#StayWokeAdvent, Advent, Justice

what shall we cry out?: a #staywokeadvent lectionary reflection

A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Isaiah 40:6-8

God bless the grass that breaks through cement,
It’s green and it’s tender and it’s easily bent,
But after a while it lifts up it’s head,
For the grass is living and the stone is dead.
And God bless the grass.
“God Bless the Grass” by Malvina Reynolds

For the season of Advent, the Hebrew Bible texts arise from the later chapters of Isaiah. During this time period of Isaiah’s writings, the Judeans had been exiled for over 50 years in the land of Babylon. Their land was destroyed, their Temple flattened, and their faith was shaken. They had lost all hope (just read Lamentations), and believed that God might never vindicate them.

At the time of this passage in Isaiah, the prophet was calling them back to the Promised Land. He was calling for comfort, for valleys to be made level with the mountains, and saying that their sins have been forgiven. Then, in the middle of all the celebrating, a voice says, “Cry out!” But the prophet doesn’t know what to cry. And the question is never answered.

This sounds like our own contemporary conundrum.

What are we supposed to cry out with so many injustices? What should we call out first without starting an Oppression Olympics?

On August 9th, Michael Brown was murdered in the middle of the day by a police officer.

What shall we cry out?

Nearly 70 years ago on that date, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan killing over 80,000.

What shall we cry out?

Since Michael Brown’s murder, several more young black Americans have been killed by police officers.

What shall we cry out?

After the prophet asks the question, the response given is that people are like grass. People’s constancy is like that of a weak, little flower. We fade, wither, and die. And the breath of God, which in other passages brings life, here, brings death. Surely, people are grass. Then maybe that’s it. As I’m told often enough, justice will never come about until God reigns. And so we wait. We wait for other seedling to grow and hopefully they’ll fix some of our racist and sexist attitudes, laws, and perspectives.

But that’s not the end of story. There are other prophets who have rose up and spoke about the grass’ strength. One prophet, Malvina Reynolds, disrupts the prophet’s words saying that grass doesn’t just fade and wither. Grass can also pushes through the cracks in concrete. Unwatched it can take over whole areas. In short, grass is dangerous.

seasons greetings

As we watch reports from Ferguson and around the US, we hear ever loudly the rustle of grass. The spirit of justice blows through the land demanding the end of police brutality against all people, but especially for black and brown persons. This wind knocks over systematic oppressions that haunt many black and brown communities. This wind pushes toward a new world, one just waiting to arrive.

I used to think Advent meant that we wait patiently for Jesus to be born. The kind of waiting we perform at doctor’s offices. I was wrong. Waiting in Advent means to be active in creating God’s Realm, which is always full of justice. Those protesting for the end of police brutality, for Darren Wilson to be charged a just punishment, and for the end of killing black and brown peoples are all practicing a form of Advent waiting. #StayWokeAdvent

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Anarchism, Beliefs, Christainity, Liberation Theology, Scripture

god of inclusion

I was raised in a religious denomination that had no concept of the lectionary or the Christian calendar. Sunday’s Scripture was based on whatever the minister was thinking about that week. Once I started to attend a church rich in liturgical fervor, I fell in love with the rituals, holidays, and lectionary. I love the lectionary because every three years, a congregation will hear the majority of Scripture and it presents good challenges to the preacher for that week. For now, I regularly attend a United Methodist that is quiet liberal with their use of the lectionary so when it is used, I get very excited. For the first lesson this past weekend it is one of my favorite texts in Acts because God talks back and to help Peter interpret the vision.

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:1-18

These verses speak highly of inclusion. John Dominic Crossan wrote in his autobiography, A Long Way from the Tipperary, that if Jesus is to the right of the God then that means that God is to the left of Jesus. Crossan clearly making a political joke, but one that seems accurate of the overall picture of God in Scripture. God is for the outcast, marginalized, forgotten, but God is also trying to push the oppressor into love. Thus making God a Leftist beyond Leftist.

Peter’s vision spoke of the inclusion of the Gentiles and just in its infancy stage for the followers of the Way. This is radical, but not rare for God since hints came as early as the prophet Micah who declared that God will be praised even by the Gentiles. These new converts do not need to be circumcised, but baptized. The text reads that Peter remembers the early words of the Jesus that all shall be baptized by God’s Spirit.

If we take this text to its radical end it means that God’s love is for all and in all. God tells Peter “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” God thus broadens who’s in and who’s out, meaning all are in! Yet, even if this is true theologically, which I believe to be very much so, our social constructions point us in other directions.

Since the Boston Bombings, the Right Wing has upped their anti-Islam rhetoric. Republicans made a statement immediately after the suspect was found that the FBI and other law enforcement should keep a closer eye on Muslims and their mosques. First, there is no need to create fear in a group where no fear is typically found. I should know, I live in an area in West Philly that is mostly made up of Muslims and we all live peacefully together. Second, have we forgotten our past of putting Japanese and Asian Americans into work camps during WWII. Are we heading back to that? I sure hope not! What we need is love for those we have silenced and fear.

The way we move forward is through relationships. These are always uncomfortable at first, but like most things we get use to them and feel comfortable. May we be like God and include all people. We should see others as sacred as we believe ourselves to be.

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