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

Monday, May 26, 2014

1 June 2014 John 17:1-11 - "The Words That Were Given to U"s

1 June 2014   John 17:1-11 -   "The Words That Were Given to Us"

 “…for the words that you gave to me, I have given to them, and they have received them…”    We have been given a lot of words from God through Jesus – doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and releasing the prisoner from his chains.  All of the words we have been given were summarized by Jesus when he said, “Love God with all of your heart, your soul and your mind and Love your Neighbor as yourself.”

It appears that we, in Madison, are being given some specific words about loving our neighbor at this moment in history.  The National White Privilege Conference was held in Madison this spring.  A panel was convened at the Unitarian Church to talk about racism in Madison in light of the Casey Foundation report that labeled Wisconsin as the worst state in the nation for Black Children.  Dr. Alex Gee’s Justified Anger Coalition (on the cover of the Isthmus in January) is attracting hundreds of supporters.    The cover of the May 16 Isthmus has a startling close-up of our County Executive, Joe Parisi with the title, “Joe Parisi’s Race Problem and Ours.”  The article talks about the harsh statistics in the Dane County report on Racial Disparities published in October 2013 that verify that a Black child has more chance of success in Mississippi or Alabama than in Madison, Wisconsin.  It goes on to describe how Parisi has built his 2014 budget on a theme of “An Investment in Our Values” which contain a number of new programs aimed at helping African Americans.

This is a time when our eyes and ears are being opened to what is, and has been, happening to Black children in Madison.  There are many issues of disadvantaged folks calling for our attention in this city - homeless people, undocumented workers, returning prisoners, battered women.  It appears that, at this moment in time, we are being awakened to the extent of the specific problem of racism in our community.  How can we best receive these words we are being given?  How can we link arms with our County Executive, with each other, and with our African American neighbors to begin the work of leveling the playing field?  How can we begin to build those relationships of trust with our African American neighbors that will enable all of us to genuinely see each other as neighbors?  How can we focus our collective voice to begin the work of changing the systems and structures that have made Madison such a difficult place for Black Children to thrive?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

25 May 2014 Luke 12:13-21

25 May  2014    Luke 12:13-21

When I read today's story in Luke, a song from the opera Porgy and Bess runs through my head.  The more we have, the more we have to fear, to worry about, to take care of.  Do we trust that God will provide our daily bread?  Do we heed God’s words to Moses about not gathering more manna than we need for the day?  If we do, we can live a more free life.  Accumulating more than enough in investment accounts, large homes, personal possessions, creates a life of worry and stress -- for us, and especially for those whose daily needs are not being met because we’ve hoarded the abundant crop of God in our big barns.

Oh, I got plenty of nothin’ 
and nothin's plenty for me. 
I got no car, got no mule, 
I got no misery.
The folks with plenty of plenty 
Got a lock on the door —
'Fraid somebody's going to rob 'em 
while they're out a-makin' more. 
What for? 
I got no lock on the door, 
that's no way to be. 
They can steal the rug from the floor — 
that's ok with me 
'cause the things that I prize 
like the stars in the skies 
all are free. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gospel for May 18.. John 12:1-14

John 14:1-14

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” “I am the way, the truth and the life.” “If you know me, you will know my Father also.” “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”

We are five weeks past Easter, and two thousand years past that first momentous time about which John and the other gospel writers tried to tell us. It’s reassuring that humans perhaps haven’t changed much; we may recognize the insistence from Jesus’ followers, Thomas and Philip, to pony up the proof. It gives me some compassion for us, hundreds of years later, that we struggle to believe the wonder of God’s love, as demonstrated by Jesus’ life, when people who actually spent time with didn’t believe him easily either. But Jesus offers us reassurance in the attempts he made repeatedly with Thomas and Philip. He told them, and still tells us, how he comes again and again and again every time we act in ways that he lived. He lived humbly, accepting everyone, seeking and seeing the value in every person. Is he telling us it’s as easy as learning to see the God-like element in every person? Is that how he comes again to us? By engaging compassionately with everyone, no matter their class, color, or wealth, we can reunite with Jesus by following his ways, and thereby remind ourselves of God’s abundant love overflowing for us. In relationship with each other we mimic Jesus’ example and come close to God. We don’t need to let our hearts be troubled. We just need to relate to each other with equal regard. And therein we find our connection to the divine. Helping the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the uneducated, the mentally ill isn’t about earning heavenly points. It’s about luxuriating in God’s love. Why would we resist?