«You Are Invited to Economic Justice Shared at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ on Aug. 25 and Sept. 1, 2013 Rev. Ken Heintzelman I want to share ...»
You Are Invited to Economic Justice
Shared at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ on Aug. 25 and Sept. 1, 2013
Rev. Ken Heintzelman
I want to share with you a couple of convictions I have that I hope ultimately leads us to
some understanding and confirmation of important shared values about economic justice.
Conviction # 1: The ideas of how science happens, works on religion as well.
A Body of Knowledge
Anomalies/irregularities /challenges to the paradigm A New Theory A New Body of Knowledge A New Paradigm This can be seen through the ideas of Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, and String Theory. I am not going to pretend that I understand any of the content of these different bodies of knowledge but I know that there is a great difference between believing that the earth is the center of the universe, that there is a larger physical reality than our solar system, that the universe is so large that it may have a beginning and end, that measurements of entities with in a universe is best understood in terms of the relationship between light, time, and space, and that there is not just a universe but a multiple universes that like bubbles can separate, collide, come together, and create an eternal creativity of universes.
I was so intrigued with this process of the history of ideas that I thought for a while that I would not go into the ministry but into teaching philosophy. However, it occurred to me that if the revolution of ideas and the creation of new paradigms could happen in science than why not religion? So, when I read Shadow Rock’s covenant that the congregation was committed to being the sensitive and responsive part of human society which perceives and responds to God’s newest thrust in the midst of history, I said I want to serve that congregation. I read this part of the covenant to mean that we as congregation and pastor, together we would be a part of the creation of a new religious paradigm that would be a vehicle for God’s work of inclusion, justice, and intimacy of Spirit that would be most relevant to people’s lives.
This does not mean we leave the old expressions and old body of knowledge behind any more than string theorists can dismiss Newton or Einstein. However, it does mean that we are no longer held in bondage to the old paradigm and this should be of great excitement for us because God is doing a new thing in the midst of history and we get to be a part of it. We stand as a generation with one foot in the old paradigm of nationalism, democracy vs. authoritarianism, and capitalism vs. socialism. Paradigm shifts take hundreds of years and we may not see the promised land of the new paradigm but we can see some of it on the far horizon. It includes living in partnership with our planet instead of exploiting it to the point we kill ourselves. It includes equality and empowering all people which means some people will have to learn how to share power. It includes a global perspective and shared global values. We may not see it in our lifetime but we can nurture it while it is still in the womb.
Conviction # 2. In every person is a manifestation of the Spirit of Life and Love. Carl Sagan would say we are made of the same stuff as the stars. we are made of star dust.
From the dust we have come and to the dust we shall return. In these ideas are two truths which are two sides of the same coin. We are made of dust and to the dust we shall return speaks of our mortality and finitude. Reminded that we are made up of star dust reminds us of our connectedness to all things for all time as stars are born, die and then reborn.
Our particular human consciousness may end but some very important part of our true essence will live forever.
With this in mind I hope you can stand in awe of yourself and the people in your life. All of us are unique and unrepeatable finite expressions of the eternal creative energy of life.
It is a privilege for us to discover that unique gift, to come to clarity of that unique expression, and find a way to use it to meet a need in the world. This is love. This is the meaning of our existence. When we discover our gift and use it to meet a need in the world then we will find our greatest joy.
Conviction # 3. I am a Jesus freak. In my studies, prayers, and life experiences I have come to hold the conviction that Jesus was a unique and unrepeatable expression of star stuff that opened the possibility of a spiritual revolution of love. He found his greatest joy in speaking truth and loving people. To speak truth and to love was his way of being true to himself and thus an example of what it means to be most human, the Son of Man, a Child of God.
To be most human in a society that thrives on economic, political, and cultural systems that dehumanize, put Jesus in direct conflict with the powers that be. Jesus as a product of his culture had the audacity to take his religion seriously.
I have beaten you over the head with a lot of messages about the Sabbath, and you have been very tolerant of me and the exhortations of Sabbath keeping. I have encouraged us to go a little bit further by saying that Jesus made the Sabbath and the Jubilee observances central to his self understanding and central to his mission. Jesus did this even though religious leaders accused him of not keeping the Sabbath. Jesus was able to make a distinction between the keeping of the Sabbath law in a literal way and the keeping of the spirit of the Sabbath in a holy way. Central to keeping the Sabbath, and by Sabbath extension, the Jubilee, was his compassion for the poor, justice as the measuring stick for right relationships, inclusion of all people into the abundance of creation, and profound acknowledgement that everything, and I mean everything, belongs to God anyway.
Without clarity about these basic premises, we will never have clarity about the relationship between our faith and the powerful social forces, (i.e. economics), that affect our lives and the lives of our children.
The text for today is the same as last week, namely, the story of the golden calf emerging out of the fire and people, out of their anxiety, making it an idol. I want to add to this a Word About Life out of Proverbs; without a vision, the people perish.
Last week I was sharing with you some of my own personal core convictions. I shared these ideas because I hope ultimately to help foster some understanding and confirmation of important shared values about economic justice.
The foundational convictions were;
First, the way science evolves is also the way religion evolves. The process is not only an accumulation of knowledge and experience but also a revolution of paradigm shifts.
A good example of the process of paradigm shifts is the movement from thinking that the earth is the center of the universe to the concept of string theory.
Second, every person is a unique and unrepeatable manifestation of the Spirit of Life and Love. Another way to say this is to use the phrase, not limited to Carl Sagan, and I paraphrase, we are made of the same stuff as the stars. I understand this to mean that while our unique expression of consciousness and self identity may not be eternal, the ultimate essence of who we are is eternal, and we never cease to participate in the continuum which is life.
Third, I am a Jesus freak. One of the main reasons I am a Jesus freak is because my studies, prayer, meditation, and dialogue with life, has convinced me that central to Jesus self understanding and mission are the concepts of Sabbath and Jubilee. These two concepts driving Jesus’ ministry were about God in the midst of history and the social processes of history. Jesus believed that God was ultimately concerned about the justice, peace, and inclusion of the processes of politics, religion, and economics.
With these three convictions I do my best to listen to you and be the best pastor I can be.
Currently, looming large, in my role as your pastor, is the work of the Living Our Faith Team. The Living Our Faith Team is a unique and unrepeatable group of unique and unrepeatable individuals, who have discerned a calling and sense of mission. The Spirit of Life and Love is moving among them and challenging them to think deeply about the
questions of economic justice. These questions include, but not limited to, the following:
• What is economic justice?
What does EJ look like within a system of capitalism and free markets?
• Are there any God ordained economic systems?
• What stocks do I have in my portfolio?
• If I am invested in gun manufacturers am I part of the problem of gun violence in • our society?
If I am invested in fossil fuel industries am I part of polluting our planet?
• Is my having more assets, a result of others having less, or no assets?
• If my church receives income from questionable investments, is my church • participating in being part of the problem rather than being part of the solution?
Are we willing to look honestly at ourselves and be morally courageous?
• Are we willing to explore the possibility that we have lifted up some social • processes such as politics, economics, art, and religion to the point of idolatry?
Can we repent and change?
• Will such transformations be a part of our work for justice?
• The Jesus freak in me knows that there are challenges with Jesus and what he says about our relationship with money. We do not want to get into a he said, she said, Jesus said, kind of argument. However, we can say with a degree of certainty that Jesus criticizes systems of oppression and warns the rich. He hates how the poor are treated. He sees himself as a messenger with Good News for the poor. Forgiveness of debts, and release for the captives sold into slavery because of debt, is one of the hallmarks of his ministry.
Of course, this has relevance for today because being in bondage to debt and to creditors is not just an ancient economic phenomenon. More and more wealth is flowing into a shrinking number of people’s hands and it is happening through economic devices that promise the American Dream, but leave people with crushing debt.
You load sixteen tons, what do you get Another day older and deeper in debt Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go I owe my soul to the company store Side note: I remember this song well because my Dad would sing it to me right before one particular Christmas as a hint of one of my Christmas gifts which was a shovel. It was a small camping shovel for scouting.
The strength, compassion, and vision of Jesus compelled him to re-humanize the poor who were dehumanized by the economic system. Jesus and his teaching, and reframing, of the laws pertaining to debt, and land ownership, restored not only household assets, but also restored hope and dignity.
The values that drive economic justice are not difficult to discern. The values include dignity, justice, equality, prioritizing the person over the profit. Profit was meant for people, not people were made for profit. Money is meant to serve, not rule. What is difficult is letting those values determine our policies, procedures and decisions. Decent people want to do decent things, even at Exxon and Halliburton, but decent people can also put on blinders and let the strong obnoxious voices of greed shout them down. So, I would add to this list of virtues vision and courage.
We want to give our children every opportunity because we want them to be happy. We want them to be powerful people able to determine their own destiny (not their destiny determined for them). We want them to be people who contribute to the good and welfare of society (not dependents who take welfare from our community coffers). We want them to be on the right side of the tables of power. Unfortunately, even my language speaks of the reality that there are two sides to the table; weak and poor on one side, and strong and rich on the other. Jesus overturned the tables in the temple and we also can overturn the idolatrous tables of the economy. We can reframe, redefine the terms, revision, and reinvent a more just economic future.
I want to share with you part of an email I received from Marilyn Rampley.
“Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It's also my birthday. I was 16 that day and a new junior in HS. I remember the news coverage. I'm writing to share two beautiful passages from Time magazine. They are so well written.” I share with you the second of the two passages which is from Clarence B. Jones who was a speechwriter for Martin Luther King.
“I'm looking at the audience as he's looking at them. Then as he's speaking, Mahalia Jackson, who had performed earlier on the program and was his favorite gospel singer, interrupted him: "Tell 'em about the dream, Martin. Tell 'em about the dream."
I'm watching him from the back. He takes the text of the speech that he was reading, and he moves it to the side of the lectern. And then he grabs both sides of the lectern, and I say to the person standing next to me--whoever that was--I said, "These people don't know it, but they're about ready to go to church."
Martin Luther King articulated the dream. His message is not just about race equality. In some ways we have reduced the dream to being about ending racism but it was more than that. The event was promoted “A March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”. Martin Luther King knew that racism and classism went hand in hand. His s speech was infused with economic language and economic metaphors. He included references to a promissory note, a check promising freedom and dignity and that check coming back marked ‘insufficient funds’. King made the economic metaphor about the bank of justice and that institution being bankrupt. King spoke of the riches of freedom and linked it with the security of justice. The decrease of racism is not proven in the words that proclaim “some of my friends are black”. The decrease of racism is proven in the opportunities, economic opportunities, we open up to all people in the name of freedom and justice.