Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Special 2020 City Notes | Bread for the Resistance: Wells and Waterpots, The Emmaus Road & Privilege

" ... We seesaw between this love and rejection, feeling inadequate and unequipped, questioning the appointment, and time and again we are on the verge of walking away. But then He reminds us of His preordained triumph, and we are still. In Christ, we are sufficient. Sufficient simply means adequate for the purpose. Yeah, I know. Bent and ordinary, plain and imperfect, we are enough. I think it's called grace. ... " + Donna Barber, Bread for the Resistance

In the midst of everything related to justice that has been stirred up and reached seemingly new heights in 2020 in the U.S. (ex. see A Call to Prayer + A Cry of Hymns & Songs for Justice & HealingGeorge Floyd Lament, Liturgy, and Message | Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit, "I Can't Breathe | We Need the 2nd Wind"), this is the 2nd post of 3 featuring Donna Barber's powerful wisdom and experiences. Here is the link to the first:

Bread for the Resistance: Intro, Small Talk, Through Blindness, Big Shoes & Avoiding Burnout 

Let's continue to be led by this sister of color who knows what it's like to walk with Jesus and others in view of His justice and mercy for the long haul. We, the poor in spirit, need to seek first His Kingdom of justice and righteousness alongside each other, praying together it will come on earth as it is in heaven. 

I trust Donna will serve you today as she has already greatly served me. And if these few excerpts below bless you, go ahead and purchase all 40 devotions included in her book, Bread for the Resistance. I think they will nourish your soul all the more.

"Wells & Waterpots, The Emmaus Road & Privilege" excerpts adapted from Donna Barber's Bread for the Resistance: 40 Devotions for Justice People

Part 2: The Goal: Changing the World, Reflection 13: Wells and Waterpots

"If you know the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." + Jesus (John 4:10)

Engaging in the work of the Kingdom can be tricky. We are often sent into places and situations without a full awareness of our role. The assumption quite often, especially if you are coming from a place of privilege, is that you are going to give. After all, we appear to be the ones with the resources, whether that be money, degreed education, or time. ... We ask questions like, "Where can God best use me?" and, "What would You have me to do?" ... It is important to acknowledge that we arrive at most places and situations just like the Samaritan woman  hot, parched, empty, and in search of water.

Thankfully, Jesus shows up to quench our thirst, though we often don't recognize Him. Sometimes Jesus is disguised as a homeless man in the soup kitchen or a woman on the pew in the prison chapel. Perhaps he's the teen we drive to the courthouse in the early morning hours or the teary-eyed mother staring back at us from the other side of the government desk. Some days he looks like the child in ill-fitting clothes in our classroom and at other times like an Israelite Jew covered in dust and sweat at a well. If we get stuck on the outward appearance, we can miss the gift of God standing right in front of us. If we get distracted by what we're asking for, we can miss the wealth of what He came to give.

One of the most powerful interactions I ever had was with a homeless man I met in Atlanta. He lived off the University Avenue exit ramp of Interstate 75/85. I would pass him every day on my way home from work as I waited at the stoplight at the end of the ramp. His clothes were filthy, his blond hair long and matted, and like many others, he held a cardboard sign asking for help. On most days as I passed, I did what many good, American Christians do. I pretended not to see him and his sign. I busied myself with the radio or checked out my nails while waiting anxiously for the light to turn green. However, on one particularly hard day in my nonprofit life, I did not have to pretend. I was lost in my thoughts, weary with discouragement, and fighting back tears when I realized that someone was talking to me. It was a clear, fall day, so my window was down. I turned my head to find the man looking straight at me. "I'm sorry, what did you say?" I muttered. "It's going to be alright," I heard him respond. And for the first time I looked past the dirt and the hair and found kind, warm, caring eyes. I don't know if it was the way he said it or the way he looked at me, but in that moment I believed him and felt better. "What is your name?" I heard myself say quite unexpectedly and he replied, "Michael." I thanked him. The light changed from red to green. I smiled at Michael and slowly drove away.

We are often like the Samaritan woman, standing before Jesus. In His presence we spout off claims of our historical ownership of the well. We stand with pride in our knowledge of the local customs and possession of the waterpots. And Jesus stands before us, hands empty yet full of the living water we need to bring us new life. We may feel uncomfortable in His gaze and exposed by His questions. But if we will ourselves to stay in the conversation and adjust our posture from giving to receiving, our eyes may be opened to see the Christ. Only then may we become partners with the Spirit, inviting and helping others to see Him as well.

+ Recommended Song: "Shalom" by Urban Doxology

Part 4: The Message: Good News, Reflection 25: The Emmaus Road

Then Jesus said to them, "O foolish one, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" + Luke 24:25-26 

The road to Emmaus is a familiar one. It is the path we take every day. It is the road we travel as we go about our daily lives, heading to work or school, to visit loved ones or run errands. It is the path of life. And as we go, like the disciples in the text, we often wonder and discuss, we debate and muse, we complain and moan about the events of our day and the hopes that have been built or dashed by them. 

Sometimes things don't turn out as we thought they would, and we are perplexed. The promises of God appear unfulfilled, and we are frustrated or angry or at a loss as to what He is doing and why. Occasionally, we meet up with friends or strangers along the road who, like us, are weary, disillusioned, and ready to give up on the belief that things will ever change or on the possibility that God even cares. It is often while we are rehearsing our issues or scratching our heads in agitation that Jesus Himself appears. As we're listening to our neighbor, or the man next to us on the plane, or as we ourselves are venting about the economy or the election or the kids, Jesus shows up unannounced and unnoticed until He raises a question without our hearts. "What are you talking about?" He says. "Why are you sad, anxious, or upset?" Then, unaware of who it is that has whispered the question, we start in on the who, what, and why. God listens intently, waiting for us to take a breath, and when He speaks our hearts begin to burn within us.

Jesus appears to the two disciples as they go along their journey. He listens and challenges them on what they should know and understand. He teaches them. He abides with them. He serves them. And through these acts they come to know Him and believe. I am often like those disciples when things don't go as I imagine they would. When God fails to follow my plans, I also find myself muttering my complaints aloud and lumbering down the road in frustration. I rehearse the events, whining and complaining to friends, or shaking my head in disappointment. I forget what He told me. I forget where I've been and all that I've known to be true until He interrupts my laments with His Word. When I quiet my heart to listen for His voice, and when I approach the table to receive and acknowledge His blessings, my eyes are opened. I recognize the hand and face of God.

Sometimes when we are disappointed or confused, we can get off track, moving away from God's will or plan to go down paths of our own choosing. We may be headed back to former people, places, or things to lick our wounds in the comfort of the familiar. Thankfully, Jesus shows up on our back roads to remind us what He told us and where we've been. In our time with Him, we not only see who He is but also can remember who we are and where we need to be. Then, like the disciples, we often realize that God has been with us all along. Despite how it looks, we have not been left victim to our circumstances or abandoned to a situation. Rather, Jesus is risen. He is still God, and things are indeed moving along according to plan  His plan. So, finding this joy, we gather our courage and return to share this news again with others.

+ Recommended Song: "Passover Song" by Urban Doxology

Part 4: The Message: Good News, Reflection 27: Privilege

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." + Isaiah 40:3

Interaction Institute for Social Change "Equality vs. Equity" by Artist Angus Maguire

We look at the popular cartoon image of the children attempting to watch the ball game over the fence and can acknowledge the obvious advantage of the tall child over the others. However, this acknowledgement does not unmask the unspoken, perhaps unconscious belief that the tall child somehow deserves to have that view in a way that the others do not. He has earned that place of privilege, and any efforts to level the playing field would rob him of what is rightfully due, or it would unjustly reward the others with something they do not deserve. So even though the tall one on the left consciously and publicly agrees with the redistribution of resources or position, he will often continuously, though perhaps unconsciously, look for opportunities to either reduce these adjustments or increase the requirements to receive them.

However, Jesus comes in the power and authority of heaven and all the privilege born to Him as a healthy, professional, Jewish male — and He chooses another way. In His ministry and lifestyle, both public and private, He humanizes and honors those most maligned and neglected by the masses by treating them as equals. He does this without regard for their prior activities or lineage. There are no inquiries about work history, money management, or reckless lifestyles. He simply responds to each one as one made in the image of God. And where inequities have put them at an unfair disadvantage, He challenges or removes them by providing food to the hungry; health to the lame; regard for children; and respect, care, and even friendship for women and Gentiles. He invited Himself to dine with a tax collector and let a woman wash His feet with her hair. He made time and space for children, touched lepers, and walked through towns others chose to walk around. By so doing, the overlooked were no longer invisible. The ones previously left out were now included, heard, and seen. Jesus didn't just preach and teach a justice message. He lived a life that demonstrated it. 

In like manner to Jesus, our message of love and justice must move beyond our activist activities and spill over into our active lives on a daily basis. It is in the way we conduct business and who with, which events we choose to attend and who we invite to ours. It's what we choose to promote and celebrate, where we shop and take our children, what we read or listen to or watch. 

It's in the voices we choose to amplify and the people we invite or bring to the table. And sometimes it's how or for whom we willingly choose to give up our seat. In these simple lifestyle choices that we make every day, we fulfill the words of the prophet. We exalt the valleys and lower the mountains, make the rough places smooth, and make the crooked straight. And sometimes, for the glory of the Lord, we even tear down the stupid fence.

+ Recommended Song: "Fights for Me" by Urban Doxology

Next post: Special 2020 City Notes | Bread for the Resistance: Place of Refuge, Garden of Grief & Epilogue

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Soli Jesu gloria.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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