crossposted from As of Yet Untitled
Over the years, I’ve been a semi-regular reader of Revolution in Jesusland (now archived at http://zackexley.com/), a blog by Zack Exley. Zack was a secular progressive activist who discovered the church a few years ago and was blown away by what he describes as "the fourth great awakening", that is, the church discovering and acting on God’s heart for justice. The blog was an attempt to tell the story of this movement to secular progressives.
When I visited the blog again today after a long absence, I was introduced to his new baby daughter Esther and this powerful passage:
… one side effect of Esther’s arrival was that I had to take over some of Elizabeth’s responsibilities to friends in need. She was eight months pregnant but calls kept coming in from refugee families needing help with medical, legal, financial and paperwork emergencies. So I finally crossed the line that I had been resisting for 20 years: I started getting wrapped up in the messy details of other people’s hard lives — as opposed to "organizing" them, or advocating for "policy" to help them.
Finally getting my hands dirty in various hopeless situations stunned me into silence. What it actually did was give me TOO MUCH to say, and left me tongue tied.
For the past 20 years, I witnessed and condemned systemic injustice. I thrived on the drama of “organizing” against it. But I carefully avoided ever getting my hands dirty in the messy business of merely surviving in the face of it.
For me, the temptation to focus on the systemic injustice and to miss the personal is very real. I would prefer to simply focus on macro change: the big stuff. It’s not hard to work up a head of righteous anger reading the latest quote from the director of ICE on disappearing immigrants. But what about visiting the immigrant family down the street? To focus on either the systemic while losing site of the personal (or vice versa) is a road to unsustainability and burn out.
This is where the church comes in. As a body, Jesus calls us to live together in the tension between the personal and the political. It’s there in his very first sermon:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor(Luke 4:18)
We see at the same time the challenge to the economic and political systems (opression and economic Jubilee) and the personal connection of his healing ministry. And so we too in the church are called to engaging the powers and engaging the poor at a personal level. At Living Water I find that my relationships with people from other economic and social background are what keep me grounded and sustained for the long haul.
I’m convinced that this is the work of the church, to come together with one another in our shared, messy brokenness. And together, with the power and strenght of Jesus, to resist the systems of death that seek to dominate us.
And I guess that’s what Easter is about for me. It’s not about the lilies, though they are pretty. It’s about the delicious, impetuous audacity of the resurrection. The way Jesus walking out of the grave frees us from the fear of death that isolates us from one another and binds us to the domination system.
As David Weis says:
Christ is Risen!
WE are risen indeed!"