Joining Jesus in His Mission of Radical Restoration

January 15 2017
January 15 2017

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Sunday January 15th the sermon entitled Good News for the Downtrodden was on Luke 4:14-30. Here is a reflection on how we might apply that message to our lives with some resources below. Grace and peace, Patrick.

Luke 4:16-30 is Jesus’s announcement to the world that God’s Kingdom has arrived in Him. At the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus uses words from the prophet Isaiah to declare who he is and what he has come to do on earth.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to set the oppressed free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (verses 18-19)

If Jesus had a personal mission statement it might be something like, “God sent me and empowered me to restore the downtrodden to communion with God and the people of God, to include the excluded.”

The Church’s head is Jesus Christ, which means the church’s mission is directly related to Jesus’s mission. However, it seems that too often the American church has done much to domesticate Jesus and his mission. We have taken the mighty Lion of Judah and turned him into a house cat. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a sermon titled, Guidelines for a Constructive Church, preached:

I’m about through now, but I don’t want to leave you with any illusions. When you follow God’s guidelines it isn’t always easy. It isn’t easy for a church. It isn’t easy for individuals. When you go out here to help the sick, when you go out of here to deal with the brokenhearted, when you go out of here to help the poor, to really preach the acceptable year of the Lord, it isn’t easy. It means suffering and sacrifice. But God wants the church today that will bear the cross. Too many Christians are wearing the cross, and not enough are bearing the cross. Too many churches have a cross sitting at the center, but they aren’t willing to follow the true meaning of the cross. The cross means what it says. It’s something that you die on. I’m not talking about physical death now. It may mean the death of your prestige. It may mean the death of your popularity. It may mean the death of your budget as it has always stood. But there are too many churches more concerned about a cushion than a cross; more concerned about making the gospel something easy, retranslating the gospel to read, “Go ye into all the world and keep your blood pressure down, and lo I will make you a well adjusted personality.” This isn’t God’s church!

How can we be a church that bears the cross and lives more fully into Jesus’s radical restoration mission? How can we be instruments of God’s restorative grace and justice? First, we have to recognize and call on the power of God. Just as Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, we need the power of God. We cannot go out and expect to be agents of God’s mission without being empowered first by His Holy Spirit to do works of grace and justice in His name. Prayer must be one of our first works. Calling for the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit over all of our thinking, speaking and acting is essential.

Second, we must work together as Christ’s witnesses. There is only one road to freedom as Ben Harper sings. Jesus is that one road, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). If you, like me are privileged, your freedom is directly tied to the freedom of the downtrodden. There is only one way to be free and that is together by the power of Christ. This freedom isn’t limited to a heavenly freedom, which is the cushion rather than the cross that Dr. King speaks of in his sermon. Freedom in Jesus means restoration of the world, reversal of injustices, healing and forgiveness. It means God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. The liberation that Jesus claims as his mission is wholistic, concerned with body and soul, and it is collective. Lilla Watson an indigenous Australian artist and activist said on the need for people to shift from actors to allies and accomplices: “If you have come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Christ Church is largely a privileged church with pastors who are the most privileged in America (white men). Not all at Christ Church share the same privilege but in general we hold more privilege than many in America and the world due to our economic standing and education. This means we have a responsibility to be good stewards of that privilege. How do we do that as co-workers with Christ in His mission?

We do it by working together with the downtrodden as allies and accomplices. Recently I read a post that described what it means to be an ally and accomplice and I find these categories to be helpful. See the table below.

Here are seven suggestions on ways you can begin or continue the work of following Jesus as an accomplice in His mission of restoration:

Pray individually and together as a parish or in a small group for wisdom and courage to join Jesus in His mission. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.

Listen & learn. In order to know how to work together with the downtrodden and excluded we must increase our proximity to their pain. Jesus did this when he took on flesh. Educate yourself through books (e.g. The New Jim Crow, Toxic Charity, The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration). Show up to spaces that might make you uncomfortable but where you will hear first hand accounts and stories of the oppressed and marginalized. And, listen, listen, then listen, ask questions and listen more. January 18th 6pm at First Presbyterian Oakland there is an interfaith candle light vigil in remembrance of the work of Dr. King and the work that we still need to do. More info HERE.

Share! We need to hear testimonies of God at work in our midst. Share how you are doing the work of an ally or accomplice with your parish, friends and neighbors. Many of you already are accomplices in Jesus’s restoration mission at your kid’s schools, in your work places and in your volunteering. Share your hopes, your time and convictions with elders and pastors so that we might work together to be the church God is calling us to be.

Leverage your vocation. How might you be an ally or accomplice in and through your work. Many of you do this already. Are you in a position to ensure wage equality amongst women and people of color? How can you work for equitable economic strategies? Could you provide training and jobs for felons?

Learn how to talk to your kids about racism. Start now! February 4th in partnership with First Res Berkeley a seminar on talking to your kids about racism with Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith. More info on the OCN and HERE. Raising kids to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God is one of the most radical things you can do.

Confront hate speech and racism wherever it is found. Learn more HERE from the Southern Poverty Law Center and HERE from Jay Smooth

Join the work that is being done. Talk to friends in your parish, neighbors and co-workers to find out where the good work of restoration is being done and join them. You don’t have to do everything but we do need to do something! Two places where the work of justice and grace are being done at Christ Church are: Second Friday Ceasefire Walks and Project Peace Days of Service (2/25) and Speaker Series. Avail yourselves to these to get your toe wet and discover deeper ways you can join Jesus in His Mission.

 

Ally Accomplice

The actions of an Ally have greater likelihood to challenge institutionalized racism, bigotry and systemic injustice.

The actions of an Accomplice are meant to directly challenge institutionalized racism, colonization, and White supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies, and structures.

An Ally is like a disrupter and educator in spaces dominated by privilege.

Realizing that our freedoms and liberations are bound together, retreat or withdrawal in the face of oppressive structures is not an option.

An Ally might find themselves at a social gathering in which something inappropriate is being talked about. Instead of allowing that space to incubate injustice, the Ally wisely disrupts the conversation, and takes the opportunity to educate those present.

Accomplices’ actions are informed by, directed and often coordinated with leaders who are Black, Brown, First Nations/Indigenous Peoples, and/or People of Color.

Being an Ally is not an invitation to be in Black and Brown spaces to gain brownie points, lead, take over, or explain.

Accomplices actively listen with respect, and understand that oppressed people are not monolithic in their tactics and beliefs.

Allies constantly educate themselves, and do not take breaks.

Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame. They are not emotionally fragile.

Watch 5 Ways of Being an Ally, by Franchesca Ramsey

Accomplices build trust through consent and being accountable - this means not acting in isolation where there is no accountability.

*This has been adapted from the website www.whiteaccompices.org