I know that the Lord will maintain
The cause of the afflicted,
And justice for the poor. (Psalm 140,13)
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (James 2,5)
In a world after the French Revolution, where liberty, equality and fraternity supposedly reign supreme, this might not sound as exiting as I’m sure it did in those days, when poor people had no voice, were exploited beyond measure even unto death and no respite was in sight ever. Into this unfair world of inequality and serfdom, slavery and discrimination God let’s his people know, that he will maintain the cause of the afflicted and grant justice for the poor.
Some of us may be quite disillusioned with the revolutionary realities of our world. Loud proclamations of liberty, equality and fraternity sound from the rooftops, yet bondages of some seem greater than ever before. Real existing socialism was probably the grandest social experiment carried out with the greatest expectations and costing just too much freedom, blood and lives ending up as the greatest failure at least on most counts – one big disappointment and disillusionment leaving even its most staunchest supporters standing ashamed and at a loss. All went wrong and not only in N.Korea, but China, Russia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Greece. The list just goes on and on. Yet today even worse perverse fantasies of exploitation, suppression and ruthless tyranny are hailed as the next level of emancipation. Eat and you will be like God! Inject and you’ll have extra-terrestrial experiences, psychedelic and blue! What blatant perversion of truth and reality! The exact opposite is the case. In the end the revolution gobbles up its own children. The guillotine razes off Robespierre’s crazy head too. The adicts land in rehab at best or in an early grave. Disillusionment all around.
Yet our God and Lord does not make empty promises. He grants deliverance and salvation. He gives us a wake-up call and invites us to listen closely: “Listen, my beloved brethren” writes St. James and continues to ask rhetorically: “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2,5) The poor Jacob – with just a stone as rest for his head, when he flees empty handed and destitute to work as a migrant worker with his uncle Laban, only to return finally out of exile a wealthy man. The slave Joseph is elevated higher than princes and second only to Pharaoh.
Well, yes – Zacharias sings the Benedictus, Simon and Hannah hold the Messiah in their arms and he sings the lovely Nunc dimittis, while the blessed Virgin and mother of God sings the Magnificat praising the Lord’s doing to her and all the world – especially the poor and downtrodden:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior; For He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden. For behold, from this dayall generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things to me,and holy is His name; And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.
Jesus Christ preaches the gospel to the poor. They too are heirs of heaven. They are given access to the kingdom of God and the awesome treasures of God, which can’t be stolen, never rust and can’t be eaten by moths either. No bank crash, inflation or tax-man can reduce this treasure ever. It’s paradise regained. The shepherds in Bethlehem beheld it first, but Jesus continued throughout his life granting divine abundance and a foretaste of the great banquet, which will never end. And access is granted by grace through the forgiveness of sins – even to that poor bugger on the cross, who had by worldly standards lost all. In the end he’s promised: “Today you will be with me in paradise!” Amen.
One thing’s needful; Lord, this treasure
Teach me highly to regard;
All else, though it first give pleasure,
Is a yoke that pressed hard.
Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving,
No true, lasting happiness ever deriving.
The gain of this one thing all loss can requite,
Can teach me in all things to find true delight.
If you seek this one thing needful,
Turn from all created things.
Turn to Jesus and be heedful
Of the peace and joy he brings.
For where God and man both in one are united,
With love and forgiveness the heart is delighted;
There, there is the worthiest lot and the best,
Where Jesus alone is your joy and your rest.
How were Mary’s thoughts devoted
Her eternal joy to find
As intent each word she noted
At her Savior’s feet reclined!
How kindled her heart, how devout was its feeling
While hearing the wisdom that Christ was revealing!
For Jesus all earthly concerns she forgot
In love and devotion to what Jesus taught.
So my longings, upward tending,
Jesus, rest alone on you.
All my life on you depending,
Teach me what to will and do
Although all the world should forsake and forget you,
In love I would follow, I’ll never desert you.
The words of your teaching, O Lord, are my life,
My joy and my peace in this vain world of strife.
Wisdom’s highest, noblest treasure,
Jesus, is revealed in you
Let me find in you my pleasure,
Make my will and actions true,
Humility there and simplicity reigning.
In paths of true wisdom my steps ever training.
If I learn from Jesus this knowledge divine,
The blessing of heavenly wisdom is mine.
Therefore you alone, my Savior,
Shall be all in all to me;
Search my heart and my behavior,
Root out all hypocrisy.
Through all my life’s pilgrimage, guard and uphold me,
In loving forgiveness, O Jesus, enfold me.
This one thing is needful, all others are vain;
I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain!
Hymn # 277 from Lutheran Worship “Eins ist Not ach Herr, dies eine...” by Johann Heinrich Schroeder, 1667-1699 translated by Frances E. Cox, 1812-1897.