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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2 Feb. 2014 Luke 2:22-40 All Are Our Children

2 Feb. 2014  Luke 2:22-40    All Are Our Children

Luke’s words portray a picture of hope, innocence and adult concern for the infant Jesus.  This child, Jesus, received a strong start in life through the faithfulness and practices of his parents and others.    My children received a strong start in life – loving parents, loving grandparents, god-parents who have been intimately involved in their lives, a congregation that baptized and adopted my two children as their own.

I have watched other parents, equally loving and equally full of faithfulness and practices.  Like Simon, my heart hurts as I think about swords piercing the mothers’ souls at some point.  In the United States, 1 in 5 children will struggle with hunger.  Closer to home, sixteen percent of children under eighteen in Dane County live in poverty -  a total of 16,129 children who are likely to be hungry -  75% of whom are African American.   1 in 45 children in the United States will experience homelessness, almost 800 of whom attend the Madison City Schools.   Of the 70,000 young children who will be incarcerated, 2305 are young Black children who live in Dane County.  Each year 1.2 million children from all over the world will become victims of child trafficking or child slavery with the United States being a top destination – trafficked and enslaved children have been found in all 50 states.

These statistics about this wonderful community in which we live are hard to read since we like to think of Madison as a “child friendly” place.   How can we choose to become consciously aware of the reality in which too many of our children live?  How can we remember that all of the children in Madison are our children by virtue of their presentation in the Temple?  How can we, as individuals, take on the role of “faithful Godparents”  to support all of our children -  especially our African American children whom Madison treats the most harshly (54% in poverty, 86% not proficient in math by 8th grade, 47% of whom will be arrested)?  How can we link arms as a faith community to work together and utilize our common resources to protect and support so hopes and expectations can be realized for their flourishing?  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Matthew 4:12-23 Fishing for Men

Fishing for people is an odd sort of job description that Jesus offers.  Often we associate this with the sort of proselytizing that stands on street corners and proclaims hell fire and damnation to all who stray from a certain vision of the straight and narrow.  But suppose we think of fishing for people as more like catching them under the arms and lifting them up out of whatever sea of troubles they may be in?  Then fishing for people would be more like what the gospel says that Jesus does – proclaiming good news of the kingdom and curing people of their ailments.  Fishing for people might still happen in places like streetcorners and community centers  as well as our workplaces and coffee shops, in fact anywhere where we encounter people awash with difficulties, drowning in sorrow, cast adrift from relationships that had sustained them.  And what are we to do with these people? Jesus says “catch them”: reach out a hand, or even extend both hands, to offer support for them in troubles we can’t alleviate and do what we can to pull them out of those heavy seas. Offer good news that is directly connected, as Jesus’s words were, to the heavy lifting involved to cure what ails them.  Jesus doesn’t just give us fish and meet our own ongoing need for his curing power, he also shows us how to fish.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Matthew 3:13-17: The Baptism of Jesus

This is a puzzling story at first sight. What has happened to John the Baptist? Earlier in the same chapter of Matthew, he was fiercely denouncing the Pharisees and Sadducees as a brood of vipers and demanding repentance from everyone, but here he meekly submits to Jesus, confessing his own unworthiness to baptize him. Stranger yet, Jesus (the only human being who truly doesn’t need baptism, since he is completely sinless) quietly insists on having John baptize him nonetheless, and John consents to do it.

One point being made here, I think, is that John and Jesus represent two completely different ways of dealing with sinners. John (like most people in our own culture) tries to make distinctions, treating the worst sinners most harshly, ordinary sinners less so, and putting the sinless one in a completely different category. But Jesus refuses to cooperate with this system of moral judgments. As theologian Jennifer McBride points out, “he begins his public ministry by being baptized with sinners,” and he remains identified with sinners right down to the end, standing in solidarity with them (and us) instead of claiming the position of superior righteousness that was his due.

Jesus’s refusal to separate himself from sinners scandalized many of his contemporaries, as the Gospels demonstrate, but for us it is a great gift. His inclusive, non-judgmental love frees us both from the fear of damnation and from the need to make moral distinctions among our neighbors, so that we can simply love them all (as Jesus does) rather than trying to judge what each of them “deserves.” Thanks be to God!