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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

30 March John 9:1-41

30 March   John 9:1-41 -- Justice Reflection on the Gospel 

‘As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”’

The early Hebrew people thought God would punish generations of children for the sins of their parents (Exodus 20:5). Later the prophet Ezekiel writes (18:1, 20): ‘The word of the Lord came to me: “A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent . . .” Ezekiel reveals a God who does not punish the innocent.

In responding to the disciples who are stuck in old ideas about God, Jesus goes further yet: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed.” And then he heals him. Jesus is the perfect revelation of the God of love.

Today some people blame the parents for the problem of child poverty, claiming that poor parents are irresponsible and undeserving, and that assistance for their children perpetuates a culture of dependence.

When Jesus says “We must work the works of him who sent me,” he appoints us his agents on earth. We sometimes hesitate to claim this role; it can put us in uncomfortable positions.

                     Are we called to speak prophetically, as Ezekiel did, when our leaders oppose assistance for poor families?

                     Do we fear offending or rocking the boat? When should we confront mean- spiritedness?

                     Are we reluctant to proclaim God’s unconditional love out of concern it would encourage irresponsibility and self-destructive behavior?

                     What can we do here and now to advocate for a more just and loving society for God’s children of all ages?

Monday, March 17, 2014

John 4:5-42 The Samaritan Women of Dane County, Wisconsin

23 March  John 4:5-42     The Samaritan Women of Dane County, Wisconsin

The woman at the well takes me immediately back to those promises I make every time we baptize a baby.  “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”  and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

I think about all of the Samaritan women who surround me on a daily basis- all those women we tend to look down on at our very best and to make outcast at our worst.  I watch myself shaking my head in both sorrow and irritation at the young, single teens who have gotten themselves pregnant (72/1000 young Black teens and 58/1000 young Hispanic teens in Dane County).  I find myself both cringing and rolling my eyes as I listen to women talk about trying to “get clean” so they can get their kids back (Heroin being the drug of choice in Dane Co.).    I grind my teeth when I learn that 1300 students in Dane Co, identify themselves as gang members, of whom 24% of those are young girls.  I attempt to ignore the fact that a large, well-known house of prostitution is just out my back door, one block over.   And mostly, I have a tendency to push the “denial” button in my brain – I do not want to admit that such sin exists in this city we think of as approaching Utopia.

How is it possible to seek and serve Christ in these people or to preserve their dignity when it appears that they have none to preserve.  This story provides us with one of the most powerful lessons in all of Scripture.  The Samaritan women, and all of those Samaritan women in Dane County, do not, indeed, see themselves as persons of worth and value .  Jesus’ ministering to those outcasts of Jewish society reminds us that all people are valuable to God.  We learn to seek and serve Christ in all persons as we learn to finally see, and then demonstrate love to,  the outcasts in our midst.  We strive for justice and preserve human dignity as we choose to actively work to care for our Samaritans, to constantly let them know that they are people of value to God and to us.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2 March 2014: Matthew 17:1-9

Today’s Gospel gives us a memorable story about the transcendent glory of God, made manifest in the radiance of Christ on the mountaintop. But what I really love about this story is the human fallibility of the disciples who witness the miracle, especially dear impetuous Peter. When he sees Christ’s dazzling brightness and the sudden appearance of Moses and Elijah beside him, Peter falls all over himself with eagerness to do something and starts babbling about building three shelters to preserve the moment. The scene is especially funny in Matthew’s version, where he is still talking when the cloud appears and the voice from heaven cuts him off, telling him almost literally to shut up and just listen to Jesus. As soon as they hear the voice of God, Peter and the other disciples collapse on the ground in terror, unable to move until Jesus touches them and tells them there is no need to be afraid.

Such stories about the disciples’ weaknesses can inspire as well as amuse us because they urge us not to write anybody off. Each human being has more dignity and worth in God’s eyes than our worst moments, or even our worst decades, might suggest. When we are tempted to give up on ourselves or someone else, we might ask ourselves how much potential we would have seen in Peter, who babbles in this story, sinks when he tries to walk on water, and wimps out so completely when Jesus is arrested that he denies knowing him three times in a single night. And yet this is the disciple whom Jesus calls “the rock” on which He will build His church, and who emerges after the Ascension as a wise and courageous leader of the early Christian community. His transformation is a wonderful illustration of this blessing (from the end of Evening Prayer II in the BCP): “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to Him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.”