Saturday, February 26, 2011

Haiku for Epiphany 8

You are more valued
than grass or birds in the field
so fret not today.


Finding Justice

To walk with God … we must do justice, out of merciful love (Timothy Keller).

Like many, I have been watching, with interest, events unfold in both the Middle East (and North Africa) and in the Mid-West. People are rising up and challenging the “powers that be” in matters affecting their very lives.

In the Middle East, it is tyrants and despots who are being challenged and shown the exit. The people are speaking; should the tyrants not listen?

In Wisconsin it is a democratically elected governor who’s charted a course of action many find oppressive and objectionable. The people are speaking; should the Governor not listen?

At issue in Wisconsin is the right of public employees to negotiate with the government through a process called “collective bargaining.” There are sufficient numbers of Pundits and Commentators at every level addressing the political issues involved, so I won’t waste ink or newsprint rehashing those arguments.

What I will do, however, is address a significant spiritual issue these protests raise: namely, the cause of justice.

Justice is a spiritual matter; Righteousness is a Gospel matter. The Bible talks more about Justice and Righteousness than any other subject, including salvation. I suspect that if I were a student of the other major world religions, including Islam and the religions of the Far East that I would find much in them regarding Fair and Right living.

For instance, the Prophet writes in the Quran: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealings and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, that is next to piety. Fear Allah, indeed Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (5:8)

In Buddhist writings we read: “There are five ways in which a master should minister to his servants and work people at the nadir (direction): by arranging their work according to their strength, by supplying them with food and wages, by looking after them when they are ill, by sharing special delicacies with them, and by letting them off work at the right time.” (The Sigalovada Suutra)

If people in power knew how to operate with fairness and equity, we wouldn’t need such words of wisdom; but as Lord Acton reminds us: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” (and as Donald Rumsfeld says in his book, “certainty with power is dangerous …”).

We cannot, of course, point our fingers at Governors, Dictators, Tyrants, and Unions and say, “There is the source of all our troubles.”

Injustice is at the heart of our own humanity. We are all tyrants after a fashion.

What ravenous child in a family of four growing (and equally hungry) siblings doesn’t eye the last drumstick on the platter at dinner and believe in his heart he needs (and deserves) it more than the others?

The courts are clogged with frivolous lawsuits, as people seek, not justice, but settlements that are more lucrative (and easier to attain) than the lottery.

Courts and Insurance companies alike are held hostage by tiny tyrants demanding their cut of the pie – profiting from their own lies and greedy scheming, the consequence of which is that true victims of injustice are often forced to whither in pain while awaiting their turn to be heard.

It is the rare person who can look in the mirror and not see a tyrant staring back; that’s the human condition.

Healthy spirituality requires us to recognize that, as messy as the world is, as unhealthy as the world is, as hazardous as the world is, it does not change unless and until we change first.

While people may gather at the State House in one place, or the Public Square in another, it is critical that we take time to meet God in our own house – for it is really His house that’s a mess, isn’t it?

It is time to acknowledge the pain we inflict on others, and the greed that blinds us to the plight of others; it is time to pull out the broom and dustpan and to put our own house in order; for if there is to be justice in the world – true justice – it must begin here at home in this, our valley.

God speaks; should we not listen?

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Prodigal Returns

I could not imagine ever being part of a church
of which I could not be an active part.
Why would anyone go to church
and leave it at that?

Instead, I find that God has called us each
to take part as best we can,
to find our center,
to find His fire,
and light His world with love.