The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Deacon Anne Flynn
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord my rock and my redeemer.

This is justice weekend in Topeka and member congregations of JUMP are preaching about justice. Thank you for this opportunity.

I began my preparation by reading the scripture appointed for this day. And as is my process I spend some time reflecting and reading commentary on the scripture and praying. Praying for inspiration, for wisdom –something that we all do when preparing sermons. I usually preach on the Gospel of the day, but after reading the Gospel and considering the topic of justice, I decided that I would preach on Isaiah because it spoke more directly to the subject. It also fit the approach I had in mind before we left for vacation – an approach that continued to marinate in my subconscious while we were away.

So I started out with a pretty good idea of how I would approach this homily – But that was before Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton.

On vacation, we were at the beach with family, no time for TV and really no desire to turn it on. We read the NY Times and the Washington Post online so we weren’t completely out of touch but we did feel blissfully disconnected. For us, it meant that the drama of these events hit us square in the face when we returned to Topeka on Sunday.

How have we come to this place that a young man from Gilroy, CA goes to an annual Garlic Festival and randomly shoots into a crowd of people?
How have we come to this place that a young man drives ten hours to a Walmart in El Paso, TX with the intent of killing a certain group of people?
How have we come to this place that a young man in Dayton, OH targets his sister and everyone in his line of sight?

I sensed a deep, deep sadness all week long from colleagues at work, from Facebook posts from friends and acquaintances and in my own heart. I am a fixer, so my usual instinct is to jump to what do we do to fix this? How do we prevent this from ever happening again? I stopped myself. I needed time to process this. Something is wrong. Something is terribly wrong when young men feel such hatred for other human beings that their only thought is to kill and maim. They planned it. How have we, the people of the United States of America come to this place? And just as important, how do we move FROM this place? Prayers and sympathy are not enough.

Today’s reading from Isaiah is clear:

10 Hear the word of the LORD…
Listen to the teaching of our God…
What does God expect from us?

17 learn to do good; seek justice
What does that mean? Encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. The justice God wants of God’s people is social justice. It is important to feed the hungry, but it is not enough. The justice God wants involves protecting the defenseless from powers too great for them. It may even involve pleading their case in the legislature, so that laws consider the needs of the marginalized.

18 Come now, let us argue it out,
says the LORD:

That is an invitation and a reminder that we are not alone as we learn to do good and seek justice. God redeems us in Jesus and sustains us in the Spirit.

Let’s go back to basics. We know from Genesis that God created all of us in God’s image and likeness. And God looked at all that God created, and God said it is good, it is very good. This means that all God’s people are worthy of God’s love. God’s love is a gift, freely given.

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus gave this answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ We do good and seek justice in response to God’s love.

So how do we, the faithful people of Grace Cathedral seek justice? We will have opportunity in the coming weeks to meet in small groups to talk about what is important to us and share observations we might have about “doing justice” in Topeka. You might want to investigate the efforts in Topeka to reduce gun violence. You might want to investigate how the Cathedral and the Diocese of Kansas can assist a state-wide effort to address predatory lending practices. As part of Topeka JUMP, Grace Cathedral is already participating in these projects and – whatever your talents – there is a place for you. It doesn’t have to take a great deal of time, but the effort is needed now.

We won’t instantly solve every problem and I fear that we have not seen the last tragedy like Gilroy, Dayton and El Paso. But, as people of God, we are called to move from our mourning and despair and toward God’s light. We are called to take action to help our fellow children of God and to seek solutions.

I will close with prayer from Steven Charleston offered on August 6, 2019:
Come now Spirit of power, come now quickly and seize this moment. The conscience of our nation teeters on the edge of change. Old wounds between us have opened. Deep divisions have been revealed. We are stunned by the cost of our own behavior. Now is the time. Now is an historic opportunity for love. Pull prejudice from us like a poison. Draw out the fear that breeds our racism. Open our eyes to behold our common humanity. Silence the justifications and the denials before they begin and keep our eyes fixed firmly on the prize, not on the politics. Come Spirit from all four sacred directions, from every color and culture, come and use this sorrowful moment for good. Heal our racism now. Amen.