Friday, December 1, 2017

The Kingdom Call for Justice

The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“However, the Scriptures are clear that care for our neighbors includes prophetic calls to end injustice; resistance to religious, social and political systems of oppression; and identification with the poor and marginalized in society”
—Elizabeth Gerhardt in The Cross and Gendercide

In western Protestant Christianity, there is a proclivity toward reducing expressions of faith to private and personal interactions.  Yet, for the most part, the Scriptures in which we base our convictions upon, are largely looking community approaches, and even community assessments of our faith.  This has immense implications for the Church and its mission.

I was reading in the book of Isaiah and God was speaking though Isaiah to the entire nation of ancient Israel.  God used poetic and highly metaphoric language to express his deep love and affinity for the people of Israel, who were “a favored people”.  Interestingly, they were not favored for the sake of favoritism or rewarding their merit, but to be agents of God’s purposes throughout the world.  We read of their inability to connect their election with their mission throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and shake our heads, but are blind to the fact that we too often struggle to connect our calling to God with our co-mission with God.

God speaks of Israel as a vineyard that was planted, cared for, and protected.  We find although he was “very fond”  of the people of Israel, that God planted with a purpose.  He expected fruit from his vineyard.  While he is speaking metaphoric, God breaks through the imagery to tell his people what fruit looks like.  God stated that he planted His people for a harvest of justice and righteousness.  In other words, there should be widespread expressions of justice (giving dignity, honor, and respect to all) and righteousness (interacting with God and others in a morally just or ethical manner).

God would speak further in Isaiah and say:

Listen to me, my people. Hear me, Israel, for my law will be proclaimed, and my justice will become a light to the nations.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭51:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is the fruit of justice and righteousness that is that hallmark of an authentic movement of God.  These are relational in expression but often in a community context.  God was judging the people of Israel in Isaiah 5, because they were a vineyard that was growing terrible fruit: oppression, violence, and greed.  Now, we know that not every single Israelite was oppressive, partook in violence, or exploited others economically.  Yet the culture was such, that cruelty and violence thrived.  God was seeking a culture change and that wouldn’t come individuals having “aha” moments and slowly getting better, but though corporate repentance, lament, and restoration.

Speaking on behalf of Christians in the United States, we need to consider our fruitfulness.  Are we growing justice and sprouting up righteousness.  Are we complicit or silent in the promotion of injustice and injust systems.  Do we seek restorative and redistributive justice or is the goal to protect and promote our favored status?  Do we defend our personal cultural political ideology even if it means promoting immoral and destructive policies and leaders?  Do we actually hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice, or are we too full of our own blessings?

Your local church was planted, and cared for to make an impact.  Not simply to have members and have a nice facility, but allow the love of God to be manifest in waves of mercy, justice, and healing to a broken and wounded community.  This is not limited to a “spiritual realm” but appreciating that the spiritual realities are manifest in our physical, mental, emotional, social, legal, and enconomic spheres.

Jesus would reiterate that we, as His followers, are called to love God with every fiber of our being, and to love one another as He loves us.  So, when we see those who are hungry, we feed them.  If we find that many people are hungry, we not only feed them, but we seek to correct the injustice that led to their state.  When we see those who are naked and shamed, for whatever reason, we clothe them, and if by chance, there are many who are shamed, we collectively look to identify systems that may be in place that could cause this.  The same for those imprisoned, for any reason, we visit and encourage.  And if there’s a overwhelming disparity of people being imprisoned, we seek to stand against the injustice.  All the while, demonstrating the gospel as opposed to constantly trying to defend it.

This is simply what Jesus said in Matthew 25.  He would be looking for practitioners of righteousness and justice on that day when we are brought to account for what we did and what we avoided.   Jesus doesn’t ask them to recite creed or doctrine, just like Israel was not condemned on their knowledge of the law of Moses.  It is the failure to be fruitful that is our ultimate failure.

I pray that you see your community as Jesus sees it.  And that you follow Jesus in standing against injustice, standing for justice and practicing righteousness.  Taking ownership, that God has planted you in your current setting, not just as a blessing for you, but to be the blessing.

May God bless you

 Pastor M Traylor

Friday, November 24, 2017

Courage: A key to Church growth

“Leadership is not about the conference room or the boardroom; it is all about the battlefield. Leadership is always about verbs, action. It is not about the safety of ideas (as important as that might be), but about implementation and movement in the face of opposition. And that takes courage.”
— Crawford Loritts in Leadership As An Identity

The descendants of Joseph responded, “It’s true that the hill country is not large enough for us. But all the Canaanites in the lowlands have iron chariots, both those in Beth-shan and its surrounding settlements and those in the valley of Jezreel. They are too strong for us.””
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭17:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have been studying the book of Joshua which details the ancient Israelite community’s move into to present day Palestine and the stories of their journey.  The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for much of the previous 450 years when, God told their leader Joshua (name literally means God saves) that He was literally taking the people of Israel into a land that is currently inhabited by many different peoples.  I have struggled on so many levels to understand the violence and cruelty of the campaign, particularly in light of non-violent, others-First kingdom approach of Jesus, but that conflict is for a different discussion.  My understanding of these events has been greatly aided by Theologian Greg Boyd’s work: “Crucifixion of a Warrior God’.  I strongly recommend this for those of you are also struggling with this.

After the people of Israel, led by Joshua had conquered over 32 kings/kingdoms, they experienced peace and Joshua divided the new territory, that was promised by God, among the tribes of Israel (each tribe was the descendants of the sons of Jacob).  The allotment of land was not equitable but based upon God’s favor, discerned through prophecy and discernment.  Among the allotment, both tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (both actually grandsons of Jacob), received a disproportionately large inheritance.  They are described in the text as the “sons of Joseph”.

In the text, we find that despite their large inheritance, it was not enough for them and they desired a larger territory.  Joshua responded to their request by informing them that within the land that they were already allotted, there were lands to occupy that they have chosen not to use.  Their response was to say in my paraphrase “Yeah, but those lands have people in it that we are afraid of”.  Their implication was that we want more land in someone else’s allotment.

While, I am about to use Israel’s conquest of Canaan as a metaphor for the church in ministry, I want to clearly and unequivocally state the limitations of this metaphor.  The Church is never called to conquer, kill, enslave, or in any way destroy the people it engages.  Its goal is completely the opposite;  The church is to promote the flourishing of the people it engages in a wholistic manner.  Yet, the church is promised that God is with us as we make/develop devoted followers of Jesus and that nothing can stand in the way of its growth, in the same way that God promised Joshua that he would go with him and that no other kingdoms can stand against him when God is with him.

So, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh recognize the need for more space and the divinely promised inheritance but are unwilling to use what they have been given, trusting God for success.   This is the pattern that I have seen so many times in churches.  They desire to grow and understand the divine promises of God for the Church, but they struggle.  A couple of lessons from this text for Church leaders:

1. God calls Churches to see their entire community as their parish.  Your congregation is a small part of your parish and your goal is the demonstrate the love of God in your parish in tangible ways.

2. God calls you to grow through engagement, not transfer.   Some of the most dynamically growing churches are those who become “the hot church” and people begin to leave their smaller churches and transfer.  While this is not a sin, it also does not increase the Kingdom.  Kingdom growth is an apostolic phenomena that expresses the Kingdom of God in places where it is currently not appreciated.  This means engaging aspects of your parish or community, they may be significantly dissimilar to you and your congregation.

3. God is calling your Church to take courage in engagement of your parish. In the United States, we are a cultural mess.  Never in my life have I seen the degree of polarization in every aspect of our culture with an equally deepened ignorance of one another.  The courage comes in getting to know those in your parish who are different than you and listening to their stories to gain understanding.  In that listening process, you may find that people of our parish have been deeply wounded and misunderstood, often by peoples in your cultural and faith tradition, and that’s when the hard work of engagement and reconciliation occurs.

God, through Jesus, is telling his church:

“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

To my fellow pastors: Take courage, the presence and authority of God is with you as you minister to your parish. Be strong and know that there are people who deeply desire to know God and are waiting for you and your church to demonstrate the gospel.

May God bless you!

Dr. M Traylor

Monday, August 21, 2017

Think Impact, Not Intentions

“The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:37‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Typically, many white people search for the one black person who holds the same positions and perspectives as they do, and then prop that person up as verification of their own beliefs. Taking a riskier and more teachable posture—allowing an entire community to speak into their lives—would ultimately result in changing their operating definitions.”
— Drew Hart in The Trouble I've Seen

I have been blessed to be part of movements and institutions that seek peace and the wholeness of all.     I was born in the height of the civil rights movement and remember the toil and sacrifices that were made by so many, to achieve opportunities to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.  From my perspective, the civil rights movement is the most patriotic movement of all time as it sacrificially demanded fulfillment of the American creed, that was written in the founding of the nation, but never fulfilled for many.

I was recently reading an article on advocating for justice that was pointing out the difference in impact versus intention when it comes to commenting on issues of justice.  Often, an act of injustice is fanned into flame by a well-intentioned, but devastingly impactful response.  Often when I am speaking about issues of racism, sexism, xenophobia, privilege, and ethnic supremacy, people deflect from the act or thoughts of injustice, to the perceived intention of the offender.  In this case, some will see the racist throwing rocks and will say things like "He was just exercising his right" or "He is simply protecting what he feels is being threatened".   All things that may very well be true, but the idea is that we are no longer understanding the impact of his violence and hate, and now considering his possible intentions, typically through our favored ideological lens.

The issue, as a person who has experienced significant wounds and stand with people who are also wounded,  is that I cant hear any of your justifications for the wounding actions until you realize the impact of those actions.  Do I think that evil is an equal opportunity movement?  Absolutely, but pointing out the sinfulness of the victim of sinful violence is a way of avoiding confrontation of the original evil.  So, when BLM advocates against documented unjustified violence by Law enforcement against African Americans, the ignorant response to them is "most AA's are killed by other AA". (Most whites are killed by other whites too, but that's more to do with demographics) as it simply seeks to move past the issue to blame the victim.  And when, members of known hate-groups with a documented history of violence against African Americans, protest in your home state, calling you or your friends who are African American, vile and cruel names, and you protest mostly peacefully, the response that you want to hear is not how it was "equally your fault" or that there are "fine people" (getting back to their intentions) who are members of the KKK.  If you want to help, renounce the hate and the violence.  Acknowledge the impact that it has made, regardless of the intentions of the perpetrator.

As a pastor, I counseled a man who would be physically and sexually violent with his wife.  She came for attention and when I confronted him, he kept saying "She knows that I love here".  He was literally unable and unwilling to talk about the wounds and injuries that devasted his wife.  He couldn't deal with the impact.

Unfortunately, reconciliation and healing begins with understanding and owning impact.

I am blessed with many friends who desire to help in issues of justice but go out of their way to justify injustice.  One way, that is particularly a pet peeve of mine, is to find a person of color, who agrees with the defender of injustice, and post their thoughts as validation of the evil.  So we see videos of African Americans waving confederate flags, African Americans supporting racist movements, African Americans who refinforce every negative stereotype that justifies the injustice.   Yet the African American community in general suffers and their voices are slandered as extreme, or self-serving, or lazy, or using the "race-card".

Just stop it.  Focus on impact not intention.  Focus on using your words, not to justify racism, sexism,  and fear based outlooks, but on standing for peace and justice.  Focus on using Jesus' lens of love before you post the clever video that shows a black person saying that "slavery was a choice".  Understand the impact of slavery, racism, hate, and violence before you try and justify the intentions of the perpetrators of hate.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

May God bless you

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Seeing God's image

“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Dignity is God’s signature written on the soul of every human being.”
— Crawford Loritts in Leadership As An Identity

This weekend, the world was shocked to see white supremacist and hate groups gathering in Charlottesville Virginia.  It was shocking, not just because of the size and scope of the protest, but because of the depth of the hatred expressed by these groups.  Naturally, hate spills into violence.  Article after article now confirms that the violence was not just a "protest gone awry" but a staged, well organized plan of violence.

In the aftermath of this violence which resulted in death and many injuries, was a dagger plunged into the collective soul of America.  It's not fatal, but it was like pulling off the bandage of a wound perceived to be healing, but finding it festering, infected, and spreading.  In reality, particularly for most people of color, the presence of this degree of hatred and evil is not surprising or even shocking.  What was shocking was the responses of those who are called to wield the moral authority of our nation, and our faith traditions.  While many were immediately able to speak against the hatred, others were silent, and a significant minority were defending the racist hatred and violence.

In the midst of the violence, there was one picture that literally stopped me in my tracks.  I had seen the tragic pictures of Neo-Nazi's beating defenseless people, one of which punched a woman in her face, another of the horrendous car attack that killed a peace advocate, but none of these impacted me like this one;

This picture shows a counter-protester looking in the face of members of the KKK members.  While, I do not know what led to this exchange, we see a courageous woman who dares to look in the face of those who are spewing hate and who have historically been responsible for violence that killed and maimed thousands of people of color.  There are several ways to interpret this incredibly prophetic act:

Perhaps she is "staring" down the KKK members to show that she is not afraid or intimidated.  While this is courageous, I suspect that this is a shallow interpretation of what is happening.  Perhaps she is the aggressor and the KKK is simply respectfully listening to her opinion and perspective regarding racial equality.  Alsthough our President may suggest that there was aggression from "both" sides, people present reported generally unilateral aggression from White Supremacists.  So most likely this did not happen.

More likely this is a prophetic act of love.  There is concept, common in eastern and African cultures that basically says "to be seen is to be loved, to be loved is to be seen".  It is this concept, that is consistently demonstrated in both Hebrew and Greek scriptures where respect and dignity is bestowed by first appreciating another by giving them your attention.  Jesus "Looked at" and "Loved" those who is ministered towards.  By forcing an eye to eye gaze with someone who is hostile towards you, it does multiple things:

1. It forces the other to see you.  It forces them to see a human being who defies their dehumanizing hate.  It forces them to see a person with a beating heart,  eyes that are windows to a soul,  and a reflection and similarity to people whom they may love.  Humanization is the first step is dismantling hate.

2. It forces you to see the other as a person.  It is important that those who advocate for peace continually see the dignity of the image of God in all involved.  This is the hardest aspect of peace advocacy.  There is a continual temptation to dehumanize those who dehumanize others.  Jesus's approach was love everyone, including those who oppose and oppress you.  Turn the other cheek, resist evil, bless those who persecute you are not cliches, but the way to peace.  It begins with seeing the dignity of God within every soul.

I pray that we become the peacemakers that the world desperately needs.  It begins and ends with "seeing" other, even those who try to hide their humanity behind literal masks, as well as masks of hate, violence, and brutality.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

Pastor Michael Traylor

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Politics of Justice

“Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side— leaders whose decrees permit injustice? They gang up against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭94:20-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“For I believe the crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.”
— Walter Brueggeman in A Way Other Than Our Own

The last year has revealed some very interesting things about the institutional church and the theological tribe within Christianity known as evangelicals.  Evangelicalism, which was known as a theological distinction within Protestantism,  now is known more for the political ideologies in which it has become associated with over the past 30 years.  So, those outside of Evangelicalism, understand its affiliation with "conservative" causes such as anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, pro-business, racial isolation, and sexism, than its adherrance to the possibility of a relationship with God, the infallibility of Scripture, or the need to share the good news of Jesus to the world.

There is a saying that says "I can not hear what you saying because your actions are so loud".  The Evangelical institution churches have acted upon, affiliated with, and promoted causes, candidates, and campaigns that elevates a political agenda over their theological affirmations.  I recognize that I am painting with a very broad brush and their are many Evangelical churches who have refused to be co-opted by a political agenda, however, the vast majority allowed their light for Jesus to be dimmed by the dirt of political agendas.

This past week, President Trump signed an executive order allowing tax-exempt religious organizations such as a church to be able to endorse, contribute, and receive contributions from political candidates.  If you follow history, this should alarm you.  During the rise of totalitarianism in Nazi Germany, the first voice that was silenced was the church of Germany.  It allowed the open support of the church for Nazism in return for its protected existence.  Churches in Nazi Germany that were prophetic in its challenge of the political powers of the day, where not given formal status and persecuted.   When Churches become tax exempt conduits of political agendas, the co-opt has become complete.  We are seeing this happening before our eyes.

The agenda of Jesus is cosmological in scope.  The charge that Jesus gives his Church begins with statement "All authority in heaven and Earth has been given to me".  In other words, we have the ability to influence all manner of things because we are extensions of the source of authority. Political activity is necessary and not evil in itself.  In America, many of the reformations, revolutions, and reforms were movements that stemmed from the authentic church of Jesus Christ.  It's time that the church understood that politics are a tool but not a master.  We side with Jesus, in his compassion for the sick, the marginalized, and the outsider.  We dare not attempt to "conserve" the existing order of injustice, oppression, exploitation, or objectification wherever it exists.  We speak truth, in love, seeking to promote the flourishing of all made in the image of God.

I believe that God is calling his Church to arise and be the prophetic voice in which we were created to be.  I believe that too many churches have no idea of what the gospel is because they have allowed political agendas to be infused with their understanding of authentic faith.  We can either rise to our true calling, or continue to become a tool of political ideologies that weaken and pervert our witness.

“We cannot let narrow religious forces highjack our moral vocabulary, forces who speak loudly about things God says little about while saying so little about issues that are at the heart of all our religious traditions: truth, justice, love, and mercy. The movement we have witnessed—the movement we most need—is a moral movement.”
— The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in The Third Reconstruction

May God bless you

Pastor Michael Traylor

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Paying The Dues for Social Justice

""Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced"
--James Baldwin

"I could no longer sit around in Paris discussing America.  I had to come and pay my dues."
--James Baldwin

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28)

I had the privilege to watch the documentary "I am not your negro" that chronicled the perspective and the works of James Baldwin.  James Baldwin was an African American novelist, intellectual, and social critic who wrote and spoke for the African American experience in an nearly unparalleled manner for over 30 years from the 1950's to the 1980's.  His writing and speaking style combines the richness of many streams of literature and applied them to the tragedy of the African American experience resulting in work that is as elegant as it is provocative in nature.

In the documentary, it begins with James Baldwin's own narrative regarding the need to come back to America in the late 1960's after the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Baldwin had left the United States to live in Paris, where he felt he was free to express himself and live in an environment that was not cursed with the deep seated racism that he experienced throughout his life.  It was there in Paris, where he would write and flourish while feeling that it was no longer appropriate to describe the problems of race, sexuality, and inequity in America, without being part of the solution.

He describes his return to America as "paying my dues".  His return literally meant visibly aligning himself with the civil rights movement and sharing in the sufferings of those who dared to speak up, march, protest, and give life and limb to demand human dignity and the rights inherent to that dignity.

A couple of convictions regarding social justice were confirmed in his story:

1. Effective participation in protest has a personal and public cost.
It is always tempting to advocate from afar.  Baldwin could have been content to lob critiques or launch sophisticated rebuttals to the cultural cruelties of America  while in Europe.  One could argue that it was his distance from the organized civil right movements that often allowed him to get access to the public media of his age.  In other words, he was less intimidating because of his disconnection with the movement of the ages.  While he certainly knew Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, he was not officially connected to any of their movements.  To become effective, Mr Baldwin had to come and participate, understanding and sharing the real sacrifices and burdens.

2. Community Organizers seek to develop organizations, not just a movement.
One of the fathers of community organizing, Saul Alinsky argued "Effective organization is thwarted by the desire for instant and dramatic change."  The occupy movement was just that.  A movement; a collection of people mobilized to seek change.  Movements come and go and are often prisoners to an issue.  Organizations are centered around a vision and mission and that allows the development structures that builds on success.

3. Injustice against one sector of a society is related to injustice in many other sectors.  James Baldwin was an openly gay man.  While he certainly experienced discrimination and hatred due to his sexuality, it also kept him from being readily accepted in civil rights circles.  He knew Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., but he rarely was spoken of by them.  Likewise, there were very few women in leadership in civil rights movements of the 1960's.  It wasn't because African American women didn't feel the double stings of racism and sexism, but because they were not given opportunity.  Sometimes in our best efforts to advocate against a type of injustice, we must be careful not to perpetuate multiple injustices toward others.

His life and writings are treasures that are as relevant today as they were at the time of their writing.  Pulitzer prize winning author Eric Hoffer wrote "the vigor of a mass movement stems from the propensity of its followers for united action and self-sacrifice."  I pray that those involved in protesting injustice will have the courage to carry the burden, the wisdom to organize, and compassion to be inclusive.

God bless

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Rhythm of Protest

It is important to remember that there has never been a conservative prophet.  Prophets were never made to conserve social order that stratified inequities of power, prestige, and wealth.  Prophets were always called to change them so all would have the fullest access to the best fruits of life.
--Obrey M Hendrick in "The Universe Bends Towards Justice"

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that should always pray and never give up...Learn a lesson form the unjust judge.  Even he rendered a just decision in the end.  So don't you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the Earth who have faith?
--Luke 18:1, 7-8 (NLT)

The first 6 weeks of 2017 have been remarkable in almost every sense.  The election of Donald Trump to President of the United States has literally pulled back the covers on some issues, identities and priorities that were not clear.  I think its been particularly polarizing for people of faith, where some have supported Mr. Trump and others have protested against him, his policies, and his character.  One of the positive effects of his presidency thus far has been the organization of those concerned with issues of justice to mobilize and advocate collectively for peace.

As a participant in several groups centered around justice, I want to encourage those who are already feeling tired, overwhelmed and frustrated.  A couple of thoughts

1. The work of Justice is arduous and require endurance.
Eugene Cho once asked "Is it possible that we all love compassion and justice ... until there's a personal cost to living compassionately, loving mercy, and seeking justice?".  The assumption behind the question is that there is always a personal cost to seeking justice.  The call of God that is often quoted to walk humbly, love mercy and seek justice requires sacrifice.  The agency of Justice is love, and love is clearly built upon the foundation of sacrifice and service.  In other words, the work of justice is hard, long, and WILL take a personal toll. 

2. Effective advocacy is relationally driven. 

I was once asked by a member of a church that I pastored why do I always talk about racism and sexism. (I do not really, but thats a different blog).  I responded that for me to not talk about racism is like asking a fish not to talk about water.  Since it has been my experience and the experience of those who I identify with,  Its natural.  Many people have the option to simply opt out of the discussion on issues of injustice because the issues at hand do not affect themselves, or their community.  Justice advocacy begins with identifying with the pain and the life of those being victimized.  This is the essence of Jesus' challenge in Matthew 25 when he tells his followers that whatever they have done to the most marginalized, they have done towards him.   It is imperative that advocacy work begins with  the victims of injustice, is done among victims of injustice, and is expressed in their words,  shaped by their stories.

3.  The work of Justice, like all ministry, flows with a relentless rhythm.

Jesus told his followers to relentlessly seek justice (Luke 18).  He encouraged his people not only to pray persistently, but to be the vehicle for justice (think the feeding of the 5000, using a justice or liberation hermeneutic).  We need to understand that perseverance is part of the Jesus justice strategy.

In all work, including justice advocacy, there is to be a rhythm.  Times of work launched from times of rest and contemplation.  This is the creative and the redemptive model.  A former martial arts instructor of mine used to sat "Just because you are tired and stopped fighting, doesn't mean that the fight is over".  What she was alluding towards, was the idea that the issue that we are facing often overwhelms our energy and tenacity to face it.  Justice work is long and it is better described as a former mentor frequently described it as a "relentless stream barreling toward its goal".  The movement must be flexible and adaptive but none-the-less, relentless and focused.

All that to say, rest but do not give up.  Take time to gather, meditate, contemplate, re-focus, and re-direct, but do not give up.  Work from your rest; do not simply rest from you work.

4. The prophetic ministry of shalom-making provokes a response, and too often it is negative.

Protest typically invokes a negative response from others who are happy with the status quo.  Sometimes, it is the "good people" whose idleness and indifference makes it possible for injustice to flourish.  Prophetic ministry need never apologize for the truth, but you will be misunderstood, persecuted, and marginalized.  Jesus also explained that if he was persecuted, misunderstood, and marginalized, that we could expect the same if we truly follow him.  While, we never desire to be provocative for the sole purpose of being provocative, we should expect pushback as we "share in the sufferings of Christ".  The prince of peace brings a peace that is dangerous and subversive.   Brueggeman states that the shalom that Jesus brings "overrides the expectations of our society, which awaits a peacemaker who will ensure our advantages in the world".

So I want to encourage you to keep on sharing!  Keep on protesting!  Keep on praying!  Be the voice out of the wilderness that prepares the way for the prince of peace.  Do not be afraid or intimidated to speak the truth.  Tell the stories of injustice  because "to remember truthfully is to render justice to both the victim and the perpetrator and is the first step towards reconciliation" (Miroslav Volf).  Be part of the solution and the change that you want to see.

as one of my favorite artists sang:

Advocate with:

One love, one blood, one heart, one soul and one drum, and only one rhythm
One tribe and all of us singing

God bless you all as you advance the Kingdom