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

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Love of the Cross

Justice Reflection 24 April 2016  John 13:31-35

Easter is the season when we celebrate the greatest of all happy endings, and the hardest possible beginning.  The good news:  Each of us is another resurrection of Christ!  The hard part:  There is no resurrection without the Cross:  When Jesus tells us to love one another, he means we must carry one another's crosses.  The love of the the Cross is not the good-feeling-we-get-when-we-do-a-good-deed kind of love, it's the roll-up-our-sleeves-and-get-dirty kind of love.  It's rubbing elbows with those who are disenfranchised and hopeless, angry and hostile, desperately sick, wretchedly poor.  It's serving the homeless man who stinks, the babbling mentally ill woman with the grocery cart full of junk, the little kid with lice, the angry young man who scares you.  The Indian mystic Ramana Maharshi was asked "How should we serve others?"  His reply: "There are no others."  It's that kind of love.  We can't do it alone, the crosses are too heavy.  We have to do it together.

The Old Testament prophets rarely criticized an individual; rather, speaking in God's name, they criticized the nation itself for not taking care of the poor, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the naked.  (A good example is Isaiah 58:1-12)   Those prophets, whom Jesus quoted so often, knew that it's too much, it takes the entire nation to do it.  As Christians, we must let our faith form our politics, supporting with our taxes the programs which take care of those in any kind of need.  We must love one another if we hope to be resurrected people.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Luke 4: 14-21

Luke 4: 14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

When I read this passage, I try to imagine what Jesus felt, filled with the power of the Spirit. His experience was so powerful that word about him spread through the countryside. As he traveled and taught in the synagogues, everyone praised him. If you and I had been there, what would we have seen and felt? I’m reminded of watching others filled with Spirit; the sermons we hear from Andy and Dorota sometimes bring me to tears. Watching a beautiful dancer, or hearing beautiful music brings joy, and something moves in my heart. Being with my grandchildren fills me with love, and gratitude. There can be moments of pure blessing for each of us. It must have been something like that for the listeners as Jesus spoke to them.

Jesus’s connection with the divine convinced him that he had important messages to convey directly from God. And the messages were unequivocal: good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, the Lord’s favor. That intensity of experience that he conveyed helped everyone who heard him realize that Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.

Are those teachings still needed as reminders today? How does each of us feel closer to the power of the Spirit? And how can we each share those gifts Jesus spoke about with others, helping to free the oppressed, to bring release and sight?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

John 2;1-11

John 2:1-11
      On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.'

      Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." Note:  The jars were empty.

      The purity laws had served the early monotheists while they moved into and settled the strip of land bordering the Mediterranean on the east.  For millennia they had been in the midst of peoples with polytheistic religious beliefs; the purity laws had kept them apart, maintaining their identity as a separate people called by the one God.  The rites had kept everyone and everything locked in place: what was clean and what was unclean; what could be touched and not touched; to whom one could speak and not speak; when help could be given and when it could not.

      Purification rites had served a purpose in the development of monotheism, but the rites were no longer fulfilling a purpose:  They were empty.

      Jesus was about to teach about a new relationship with one's neighbors.  At the joyous occasion of a wedding, joining together two people and two families, Jesus transformed the rites that had kept people separate into a celebration -- with wine! -- of the joining together of all people.  Henceforth there will be no Other:  All peoples are chosen, all are one in God