According to the Gospel accounts of the resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus Christ offers no promise about life after death, and says nothing about going to heaven when we die. Instead, the consequence of the resurrection according to the Gospels is that we have been given a call. (Read the end of the gospels accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). We have been given work to do in the name of the one who has shown us God’s face and way of Love. Work that we are called to do here and now.
And so it was so appropriate that on this week after Easter that the church offered to be a training site on Friday for a workshop on economic justice and social change. The “Occupy” movement is calling it the “99% Spring” and at the training yesterday we shared stories about economic stress and anxiety, watched a video on the history of nonviolent social change movements in our country, practiced nonviolent civil disobedience and gathered in small groups with others who are seeking in a variety of ways to bring attention to economic injustice.
It is a good question to ask why the church should be involved in any kind of “movement”. Movements always contain the broken and incomplete way of human life. Always fall far short of all they profess. Easily can become their own small “gods” and divide the world once again between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, “us versus them”. In other words, movements always fall far short of the Gospel. But during this past week as we prepared to host this training, I became clearer about why it is not only helpful but necessary for the church to be engaged in the dialogue with others in our community and country who are passionate about a movement of economic justice for all.
When the church is involved in any movement about social change we can help move the discussion from another grim rendition of “us versus them” into a conversation about all of us. With the church’s engagement, we help move the passion for healing “from the 99 percent to the 100 percent” as Catherine Foote noted in her Op-Ed piece in the Seattle Times (Saturday, March 31, 2012)
We live that commitment out as once again we open our doors and make a space of care where everyone is welcome. Welcome in their diversity of backgrounds, opinions and beliefs. We make real our faith in the sharing of our stories and in providing an abundant table of hospitality – homemade cookies, fruit, coffee and tea.
Our passion for all extends to the comments and experience we bring to the discussion and training in nonviolent civil disobedience. A number of our members have extensive experience in nonviolent direct action and they share the importance of not “demonizing” the other. Remind the group that we when engaging others with whom we disagree we aren’t here to “hassle” each other, but to open up a dialogue with each other.
We do what the church does well. As a people who have just walked through the stories of the crucifixion and resurrection, we are reminded again that we are a people who can hear and hold the stories of suffering and pain that we all bear. And we can hold hope for each other when we think we have come to the end of our story. We hold a larger hope beyond grimly, anxiously, fearfully thinking that it all up to us. We hold all we are and do in the larger holding, work and love of God. We can join God in bringing about this work and do our part, but it is not all up to us.
And in being who we are – a place of extravagant welcome for all, a commitment to seeing the humanity in neighbors, friends and so-called enemies, we invite the possibility that the church might actually be a place of healing, wholeness, and hope in the world. And so a woman I’ll call Anne noted,
“I realized coming here that I haven’t stepped into a church in 30 years. But I look around here, and I think that maybe I could be part of a place like this. I don’t have a group to help me do this work for justice so I am going to come to your June 10 “Sing Out for Justice” event with your Economic Justice group and see what happens.”
And isn’t that the point? The work of hope, love, and justice in challenging times can be lonely and overwhelming. We can quickly move to apathy or despair. But then we come together, share stories of pain and hold hope. Engage in the dialogue. Share and eat together. Come together as a community that prays and acts and holds onto hope. We are the church (and maybe a kind of church that some never expected) and it makes a difference.
On behalf of a grateful church, thank you, Jeanne, Jane, Mary, Kathleen, Jeaneane, Barbara for setting the table in planning and hospitality with such care for this event. Thank you to all our members who came to the training and showed by your presence what the consequences of resurrection are: that we are all called in our everyday lives to join with God and be a sign of healing and hope in the world today.