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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

30 June 2013 Luke 9:51-62

30 June 2013      Luke 9:51-62 ---     Breaking the Rules

In his book, The Rules Are No Game,  Anthony Wilden says  “In every situation and in every trade there was a code of rules to abide by…  Bad luck aside, these rules guaranteed that you wouldn’t lodge a hook in someone’s ear, or lose your fingers to a machine, or blow your foot off…  Family rules were practical guides to a combination of respect for self, respect for others, and respect for quality…  These rules were no game.  They were all legitimate, and still are.  Some codes of rules, like some authorities, are legitimate, some are not.  The test of legitimacy is the actual effect of a rule in a real context.  Legitimate codes of rules enable people to express their creativity and to protect themselves and each other.  Illegitimate rules serve the tyrants who create them.  They drive people to destruction.”

Our rules become the tyrant when those things we believe we should do if we want to be considered respectable people prevent us from hearing the call of Jesus to follow him, or when they compel us to make serious compromises in how we follow him.  How does our own following of our cultural rules of what makes a respectable person make us resemble those who made excuses about the need to bury their dead or say goodbye to their families?  How does our own cultural definition of respect lead us to judge others as not respectable, or not worthy of our respect, or not worthy of our time, attention, resources or fair treatment as worthy and beloved creations of God?  How can we choose to become aware of, and set aside, any cultural rules that prevent us from standing in solidarity with all human beings? 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sunday 23 June 2013 - Luke 8:26-39

23 June 2013    Luke 8:26-39 ---   Facing Our Demons

There are times when life on West Washington St. is loud and contentious.  Those who show up at the homeless shelter drunk, high, or off of their meds are denied admission and often react vehemently as they stalk off to find a place to sleep exposed to the cold, the rain, and people who prey on them.  I watch people respond in fear - shy away, hurry around, attempt to ignore.  I watch fear happen when various groups proclaim their various issues on the Capitol steps – faster walk, crossing the street, citation issued.   I think it’s natural to want to shut these folks out– yelling and antisocial behavior, singing and slogan-shouting can be frightening.  However, I believe what really  frightens us is that all of these folks remind us of our fear of all of the forces (demons) that can tear any one of us from family, from safety, from community, from everything that makes the world make any sense or have any warmth.  Folks were afraid of Jesus.  When he named and confronted whatever demons kept folks from health and wholeness, he was changing their life and the life of their community.  The folks in today’s gospel were a lot like my good friend in Ohio who told me that she was going to continue joking her way through Bible study because if she took what I was saying seriously, her life was going to have to change, and she was not prepared to do that yet – fear at is most fundamental level.

The problem with fear is that it exacerbates the divisions among us.  We become “us” and “them.”   Our fear drives our de-humanizing of “them” into categories that we can marginalize or judge not worthy to be part of our community in some manner.  How can we choose to name and confront the powers that oppress and divide us?  How can we face our fears and choose to restore to community those whom we have shut out of it?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Luke 7:11-17: Raising the widow's only son

Like last week's Gospel story about the healing of the centurion's slave, the story of the widow's only son shows Jesus reaching across social boundaries to help a stranger on the margins of his society. The centurion was a foreigner, a Gentile, and a representative of the detested Roman army.  The widow occupies a very low rung in a patriarchal society, and with the loss of her only son she is likely to become one of the poorest of the poor. She has no claim on Jesus's attention except her desperate circumstances. Like the centurion, however, she obviously matters to Jesus. He responds to her grief and her need, even touching the bier (although such contact with the dead makes him ritually unclean), and restores her son to life.

As people of faith, it is natural for us to value the reassurance in stories like these, which demonstrate the great compassion and healing power of our Lord. But we are called to follow His example, not just accept His promises on behalf of ourselves and those we love. Since he recognized the human dignity and worth of the centurion, are we called to extend our respectful attention to immigrants, people of other religions, and others who "do not belong" in our community? Since he saw and responded to the widow's desperation, are we called to be attentive to the needs of our least powerful neighbors, and do what we can to stand in solidarity with them?