Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Over this past month I have been fairly immersed in my work with Episcopal Appalachian Ministries. I have been filled with both excitement about the work being done to minister to the people of our region while at the same time, like many of you might be feeling, have a feeling of being overwhelmed by the shear enormity of the issues we face in our country and throughout the world. As I mentioned in one of my sermons this past month, we live in scary times. The economic crisis, the wars in the Middle East, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the coal mining explosion in West Virginia, the rising rate of unemployment… the list goes on and on. I wish so much we could find the one “magic wand” that would fix it all, but there just isn’t one we seem to see… at least not one we seem to be accessing. But despite the gloom and doom that seems to be all around us, there is some hope out there for the whole big picture.
I had the pleasure of attending an Episcopal Conference on Domestic Poverty in Newark, NJ about a month ago. At this conference, there were folks representing the whole gambit social, economic, healthcare and welfare groups within the Episcopal Church; in addition to experts from governmental and academic circles. I am still muddling through all the information that I received there… it is hopeful and at the same time overwhelming. Despite this, I left the conference with a renewed sense of energy about how we, as the Body of Christ, can begin to address the multiple issues that haunt us in this world. Although, as I mentioned, there is no one “magic wand” or solution, however there are many solutions just as there are many parts to the body… it is all connected. The one thing I heard, above all the many issues that were discussed, is that there is a resolve within our Church for us to work collaboratively to address the many complicated issues that we are all called to address by virtue of our Baptismal covenant. The truth is, we and “the issues” are all connected.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, was the keynote speaker at the conference. In her talk, she pointed out how so much of the problem with domestic poverty is interconnected with how we view each other and the earth we live in. She said, “We’re here to do justice, and love mercy. We’re here to walk humbly with God and bring good news to the poor. That good news of justice and mercy looks like the ancient visions of the commonweal of God where everyone has enough to eat, no one goes thirsty or homeless, all have access to meaningful employment and health care, the wealthy and powerful do not exploit the weak, and no one studies war any more. It includes the work of building community and caring for the earth, both of which are essential to the health of a spiritually rooted person, in right relationship with God and neighbor.”
I think for most of us, we tend to have this flaw of wanting to point the finger and blame many of the hardships of life on something or someone besides ourselves. It is very easy to fall into the trap of pointing our finger at “the liberals” or “the conservatives”. We blame BP, the Taliban, coal companies, lack of education or anything else we can point to for the plight of the world. But the hard truth is that we are all broken and flawed; we are all sinners. We put our own needs before others. We consume more than we need and we hold onto our “stuff” as if it were going to somehow save us.
As Christians, we know better… Jesus was very clear about that. We have all heard it before… “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
I wish I could offer THE “magic wand” for the plight of our current world and country situation… all of the issues are very complicated. Like you, I still have to drive to work… this computer that I am typing on is most likely using electricity generated from coal burning generators. The oil spill crisis in the Gulf and the recent coal mine explosion in West Virginia just last month are all connected to our need to consume cheap energy. I, like you, would much rather I buy gas for $2.30 a gallon than $2.75 a gallon… I would much rather my electric bill be under $150 a month… it IS complicated…
I think that if there is a “magic wand” it has to be rooted in a change of heart for us all. It would be a spiritual change. It would look something like the Kingdom of God… or rather, would BE the Kingdom of God… Rather than be preoccupied with what we spend for energy or trying to hold onto and protect our “stuff” we would be preoccupied with loving our neighbors and protecting the neighborhood, “this fragile earth, our island home” (BCP 370).
You see, poverty at home and abroad, the environment, corporate greed, terrorism and energy consumption and all that other stuff that scares us, it is all connected. It is about the relationships we have with each other in this world. For there to be change we will all have to be willing to truly live into our Baptismal covenant and truly “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as yourself”. It means we each have to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being”(BCP 305). This my friends is the way of Christ… it is the way of God… it is the Kingdom of Heaven…