https://www.etsy.com/listing/265484823/jesus-clears-the-temple-small-abstract?show_sold_out_detail=1 Jesus Clears the Temple by Melani Pyke

Love in Public: Lenten Reflection (36)

Scripture for Today: Mark 11:12-12:44

“And God will give the vineyard to others.” (12:9)

Although there are a few interpretations of the parable of the wicked tenants, the most widely accepted idea is that Jesus uses the landlord to illustrated God’s displeasure with the religious authorities (the tenants)  at that time.

Why is God so displeased? They weren’t doing their job.

This isn’t in the literal sense of tending to the vineyards — the religious authorities neglected the responsibility to care for the people of God. This failure to seek the welfare of the people motivates Jesus’ actions in this chapter.

Jesus is furious that, rather than make God accessible to people, the chief priests were  charging impoverished people unreasonable amounts of money to buy the required sacrifices to worship God. The even rob the most vulnerable (the widow) of all she owns. As the chiefs become wealthier, the people of God suffer more.

Jesus acts in reaction to this unjust treatment. He creates havoc in the established place of power and religion. He shuts down their racketeering business and calls out their wicked ways. And, in perhaps his most subversive act of this reading, he says that instead of profiting off of people you are called to love others as dearly as you love God. That love demands a deep identification with those around you and a commitment to their welfare. He insists that, in the words of Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

They were not loving their people.
They were not seeking justice.
They were not doing their job.

Naturally, the chief priests become angry when Jesus challenges their competency. They begin to grasp at anything that will stabilize their threatened power and wealth. They throw out every theological and legal challenge they can summon, hoping that something will discount this call to a radical and justice-oriented love.

Jesus’ unrelenting commitment to love his people eventually leads to his death. Pay attention to the depths of love he expresses and receives along the way to Golgotha. How does he demonstrate his love? How do others react to his way of love? This is more important than all else.

Pray: Give me the courage to love boldly.

Reflect: How has love motivated you to seek justice? Where do you notice resistance, either in your personal or public spheres, to such bold love?

Art: Jesus Clears the Temple by Melani Pyke

Resources: This reflection was largely inspired by this sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley of Alfred Street Baptist Church.

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

Behind and Before: LDI’s Annual Report and New Job Announcement

Hello All,

One of my good friends, Tricia DeBeer, once told me that finding balance is an illusive goal. Instead, she said, balance is an ongoing movement between moving targets. I likened her words to an active Twister mat in which you’re readjusting to make sure your hands and feet stay on the colored circles. Whatever the visual that comes to mind for you, I’ve been in a constant state of finding and refinding balance over the pasts few months as LDI has simultaneously wrapped up a very active program year and completed our merge with Episcopal City Mission (ECM).

Our decision to merge with ECM was driven by the belief that LDI’s work will benefit from ECM’s clear commitment to issues of immigrant, racial and economic justice. Similarly, ECM will be stronger through the addition of LDI’s well developed leadership programs that prepare people of faith to actively seek justice. Ella Auchincloss, Co-Founder and Chair of our Leadership Team shares more about this decision in our Annual Report:

 Today, when people of faith urgently need to embody love that brings about justice LDI is again listening deeply. Over the past year, under Natalie Finstad’s guidance, we have carefully discerned where our work can best meet our community’s need, and have assessed which organizational structure can best accommodate our growing ministry in the diocese of Massachusetts and beyond.

Alongside this process, our fiscal agent, collaborator and long-time funder, ECM, has also been discerning their response to this urgent moment. It has become clear to both the LDI Leadership Team and ECM’s Executive Committee that our work is deeply integrated. LDI is drawn to ECM’s emerging mission of deepening the church’s response to immigration, racial justice and economic justice, and ECM intends to feature LDI’s formation tools and practices as a critical centerpiece of their new strategic plan. As a result LDI will become part of ECM and we will be dropping our distinct public identity

​Alongside LDI’s discernment as an organization, I have been doing my own professional discernment. At the close of LDI came an opportunity for me to apply for the Director of Programs and Engagement with Episcopal City Mission. This position would not only allow me to continue leading LDI’s formation programs but expand my work so that I am able to adapt our current program models so they strategically support grassroots movements that are building relationships of power which bring about more just communities.

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Yes, I Want to Practice – An October Reflection on the Work of LDI

And the Lord said, “Will not God grant justice to God’s chosen ones who cry to God day and night? Will God delay long in helping them? I tell you, God will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

“How would you define right-relationship?”  James’s question interrupted my well-planned presentation. My mind went blank and all the ‘correct’ answers faded away as I locked eyes with James McKim, a black leader in the Church’s work of reconciliation. My awareness of white supremacy, the authority I carried as the presenter, and the deeply complicated road we have to right-relationship overcame me. As a white woman, I felt inadequate to try and broach the subject of reconciliation with a black leader.

I ended up offering James a “good-enough” response. I said the life of Jesus of Nazareth shows us a model of right-relationship. The way he engaged with people, interpersonally and societally drew them into right-relationship with one another. When we follow his example we have hope of undoing the systems of inequity that separate us. However, I failed to speak directly to the racism, homophobia or misogyny that plague our society.

I left that presentation at Diocesan Resource Day feeling embarrassed. One of our team members, Jesse, noticed my embarrassment and asked me, “Do you want to practice talking about race?”

Yes, I responded. Yes, I want to practice because this is hard. I want to practice working cooperatively rather than enforcing authority, naming systems that hurt us and seeing people as partners rather than issues. I need to practice living this reconciled life that is inherently counter-cultural to the world in which we live. Yes, I want to practice.

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