Reflections on the Gospels from a Justice Perspective written for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church by members of the congregation

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Matthew 11:25-30

30 September 2012 – Matthew 11:25-30       JustLiving

St. Francis has always been an intimidating factor in our family’s life.  We knew that we could never choose to discard family, possessions, and all of the security needs of housing, food, and clothing like St. Francis did when he chose to assume the “easy” burden and ‘light” yoke of Jesus that asks us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We finally realized that we COULD choose to figure out how to simplify our lives. If we could live more simply by using fewer resources, maybe we could free up resources so that our neighbors could simply live.

 As we began to focus on loving our neighbors as ourselves in the Spirit of St. Francis, we found ourselves recycling and washing napkins, cleaning rags, placemats and dishes rather than buying disposable paper and plastic items.   We were delighted to discover that our love of antiques meant that we were reusing and recycling and our love of wool oriental rugs meant we were using renewable resources in addition to creating heirlooms.  We began walking more, learned how to ride the bus, took our own bags to the grocery store and bought local.  We found a checklist on living simply and were surprised to discover that the list also included things like taking time for ourselves, knowing our neighbors, doing healthy activities and growing spiritually.  There are copies of the Simplicity Assessment in the Parish Hall if you are interested.
Have you ever considered trying to calculate your scores for recycling, carbon footprint, etc. to find ways of loving our neighbors better by simplifying our own lifestyle?  The following websites have various calculators that you might find useful:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

23 September Mark 9:30-37

23 September 2012 ---  Mark 9:30-37  --   JustActing
We’ve all seen those sentimental pictures of Jesus holding a sweet little child in his arms or welcoming several of them to his lap. But this comforting image should not blind us to the hard, unsentimental lesson in today’s Gospel. Children had such low status in Jesus’ time that he used them to symbolize “the least of these.” Here as elsewhere, then, Jesus was telling his followers to attend to the needs of their most powerless and vulnerable neighbors– those people who may have little value in human eyes but are precious in God’s sight.

Nowadays, most people instinctively respond to little children, but older children and teens from poor families receive much less sympathy, especially if their clothing and behavior conflict with middle-class norms. And yet these children too are precious in God’s sight. And they are terribly vulnerable, given the harsh penalties that can be inflicted on disadvantaged youngsters who get involved with drugs or gangs.

Is it possible that today’s Gospel might be calling us to care about children like these? Might we be called to join the current efforts in this community to shrink the achievement gap in our schools between white students and students of color, or to address the racial disparities in our justice system? Might we be called at least to volunteer with Schools of Hope, helping some eight-year-olds learn to read while there’s still time for them to catch up with their peers? or to befriend a troubled teen who needs another caring, responsible adult in his or her life?

16 September Mark 8:27-38

16 September 2012 - Mark 8:27-38      JustActing

I have been in retreat for the past two months – pulling back, ignoring everything that is going on in the world, shunning my usual responsibilities, focusing only on what I want to do on a daily basis.  I think I shared my status on Facebook as “apparently experimenting with Hedonism as a way of life.”  I winced when I read the question “Who do you say that I am?”  I winced because I know that I am part of the Body of Christ in this world.  Being part of the Body of Christ means that what I do with my life makes a statement about who Jesus is … but I am in retreat.
“Who do you say that I am?”  I am forced to look in a mirror and ask what it is that my life is saying about who Jesus is at this moment in history.  I have gifts that were given to me at my baptism.  In addition, there are promises that I make each time we baptize a baby – promises about proclaiming the good news, seeking and serving Christ in all people, striving for justice and truth and preserving the dignity of every human being.  I have been thinking about my gifts and my promises a great deal these past two months.  I wonder if justice in action has as much to do with asking questions as it does with doing stuff?  What are my gifts?  How am I using my gifts to act on my promises?  How am I being enabled to use my gifts to act on my promises?  How do folks see Jesus when they look at me and the way I am living my life? Maybe justice in action begins on retreat discerning the answers to those questions so I can come BACK from retreat feeling better focused and energized to do the work God has given me to do.

9 September 2012 Mark 7:24-37

9 September 2012 -- Mark 7:24-37    Just Listening

One of my mother’s ongoing exhortations to us when we became over-confident and all-knowing adolescents was “everyone in this world has something of value to say if you have the courage to listen.”  I have been thinking about that a great deal lately as it appears that listening is on its way to extinction in the face of the absolute certainty I hear on a daily basis. The Syrophoenician woman pushed for compassion and mercy in the face of Jesus’ certainty about what was right, he ended up listening, and was changed by what he heard.
How can we remind ourselves that God is love – a love that sacrifices to protect the value and worth of every human being?  How can we stand up for compassion and mercy toward everyone, even those we perceive to be unworthy because of the circumstances of their life or their own demonstrated ability to be merciless?  How can we remember that we have promised to protect the dignity of every human being and make ourselves heard?  How can we learn to temporarily put aside our own certainty in order to value others’ thoughts – even those with whom we disagree?  How can we make room to listen in a way that allows us to be changed by what we hear?  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2 September 2012 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

2 September 2012  - Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 –     JustPure
As I pondered that list of “evil intentions” that defile me, my first reaction was “but I would never steal from someone, much less consider killing them.  It is not in me to be greedy or wicked.”  And then I realized that the truth is that, while I would never do those things to those persons with whom I am in a close, loving relationship, I do indeed participate in theft and murder every time I fail to protest our government using tactics like assassination or torture to protect me from my enemies.  I become a model of avarice and wickedness every time I insist on paying the lowest prices for my food and clothing, ignoring the way workers are exploited in the production of those bargains.  If what this gospel says is true, that purity is about the thoughts and actions/inactions that come from my heart, it appears that, if I am not to become defiled, then I must not defile.  Since I do not defile those whom I know and love,  I must not only learn to live in solidarity with those the world has marginalized and preyed upon in some form or another,  but I also must figure out how to live in close, loving relationships with them as well – and that includes folks who would prefer to prey upon me.