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We cannot speak of rights without speaking of wrongs. When a majority agree that something is a ‘right’ of an individual (or groups of individuals) within the community, the parameters of that ‘right’ define the wrong that results from its absence. Where things become fraught is when something that is uncomfortable or inconvenient is confused with a ‘wrongs.’
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We just happen to be taking three days’ vacation in Glenwood Springs right now, but our two adult kids are home. The parking lot behind Lakewood’s Hyatt House is the Target pick-up location wherein we can be found far more frequently than I care to admit. It is a weighty thought experiment: that instead of delaying our Target pickup order until today, my daughter went Monday afternoon as she intended, and the shooter decided to turn his gun southward rather than northwesterly. Of course, this did not happen. I thank God that it didn’t. Yet, this kind of musing always forces me to meditate on what it is, exactly, that I believe about God’s direct providence. God wasn’t any less present at the Sol Tribe or Lucky 13 Tattoo Parlors than any other location along the shooter’s route, including the Target pickup lot. And that is precisely it, isn’t it—that God is present whenever and wherever we gather breath. And it is here that by pondering the what-ifs we gather also a sense of being present in the drama, present to the reality, entering the reality of the dead and their loved-ones. And participation in that space-time, in the spirit-to-Spirit-to-spirit communion of prayer then becomes actionable: Intercession. Powerful. Provident. Perennial.
It is also in this eternal space that all that divides us, the politicized or guilt-producing or straight up selfish, hateful attitudes have the potential to be suspended….
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May we love our neighbor’s babies as our own – and continue creating, imagining, challenging, working toward a more perfect union where all are free to fully grow as the image and likeness of God. Pursue love, right-making: the fight is a good one.
A woman writes an article for Christianity Today. About Jesus.
She uses imagery that suggests Jesus is a woman, and black. She receives hate mail and death threats.
Because she writes an article in Christianity Today suggesting Jesus might be anything other than a white man.
God. Is not.
And never will be.
A white man.
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If I say that I follow Jesus, I have a responsibility to stand with the oppressed. The first step is to self-educate.
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This is what doing justice looks like: To be known as a people who do something about injustices and work to make things right, a people that can be trusted, a people who are safe, empowered by the Spirit of God; and to do so, we must Just grow up!
Growing up means we have a broader view. Our perspective becomes more expansive. We’ve moved beyond object permanence. We have the ability now, our brains are capable of meeting someone from a different neighborhood or culture and learn to understand that view.
Paul says this (1Cor3): you keep trying to elevate yourselves, make yourselves seem important by aligning with certain people, or ideas, crushing others by declaring their inadequacies based on superficial things. But you’re no god; you’re human! God is the one who causes growth. So grow up! Whatever it is that you do out of your giftedness, talents, privilege or hardship, we absolutely must work together. Because we are working toward a common goal!
Would not our faith strengthen, our feet feel a firmer foundation, if we understood the spectacular faith of so many saints – those who planted and watered alongside us, often unbeknownst to us?!
“Jesus made it clear that he came to bring ‘good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18), showing that if we liberated the people on the margins, the good news would float upwards—in the opposite direction of the ‘trickle down’ economic model, which is largely an illusion.”(Richard Rohr)
Rev. Dr. Cone wrote, “Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.”
To what lengths will you go to show love? How far will you go to display your love for God?
If you believe God exists, and that Jesus is who he says he is, and we say Yes, I believe, then we must live into that reality. That means, we who have already been learning, being discipled, will go out and disciple others, be that witness of God’s love, Jesus’ redemptive power, the Spirit’s outpouring of graces to the community.
And, that we be known as a people who do something about injustices and work to make things right – just evidence of a people that can be trusted, a people who are safe, empowered by the Spirit of God; that God brings about growth, and for transformation to occur, it is crucial that we Just grow up!
I want to be a Just Grownup. How about you?
If we gather together only to move through the actions that a church is “supposed” to do, without the presence and power of the Spirit in us, with us, we have become a sect indeed. Static. Inconsequential. But if we come together ready to hear the voice of Jesus, open to be changed within – transformed, renewed, transforming, renewing – then we are empowered to be transformative, a conduit for the reformation of the nation.
We are meant to live by a different kind of power. We are already made for, and have access to, the Source of this other power! Do we look like a church our church look like a church that is composed of a people who are empowered by the Spirit of God?
When someone sees his donation as a responsibility (v. gift) – sharing, because it is her duty, something that ought to be done – it makes it much more difficult to ignore.
When we take a moment to breathe in the truth of our privilege and breathe out the impulse to protect it, we are compelled to do something about it.
When I breathe in the realization that ‘what became of my life is as much a factor of the inequities that exist in our society today’ as anything else, and breathe out my part in perpetuating a perception that it’s somehow their fault for not trying hard enough, or similar sentiment, then maybe my gifts – given by the very Spirit of God – might contribute to the project of making things right, the transformation of the world!
Jesus said in Matthew, “if you have lost your saltiness, your flavor, what good are you? Maintain your unique flavor, and notice and appreciate the unique flavors of others. Expand your perspective of what delicious is, enjoy the infinite gifts and evidence of God’s goodness in this world. Let Holy Love be the end of us, the end of Methodism. Be a light, evidence of your devotion to God. You are a light. Let it shine!”
For any situation to be truly just, it cannot consist of power differentials, power plays. The only way that balance can exist, for everyone to be treated with equity and regard is for those who hold a majority of power to give some of it up, empowering those who have little or none.
Jesus says, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers – they own heaven and the earth! Not by wielding power over others. They do so through poverty of spirit (not controlling, managing others); they mourn over lost relationships; they are merciful. They see God.
“If the nature of love is unity and evolution is process toward greater unity, then sin is resistance to unity.” Ilia Delio
God is clear about our responsibility to our relationships – all of them – even the ones we didn’t know we were supposed to have. Especially the ones we didn’t know we were supposed to have! The phrase attributed to Hildegard is incredibly apt: sin is living in the exile of unrelatedness. Exiled from the garden because we don’t trust the other in the relationship, we form our own prejudices toward the other – when we didn’t even know we were naked! We didn’t even know there was a difference – back when we were living in unity, back when we took responsibility for one another.
We choose to eat the fruit each time we choose to make the knowledge of outward difference a point of division, of exiling ourselves from each other. And we choose it again. And again.
Still, Jesus chooses us. And he chooses us again. And again. Beckons us. Calls us to a better way: Love. And the nature of Love is unity.
God chose what is foolish… so that no one might boast in the presence of God…
Because if I boast in the presence of God – or in the presence of anyone else, which is the same thing (God in you, and all that) – I am making a distinction, distinguishing myself as something other – and another as something less, lacking. Foolishness only seems foolish to those who need to feel more important. Foolishness looks stupid because power is no longer important. Only love. Only the relationship. Foolishness looks foolish because, despite the fact that you might have hurt me or I’ve let you down, we choose each other. And we choose each other again. And again. And again.
Because we are called to each other. A just calling.
The problem that happens when people try to do something together, all with different ideas about how to do a thing, or varying levels of energy, is that, instead of recognizing the differences as just that: different, we start comparing and ascribing worth to those things. Whether I have a degree from one institution or you have training from another matters not one iota if you, filled with the Spirit of God, show effective compassion on a hurting soul – and I, Paul says, am like a clanging cymbal, without love.
We are enriched in every way: in speech and in knowledge of every kind! And we are not lacking in any. spiritual. gift. And this is true for everyone. All are created in God’s image – through Christ, our Redeemer, sustained by the Spirit. All are enough. But we are more of who we are together. And we are only effective if we are unified in the project. But how can we be unified when we are quibbling over bits of doctrine that do not speak to God’s love and salvation through Jesus? How can we be unified if we are put off by the way someone looks, or where he lives, or if she has as much energy to do as you much as you or I?
Romans 12:5 “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.”
My degrees and anything I’ve written always began as a means to promote the building of the kingdom of God, the kingdom that is already at hand, and to follow Jesus in the healing of every kind of illness. When I start comparing my book sales to another’s, or succumb to self-loathing because I didn’t finish the degree program that might have given me a better position or platform – then anything I do or say is a squeaky, annoying ukulele. (see Abiyoyo)
There are so many ways we recognize difference. We are uniquely created in God’s image – each expressing God’s character in a unique way. It is crucial we honor those differences. AND, we are members of one another, and exhorted to “be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
Because when we are of the same mind and purpose, honoring difference while refraining from categorizing, belittling, scorning those differences, when we regard as holy and sacred our shared baptism and membership of one another, it is a unity that is just and righteous. It is just unity.