The prophet Isaiah has this to say about how we live in accord with God: “learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.” How tenderly this speaks to my heart, wounded with the very affluent and yes, privileged, posture of media outlets and celebrities and government and most churches as we stare at the crushing challenges faced by the most vulnerable in our culture.
Early in this “time of COVID” we heard about nursing homes where the elderly were prohibited from receiving comfort from their loved ones “for the greater good.” Updates are sparse.
We heard about native peoples whose reservations lacked the most basic medical care and the story has not been updated widely in a long time.
Vulnerable populations who staff meat packing plants were early affected by illness and deaths, but now they are having to make the case to be considered to receive early access to inoculations.
Federal, state and local detention, corrections and prison officials have been far from transparent, but it is clear that for too many those detained and those who work there are deemed throw-away people, including the estimated 500,000 who are charged and detained without having been adjudicated guilty of anything as the courts are largely closed.
Children who start out without the privileges of two-parent supervision, adequate income, adequate housing, adequate educations, supportive extended families and communities, safe neighborhoods, or reasonable health care (including mental health services) are not doing better in the current educational chaos.
Murders and assaults (including domestic) are up as courts are curtailed.
Emergency and medical service staffs are fatigued.
Public safety folks, pastors and mental health providers are fatigued.
Teachers, parents and children are fatigued.
Foster families are fatigued.
Yet it seems even the news services are careful to tell us more about the stresses in two-career families and less about the acute challenges facing increasing numbers of the new poor and the crushing challenges facing those who were already called the "working poor" or eking out barely subsistence food and shelter where news is cloaked in less uncomfortable terms so we hear “more need help than ever before” and “your contributions are needed” while stories tell us how volunteers are kept safe from the deeply lonely, afraid and isolated folks who are hungry (oh, food insecure), at risk in houses without heat or maybe even beds or coats for the children. Elderly people are isolated, hungry, vulnerable without family or neighbors checking on them with interaction and help as we head into the harsh weather of winter.
My prayer for churches as 2021 approaches is that we will return to “church” with a greater commitment to acting…
acting in love,
acting in support of justice, as Isaiah calls us to --
RELIEVING the oppressed,
DEFENDING orphans and
PLEADING (interceding) for the widows.
My sisters and brothers, these are all action verbs rather than states of being. And if our churches are modeling their work on Jesus’ life and ministry, they must be ACTING more…and ACTING not for each other within the church or those with whom we are comfortable or (God forbid) those we find “worthy of being helped”. And to make matters even more dangerous, we are so often more comfortable letting an academic or politician tell us what will help rather than traveling with those who suffer so they might let us know what they need. In the best RELATIONSHIPS we can work together to develop ideas and ways of helping, always with respect for the PERSON we believe needs help and with healthy boundaries to protect ALL.
And we can’t do that from echurch or even from a pew…it takes interpersonal interaction all day long. If the church can’t help us learn effective ways to do that, it is no wonder more people are looking to secular voices to give hope and finding only despair.
NOTE: If you are interested in exploring new ways to ACT and learn about areas where help is urgently needed, please use the connect tab on this blog site or message through Families Sharing Hope’s Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Zoom group(s) we are forming will begin by working through the OUTRAGEOUS JUSTICE book, videos and workbook from Prison Fellowship and there is no cost.