Friday, October 19, 2012

October 14, 2012 - Reflection by David

Twentieth Sunday of Pentecost

 Scripture: Mark 10:17-31
Since Nolan Gingrich, the Lutheran Pastor at Ascension Lutheran, broke his ankle in August and tore some ligaments, we haven't been hiking together. What we've continued to do these past few Fridays since the beginning of September is to drive high up into the mountains, take out our lawn chairs and sit, enjoy the view and talk about our lives. We always talked about our lives when we were hiking or skiing, but this time has been different as Nolan copes with the aftermath of an accident. These past couple of weeks, we've been able to walk a bit as Nolan's foot and ankle heal. We talk about our children. We talk about the Church. We talk about what gives us meaning and what challenges us.
This past Friday, as we walked a bit on a logging road with a commanding view of Mount Gladstone over by Christina Lake, and then sat and ate our lunches, we talked about what gives meaning to our lives. It was as if we were the rich person who'd come to Jesus and wanted to know what to do to inherit eternal life. In essence, this story is a question about what gives our lives meaning. We both reflected on our questions and the possible questions that rich person must have had. What is it about life that we find fulfilling?
Is it about having wealth and riches that enable us to do what we want when we want? The lottery commercials that are all around us seem to suggest that life is about having money and being able to do what we want when we want, like playing hide and seek with power boats and helicopters. Or watching a sunrise and having breakfast brought to the mountain top by helicopter. Or buying your own island and isolating yourself from the world.
Jesus would suggest that it isn't wealth that gives us meaning and purpose. Jesus suggested that the wealth and allure of riches can grab control of us and use us for some purpose beyond our comprehension; rather, I think as Jesus suggested, it is about using our wealth, which we can measure in many, many ways, as a means to a better end for our world, our families and ourselves. 
Is a fulfilling life about having power? Take as an example of using power in the wrong way the story of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank. Prime Minister Hasina seems bent on destroying the bank, which gives loans to poverty-stricken women and has made loans to 135 million borrowers to enable them to become self-employed. The Prime Minister has already fired the Nobel Prize for Economics winner Professor Muhammed Yunnus. Yunnus won the Nobel prize for his micro-lending research and activism, for advocating loans to the poor, and enabling the poor to have a voice on the bank board of directors; the Grameen Bank has helped millions of people climb out of poverty. The Prime Minister seems to want to employ western banking methods because she wants a measure of control over the bank, which has been a shining example to the world of empowering poverty-stricken women in particular to make a life for themselves. What is that about?! 
Or closer to home, bullying is a use of a power to hurt and demean others. What possesses people to bully others when it is so obvious that they are hurting. The death of Amanda Todd has bothered me greatly; and the bullying still continues even after her death! What is that about?! What is the answer to the prevention of bullying? How is bullying linked to the messages that are so prevalent in our world about power and manipulation, the messages that teachers and educators, and religious leaders and some politicians having been trying to combat for generations? And we still need to combat these messages that suggest a lone-ranger, power over, peer-pressured bias against those perceived to be weaker is OK. It is NOT OK! 
Jesus would suggest that power used to disempower people or to bully people is an abuse of power and is a corruption of the idea that power is to be shared and exercised in cooperation with others in a way that gives life. Do we allow power to corrupt us and then sway us to hang on to power at all costs? Do we use power to manipulate others to our ends? 
Perhaps a use of one's personal power to make change is the example of the 14 year old young woman from Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by fundamentalist Taliban extremists for simply going to school, blogging about her dreams, and speaking out against the violence of extremism. This young woman was spurred on by her father who was a teacher advocating for the education of all children, including girls, and was a progressive thinker in the region. This young woman courageously spoke her truth to the world around her and is a shining example of using one's personal power to create change. We pray for her recovery and a growing call to fundamentalists to learn, to grow and to change.
There is the example of an Indian economics professor, Anil Gupta, who has been supporting the sharing of ideas and innovations among poor Indian farmers; these poor farmers have been creatively using things around them to help on their farms—common, every day things to help with common, ever day problems. Professor Gupta has helped them see the value in their innovations and has helped to create a network, mostly relying on personal contact rather than the internet or other communications means, to share their ideas and support each other. 
What gives our lives meaning and passion? The genius of the gospel is that it invites us to share our passions and ideas in our life's work. The gospel invites us to share our power together in supporting one another, in loving our neighbour as ourselves. The gospel invites us to not be controlled by power and wealth, but to use these as tools to create life and share life with others deeply and purposefully. The gospel invites us to turn away from those practices in our own lives that deny life. 
Locally, we have worked at reducing bullying in schools although bullying still exits; the take back the night campaign aimed at making the streets safe for all people. The safe spaces program identified safe places to go when one feels threatened here in Nelson.
The gospel points to—Jesus points to—the fact that we weren't meant to live in isolation—that we are meant to live in loving relationship. The gospel calls us to serve one another in love; the gospel calls us to be creative in sharing our resources in micro-lending practices perhaps, in speaking out in the midst of tyranny, in getting people to share their ideas of innovation, in examining the root causes of bullying and bigotry, in creating safe spaces for all to thrive. The gospel calls us to be involved in shifting from mere charity to justice, which is about creating new relationships and deepening existing relationships, which is about walking together in seeking the passion and deep meaning of our lives where all can thrive. 
This Scripture passage from Mark is one of those passages that invites us to be co-creators with God in the re-imagining of our world. With God nothing is impossible. But we humans play a vital role in making the impossible possible. With God peace is possible. With God, the education of young women in Pakistan and Afghanistan is possible. With God, bullying can come to an end and we can relate empathetically and compassionately with one another. With God, justice will roar down like a mighty river and righteousness like a never ending source of water and life. With God, as we act in cooperation together, life will be celebrated and it will be good!! 
Let the people say... "Amen."

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