If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard an Episcopalian say, “It’s a justice issue,” I’d be swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck. I’m sure it’ll come up over and over again this week as preachers, especially former mainliners who still carry the guilt of the 1960s on their shoulders, struggle to gather up the gumption to talk about justice from the pulpit this Sunday. Meanwhile, snarky Xer’s and Millenials will just post meme’s on their Facebook pages.
It seems inevitable that one must deal with the question of justice this week. The word is used four times in Sunday’s Gospel lesson, and appears a fifth time in describing the judge in Jesus’ parable as “unjust.” The well worn meme above shows a modern, 21st century ideal of what justice means, but when you look into the Greek in this Lucan parable, unsettling things begin to happen. Words begin creeping up like: punish, revenge, retribution, and vengeance. This isn’t the quaint image of the shortest guy getting two boxes to stand on, this feels more like the tall guy getting cut off at the knees for standing on a crate in the left hand image.
So, what’s a preacher to do? How do we define justice? Better yet, how does God define justice? In 1st Thessalonians 1:6, God is described as “just,” and it appears to share a similar root of “dik” but its meaning is very different. This definition of justice is more of what we’d like to think about God: ethical, moral, and righteous. How do these things differ? How are they the same?
It is another tough lesson this week, dear reader. You’ll be in my prayers.