Struggle for the Beloved Community

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“Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”

Representative John Lewis

Our loving God offers us a new way of life, a new Kingdom, a new nation, a new kindom. As I was reflecting on what to write today, I was thinking of Representative John Lewis. He was someone who believed in this new kindom with his whole self. He is someone who found a great treasure – this kindom of God — and was willing to sacrifice his life and risk everything to bring about this new kindom. Sometimes he was accused of being a dreamer because he never let go of this vision that possessed him. To his dying day he believed that we could non-violently bring justice, peace, and love to our nation for all God’s children.

Representative John Lewis is a saint. I think of saints as real people who model what it is like to live a life of faith and trust in God. Representative John Lewis demonstrated how someone lives when they believe the kindom of God is of supreme value worth pursuing.

To understand this kindom of God better think of a couple simple parables Jesus told. I am referring to the parables about the mustard seed and the leaven. The reign of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in their field. And the reign of God is like leaven which a woman took and kneaded into three measures of flour.

No one would purposely plant a mustard seed in their field. Mustard seed was like the invasive plant we find here in Washington called scotch broom. It was uncontrollable, invasive, and unwanted. We might enjoy seeing scotch broom blooming along the freeways, and the people listening to Jesus might have used mustard, but when these invasive plants get into someone’s field, they turn an orderly, cultivated field into something wild and disorderly. Or consider dandelions. People might use them in salads, or make dandelion wine, but few people plant them on purpose. Their seeds blow everywhere and get into everything.

As for leaven, in the ancient world it was considered something corruptive. It was a mysterious something that women understood and used, but men looked at suspiciously. Therefore, every trace of leaven had to removed from all Jewish homes before they could celebrate Passover. Leaven changed bread mysteriously.

With these parables Jesus is proclaiming that the reign of God is disruptive, life changing, and even wild. It will not be tamed or controlled. Have you noticed the way some of the major churches in our country are expected to hold up the values of being nice, of being moral, even of being obedient and tame? Parents often bring their children to such a Church to have the Church help them train their children to be nice, moral, and obedient. Husbands bring their wives to that Church to train them in submissiveness. It happens every Sunday. We are not called to be a tame Church that turns out nice people who do not cause trouble.

Representative John Lewis was a spiritual being and a man of faith, but he was certainly not tame. He strongly believed that we are called to make trouble and he called it good trouble. The ways of God appear crazy to people who are content and satisfied with their lives. Those who are comfortable with the way things are hate it when their comfortable lives are disrupted. Anything that destroys order, that is not nice, that looks out of control is threatening and must be stopped. They want people to be nice, and nice people do not cause trouble. The disruption that Christ Jesus brings into our world has little value to those who are content with life as it is.

But Jesus proclaims that disruption of the status quo has started. The mustard seed has been planted and the leaven has been kneaded into the dough. The Kindom of God is emerging and will prevail. The followers of Jesus are those who embrace this good news eagerly. Disruption of the status quo offers hope to those who are oppressed, exploited, suffering, and poor. The promise of a world of justice, peace, and love for all God’s children is good news for the poor indeed.

John Lewi said:

Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change. Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once. In the movement, we didn’t know how history would play itself out. When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen.

Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world

My beloved ones, be like dandelions and spread God’s love all over your neighborhood.

Bishop Kedda

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