Friday, August 24, 2007

Profiting from the Prophets, #4

On Wednesday afternoon, I went home for my daily 30-minute workout on the Elliptical before Mandy, the girls and I made a couple of visits at the hospital before Wednesday evening Bible class. As I worked out, I noticed the crawler on the ESPN game showed the Rangers ahead of the Orioles 14-3 after 6 innings.
No big deal. An easy win for the Rangers in the first game of a double-dip in smoggy Baltimore.
After arriving for Bible class, Ken McCollum cornered me and asked, "Did you see the score of the Rangers' game today?"
"What's the big deal?" I asked, assuming the Rangers had coasted to an easy win but not expecting anything out of the ordinary.
"They won 30-3!" Ken said enthusiastically.
Huh? Now that's a big deal! So big, in fact, it was the most runs scored since 1897 in a Major League baseball game. Amazingly, the Rangers scored their 30 runs in just four innings, becoming the first team in over 100 years to score at least nine runs in two different innings and the first team in the history of Major League baseball to score 30 unanswered runs.
For a team going through an excruciating 2007 summer campaign, Wednesday night was certainly a silver lining in an otherwise forgettable season.
Have you heard the story of Mike Flynt that hit the news yesterday?
Flynt, age 59, gave himself one final chance at amending the biggest regret of his life. 37 years after being removed from his college football team for fighting, Flynt has returned to Sul Ross State (so named for Lawrence Sullivan Ross who, according to Texas Aggie lore put the lantern in the shed that made it a hot time in Austin one night) to suit up for the Division III Lobos. Amazingly, Flynt has made the team and will suit up throughout the 2007 season as a 59-year old senior for the Sul Ross Lobos.
Flynt, a grandfather, has two children older than any of his teammates on the Lobo football team.
You might question Flynt's sanity but I admire his willingness to chase a dream and his desire to undo his greatest regret despite the tall odds.
I was stunned to learn that one of my old Arkansas turkey hunting buddies, Cody Mabery, is scheduled for a biopsy today. A suspicious growth has caused concern for his family and doctor and so the site will be biopsied and analyzed today.
I ask you all to keep Cody, as well as his parents, Lance and Shelly, in your prayers today -- that God will ease their anxiety and that everything regarding Cody's biopsy will be normal and healthy.
The prophets of old dreamed of a just world; that Israel would be a just nation and God's children would be the ones who advanced just causes. Some prophets give justice a passing glance. Others use a megaphone that consistently echoes the dream of God for justice among his people, i.e. the abolition of class distinctions, the removal of extremes between the rich and poor, the dissolution of ethnic, fiscal and social prejudice.
Among the prophets, perhaps no prophet sounded a more clarion call for justice than Amos. Amos, a contemporary of Isaiah, was altogether unimpressed with the Israelites' hypocritical assemblies that masked hearts with no hint of justice for their fellow man.
"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream" (Amos 5.21-24).
Without apology, Amos links together the pursuit of justice with righteousness.
Let's eavesdrop on another prophet, Micah, and hear how he echoes the tenor of Amos's prophecy:
"With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6.6-8).
The greatest prophet of all, none of than the Messiah himself, Jesus Christ, captures the centuries-old longing for justice in his woe-filled rebuke of the Pharisees:
"Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone" (Luke 11.42).
Law-abiding worship that dots every "I" and crosses every "T" doesn't for a moment fool God when justice is compromised on the altar of self-righteousness. How ironic that in an era of worship wars, the wars of injustice continue to fight for first place in our world's headlines.
Today, we all have an opportunity through our interactions with others to advocate the justice of God in this world through our kindness, our benevolence, and our acceptance of those who might not look, think, dress, act or talk as we do. To live with that in the forefront of our minds today is as holy as our gathering to worship on Sunday. Living as beacons for the justice of God in this world is an expectation the prophets harped on and one we must never compromise.