I am always taken aback when little details of life come together to paint a larger image. I wonder why I’m surprised. Isn’t our God a God of burning bushes and dry bones rising? Nevertheless, I am startled – and delighted when I take the time to notice God’s wonderful connection-making gift! On Sunday morning, I woke up a little sad. I had said “goodbye” to my family after spending not-enough-time together for Thanksgiving. My daughter and two sweet granddaughters had come from Massachusetts and my son and his wife had traveled all the way from Seattle for the weekend. We had a wonderful 40 hours together but I needed to return home to preside at Holy Eucharist on Sunday and welcome all the girls back to the dorm after lunch. So I was sad.
As is my normal routine, I took my pups out for their first walk and came back to get ready. Every Sunday, I turn on WUOM to hear Krista Tippet’s “On Being” while I wash and dress. Yesterday morning, I was surprised to hear one of my personal “saints” being interviewed – Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ. All my sadness evaporated as I listened attentively to his message of hope and call to kinship. You’ll recall that Fr. Greg – or “G” as his homies call him – is the director of Homeboy Industries, a gang rehab and re-entry program in Los Angeles that has helped over 10,000 young people over the last 30 years. The title of his new book (which I am currently reading) is Barking to the Choir: the Power of Radical Kinship. There was so much richness in G’s comments that connect beautifully with the idea of creating the Beloved Community because we all desire to belong:
The answer really is kinship. Everybody’s so exhausted by the tenor of the polarity right now, in our country. And the division is the opposite of God, frankly. I always think of Dives with Lazarus — Dives is in hell not because he’s rich, but because he kind of refused to be in relationship with Lazarus — that that parable is not about bank accounts and heaven, it’s really about us. And so what’s on Jesus’s mind? He says that all may be one. And that’s kind of where we need to inch our way closer — that we imagine a circle of compassion, then we imagine nobody standing outside that circle. God created, if you will, an otherness so that we would dedicate our lives to a union with each other.
This idea of radical kinship – “that you may be one” – that God works it out that we bump into one another, that we’re homies together in this world was echoed in Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew where Jesus says: “You fed, clothed and visited me. You welcomed me.” And the people responded: “When did we do that?” And Jesus said: “when you did it to the least of these.”
Fr. Greg told of one gang member who had a horrible home life as a child, rejected and beaten daily by his mother. He was so ashamed of his wounds that he wore three t-shirts to school every day so nobody would notice. He found that he was still wearing three shirts as a young adult. Now, this young man in his late 20’s says that his wounds are his friends and he asks: “How can I help the wounded if I don’t welcome my own wounds?” You can find Fr. Boyle’s interview here.
There isn’t any one of us that hasn’t been wounded in some way. Maybe it’s recognizing our own woundedness that gives us strength to reach out to others with compassion. Here’s where I can make a connection to our resolutions from Diocesan Convention (there had to be a connection somewhere!) because all of them are an attempt to grow the Beloved Community in which all are welcome and cared for. I think it can be said that living into the resolutions develops our sense of kinship with all God’s beloved children.
This week, I’d like to highlight Resolution #4: Call for Basic Human Needs to be Met:
RESOLVED, that the 183rd Convention of the Diocese of Michigan urge congregations to seek information in order to more fully understand the gospel human obligation and necessity to provide for currently unmet basic human needs for water, food, shelter and health care for every human being; and be it further
RESOLVED, that Episcopalians urge lawmakers and other public officials to commit to meeting the basic human needs for water, food, shelter and health care; and be it further
RESOLVED, that in addition to meeting and communicating with their elected officials, Episcopalians in the Diocese of Michigan seek collaboration in study and action with other congregations and community groups that are finding ways to meet the basic human needs for water, food, shelter and health care.
The originators of this resolutions explained:
The Bible contains many stories about water, food, shelter and healing, and the commands of God and Jesus that people of faith act to care for their fellow human beings and provide for their basic needs. This foundation is the basis for the study and actions called for in the above resolves. Additionally, in the fifth Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer, we pledge that we will “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”
In 2015, the 78th General Convention concurred as amended a Resolution that “affirms full funding support for safety net programs that address poverty, nutrition and health care of vulnerable populations.”
WATER: “Anyone who gives a cup of cold water to drink…” Previously passed General Convention resolutions have called us to educate ourselves “about public environmental decisions that affect society’s most vulnerable;” for “the Church at all levels to become active stewards of water resources through conservation efforts and stewardship steps,” and to “work on public policy that makes clean water accessible to all persons.”
People in Michigan have varying degrees of awareness about the events and deliberate or neglectful actions by elected and other public state and local officials concerning drinking water that have harmed the lives and health of our fellow human beings. Additional threats to the Great Lakes water basin and the people who depend on them for clean drinking water include aging pipelines and for-profit withdrawals of water. In our own diocese, we have a theologian and prophet who has written about this in “Where the Water Goes Around: Beloved Detroit.” We offer this suggested resource for your consideration. See also OilandWaterDontMix.org and this article.
FOOD: “Feed my lambs.” In 2015 the 78th General Convention passed a Resolutions that “affirms food ministries and programs within the Church and encourages Church-wide commitment to food systems focused on sustainability, equity, cultural diversity, and accessibility to healthy food.” Another Resolution that passed affirms “public policies that promote sustainable farms and land use, safe and healthy food cultivation, production and distribution, the labor rights and safety of farm workers, and public food programs for the poor.”
One in 6 children in Michigan and one in seven people are not able to meet their own needs for food without assistance. More than 34% of households that receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Michigan include children. The proposed federal budget for 2018 and beyond would hit Michigan very hard. Many congregations in the EDOMI are working on hunger issues. It is hoped that we could work together even more to feed more hungry people and help them achieve the means to afford food for themselves.
SHELTER: “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” In 21st century America there is serious concern that changes in the economy such as rising economic inequality and declining incomes in the lower and middle classes, as well as proposals for changes in state and federal housing funding assistance are leading to an increase in homelessness and a rising need for shelter. There are also concerns about the rise in children living in shelters and otherwise unstable housing. General Convention previously reaffirmed “its commitment to provide affordable housing for those with low-and moderate income.”
HEALTH CARE: “Heal the sick.” We are called. In a Resolution concurred as amended, the 78th General Convention “calls on states to fund Medicaid and publicly funded home and community services for the disabled, and end the segregation of developmentally disabled persons.” The ongoing struggle to provide health care for every person in our country continues to be complex and difficult. The need continues to be great.
ACTIONS: Suggestions for ways to learn more about these issues include adult education forums, book study, community workshops and other learning opportunities. Suggestions for acting on them include identifying other congregations, organizations, that are advocating and working for systemic change as well as providing hands-on services. Please share what you learn with others in the Diocese and with the Covenant 5 website.
More information and suggestions for action can be found on the Covenant 5 website.
Provision of water, food, shelter and health care are all part of Jesus’ message to us and they are the very needs that are threatened in the current tax overall for the majority of Americans. I know that most of us would love to see a reduction in our taxes but this bill will actually cost most of us more since it excludes deductions that had been available to us in the past, it eliminates the mandate for health insurance which will increase premiums and force many to lose their insurance, and it will cut Medicare benefits costing senior citizens more each month while it decreases taxes on the most wealthy and large corporations. The thought that lowering expenses for corporations will increase their ability to provide more higher-paying jobs has never worked in the past and expert economists don’t believe it will work now.
One easy action available to us comes through the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) who has created a letter that can be sent to your legislators expressing your concerns about the current bill. All you have to do is fill in your contact information and EPPN sends the letter on your behalf. It couldn’t be easier! Here’s a link to their page.
The Rev. Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement, shared some words on Sunday’s Gospel in his blog post, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” that are relevant to our need to act and not be silent:
The hope for God’s kingdom in our time must not be placed in possessions nor might nor power nor anything earthly. Rather, we place our hope in Christ alone, whose rule can bring unity and reconciliation across seemingly impossible divisions. Christ alone can create abundance from scarcity. Christ alone brings hope where there was only fear. Christ alone can redeem us from our sins.
To be sure, the Gospel is crystal clear that our task is not to wait for God to magically fix what we have broken. No, the Gospel tells us that we — individually and collectively — must repent. We must bind up wounds, heal division, beg forgiveness, love the unlovable, and announce Good News. All this we must do for and in Jesus Christ, as citizens of his most gracious kingdom.
Responding to our resolutions lets us practice “radical kinship” with all so that all basic human needs can be met. Together, we can do this; we can live as citizens of God’s kingdom.
Let us pray –
Grant, O God, that your holy and life‑giving Spirit may so
move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace.
Give us courage and grace to welcome the stranger,
feed the hungry, and care for those who need our touch
that we might know the kinship you desire for all people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(adapted from a Prayer for Social Justice, BCP)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council