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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 Does God Speak to us Today?

January 5, 2014   Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 Does God Speak to us Today?

Is God still speaking to us? We hear the word of God in Scripture, but do we hear the voice of God today? Not exactly the way Matthew tells in today’s gospel: Most of us don’t dream of angels giving directions. But prophets, men and women of our own time, remind us of the simple checklist the Old Testament prophet Micah gave us so long ago: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Are we listening to the prophets of our day? What are they saying?

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem; it merely creates new and more complicated ones". The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“ . . . my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat.’” Pope Francis I

“If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one.” Mother Teresa

“God cares about human pain, God cares about it in this world now.” The Rev. Richard Rohr, OFM

“Christians should emphatically be campaigning for justice for the poor . . . “ The Right Reverend Rowan Williams, retired Archbishop of Canterbury

“Any gospel that isn’t good news to the poor isn’t the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Jim Wallis, Sojourners

“There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela

“We are the Mandelas, we are the Gandhis, we are the Kings.” Leymah Roberta Gbowee, co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

Sunday, December 22, 2013

John 1: 1-18 The Work of Christmas Now Begins

29 Dec. 2013... John 1:1-18  -   The Work of Christmas Now Begins

There is an old song (circa 1969) that goes like this:

1.            When the song of the angels is stilled,  When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the shepherds have found their way home the work of Christmas is begun!
2.            To find the lost and lonely one,  To heal the broken would with love
To feed the hungry children with warmth and good food, To feel the earth below the sky above!
3.            To free the prisoner from all chains, To make the powerful care
To rebuild the nations with strength of goodwill,  To see God’s children everywhere!
4.            To bring hope to every task you do,  To dance at a baby’s new birth,
To make music in an old person’s heart, and Sing to the colors of the earth!

CHORUS:             I am the light of the world!  You people come and follow me! 
If you follow and love, you’ll learn the mystery of what you were meant to do and be.

The work of Christmas is to believe in Jesus Christ; and to embrace his purpose by finding the lost and lonely, healing the broken, feeding the hungry, freeing the prisoner and making the powerful care.  While our striving for justice is crucial to learning to engage the mystery of what we were meant to do and be, it is the chorus of that song that gets emphasized by being sung five times.  Notice that the chorus is about all of us together, not each of us as an individual.  The work of Christmas is about God appropriating humanity - binding us together.   Doing the justice described in verses 2-4 has everything to do with seeing through those issues to the real people who are living those issues and going to them to stand with them person to person - seeing all persons as neither problems nor issues, but people who are good creations of God.  When we can choose to stand together, then the force of God's love can bind us as family and the work of Christmas can begin to bring peace and justice to our world.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Matthew 11:2-10

Matthew 11:2-10

What kind of good news could Jesus have been giving to the poor? Whatever he said, it had an effect as dramatic as giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.   This good news causes the poor no longer to act like the poor are expected to act, but to throw away their impediments and stand tall on their own, just like the lame who heard it and now walk without a crutch.

Even in jail, John realizes that this good news to the poor is what he has been waiting for. Now poor people are transformed into people empowered to change the world. They too can make demands and Jesus says he hears them.  What a scary thought for those who are living in comfort!

Jesus identifies John as one who does not live in comfort, who is imprisoned for being on the side of those for whom this news is thrilling. How about us? Are we one of those offended by the poor and socially marginalized being assertive and self-respecting, responding to the respect that Jesus has shown them? Do we listen to what they say for themselves? If we are not frightened or offended, but rejoice to announce respect by and for the poor among us as the best of good news, Jesus calls us blessed. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Matthew 3:1-12: Prepare the way of the Lord

How can we prepare the way for the Lord’s coming? Little gestures of repentance are obviously not enough, even for well-behaved, church-going people like us. The Pharisees and Sadducees tried that, and John the Baptist rebuked them, warning them (and us) to “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” Luke’s version of this story (Luke 3:1-14) adds more specific instructions, which all seem connected with economic justice. Those in powerful positions, like tax collectors and soldiers, must resist the temptation to enrich themselves by unjust dealing. Those who are prosperous must share their abundance with the poor.

Thus John’s preaching identifies selfishness and injustice as major roadblocks that hinder the Lord’s coming into our lives and the communities in which we live. Can we devote some time during this Advent season to dismantling those roadblocks, which divide us from our neighbors as well as from God? Can we prepare straight paths for the Lord by helping to feed the hungry, provide safe housing for the homeless, and stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed? If so, we may share in the sweet promise of restored, reconciled humanity that follows the prophet’s call to prepare the way of the Lord: “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.” (Isaiah 40: 3-5).