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

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mark 10:46-52


28 October 2012   Mark 10: 46-52   "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

The blind man Bartimaeus sounds like the kind of beggar whom most of us try to avoid on State Street. He's noisy, aggressive, and so insistent that he shouts all the louder when more respectable people tell him to shut up. And yet Jesus takes him seriously. In fact, Jesus interrupts his journey to Jerusalem for the sake of Bartimaeus, calling him over and listening to him, and then not only heals him but also strongly commends him for his faith.

What's going on here? What does the blind Bartimaeus "see" about Jesus? The disciples keep assuming that Jesus is going to claim the throne of Israel, but Bartimaeus seems to understand that Jesus is motivated by compassion, not ambition.

I think this story illustrates the importance of our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Even a loud, disruptive beggar is worth listening to, both for his own sake and because he may know more about our Lord than we do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mark 10:35-45

Mark 10:35-35

The front-page story in "Street Pulse" grabbed my attention and kept it. The writer
eloquently described what she learned by living on the street for a weekend, voluntarily sharing the experience of homeless people in Madison. Her saddest discovery was the cruelty that more fortunate people tend to show toward those who are homeless. It's not just a matter of avoiding eye contact with folks who look poor and homeless and enforcing ordinances against them (though she experienced plenty of those reactions too), but that some of us more fortunate Madisonians deliberately abuse them. Here's part of her account: "I was told to sleep on my shoes and my backpack because people like to steal them and throw them in the lake or a dumpster to 'mess' with homeless people. . . . As the night went on, I heard it: the snickers, jeering, the loud [hostile comments]. Then one man threw a full beer can at us, another threatened to 'piss' on us. The next night another guy said to his buddies while he was walking by, 'Hey, let's beat up some homeless people!'"

I think this writer for "Street Pulse" at least came close to what Jesus meant by becoming a servant of others rather than a status-seeker. She didn't permanently give up her own home and social status– and would it have benefited anyone if she had?
But she did take the risk of getting to know some of her poorest and most marginalized neighbors, recognized their humanity and vulnerability, and used her own gifts to raise awareness of the injustices they suffer. Couldn't you and I do something like that too?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mark 10:17-31

14 October   Mark 10:17-31   JustActing

I want everyone to know that I am solidly part of the 95% - I am not the rich young man.    But, reality is, by the world’s standards, I am, indeed, rich.  Like the rich young man, I do my best to keep the commandments.  I tithe, I give to charity, and I focus on responding to my call to ministry by using the gifts given to me at baptism to help make the Kingdom of God visible.  The hard reality is that my following the commandments and my acts of charity are absolutely necessary, but they are not sufficient.  When I write a check I am not changing the poor’s lack of access to wealth.  When I give my time and talent to help the poor, I am not changing the poor’s lack of access to power – in fact I may be consolidating my power by offering my “abundant” gifts to those “less fortunate.”

I think today’s gospel is calling each of us to think and pray about what we’re called to do in this world with respect to poverty and wealth.  How can we choose to be aware by always looking for the systems and structures in place that prevent the poor from becoming self-sufficient?  How can we accept that we are powerful and influential because of the color of our skin, our level of education and our income and choose to use that influence to speak the truth to power in order to change those systems and structures that keep people marginalized?  For example, the movement to address the racial disparity in our prisons is asking folks like you and me to simply sit in court and observe as there is evidence that court proceedings are more egalitarian when we do that.  The Wisconsin Council of Churches sponsors an advocacy day each year to teach you and I to use our power and influence to shape policies that will overcome the systems of institutional racism or that enable the poor to work toward self-sufficiency.  How can we choose to act in a way that does not perpetuate unjust structures?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mark 10:2-16

7 Oct    Mark 10:2-16      JustLiving

 "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." (Genesis 2:18)  When Jesus is challenged about divorce, he ignored his current cultural norm that allowed a man to divorce his wife (but not the other way around) if she turned out not to be “fruitful” or “faithful.”  Jesus reminded his challengers, and us, that the core issue is relationship.   Genesis says that the relationship with each other is a partnership, which the dictionary defines as common interest, equal status, mutuality, allies in a common enterprise.   Being created for relationship with God and each other rejects relationships that are one-sided or that use one partner as a tool or instrument to accomplish the purpose of the other.  Jesus’ rejection of divorce was a rejection of using people as a means to an end.

Reminding ourselves that we were created for relationship, for community, challenges us as a Christian community.  Are we modeling equal status, mutuality, allied in a common enterprise in our own households?  In our parish community?   How can we stand for relationship in the face of our culture’s focus on romance (or networking for success) as a means to an end; as permission to take up or set aside another human being like a toy or a prop? (The Quakers have a discernment process that culminates in a couple marrying “under the care of the community” – an interesting concept.)    How can we stand for relationship as a measure of success and speak out when we see people being used as tools?    How can we be intentional about ensuring that everyone in our congregation is welcomed into relationship with the rest of us, especially those who are single?