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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dec. 30 John 1:1-18

December 30    John 1:1-18      The Word Became Flesh

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.”

Those words always stop me dead in my tracks.  The news that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh who makes the Creator known is not only Good News, I find it to be mind boggling.  It’s hard for me to absorb just exactly how completely the whole world changed in that moment.   Jesus as the Word of God clearly announced that he was to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive, to give sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free.   And then Jesus as the Word of God acted to bring those at the margins in to the center as empowered and beloved children of god.  The Word challenged the systems and structures of the empires of his world in a way that threatened those in power enough to get him executed.  The universe stretched, and the impossible became possible.

Those words stop me dead in my tracks as this is the time of year when I am thinking about my New Years’ resolutions.  What should I be about this year to “make the Creator known?”  What can I commit to that will, in some way, enable those at the margins to be more visible, to find their voice, to take their rightful place as beloved children of God?  How can I work to make the systems and structures visible that keep folks marginalized, and what can I do to work for change?  What if, as a community, each of us committed to one ministry in our community that focused on the marginalized in our midst?  Would our universe stretch and our impossible become possible?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

December 23   Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)  -- Systems and Structures

The music reverberating in my head sometimes makes me forget that the anticipation of the Messiah's coming throughout the Old Testament was in the context of oppression and injustice. Folks were longing for redemption from the systemic evil of empires and the tyrants who governed them. Anticipation focused on a Messiah who would “scatter the proud, bring down the powerful, fill the hungry” and bring peace, justice and righteousness to the world.

Advent is the time when we can pause to become aware of the systems and structures that our own society has put in place to marginalize, to oppress, to destroy creation, to dominate by force.  For example, the high cost of housing in Madison means that we have many families where both parents are working AND the family is homeless.  I think about how my wonderful downtown condo has contributed to that reality.  How can we create a system that enables Madison both to enjoy the economic benefits of gentrification AND ensure that low income folks have access to safe, affordable housing?  Advent is our time to ask God to send people and situations into our lives who will challenge us to become aware of the systematic injustice and oppression that exist in our neighborhood, and who will challenge us to look for the root causes of those systems.  What better preparation could we undertake as we wait for the coming of Jesus who will stretch our categories, challenge our models and assumptions, and most importantly, our call us to radical compassion.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Luke 21:25-36:  There will be signs

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding."

Prophecies of global catastrophe always make me want to close my eyes and change the subject. But the words of Jesus summon us to face the possibility that such an enormous disaster may be coming. Nature itself seems to be warning us too. Those ominous signs--the distress among nations, the roaring of the sea and the waves, and the confused, frightened people-- are not just Biblical metaphors. We have seen them become terribly real this very year for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, in the flooded coastal areas of New Jersey and New York, and in the Pacific islands that are already being devoured by the rising sea. And scientists tell us that such weather disasters will probably go on increasing, as climate change affects more and more of our planet.

If God's good creation is actually in danger of being destroyed in our time, what can we do about it? If we believe the scientific consensus about the causes of climate change, we should at least take serious steps to reduce our own household's carbon footprint and help persuade our neighbors to do the same thing. Some of us might add political action, for example joining a campaign to persuade the US to adopt a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax. Others might prefer to devote their efforts to assisting the victims of climate disasters. The only unacceptable option, Jesus suggests, is to remain so preoccupied with our own pleasures and concerns that we ignore what is happening to the world.