Monday, April 18, 2011

Willing to March?

I watched with interest a discussion taking place on Facebook last week. The mayor of Washington DC had been arrested in a protest in downtown DC, and many people were offended that someone in office would be arrested. Many people took the position that a city leader should tow the line and never cross it.

As I watched the discussion taking place, I immediately thought of the pastors I know who have been arrested along with those whose names are written in history who have been arrested or jailed because they stood or marched for a different reality. I thought about the dreams of biblical proportion that have been given to numerous colleagues and the ways in which colleagues have been willing to do whatever it takes to work towards making these dreams a reality.

When is it appropriate for us to march for something new? How have we been led to believe that Christians should always tow the line and conform to society's ways instead of standing for something new?

I shared with the congregation yesterday morning how Jesus' triumphal march into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was just as much a political demonstration as it was a religious demonstration. The temple and the state were ruled by the same people. Animals were being sold for sacrifice placing a tremendous burden on the poor who had to buy doves for the forgiveness of their sins. Economic exploitation was widespread, and a system was set up to make people believe that God was the engineer of the system, and not the wealthy elite ruling on behalf of Rome. Everything needed to change. Jesus came, and the whole city was in turmoil when he entered Jerusalem. Much stood in need of redemption, and the redeemer was on the scene.

I asked our congregation yesterday what keeps them up at night. What realities exist today that stand in stark contrast to the ways God has designed them to be? Where is there oppression? Where are people being told that they are less than who God has designed them to be? What is in need of redemption? What are we willing to march for?

A member of our church makes regular visits to Capitol Hill. He has used his time and talent to work arduously for the appeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in the military. He's marching for a different reality.

Another person in our congregation works with immigrants in our city who are looking for jobs. She passionately seeks to secure the documentation they need in order to put food on their tables and a shelter over their heads. She's seen injustice firsthand and is working for a different reality.

Other individuals are working for affordable housing. They know firsthand how expensive it is to live in the city and how some people have to work three jobs in order to pay the rent.

Some people in our church are working with a reentry program for people who have recently been incarcerated. They know that many people are not willing to offer second chances to people who are getting their lives back in order, and so they stand alongside of these individuals while they put pieces back together and seek employment and housing.

Still other people in our church are marching for an end to sex-trafficking. They know that the victims are the ones who are often prosecuted while the pimp selling the young girls is allowed to do his own thing. They are working for a different reality.

Many people in our church are working for a transformed United Methodist Church. We long for the day when all people are treated equally in our denomination - when our Book of Discipline does not call LGBT people "incompatible with Christian teaching."

What are we willing to march for? When are we willing to say, "I've had enough, Lord. I know that the way things are is not the way you designed them to be. Give me the courage to work for the needed change. Grant me the capacity to see your dream and then passionately live into your dream. I need you, Lord. The world needs you. Help us, God, to be the people you have called us to be."

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