Soul Food: 'How Long?'
“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” --Psalm 82:2
Siblings in Christ,
We return from another weekend, suffering the ripples from gun violence. At least six people were killed and 30 injured on Monday after a gunman fired on the crowd at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. This was the nation’s 309th mass shooting this year. 71 were shot and 8 killed in Chicagoland over the weekend. Given the number of racially motivated shootings in this country, family and friends from Korea always ask me, ‘are you safe?’
The violence experienced at a parade is a reminder to pray not only for the people of Highland Park, but those who suffer memories of the violence at the holiday parade in Waukesha.
The Spirit is suggesting Psalm 82 for the lectionary this week. It opens with a courtroom scene comprised of God and lesser gods—the other powers that show up in psalms and the prophets as Israel deals with Canaanite thinking that cannot conceive a life-giving Oneness at work in creation.
God calls all other lesser lights to account in v.2: “how long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” These are the words of lament, of loss, of noting the waste of gun violence, the ripples of trauma, the children who now factor in the truth that the grown-ups around them lack the moral imagination to adequately protect them. How long must we bear systems that protect the powerful at the expense of the children? How long?
In verse 3, Psalm 82 hears God call out to all who hold power: “give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and destitute.” For all who exercise power and influence, God’s mission is to uphold justice and to use God’s people to bear witness to covenantal life.
The second imperative in the psalm is: “rescue.” May we rescue our capacity to hold parades in our land without fear. May we rescue those who have suffered injury in Highland Park. May we rescue the ability to walk into a grocery store or a service of worship without fear. May we rescue the church from the powerful forces at work in this country to “Other” people and to exclude.
Jesus is always the stranger at the door, the unexpected one who calls us to open to him that we may eat with him and he with us. Jesus is the one who calls us to open, to be the meek who inherit the earth. I would call us to a life together that opens doors to Jesus, to nonviolence, to meekness, to cultural humility, to the need to carry no bag, nor purse to insulate ourselves, to consider the lilies who do not live in fear. Bear witness to the way Jesus gives life and the Spirit can use our witness. If not, how long will we walk around in darkness?
I continue my walk of El Camino de Santiago, walking the way of St. James during my renewal leave. Know that I am praying for you. Please continue to pray for me, and our life together.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, PhD.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).