On May 20th, the Christian Church celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the “Birthday of the Church,” in which we bring to mind our essential unity as the Body of Christ and our charge as followers of Jesus to proclaim the Good News to the world. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost equipped Jesus’ disciples to leave their locked room in Jerusalem, where they huddled in fear of arrest, and boldly preach the resurrection of Christ to the many Jews gathered for the festival from all parts of the Mediterranean world. Through the power of the Spirit they were able to speak and be understood by everyone, regardless of their native language. The Holy Spirit comes upon each of us at Baptism, enabling us to witness to our faith through our words and actions. At Confirmation, the seven gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding, prudence, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear (awe) of the Lord – help us to live our faith as mature Christians.
One of the most difficult responsibilities of the followers of Jesus is to speak out against injustice wherever it occurs, particularly when it involves structural injustice created and supported by political and socio-economic systems that privilege some groups at the expense of others. The covenant between God and the Israelites is unique in the ancient world in its emphasis on the just treatment of the poor and marginalized. Brave Old Testament prophets did not hesitate to call out sin and injustice in their societies. Consider this from the prophet Amos regarding economic injustice:
Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. (Amos 8:4-7)
The institutional Church has a vitally important responsibility to call out sin embedded in our human-created structures, particularly when it has been complicit in such sin, whether overtly or through silence. During Lent, a large group of Christian leaders in the US issued a document, “A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.” These leaders, among them our own Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, are deeply concerned about certain trends in American society, involving racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia, among other sins. These attitudes are particularly heinous when perpetrated and supported by some who consider themselves Christians, using rather tortured interpretations of Scripture that run absolutely counter to the “love command” of Jesus: “Love one another, as I have loved you,” (John 12:34). They believe it is past time for the Church to stand in prophetic witness against such sinful attitudes. This document, an expression of the “Reclaiming Jesus” movement, is an important declaration for our time and an example of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. The full document, list of signatories, and other resources are on this web site: http://reclaimingjesus.org. I urge you to make time to read and consider it carefully.
~ Rev. Anna Horen