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Where now?

by Rev. Paula J. Elizabeth, The Table: United Church of Christ of La Mesa

paula-elizabethThe need for hope has never been greater…the need for us to be People of the Way, Followers of Jesus, has never been clearer…the need for listening, followed by action, has never been truer.

We may fear the results of the presidential election. But the cure for that fear is love. Love grounded in faith. Love rooted in belief. Love put into action.

Action in every way, whether it’s feet on the streets, working to change the outcome of the electoral college – and the electoral college itself, or peaceful marches and vigils that demonstrate we do have power and numbers, and most of all passion.

Then, all that must be followed by the nitty-gritty activism that puts the love of Christ into changing laws and public policies, changing those in power, along with listening, hearing Spirit and then bringing the kin-dom of God more fully into being, step by step.

Imagine it.  Imagine a world where famine, terrorism, hatred and bigotry are no longer a part of our vernacular.

This is the world that can be, the world that God offers us IF, ONLY and WHEN we take part in the transformation.  Which translates:  the last things we need are fear, complacency and or an attitude of defeatism.  Our faith challenges us to be open to the kind of hope for the world that is beyond even our wildest imaginations. Challenges us not to give up in despair. Challenges us not to leave it to someone else to do the work we are called to do. Challenges us to be brave, take risks, speak truth to power. Challenges us to be the People of the Way of Jesus – reformers, radical reformers!

That doesn’t mean there won’t be confrontations…disagreements.  But, as Robert Jones Jr. aka: Son of Baldwin said: “We can disagree and still love each other . . . unless, your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

We may be tempted to feel deep anger and betrayal, because so many were so eager to believe that duplicitous promises simply don’t matter – and that boasting of sexual assault, legitimizing a rise of antisemitism, racism, bigotry in so many ways; and promising to violate the principles of any – if not all – major religious values in countless ways is okay.

It’s difficult for me to be fully sympathetic to the idea that white working men and women are just angry and feeling disenfranchised, betrayed by the liberal academic elites. There’s something else, something more going on here. It is up to us to learn, get educated, and then get active in helping to alleviate the fear that lies behind those beliefs that brood hate.

It is up to us to stand firm, to walk upright, speak forthrightly, and to be agents of the change we want to see in the world.

This does not mean taking to the streets in anger, but being centered in the love of Christ. You cannot fight hatred with hatred; you cannot wipe out violence with violence.

We are called to live our lives as a follower of Jesus. which does mean working toward a radical and peaceful transformation and/or reformation.

I have embraced the Safety Pin as symbol of caring and loving all peoples, as I live out being Light in the world as best I can. This is not necessarily safe for the person wearing a pin. It is risky. It lets others know the wearer is willing to put themselves out there: to help, assist, and comfort. It is also telling others that the wearer is not lying down on their values and allowing themselves to be bullied by domination of hatred and violence.

Steve Mattson wrote an article for Sojourners in which he stated:

“What’s the point of Christianity if you prefer self-preservation over self-sacrifice?  As a Christian, helping humanity — specifically those who are exploited, destitute, and struggling to survive — isn’t contingent upon whether it’s safe, fiscally beneficial, comfortable, or even by what society might consider to be in its “best interest.”

A Jesus-centered Christianity is illogical in that is requires inordinate amounts of self-sacrificial love — to the point of being absurd: absurdly gracious, hospitable, kind, patient, peaceful, self-controlled, and giving. And doing all of this — following Jesus — is hard.

Humbly serving others, defending the powerless, fighting for the oppressed, and radically loving the world around you isn’t for the faint of heart, and it rarely results in the prizes our society so ardently adores — fame, fortune, influence, and power — which might also explain why so many Christians choose to trust, and follow, and put their hope in so many other things besides Jesus.

So when we’re confronted with national questions regarding refugees, immigrants, racism, national security, the economy, and social justice issues, we must remind ourselves of the old adage: “What Would Jesus Do?” because we already know what he did, and it’s our responsibility to do the exact same thing. God help us.

Our United Church of Christ slogan,  Be the Church, states:

Be the Church

Protect the environment

Care for the poor

Forgive often

Reject racism

Fight for the powerless

Share earthly and spiritual resources

Embrace Diversity

Enjoy this life

That’s what Jesus would do.

__________

Addendum

There’s a lot to be said regarding wearing the PIN. Caution is advised: Wearer, beware! Wearing the PIN publicly is not something to be taken lightly.  The wearer attests: “You are safe with me. I will assist you as best I can to be safe.”  The wearer is saying this to anyone, anyplace, anytime – which includes those one may have voted for or not, those one likes or not. The wearer does not get to pick and choose who to assist – it is all people, all the time one wears the PIN.  Also, Wearer, Beware! – not everyone honors this movement.  Some will see it as trite, others as confrontational. All to say, reactions to the wearer of the Pin run the spectrum, as much as needs. Wearer, Beware!  And thank you for being courageous.

 

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