Seeking Justice, Speaking Truth to Power

We have an uncomfortable theme echoed throughout the whole of scripture, but highlighted this morning. That theme is “seeking justice, speaking truth to power”.

“Seeking justice” is one of our baptismal promises, but in the words of Luther:
‘What does this mean?’.

Our Psalm poses the same question in a cosmic drama, involving God before a panel of gods or spiritual beings. God, in an accusative tone, inquires:

  • When will YOU stop judging unjustly?
  • When will YOU stop favoring the wicked?

Honestly, God asks us these same questions.

God, then, instructs the panel and humankind about the proper use of our time, energy, talents, and treasures. In short, to seek justice by

  1. saving the vulnerable;
  2. defending the vulnerable; and
  3. rescuing and releasing the vulnerable from the hands of their oppressors.

Those, including ourselves, with power, authority, and privilege have the call and responsibility to seek justice for the vulnerable.

Those, including ourselves, who benefit from the abuse, oppression, or dehumanization of another, have the call and responsibility to confess AND to repent.

Unfortunately, in order to answer the call and embrace our responsibilities, our eyes, ears, and hearts must be exposed to the truth.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, understood that the political powers, their prophets, the religious authorities, and the people (including ourselves) do not desire the truth. We prefer the sunshine and rose filled illusions provided by the false prophets. Yet, Jeremiah understood that the truth, God’s word, was a hammer chipping away at our hardened hearts and a painful, but refining, fire that consumes us.

Christ Jesus, temporarily sets aside his crown as the ‘Prince of Peace’, in order to remind us in the words of Martin Luther: “Peace when possible. Truth at all cost.” The cost may include conflict and division, even amongst our most treasured relationships.

Christ Jesus, similar to Jeremiah, speaks of a refining, not condemning, fire, which will set the entire world ablaze.

Jeremiah and Christ Jesus spoke truth to power, although this language and its definition as a “non-violent political tactic” is traced to Quaker literature in 1955.  Despite the 1955 roots, seeking justice by ‘speaking truth to power’ is scriptural as witnessed by Jeremiah and Jesus. Seeking justice by “speaking truth to power” is also quite historical, for example:

Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and other women including my great-grandmother Clara Seekings, spoke truth to power for the sake of women’s right to vote. A number of these women also spoke truth to power laboring for improved work conditions for children, women, and men alike. Some of these women suffered being shamed, beaten, arrested and/or force-fed.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, served in the Nazi Army, in order to undermine the horrid injustices and smuggle innocent victims to safety. He was executed for participating in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer wrote:
We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheel of injustice.
We are called to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.

(We are not to simply care for the damage of injustice, but to end injustice.)

Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist preacher and Civil Rights Activist, spoke truth to power while seeking justice for his oppressed community. He was assassinated for it.

Robert “Bobby” Kennedy spoke truth to those who shared his status of power, authority, and privilege. He had been moved by compassion to seek justice for the vulnerable. He was also assassinated.

These are only a few examples of people who sought justice and spoke uncomfortable truth to those in power, authority, and privilege at risk to self.

Who is currently seeking justice by speaking truth to power in our broken world?
Are we listening?

May truth hammer and chip away at our hardened hearts.

May the refining fire of truth consume us.

May we be emboldened for the sake of seeking justice, speaking truth to power, proclaiming in the words of Martin Luther:
“Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God. Amen”

Scriptures were Jeremiah 23:23-29; Psalm 82; and Luke 12:49-56.
Originally preached on 18 August 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).


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