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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Justice Reflection, Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015 Mark 16:1-8

Justice Reflection, Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?"  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.  Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you."  So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The stone has already been rolled back, the impossibly happy ending has happened, "just as he told you," but did they dance in joy?  No, they fled in terror.

My favorite prayer of thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer states, "We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love."  How can this impossibly happy picture exist side-by-side with all the suffering, misery, anger and violence in this world?

I once had a cartoon of a vested preacher orating from the pulpit, "And on the eighth day, God said, 'Let there be problems,' and there were PROBLEMS."  Thanks to the 24/7 media, in addition to the problems large and small in our own lives, we are bombarded with problems everywhere on the planet.  The eighth day seems to fill the whole week, every week.  We get compassion fatigue.  We are overwhelmed.  We flee in terror -- what can we possibly do?  The impossibly happy ending seems like a naive fairy tale.

Actually, there are a lot of things we can do:  Decline to enter into contentious discussions.  Carry in our elderly neighbor's groceries.  Sign up for a shift driving people to their polling places to vote.  Buy extra groceries for the food pantry.  Tip low wage workers at least 20%.  Set up a Little Free Library in your front yard and fill it with books for early readers.  Keep an eye out for blankets and warm socks at thrift shops and next winter get them to where the homeless are.  Most importantly, we can help our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews grow into confident, loving, open-minded adults.  Trust that every small kindness you do is magnified many times over by the Risen Christ.  The Impossibly Happy Ending is real and we are part of it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

22 Mar 2015 John 12:20-33

22 Mar  2015     John 12:20-33  

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out."  Who is this "ruler of this world" that will be driven out?  The better question is, who is the ruler of my world that needs to be driven out?  I look closely in the mirror and realize that the rulers of my world have always been ambition, hard work and achievement.  I worked hard to become self-sufficient and to raise my children to be self-sufficient.  I always thought of those characteristics as virtues, not some “ruler” who needed to be driven out.

But when I look more closely, I realize how clearly hard work, ambition and achievement ruled my life – drove my decisions, determined my actions, filled my calendar, and directed my checkbook.  I am astonished by how easy it was to get sucked in to waiting to use my voice, my power, and my life for justice until I thought I knew enough, was financially sustainable enough, or had influence enough to believe that I could accomplish positive change. Yet by waiting, by not acting, I find myself directly participating in social injustice

How can we choose to decide that the time is now?  How can we choose to simply act to make some corner of the world a little more like the visible sign of God's love and God's justice even without more research or more ability to be heard?  Those who use their power to maintain their privilege would like nothing better than for us to sit back and wait.  Now is the judgment of this world.

Monday, March 9, 2015

15 March 2015 John 3:9-21

15 March 2015   John 3:9-21

Nicodemus, a religious leader and teacher, questions Jesus regarding the meaning of his teachings about water, flesh and spirit. Jesus tells him that although he is a teacher of Judaism, Nicodemus does not understand the truth God has sent through the Son of Man, Jesus.

Jesus instructs repeatedly that eternal life is promised to those who understand that the flesh and the spirit exist simultaneously. Jesus reminds us that truly receiving God is to live in the awareness of His love for all of us, all the time, here and now. He taught that when we share our love and loving actions with others, no matter their station in life, we are expressing God’s love to them.

How can we live into God’s grace and abundance? Following Jesus’ teaching requires courage to take those right next steps, even if we don’t know what is around the bend. In the season of Lent, can we remember that we are living in full relationship with God here and now? Remembering that God loves us all equally, can we receive God’s love and enjoy sharing it with our fellow beings? Can we express God’s love for our planet, our neighbors, and ourselves? Spreading God’s love far and wide helps us feel both loved and loving.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

8 Mar 2015 John 2:13-22

8 Mar  2015  John 2:13-22 

The story of Jesus and the money changers is a familiar one, and one in which it is easy to assume we are aligned with Jesus and ready to drive away the profiteers trading at the doorways of our religious establishments. However, what does making "his Father's house" a marketplace look like nowadays? The moneychangers were just doing what was culturally expected in making sacrifices of doves and sheep convenient by providing them for the worshippers.  We might want to remember St Francis and his refusal to get into the ways that the church of his day did "business as usual." . St Francis took Jesus seriously enough that he gave up his wealth and comforts, left the church of his time and built a community that was out in the world rejoicing in nature and caring for the poor, being with the "unhoused" and "unchurched."

There are movements within our denomination today that are asking us now to reimagine "church" for the 21st century, as something other than a place where we can come comfortably and companionably and have our bodies and souls cared for Some years ago, Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd (who died this week at age 91) asked “are you running with me, Jesus?” as he challenged us to engage with him in radical inclusion through the civil rights movement and AIDS activism out in the streets,  campuses and coffeehouses.  Excluded by his church for decades, he was finally welcomed back. As a gay man, he rejoiced in being part of an inclusive church community.

Like Fr. Boyd and St. Francis, we should resist the division between “the church” and “the world” not by accepting the exclusions and money-making tendencies of both institutions but by challenging both to live up to Jesus’ radical “housecleaning.”  There is a lot of work to be done in and for the church. Making our physical building really God’s house where all are made to feel welcome will cost us time and money and inconvenience. But we are also asked to make efforts to take church out of the building and out of the business of doing "transactions" with God.  The "temple" Jesus describes in this gospel isn’t a building, but his body, which is the body of all people.  Loving our building and welcoming people to it and leaving it in order to share God’s love with those outside are not alternatives but two sides of a single mission.  As Christians who need to stay fresh and close to our real purpose, we should ask whether we use the idea that "church is not the building" as an excuse for not making the effort to support it or as a challenge to do much more than merely come here "for comfort but not for renewal."