Tag Archives: John 10.10

Where Injustice Lies

Image result for micah 6.8 word art“(Justice) cries out in the streets; in the squares she raises her voice.  At the busiest corner, she cries out; at the entrance of the city gate she speaks: ‘How long, O (crooked ones will you love being crooked)?’”[1]

No matter where we are or where we find ourselves, there are cries for justice.  The sound cannot be avoided, tuned out, talked over or talked down.  More than background noise or elevator music, these cries will go on record, disproving that our lives are as comfortable as the sounds that we surround ourselves with.

The cries for justice do not harmonize well with the voices of capitalism, materialism or racism.  No quartet there.  No possibility of a record deal or a break out hit.

The sound wraps around us like yellow crime scene tape, screams like sirens rushing to the scene, like family members given the news that no one wants to hear that is then reported at 6 and again at 10 and again at 6.  It captures our attention and becomes our cycle, our pattern as the news is covered with violence.  It is one long, mass shooting, one burial after another.  And in between each commercial break, we find that we are burying something of ourselves too.

We are covered by violence, wrapped up, tangled up, tied up, ensnared by it.  Yes, we are all in this net together.  Knots and strings, we are pulled on and rendered immobile all at the same time.  Trapped by violence, we cry out for justice— to make it stop, to still the hands that pin ours down.  “Let my fingers go!”

Whether raised or thought reaching, they are taken down.  No more protesting there.  Another voice lost so justice must scream louder.

So, no matter the sounds that would crowd our ears, there is one sound that climbs through the clamor, that pushes its way through the noises that would distract us, that keeps coming to forefront of the conversation—no matter how often it is pushed back, shouted down, ignored and dismissed and it is the cry for justice.  Not to be confused with whining, it is a lament, a familiar composition of grunt and sigh, a consistent moan that causes the head to sway and the earth to tremble.  It is a mix of grief and guts, pride and passion, loss and the need to live freely, unencumbered, unsupervised and without the disruption of flashing lights.

It is a wail, somber and yet strong, like the marching of feet on city streets, blocking traffic and interrupting commerce.  She will not be pushed aside but she will be heard.  She will have her say and so she says it over and over again.  “Justice!  Justice!  Justice!”

She says her name and it bears repeating for persons will assume that because she is present that her practice of fairness and equity is too.  But, it is not enough to say, “Justice.”  Justice doesn’t look good on paper; it is not her best side.  Instead, she prefers natural settings like institutions, organizations, governments and personal relationships.  She prefers group pictures— not posed with good lighting.

If accountability and fairness are there, she smiles and says, “Justice.”

The word only causes anxiety for those who do not seek it.  They don’t want to hear it for it is a reminder of their hollowness, their hubris, their hypocrisy.  They like the word but prefer the benefits of injustice.  They put it on their resume without reference, speak of it without relationship and name it as the perfect candidate with no intention of electing it.  Injustice lies comfortably on the bed of assumption and the conviction that those who need justice will wait for it instead of working for it.

***

Thomas Watson, a 17th century Puritan minister wrote, “Injustice lies in two things: either not to punish where there is fault or to punish where there is no fault.”  His words remind me of the case of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  His death was ruled a homicide and yet, they could find no murderers.

In times like these, I am reminded that there are at least two sets of laws, two justice systems, two juries.  There is also one unspoken punishable offense: blackness.  There is also one defense that has proven victorious time and time again: whiteness.  “If you’re white, you’re right.”

But, punishing people for the racial crime of not being socially colored white and therefore, one of the good people, one of our people is wrong.  Life is not about “protecting our own.”  Life was not created to be lived selfishly but abundantly.[2]

Supporting a system of race that constructs light and dark people, right and wrong people, in and out people, center and marginalized people and rations out social privileges and burdens based solely on appearance is wrong.  Believing in this social righteousness that rewards those who, before their first breath, receive value above all other human beings is wrong.  Unearned privileges for some and undue burden for others is an unjust system.

Justice requires that these scales and others fall from our eyes, that these scales be balanced.  Now, the people fall apart, then the system self- destructs, the country topples and the rubble of government buildings become the pavement for another kingdom.  So, listen up, “Justice cries out in the streets.”

_________________________

[1] Proverb 1.20-22, NRSV

[2] John 10.10

I am afraid

imagesI am afraid of mediocrity, of its acceptable sustainability, of just enough life, of barely being me.  No, I want life abundantly.

I am afraid of people who accept me as I am– without questions of provocation, the sharing of inspiration, the passing along of missing information.

I am afraid that I will not use my life to the best of its ability, that I would have missed spots, spaces and places for which my life should have been.

I am afraid of being marked absent, never fully present, not showing up for the performance of my own life but regularly purchasing tickets, sitting in seats and standing up from them to applaud the work of others.  I want to clap for me and say, “Encore.”

I am afraid of becoming who persons expected, made more comfortable by my superficial existence, never really feeling me.  I want to walk the earth heavily.

I am afraid of being who I am supposed to be, found where I am thought to be, confined to the opinions of others.  I want to be a surprise, to catch persons off guard, to cause persons to let down their guards.

I am afraid that I will not say what I feel and consequently, become unreal, another copy.  I don’t want to live at the discretion of others, live with the fears in my head.  I don’t want to  leave anything good unsaid.

I am afraid that I will not finish, that I will have left over purpose, extra potential and ideas and resources that will sit on shelves and expire.

Because my life has a lot of work to do, so much life to live, very many people to talk to.

I am afraid that others will not know these fears because they accept the life handed to them, lived by others, prescribed by society, confined to skin and its social coloring.

I am afraid that they will never live in the liberty of the Spirit, never feel the breath of God on the backs of their souls, never fly much less soar because they are afraid of spiritual height but very comfortable with the depths of self- depravity.

They are afraid of looking up as this is the direction of self.

They are afraid of seeing and facing themselves.

They are afraid because all they know is mediocrity and it is socially sustainable.

And I am afraid that it will always be in demand, that we will create our own supply rather than live life abundantly.

 

There is more to life

urlLife is not always a fight.  It is not all struggle and wrestling, climbing and striving, pulling and pushing.  Still, there are persons who move from argument to argument, from injustice to injustice, from one offense to the next.  If we would listen to them, they would have us believe that there are no respites or rest periods, that there is no peace or justice.  They can see no end to the fight.

All they know how to do is fight.  They only know the words of an argument and of their offense.  No rehearsal is needed; their victimhood has become their identity. These persons only know how to take a stand and they feel that sitting down is bowing out.  And if there were a victory, they would not recognize or accept it.  The win would not be enough and if they would start a fight or rehearse an old one just to feel normal.

But, there is more to life than wins and losses, than competitions and competitors.  We were not created to be grouped as us and them.  This is the way that race sees us and we have allowed this social construct, this human- made lens to take our sight.

Life is not fighting against us.  Life is for us.  God did not create us in order to oppose us.  And if we believe this, then we are living the racialized life not the spiritual life.

So, take off your gloves and come out of your corner.  The life that Christ came to give and is always available is abundant (John 10.10).

A Prayer for Resurrection

imagesGod of the resurrection and of the resurrected people, we bless Your name and raise the standard of our affection. This is Your day.

Let Your praises rise this day. Let Your glory rise this day. Let the fragrance of Your sweet Spirit rise this day.

Because we have entered into Your house with the stench of death, with dirt in our hair and tear- stained faces. We have left graveyard experiences for the light of Your abundant life.[i]

We have come from dark places and dead places, cold people and dead relationships. We have come with dead dreams and dead hopes.

We have come with shovels and coffins and grave markers because we need to bury some things. We need to let go of some persons and situations.

And we have covered the smell of decay with perfume. We have hidden the body under a nice suit or dress. But, You don’t look at the outward appearance but the heart.[ii] And You will give us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.[iii] You are the God who makes exchanges.

Now, give us the faith to believe, to take off the sackcloth of mourning. Give us the courage to run to the tomb and look in, to take You at Your word and believe that You are not there, that we are not there but have risen with You.

In the name of Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, we pray. Amen.

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[i] John 10.10

[ii] First Samuel 16.7

[iii] Isaiah 61.3

Denying the Racialized Self

During this Lenten season, many Christians seek to draw nearer to God by walking more closely with Jesus the Christ in  his sufferings, rejections of appetites and the allure of popular appearance (Matthew 4.11).  It is the spiritual discipline of self- denial.   After foretelling of his death, burial and resurrection, Jesus shares with the crowd, his disciples and with us the key to our own: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8. 34).

This commandment is not a glamorous or financially prosperous one.  You won’t appear on the cover of magazines or be a contender for the highly sought after fifteen minutes of fame.  It will not put your name in lights and does not come with a red carpet or paparazzi.  Persons will not see more of you but more of Jesus.  Do we really want that?

Becoming a follower has lost much of its meaning since the days of Jesus and so has the importance of the designation friend.  Facebook has redefined the latter so that you don’t even need to know the person in order to be in this category; you can have 5,000 of them.  But who, other than God, can claim this level of connectedness with such a vast number of people?  It is simply impossible.  If we had the interest, we certainly don’t have the energy or the ability to be present for so many people.  But, I digress.

Unlike Twitter, Jesus’ standard for becoming a follower is not just a click away and I wonder how many followers he would have had on Twitter in light of these expectations: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.  His standard for commitment to him does not stop there as Jesus says in the Gospel according to Luke: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (14.26).  Volunteers, please.

These words are hard and the practice is tough.  “You want me to hate them, Jesus?”  Yes and by this he means, place no one before or above him– not even yourself.  Love no one more than him and if they stand in between you and him, choose him every time.  Deny everyone including yourself.  It is a matter of allegiance, of commitment and devotion.  You must reverence no one but God if you want to be a follower.  What a cross to bear and it can only be done alone.

But, who are we as Christians if we do not deny ourselves?  If we do not take up our cross, who are we following?  The walk with Jesus the Christ involves not only teaching and preaching but death by crucifixion.  Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2.20).  Crucifixion is the only way to the resurrection, the new birth of the believer.  There is no denying this.

So, what of our racialized selves have we denied in order to follow Jesus more closely?    What of race do we hate in order to demonstrate and prove our love for and allegiance to God?  Or, does it remain in its socially constructed position above God?  Will we keep it and walk away from Jesus or will we lay it down, forget about it and behave as if we’ve never met race in order to pick up our cross and follow him?

Yes, it’s tough.  And it’s going to be hard because it’s all that we’ve known.  But, it is the only way.  The commandment is non-negotiable and conditional: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Deny race, its cultural prejudices and stereotypes.  Deny your racialized self; confess its inconsistencies and inadequacies.  Take up your cross and prepare to die to all that you were, all that you were told that you could be, all that “your people” and “they” have done, all that you expected of your life according to race and racism.  And follow Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” forever (John 10.10).  Amen.