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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Luke 16: 19-26

 Luke 16: 19-26

The chronically mentally ill person on State Street raves and rattles a sheaf of papers at passersby. Some of us feel afraid and cross the street, looking in an attractive store window to soothe ourselves. We wish the police would do something. A woman walks past the bleary-eyed stranger and says hello, asks how his day is going. He stops ranting and says hello back, asks her if she’ll buy a newspaper. She agrees, pays takes the paper, wishes him a good day, is off to work. He begins ranting again, but his voice is softer now. In today’s gospel, the author of Luke continues to show us how to see others. The poor man, named Lazarus, lies at the rich man’s gate, prepared to receive any crumbs the household would brush his way. Scholars tell us that the name Lazarus was probably chosen for its meaning as the servant of Abraham and Sarah, our forebears. Could Luke be asking us to think of Lazarus also as the representative of the poor and humble everywhere? The rich man leaves his gate and steps over Lazarus, poor, hungry and sick, probably disgusting-looking, and goes off to his destination. This is when I begin to squirm. How often do we hurry on our way to a meeting or the grocery store, failing to see those around us? We clutch our resources close, our money and our time, and scurry on, living in a self-centered mentality of scarcity.

Often the suffering and needs of others are visible in areas of desperate poverty and in war zones; sometimes the needs are less visible, as in the case of discrimination against groups of people. Luke reminds us first to see, then to have compassion, allowing our hearts to be melted by our vision. In that transformed state, we are asked to act on behalf of those who need our help. Crossing the road and looking away from the beating victim, stepping over and not seeing the beleaguered Lazarus, leaving the widowed woman alone to perish; these are all examples of stepping over the outcasts Luke calls us to consider. Who are the outcasts we overlook today? Quickly name to yourself the groups of people, the situations, you’d rather not notice. How do we keep our eyes open, see and be transformed through compassion, and act? What small actions may make a difference?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Luke 16:1-13 Forgiving Debts

Luke 16:1-13     Forgiving Debts

In this parable, Jesus tells about a dishonest manager. We don’t know whether he
embezzled from his employer or overcharged customers and pocketed the difference.
We can’t tell whether he was doubling down on his dishonesty by writing off legitimate
debts, or canceling the portion he had added to bills. Jesus doesn’t say; he must think
it doesn't matter to the point of the story. What matters is that the manager recognized
that what was good for the debtors was good for him.

The King James Version of the Lord’s Prayer says “And forgive us our debts, as we
forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). (The original Greek word in the passage means
just that: debt.) Many in our society are struggling with indebtedness: medical bills and
no health insurance, college loans, unemployment and underemployment, low wages, a
ragged social safety net. What is Jesus telling us about our dependence on even those
who are barely surviving? How might their well-being be good for us? How are we

being faithful to his message? As individuals? As a society?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Luke 14:25-33

(Gospel for Sept. 8)

This gospel lesson is painful to read because it confronts me with the half-heartedness of my efforts at discipleship. It forces me to recognize how far I am from making the kind of total commitment that Jesus is demanding. I still use family responsibilities as an excuse for my cowardice. I have not given up my possessions, either. In fact, I am so attached to my own comfort and sense of security that I have not even tried to follow Jesus very far.

However good my intentions, I tend to chicken out when faced with the hard and risky work of discipleship. When I'm concerned about hunger or homelessness, I usually just write a check. It would take more time to volunteer at a pantry or shelter, and what else might I feel obligated to do if I actually got to know some folks who live in poverty? When I read about injustices in the prison system, I sometimes get indignant enough to post something on Facebook or discuss the problem with like-minded people, but there my action stops. What might happen if I were brave enough to try becoming an advocate for prison reform, or visiting prisoners, or helping an ex-offender find housing or a job?

Could Jesus' words in this gospel be calling me to take the kind of risk I've been avoiding? Could he be calling you too?