Monday, November 19, 2012

Sermon for November 18, 2012

Jesus and the New Classism
Thanksgiving Sunday

How many of us can remember a Thanksgiving when we haven’t participated in a food drive, or helped out at Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, or invited a lonely neighbor over for dinner? How many of us can remember a Thanksgiving when provided money for food or assembled or distributed Thanksgiving baskets for those in need of attention and care? For most of us, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving unless we remember our responsibility to those who exist at the edges of society. It says a lot about our character as Americans that during our holiday of giving thanks, we have an impulse to share with those whose needs are greater than our own; that we share with those who so often feel forgotten.

Thanksgiving is a time of great generosity. But is it also a time of justice? Let’s turn to the example of Jesus to look for some answers. This is from Mark 12:38ff.
Jesus taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces.  And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”
Let’s stop there for a moment. Notice how Jesus is setting up the Scribes. A Scribe’s primary occupation was writing out copies of the Jewish Scriptures and teaching the people what the law said. Scribes studied the fine details of following Jewish law. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus makes the point repeatedly that the Scribes, these leaders and law experts, expect privilege and status. Jesus consistently calls religious people to be last and “servants of all.” But the Scribes use religion as a veil for economic opportunism. Let’s see how this scene plays out.
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
What is the moral of this story? I was always taught that Jesus wants his followers to see the contrast between religious hypocrisy of the scribes and the genuine piety of the poor woman. The interpretation comes straight from John Calvin, granddaddy of the Reformed tradition. In his Harmony of the Gospels, Calvin says the poor should not hesitate to express their devotion to God cheerfully out of their slender means, “for if they consecrate themselves, their offering, which appears to be mean and worthless” will not be seen as insignificant. According to Calvin, the chief sacrifice God wants from us is self denial.

Oh Calvin?! You know I love you, but sometimes you make me uncomfortable. Using the poor as an object lesson about self-denial sounds like an implication of the so-called 47% “moocher class” we’ve been hearing about.  We have lots of cultural stereotypes that go with the word “poor.” We are taught poor people are unintelligent, inarticulate, and overly emotional. Another stereotype is poor people spend money on frivolous things. If poor people just gave up on satellite television and IPhones, they would pop up into the middle class. Poverty has a different face. To be sure, those in poverty are forced to deny themselves constantly, but it is not the kind of self-denial that makes God smile. The poor must deny the things that all of us want: a comfortable life, a convenient life, a healthy life, a life full of small pleasures. Poor people end up denying themselves lattes, fresh cut flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, health care and time for exercise, mp3 players, travel, expensive clothes and accessories, not to mention all of the “must-have” consumer goods that are constantly marketed to us. And, since most poor people remain poor their whole lives, they must be prepared to deny themselves, and members of their families for a long time. It’s true today. It was true in Jesus’ day. I do not think Jesus is holding the poor widow’s ultimate financial sacrifice up as a model for us. Let’s rethink this.

Jesus and his disciples are hanging out at the Temple. Jesus must feel a little out of step with the hustle and bustle of urban life. The city is disconcertingly big and busy. Think of how it feels to visit New York City on a crowded day. For me it’s amazing and scary all at the same time. The full array of humanity is there to see: rich and poor, greed and generosity, religion and commercialism. Imagine it’s the same in Jerusalem. Swarms of people are there, rich and poor, powerful and powerless. Jesus makes his way to the Temple treasury. The Temple has 13 trumpet-shaped chests along the walls of a space called The Court of Women. Temple worshippers toss their financial offerings into these chests. Some of the donors are rich people who give from their abundance. But Jesus singles out one woman. We know two things about her. She is poor and she is a widow. In Jewish law, she is a member of a protected class. Hebrew Scripture clearly calls people to care for widows because they have no support net (Deut. 14.29). Jewish faith understands that God’s creation has enough for everyone to flourish. If there is poverty, it’s because some in creation have filled their pockets first. So, instead of being a recipient of Temple funds, the poor widow donates two little coins. She gives all that is left of her whole life.

Jesus says, “She just gave everything she had to live on! She gives from her destitution!” His words are not praise, but a lament. He is not admiring the poor widow’s generous spirit of self-denial. No, Jesus is condemning a religion-supported economic system that creates classes of haves and have-nots. The poor widow is not empowered. Instead of protecting widows, the Scribes exploit them in order to feed their self-important status. For Jesus, the Temple becomes a symbol of that which devours the resources of the poor. And Jesus objects.

We see the equivalent of the poor widow in our communities. The poor are not some lump of people at the bottom of society who are just there as the underclass, permanently outside the mainstream of American life. The poor are working people. If we understand that poverty is something that is happening to working class Americans, then we begin to understand America’s new classism.

To think about class in America, is to think about how we are divided by economic and social status. To think about class in America, is to think about how we are separated from one another -- on the other side of the fence, on the other side of the tracks, on the other side of town. The "haves", the "have-nots", the almost haves…the haves, for now. "Class" is the elephant in the room of our schools, our justice system, our county council meetings, our extended families at the Thanksgiving Table, and yes, "class" is the elephant in the room of our churches. So let’s talk about it.

Martin Luther King Jr., especially in his later writings, identified three elements working together to cause oppression in America. Each element works separately but in tandem with the other two to create a perfect storm of lost opportunity for millions of Americans. The first element is racism. Racism tries to put white American men in control of a system that has keeps people of color and women out of positions of power and opportunities for advancement. The Conference Ministers of the UCC just sent out a pastoral letter to our churches. The ministers, “call on all settings of the church to maintain a vigilant voice in this struggle for racial justice and equality.” The ministers write, “We urge you to speak out when voices emerge on the landscape that threatens to turn back the clock and undo the work of those who came before us. We invite our white members, families, and churches to develop new skills as allies in dismantling white privilege and fostering new dimensions of racial justice and equality.”

The second part of the triangle of oppression is classism. King realized, as he peeled back the layers of American oppression, that racism was not operating alone. How could it be that people of the racially dominant group could be oppressed with a power equal to that of racism? And how could it be that people of color could achieve at the highest levels in some parts of the American society, in business, academia, and government, in spite of their color and cultural background? King linked it to classism.

The third part of the triangle is poverty. If poverty alone were alleviated, if each person truly had enough food, wealth, healthcare, and good jobs, it would alleviate the oppression caused by racism and classism. But it would not end that oppression. Dr. King said, “In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all [people] are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich. We are inevitably our brothers'[and sister’s] keeper because of the interrelated structure of reality.”

As I said earlier, I think most Americans are generous people. We want to help. We want to heal. But how do we achieve and maintain equality and also embrace diversity? If the poor are in reality part of the working class, cycling in and out of poverty and near-poverty, what does that imply for the traditional Christian concern for the poor?

The idea offering charity for the poor is part of who we are. Charity is a beautiful thing. But charity is not a practical program, because the way for the poor to have a better life is for them to have more power.  Generosity is not enough. We stand for generosity with Justice. Generosity with justice means we aren’t just charitable toward the poor. If we approach working people who are poor with a sense of charity, it’s humiliating to many people. People will take charity because they’re hungry, and they’ll even appreciate it in a certain way. However, charity can be given in a way that’s deeply hurtful and in the long run counterproductive. There’s another way. Generosity with justice. We offer help in a way that says, "Let’s work together, let’s stand together, in ways that make us fully and equally powerful as we seek to fulfill our common interests and individual needs.”

Generosity with justice questions hierarchies of dominator and dominated. Where inequity exists, we will not accept the widely-held perspective that blames the victims. Generosity with justice allows us to feel the pain of these oppressive and unbalanced social, religious, and economic systems, regardless of our privileged or unprivileged position. We listen with compassion. We learn the history and experiences of others. We become conscious of the immediate and long-term impact of each move we make.

Generosity with justice let’s go of oppressive dynamics and helps us commit to living life for its highest purpose.

Generosity with justice helps our individual needs and desires become secondary to those of the community, local and global.

Generosity with justice fosters awareness of how our actions affect others. It nourishes relationships that are guided by deep intuition, openness and creativity. With gratitude and justice, we feel and experience a profound sense of interrelatedness with everything.

Generosity with justice limits destructive behaviors such as arrogance, self-centeredness, superiority, inferiority, doubt, worry, fear, anxiety.

Generosity with justice helps us not just count our blessings, but count our privileges.

If we keep reading in Mark’s gospel, we will hear Jesus predict the collapse of the Temple, and with it, the dawning of a new world in which the powers of domination and inequity will be toppled, a world in which justice is restored to the most compromised among us, a world in which the ethics of the law are restored. This new beginning dawns when we claim our identity.

Our generous Thanksgiving outreach with food is awesome. But with justice, our generosity extends into actions designed to end violence in our cities families, schools and neighborhoods as well as in other countries.  In other words, we can use this observance of the Thanksgiving holiday to remind ourselves that generosity with justice connects us to the heart of God. And that’s something to be thankful for. We live more fully into God’s new reality. We breathe it. We live it. We dream it. We pray for it. We work for it. 

Sources:
“Classism and Economic Injustice,” http://www.uucr.org/sermons/classismandeconomic.html
Ched Myers, Binding the Strongman, pp.318-323.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize Speech,  http://evergreenuu.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=CMZGEPaRv9o%3D&tabid=192
“Don’t be charitable to the poor...” http://thewitness.org/archive/oct2001/zweiginterview.html
“Deep Interrelatedness and Transformation,” http://www.classism.org/human-arising
"Thanksgiving 2011” http://spsmw.org/2011/11/16/thanksgiving-2011/
Pastoral Letter on Racism, November 2012
Richard W. Swanson, Provoking the Gospel of Mark.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sermon for November 4, 2012

Faith in the Public Square: A Theology of Hospitality
Isaiah 58:7

When I think about hospitality, about Grammy Braddock. That woman always had people in her house. It was inevitable – she had 16 children. Every Christmas Eve we would go to her tiny apartment at the senior living complex. Every room would be stuffed with Braddocks. Our family overflowed into the sidewalks and parking lots. She never had much money, but she always put some food out – mashed potato salad with green peas sticks in my memory for some reason. And she always had gifts for her 55 grandchildren – a pair of mittens or a box of chocolate covered cherries. When we arrived, she would go into her bed room and pick something from her stockpile of gifts, wrap it up, and hand it to me as if she had seen this box of mints in the store and thought only of you.

When I think about hospitality, about Grandma Hudson. She had more money than Grammy Braddock and lived in a bigger house. It was also stuffed with people – and animals. Holidays were not just for the family. Friends would come over. Friends of friends would come over. Friends of friends would bring their pets over. Sometimes we would bring our elderly neighbor to my grandparent’s house, just so she wouldn’t be alone on the holidays. My grandmother welcomed anyone in and treated guests as part of the family. Even her annoying neighbors had a spot at the table.

My parents also had the gift of hospitality. I remember a bike rider stopping by our house in CT. He was on a long distance ride and he needed a place to pitch his tent for the night. My parents offered our yard. They all stayed up long into the night talking, eating, and laughing with this visitor. His trip became a yearly event – the biker in the back yard. I also remember how my parents hired unemployed guys to do odd jobs around the house, knowing full well that my father and brother and me could do it ourselves.

I remember the older woman who lived down the street. Mildred would walk by the house every day, deadhead my mother’s flowers by the mailbox, and then scream for my mother to come out of the house. “Debby. Deeeeebyyyyy!” she would screech. When my mother appeared, the Mildred would ask “Is your dog tied up.” Mildred was deathly afraid of dogs. Of course, all of her screaming would make Natasha, our 200 pound malamute, go wild --lunging for the mailbox until her chain yanked her back. Mildred became a member of the family – the strange spinster aunt who trembled and cried a lot.

I like to think that I have inherited the famous gift of hospitality, but something may have gone wrong. I remember a dark, windy November night out in Western New York. Zoe was just a baby. Chris and I sat down for dinner in the parsonage when we hard a knock on the door. I opened the door to a young, scruffy man with severe Tourette ’s syndrome looking for odd jobs and a few bucks. There was no work to do – all our leaves had long ago blown over into the neighbor’s yard. We invited him in for dinner. Unfortunately for him, I was on my latest diet kick, and had cooked a disgusting casserole with turkey, artichokes, and cottage cheese. He ate it without complaint and, but politely declined seconds. However, when Chris offered him a peanut butter sandwich, he inhaled three of them down.

I imagine you have a hospitality story. Maybe it is about a time you were treated kindly -- a meal, a warm embraces, reassuring eye contact, a kind smile, gestures respect and acceptance. Your birth story is a hospitality story. How were you welcomed into this world? Hopefully, you received hospitality in the form of nourishment, nurturing, and joyful reception, all of which led to a profound sense of safety and security. That kind of deep welcome gives people space to meet, to express ourselves spontaneously, and to be ourselves. As I have mentioned in other sermons, this kind of welcome is what’s supposed to happen in the public square. Strangers make room for diversity, for difference and disagreement, for new thoughts and new insights.  And as Christians in the public square, we make room for uncorrupted love., heartfelt tolerance, and sincere questions, and delight in our commonalities.

Maybe you have a different hospitality story. Perhaps yours is a story of rejection. The word hospitality actually comes from a Latin word, meaning “guest.” “Hospitality” is also connected to the Latin word hostio, from which we get the English word “hostility.” It means to give retribution or to pay back. A hostio is a victim – one who is treated with hostility. Hospitality and hostility – they come from the same root. The first pays a stranger with kindness. The second pays back a victim with revenge. Our attitude is what determines whether a stranger ends up as a friend or an enemy. We hear plenty of hostility stories. Many of us have lived them. Some of us have starred in them. The point is, we offer and accept genuine hospitality to the degree that we have experienced such in our own lives. The process can be formative or de-formative.

Hospitality has the power to heal democracy because hospitality requires us to open our hearts to the “other.”  The challenge faced in our individual lives and in our homes is the same challenge faced in the public square. It’s the challenge of letting strangers be who are and what they are, and allowing them to open us up to another reality. Hospitality demands that we have courage to engage the most strange, the most unusual, and the most bizarre that we encounter. In other words, hospitality provides safe space for deep democracy to take root – a system where there are no strangers, no outsiders, and no closed hearts.

When I think of hospitality, I think of the story of Chinue Sugihara.  Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat in the 1940’s, stationed as a border guard in  Lithuania. The Japanese authorities ordered him not to help the Jews. Jews who fled from Poland into Lithuania needed permission to pass through the Soviet Union and Japan in order to continue to other destinations. One day not long after he took up his post, Sugihara found three hundred desperate people, some who had walked all the way from Poland, standing outside his consulate, begging for his help. He had already been officially forbidden to help any Jews seeking to escape the Nazis. He knew to act was to endanger not only his own life, but also the lives of his family. Sugihara made a decision after consulting with his family and listening to his five-year old son ask, ‘If we don’t help them, won’t they die?’”

Before his arrest and deportation Sugihara issued more than two thousand exit visas. At one point his hand was so worn from signing these documents he had to put on ice packs to continue. In fact, even after being dismissed from his post, even after his family was ordered to an internment camp, even while riding on the train to his imprisonment he continued to write those exit visas, one paper at a time. And now it is said that there are 50,000 Jewish descendants of Sugihara. One man made a huge difference with his act of creative resistance, with his dedication to radical hospitality. How inclusive will we be? How will we, as Americans, find it in our hearts to welcome more people into our democracy?

It’s not an easy question. We all have areas in our lives that we are not willing to examine. I imagine the same is true with our public and political habits. We don't always realize that we are being inhospitable to people who are different than us. Exclusion can be very unintentional. But that doesn't mean it isn't real, or that it doesn't need to be reckoned with in our institutions, from our homes and our churches. The idea of welcome goes beyond shaking someone's hand or offering a drink. True welcome means realizing that we are made better when we allow the backgrounds of others to help shape everything we're about. And as Christians, we have a faith that helps us ask some important declarations when we meet those who are different. We say:
"You and I are equally dependent on God."
"You and I are both made in the image of God."
"You and I have the same dignity."
"You and I can learn from each other."
"You and I need each other."
"You and I can be safe with one another."
"You and I can enjoy each other."
"You and I can listen to each other."
"You and I can  be reconciled to one another."

 Ysaye Maria Barnwell of Sweet Honey In The Rock puts the issue before us across time and categories. Her song calls to attention how too many of us see others in categories. She asks us whether they are worthy to share space as neighbors and family members. I can’t sing it, but I can pray it. Would you pray with me?
Would you harbor me?
Would I harbor you?
Would you harbor me?
Would I harbor you?
Would you harbor a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a heretic, convict, or spy?
Would you harbor a runaway woman or child, a poet, a prophet or king?
Would you harbor an exile, or a refuge, a person living with AIDS?
Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garrett, a Truth, a fugitive or a slave?
Would you harbor a Haitian, Korean, or Czech, a lesbian or a gay?
Would you harbor me?
Would I harbor you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp7JD5DP5FQ
Amy Oden, And You Welcomed Me: A Sourcebook on Hospitality in Early Christianity (Abingdon:2001).
http://faithepchurch.org/files/Documents/Discipleship%20Resources/Hospitality.pdf
http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupCulturalAid.asp?LRID=225
http://www.c3exchange.org/archive/homeland-hospitality/
http://www.c3exchange.org/archive/the-real-sin-is-violent-and-inhospitable-treatment/
http://www.fcs-bilotta.com/documents/1ca%20Hospitality%20Story,%20Process.pdf



Friday, November 2, 2012

Sermon for October 28, 2012

Faith in the Public Square: The New American Economy
“Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’” Matthew 25:40
Welcome to the new American Economy. The American middle class is in trouble. Our incomes stagnate or fall while the costs of life’s necessities continue to rise. Even for those with jobs, the promise of economic growth has failed to deliver. Income for the typical middle class household has actually fallen over the past 10 years. For the past decade, Gallup has asked Americans about their biggest financial concern. Those in the middle class have consistently said they are most worried about not earning enough money, the high cost of living, and risks such as maintaining a decent standard of living in retirement and losing their job. Sadly, Americans have also been telling pollsters, even before the start of the Great Recession, that they think their children will be worse off than they are.

If the middle class is at risk, that means the new American Economy has a growing population of at-risk families. Tens of millions of people live in poverty, although many refuse to think of themselves as “poor.” Some make daily choices as to which necessities they will have to live without. Many work part- or full-time, but on that basis, are still unable to lift their families out of poverty. Others are physically or mentally unable to work. Many lack the family, educational, and community support important for making good choices in their lives. Although those living in poverty are particularly visible in cities, their more hidden reality in suburban, small town, and rural areas can be just as painful. A greater proportion of people of color live in conditions of poverty. The poor are disproportionately women with their children. Systemic racism and sexism continue to be evident in the incidence of poverty. There is nothing generous about our national definition of poverty. In 2010 the official poverty line was a family income of just below $22,500 for a family of four, or about $100 a week. That’s the ceiling, not the average.  More than 40% of poor U.S. families have incomes of less than half the poverty line. A fifth of American children live in poverty and two-fifths in low-income households – up 33% since 2000.

Here is one of the problems. And this is not partisan politics. This is just facts. Instead of addressing the needs of the desperately poor and its shrinking middle class, American economics has taken the lion’s share of our impressive Gross Domestic Product and invested in a far-reaching project of income redistribution to the rich. The share of domestic income going to the middle class has been shrinking for decades. The poorest fifth of American households have seen their after-tax income increase by 18%. The richest fifth, have seen real income increases of 65%. For the top 1%, real income went up 275%. America is now a land of economic insecurity for most, and a playground of unprecedented wealth for a small minority. We live in an unequal society where those on top can enforce their will against people who have less. Those on the bottom have little reason to believe they will get a fair shake. No wonder we sense that our politics are permeated by distrust.

What America should we strive to create? If the economic arena becomes a reigning power for us, the question arises: in what or whom shall we place our trust and hope? We can’t place our hope in the GDP. We can’t place our hope in unlimited economic growth. Neither Wall Street, nor K Street, t nor Madison Avenue have your family’s best interests on their agenda. And even though we’ve heard it before, it bears repeating: Money does not buy happiness. You may have heard the joke, “Those who say money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop!” The data actually indicate that money really can’t buy happiness among the more affluent. Study after study show that income is a weak generator of well-being. Do you know what produces happiness? The answer is complicated, but one answer is: “Other people.” We flourish in settings with warm, nurturing, and rewarding interpersonal relationships. And we flourish best when we are giving, not getting.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy spoke of this. “Our Gross National Product . . . counts air pollution and cigarette advertising . . . it counts special locks for our doors and the jails for people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts . . . nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riot in our cities . . . and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet, the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our [relationships], the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom or our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything . . . except that which makes life  worthwhile.”

I suggest, as Christians, we think strongly about what Jesus said about God’s economics. That which we keep to ourselves, that which we hoard, that which we take at the expense of other’s survival, we keep from God. And what we give to the least of those among us, we give to God. Our faith in God provides a vantage point for critiquing any and every system of this world, all of which fall short of what God intends. Human impoverishment, excessive accumulation and consumerism driven by greed, gross economic exploitation. God stands in judgment of those in authority who fall short of their responsibility, and is moved with compassion to deliver the impoverished from all that oppresses them.

From the vantage point of faith, here is what I see as the vision for the New American Economy: sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all! The language comes from a study put out in 1999 by the ELCA. Their statement affirms that as people of faith, we confess that we depend on God and are interdependent with one another. Through these relationships we are nurtured, sustained, and held accountable.
  • As people of faith, we confess that in Christ we realize that what human beings want is not necessarily what they need for the sake of life.
  • As people of faith, we acknowledge that what is in our interest must be placed in the context of what is good for the neighbor.
  • As people of faith,, we recognize that intense competitiveness can destroy relationships and work against the reconciliation and cooperation God desires among people.
  • As people of faith, we affirm that God promises a world where there is enough for everyone, if only we would learn how to use and share what God has given for the sake of all.
  • As people of faith, we insist that economic growth must be evaluated by its short-term, and long-term effects on the well-being of all creation and people, especially those who are poor.
In light of these realities, as people of faith we must commit ourselves to serve Christ by serving the least.  We provide counsel, food, clothing, shelter, and money for people in need, in ways that respect their dignity. We develop mutual, face-to-face, empowering relationships between people who have enough and people living in poverty. We advocate for public and private policies that effectively address the causes of poverty. We support organizations and community-based efforts that enable low-income people to obtain more sufficient, sustainable livelihoods. And we continue working to eradicate racism and sexism.

Most of all, we ask the Spirit of God to expand our vision and transforms our priorities. I get  restless when I see us offer  less than what God intends for the world.  We do not eat alone; everyone needs to eat. The multitudes present around God’s global table become our neighbors rather than competitors or strangers. Empowered by God, we continue to act, pray, and hope that through economic life there truly will be sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all.

As I was preparing for the early worship service, I found a poem by Drew Dellinger, called “hieroglyphic staircase.”
it's 3:23 in the morning
and I'm awake
because my great great grandchildren
won't let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?

as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?

what did you do
once
you
knew?
What if God is asking those questions of us?
What did we do when the our economic household was being plundered?
What did we do when our democracy were unraveling?
Did we fill the streets when equality was stolen?
What will we tell our great, great grandchildren?
What did we do once we knew?

We can realize a new vision if enough of us join together to fight for it. This new dream foresees an America where the pursuit of happiness is not about more getting and spending but in the growth of human solidarity, real democracy, and devotion to the public good; an America where the benefits of economic activity are widely and equitably shared; An America where the environment is sustained for current and future generations; An America and where the virtues of simple living, community self-reliance, good fellowship, and respect for nature predominate. 

The vision of a New American Economy is a vision of a Jesus economy, where no citizens or immigrants are left to fend for themselves alone and afraid. Because in this new way of life together, we don’t keep holding on to what we already have while we grab more as if our life depends on it. In this new way of life together, we don’t keep gathering and hoarding so we have to build ever-bigger attics or rent ever-larger storage units. In this story, Jesus offers us a vision of a new life together – the vision of an economy in which we hold only to give, and we gather only to share.

Sources:
“Making Our Middle Class Stronger: 35 Policies to Revitalize America’s Middle Class,” http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/report/2012/08/01/12034/making-our-middle-class-stronger/
“A Social Statement on Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All by the ELCA” (1999).  http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements/Economic-Life.aspx
America the Possible by Gustave Speth (NetGalley Edition: 2012)
Drew Dellinger, “Hieroglyphic Staircase”
http://people.tribe.net/cefe44e3-67d7-4375-99eb-46638d882eb6/blog/df552535-4ec8-47d6-a01a-a097667683b7
http://sermons.spiritofpeaceucc.com/2012/07/abundance-of-broken-pieces.html



Sermon for December 9, 2018 | Advet 2

The Journey: Preparing the Way In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and ...