Justice: 10 Words…Then Work

There’s a fun little exercise that writers sometimes do. It’s to tell an entire story using only ten words. What makes it interesting is that, depending on what words you use, the story can go in different directions.  For this morning’s gospel, I came up with this: 

One flock, one good shepherd. God wants radically loving community. 

But, you know, that doesn’t work. It’s too easy. Too flippant. Too…I don’t know, nice.  

I wanted a story that talks about justice. I wanted a story that talked about what’s been going on in our world. It’s been that kind of week. I kept wanting to talk about the wolf and about the about the hired hand. In the last seven days, we’ve had 14 mass shootings in the United States. Those events left 18 people dead and 62 people injured. 

When I think about that, my 10 word story shifts: 

Sheep, stay safe. Watch out for gun-toting wolf!

In our court system, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd.  It’s a notable result. According to the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database, since started tracking media reports in 2005, 140 law enforcement officers have been arrested on murder or manslaughter charges related to on-duty shootings in the US. Of those, only five percent (seven officers) were convicted of murder. 

My 10 word story in light of this:

Hired man fails. Court says: Don’t kill any sheep. 

But the Gospel is about God’s relationship to humanity…about abundance, not about fear. When I look at the death, the injustice, the brokenness of the world, I despair. I feel helpless. And I feel angry, like I don’t know what to do or say or think. 

Todays’ reading though is not about the wolf. It’s not about the hired hand. It’s not even about the shepherd or the sheep. It’s about love. It’s about the way that God loves us, all of the sheep… without fail. 

What’s the 10 word Gospel story today? 

I lay down my life because He laid down his.   

And now the work begins. 

Preached at Transfiguration Episcopal Church in San Mateo on April 25, 2021.

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