Today is observed as Trinity Sunday throughout much of Western Christianity, celebrating the unity expressed through the doctrine of the Trinity. Today is also observed as Peace with Justice Sunday across The United Methodist Church. A reminder in an article, “What is Peace with Justice Sunday?” on the denominational website, says, “Our Social Principles call us to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict.”[i]
Inclusiveness is about justice, and justice is about peace, and peace is about love, and the Bible says, “God is love.”[i] The Bible starts with the Creation narrative by providing imagery to support the oneness of all creation as a reflection of the oneness of God. On the night he gave himself up for us, Jesus prayed in John 17 that we all “may be made perfect in one,” or as phrased in The Message, “the glorious unity of being one.”[ii] The “greatest law” Jesus quoted[iii] begins,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: [and continues] And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.[iv] [Jesus combined this law from Deuteronomy with another from Leviticus as the “second greatest commandment:”] Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.[v]
The prophet Amos, in his role as the mouthpiece of the Lord, declared in the Good News Translation,” Let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.”[vi]
June is Pride Month,[vii] and yesterday our church participated in a ministry of presence at the Paducah PrideFest as one of the sponsors for the event. We also had a booth for providing information about Briensburg United Methodist Church and the Reconciling Ministries Network. We circulated among the crowd to meet people and share the love of Jesus. LGBTQ inclusiveness is a justice issue, not only in society but in the Church. It is a great and harmful injustice that people of the same gender are not allowed to be married in their own churches or by their own pastors in The United Methodist Church. It is a great and harmful injustice that practicing homosexuals are restricted from being ordained or appointed as pastors in The United Methodist Church. LGBTQ Christians are encouraged to participate fully in all other ministries of The United Methodist Church. We gladly recognize all the ways The United Methodist Church is actively and prominently engaged in many social justice issues worldwide. Still, we advocate for those harmful, restrictive, and unjust rules added to our Discipline as recently as 1974 to be removed this year at General Conference.
Every month of the year also has several days set aside for awareness of other important social justice issues. Health care, poverty, hunger, racism, gender inequality, gun violence, domestic violence, war, child abuse, and human trafficking are only a few of the countless grave injustices worldwide. Our individual power is limited in addressing these enormous spiritual challenges. Still, the Holy Ghost’s power to unite us has repeatedly proven to make a remarkable difference for the victims of injustice. The second of three United Methodist baptismal vows is to “accept the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”[viii]
The prophet Micah famously preached in Micah 6:8 in the Good News Translation, “The Lord has told us what is good. What [God] requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.” Working together in harmony and peace for justice and unity is what Jesus prayed in John 17 and what the prophets, apostles, and church leaders from Augustine to Wesley have preached. God continues to call women and men to preach social holiness in our generation. The more fully and inclusively we unite in Christian love and service, the more we reflect the oneness of the fully inclusive Trinity. Paul wrote to the Ephesians as phrased in the Good News Translation:
Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all.[ix]
Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 4, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.
[i] 1 John 4:8 (KJV).
[ii] John 17:23 (KJV, MSG).
[iii] Matthew 22:36-40.
[iv] Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV).
[v] Leviticus 19:18 (KJV).
[vi] Amos 5:24 (GNT).
[vii] Wikipedia Contributors. “Pride Month,” 2 June 2023. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_Month 2 June 2023.
[viii] The United Methodist Church. “The Baptismal Covenant I.” The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 88. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992. Print.
[ix] Ephesians 4:2-6 (GNT).