lord emphasizes this need for a balance ministry. As time goes by, as society loses more and more its sense of direction, as more and more people fall victim to the distancing of God in this society more and more we’ll need the voice and the involvement of the church.
To tell the refugees and those who are lost in this world: ‘This is the way, walk in it’. If we find those who are naked we’re going to clothe them. If we find them to be homeless, we have to tell them at least ‘There’s a place where you can cover your head and shelter’. If we find them uneducated and ignorant the word has called us to say ‘Here, this is how you can educate yourself and this is how you can advance academically’.
If we find them addicted to a chemical substance or to a destructive lifestyle, we are going to help them and help them reach their freedom and their restoration. And above all, if we find them in need of a relationship with Jesus Christ we can tell them ‘Oh! We know Jesus and we can introduce Him to you and you can live a life of victory’. That’s a balance life, that’s a balance church. That’s what God requires of us. And that’s why we have that Social Transformation centre. That’s what we do, all the things that we do day after day in this Congregation.
Because we want to be obedient to what’s called a balanced ministry that God is calling us to. Let’s raise and give God all the Glory and Honor to our powerful God. Please take a moment and reflect of what you’ve heard and ask God to make you an agent of change and agent of transformation so your life can express your compassion and the love of God.
Lord, God we’ve heard your call to be a church that is an agent of transformation in this city and today we commit again to being obedient to that call. We recognize that you’re the source of all justice, of all love. We recognize that it is Your Word that defines what justice is, that defines what your love is.
And today we commit to any effort that we may bring for. We will do in the light of your teaching and your commandments. We won’t depart to the right or the left. We will listen to you intently and we will watch you intently. Help us to be agents of transformation. Bring more resources to this church so we can give more to those who need more. We consecrate this congregation, the lives that work here. We consecrate our finances; we consecrate our energies so we can be your hands, your feet and your voice in this culture. Please send your spirit once again in this morning. Seal this balanced vision in our hearts and thank you for everything you have permitted us to do up to now.
We give you all the Honor we give you all the Glory in the name of Jesus. Amen and amen
|Sermon delivered by Roberto Miranda March 28, 2010 at Congregación León de Judá||Listen|||||View(100K)|||||View(350K)|||||View(1200K)|
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