This is What Democracy Looks Like: Lenten Post (35)

Scripture for Today: Mark 11:1-11

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3).

I heard the prophets shouting on Saturday.

“Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”
“Black lives matter!”
“No More Silence, End Gun Violence”

I heard the echoes of the crowds in Jerusalem crying out. 

Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!
Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in highest heaven! (v 9&10)

Protest shouts are prophetic: they recognize the pain of the current moment and call into being what might be possible if we change. Our signs, collective movement, and hopeful cries enact a vision of the realm of God. In so doing, we hope to inspire change.

There was something divine about the March for Our Lives happening on Palm Sunday weekend.

The air was filled with hope for revolution and change. People were crying hosanna (literally translated from Greek: “save us”), not one more day of fear and oppression. This march was very similar to when the people sensed possibility as Jesus rolled into Jerusalem on a donkey.

The people of Jerusalem sought to usher in a new rule, one inspired by the way of their ancestors. A rule in which God’s ways of freedom, peace and prosperity were felt by all. They welcomed a rule that would not prioritize the luxury of the few at the expense of the masses. They celebrated a rule that would turn the world upside down.

On Saturday hundreds of thousands of people showed up to turn the world upside down. We cried out against the senseless influence of the NRA that led to the suffering of so many. We refused to believe that chaos and fear should rule our streets or our schools. We believed that a new way, one marked by God’s peace, could be possible.

So we shouted:
No More Silence, End Gun Violence.
Save Us Now.

May we all begin Holy Week with this sort of Prophetic Hope. Jesus is coming. Liberation is happening. Cry out. The time has come to offer our prayers for revolution, healing, and restoration. The time has come to claim boldly what might be possible if God’s way of peace reigned on earth. .

This is what kin(g)dom looks like

Prayer: Hosanna, save us.

Reflection; What in your life, personal or public, is crying for revolution? What are you yearning to see change?

Art: Natalie at March for Our Lives Boston . Photo taken by James M Thomas

Mordechai and Esther - http://www.yoramraanan.com/between-us-c1ov

Unprecedented Times – Lenten Reflection (13)

Scripture for Today: Esther 2-4, 8

“We are living in unprecedented times.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“Nobody knows how to respond to the current situation.”
“I cannot keep up with the tragedies.”

I hear these refrains often as people grapple to make sense of the constant onslaught of violence in the United States today.  It seems like every day there is news of a physical or legal attack on people’s safety. Yes, it is overwhelming.

That said, immense suffering is not a new phenomenon. We have witnessed genocide in Rwanda, the ongoing occupation in Palestine, the Holocaust, the existence of slavery and apartheid, gang warfare in Central America — and these are just my quickest of thoughts. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of immense suffering or “unprecedented times.”

Our heroine for today, Esther, lived an unprecedented story. As an orphan and a Jew she was an unlikely candidate to become queen. However, due to her beauty and the generosity of her uncle Mordecai, Esther is chosen to be part of an ancient version of The Bachelor where women audition for the role of queen. She performs very well during her time with the king; she “won his favor and devotion so he set the royal crown on her head (2:17).”

As queen, Esther deals with an unimaginable situation. Out of loyalty to the Jewish God, her beloved uncle Mordecai refuses to bow to the king, sparking the decree for the entire Jewish people to be murdered.

Esther’s first instinct is to use the protection of her crown to hide from the murder of the Jews. And, rightfully so: if she reveals her Jewish identity it is likely she will die. However, Esther’s uncle reminds her that she is still yoked to her people. She will not escape violence just because she lives in the palace. Mordecai goes on to say that perhaps Esther was called for just such a time as this.

It seems to me that three truths inspired by Esther’s story apply to us today:

  • we are yoked to one another
  • despite privilege, we cannot escape violence
  • perhaps we were called to a time such as this

Yes, the times are unprecedented. But why were born if not to shape our times? Why were we created if not to follow in Esther’s example by offering ourselves as a voice of intercession and pleading for justice and mercy? Why were we created if not to give our voices and resources to stop the violence of this very time?

Prayer: Grant me the courage of Esther.

Reflection: In what ways am I offering my voice towards ending violence? Are there places where I’m reticent to act? How might I begin acting?

Art: Mordechai and Esther” – by Yoram Raanan

If you are looking for ways to work towards the end of senseless gun violence, here are a few suggestions I adapted from this post by Danican Allen. 

  • Join the March for Our Lives Movement by supporting students in the March 14th National Walkout or attending the March for Our Lives, locally or in D.C. on March 24th. For more about these two actions email: natalie@episcopalcitymission.org.
  • Act on information teenagers are providing about their own, or a friend’s, mental illness.
  • Mentoring, tutoring, fostering, adopting, volunteering on a suicide prevention line.
  • Serving in any arena where under-reached youth are crying out for help.
  • Lobby for stricter laws, or broader healthcare, or greater awareness.
  • Donate towards school resources and equipment that may prevent another tragedy.
  • Donate time to raise awareness about depression, anxiety, or violent tendencies, or the resources available to report potential threats.
  • Respond when there are warning signs on social media, or concerns posted by classmates.
  • Reach out to the family members and offer financial or emotional support.
  • Connect with groups, like the Sandyhook Promise, that work tirelessly for safer schools.