It’s Advent and so the beginning of a new church year so… Happy New Year!!
Of course, our scripture readings for the first Sunday of Advent weren’t particularly celebratory: “Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 6:1). To be honest, with all the news we’ve had lately, this is precisely my prayer but it’s a far cry from “Season’s Greetings!” I’m still reeling from the middle-of-the-night passage of the tax bill which, in its present form, will raise taxes on the vast majority of Americans while cutting taxes for those whose incomes are the highest. Add to that worry the news of all the sexual misconduct allegations (it’s about time), North Korea firing a larger and potentially more robust missile, and the probe into Russia’s involvement into our elections and I am quite eager to pray for Christ’s return.
Well, back to the tax bill for a moment. If you are wondering what stance The Episcopal Church might take on this piece of legislation, we have a resolution from General Convention 2012 that addresses fair taxation: 2012-A080 Advocate for Just and Fair Taxation Systems.
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church commit to working toward a just and fair system of taxation and government funding by affirming the following Scriptural principles for our advocacy in connection with the support of government, the distribution of the burdens of that support, and the stewardship of those resources:
- Every Christian has an obligation to financially support lawfully constituted governments and to comply fully with the tax laws which apply to him or her, and to the organizations of which they are a part; and
- Tax laws should impose proportional burdens on those with higher incomes and larger resources, in keeping with the Bible’s teaching that God favors the poor; and
- Those entrusted with public resources must act as good stewards; and
- Recognizing the great disparities in wealth and opportunity in our society, Christians should insist that our governments seek economic justice, emphasizing the care and protection of the most vulnerable – the poor, the hungry, the sick – people for whose care Christ has taught us we are responsible, both through private efforts and through the collective work of our elected government.
While the Senate passed their version of the bill, it now goes back to the House to see if they can come to an agreement which the President wants to sign by Christmas. I don’t know if it will make a difference right now but I think it’s worth continuing the phone calls to our legislators. I’ll be honest; I don’t like making these calls but it’s much easier than I originally imagined. The staff members who take the calls don’t question your opinion so you can state your thoughts without fear of having to explain yourself. And, sometimes, you only have to leave a message on their answering service. So, please, make those calls and send emails. This is one way that we can fulfill the resolves of that resolution. You can find the names and numbers of your legislators here.
We know the bill that the Senate passed is long and complicated – and many senators didn’t get a chance to read it before they voted – so Forbes posted a very helpful article describing some of the pertinent features and names the winners and losers for each. For example, one thing I learned is that the middle class is defined as those with a household income between $86,000 and $300,000. Good to know, I guess, since this category leaves me out. According to the article, the poor may not be adversely affected by the bill except – and this is going to prove a very big exception – that the health care mandate is gone which is likely to allow thousands of currently insured people to leave the Marketplace raising premiums for those who remain. You can find the Forbes article here.
Last week I shared our diocesan Resolution #4: A Call for Basic Human Needs to Be Met. If we are going to live out the intent of this resolution, we are going to have to be vigilant about the effects of the tax bill to be sure that our neighbors are not falling through the cracks. Once again, we cannot afford to be silent and complacent.
I’m quite sure that in the days to come, we’ll hear more a lot more about the bill and how we might continue to try to influence Congress in their decision-making. I will post anything that seems particularly relevant on the blog’s Facebook page to keep you up-to-date. In the meantime, watch for Episcopal Public Policy Network’s (EPPN) news and articles that come from the Episcopal News Service (ENS).
Before I sign off for this week, I thought I would share some fine Advent resources just in case you are still undecided about where to focus your devotional time this year. Foreword Movement is offering the book I Witness by Karen Moorehead, dean of St John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, FL, in which readers can experience the miracle of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of Elizabeth, Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds and others. The book is available on Kindle or other e-readers and in paperback.
Episcopal News Service has the link for an Advent devotional which offers lessons from the lectionary readings for Advent from Virginia Theological Seminary and Forma that are designed for families to use in the home.
Join the Anglican Communion News Service for Advent on Instagram and experience Advent with Christians around the world.
The brothers of The Society of St John the Evangelist have teamed up with the Anglican Communion to offer #AdventWord once again. The goal is to create a worldwide Advent calendar with images and prayers that speak to your heart. You can sign up here where you will also find a brief tutorial on how to get involved.
Together, let’s “Keep awake” this Advent, prepared and ready for God to “tear open the heavens and come down!”
Let us pray –
heaven and earth will pass away
but your words will not pass away.
Your Word stands forever.
May our generation be attentive
so that, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
we remember your ways
and gladly do right,
meeting you wherever and whenever you appear.
In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council