Tag Archives: Privilege

Oneness Not Oppression

Living in the Spirit
July 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 45:10-17

Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;
   forget your people and your father’s house,
   and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him;
   the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
   the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. –Psalm 45:10-13

My first inclination was to skip this scripture. It reeks of centuries of oppression of women worthy only regarding how they enhance their husband. In this case, the future husband is also the king. Heady stuff for a beautiful young woman, the right woman with the right cunning can and has taken full advantage of the role. The legendary Queen of Sheba stands as a positive role model. On the negative side, we have Delilah and Jezzabel. How does one rise above oppression? How does one avoid letting oppression cultivate evil?

Michelle Obama said it well, “When they go low; we go high.” Of course, that responds not only applies to women’s issues but all our actions as followers of Christ. Therein lies the solution. Paul said it this way; There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Of course, that is a lot easier said than done. Generations of cultural norms intertwine with our rapidly changing world. What do we keep and cherish? What do we kick to the curb? More difficult, how do we find the oneness to which Christ calls us in dealing with such issues?

My fall back always seems to be from another Psalm.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51:10-11)

We need to allow God’s grace to cleanse our hearts and minds and rid us of the clutter that keeps us from being one with each other and with God.

Prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.  Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Change to Do Justice

Epiphany
February 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:13-20

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:17-20

Remember your mother saying, “How many times do I have to say this to you?” Children test everything as they learn and grow. Adults do too. It is amazing how often the prophets over hundreds of years, said the same thing repeatedly because it was not what the audience wanted to hear. Jesus is saying that in the scripture above. His message was not new and people do not change readily.

What is right? What is just? I remember in classes being presented with moral problems and debating things like who do you save from a burning building or sinking ship. Upper class women and children were the first saved when the Titanic went down. More people in the third-class section were lost. Perhaps these deaths were the result of where they were located on the ship but does having enough money to afford a better placement equal justice?

Think of a time when you realized that something you had believed was just wrong and you stopped believing it and changed your behavior accordingly. How hard was it to change? What helped you to develop new habits and what hindered your changing? What do you do now that you know deep in your heart is wrong? Are you willing to take a chance and change?

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy enable me to see your justice and to do it. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Privilege and Prejudice

father-forgive-themLiving in the Spirit
November 19, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ –Luke 23:33-38

I started to begin this thought with the phrase “Professional women over the centuries dealt and deal today with people who do not know what they are doing.” I then realized that the phrase “Professional women” bears a totally different connotation than I intend. Many might think of purveyors of the euphemistically called “oldest profession.” The state of women remains a step behind in many jobs and many places. They still are treated by some as objects of personal pleasure. In the USA women receive 80% of the salaries men receive for the same work. In Oklahoma, they receive 73%*.

When I read the scripture above, I remember working for or with men with much less experience and education promoted over me who did not have a clue about doing the actual work required. My women coworkers and I would joke about the guys earning the salary and our doing the work. It wasn’t funny.

Jesus’ death on that cross frees us to be fully the people God created us to be as we work to fulfill his call for a just world. It also liberates us from hiding behind the ignorance of privilege and prejudice. We can no longer claim we know not what we do.

Prayer: Lord, turn us around, open our eyes, write your message on our hearts, free us once again from allowing greed, lust for power, and self-righteousness drive our lives. Makes us doers of justice. Amen.

*http://www.aauw.org/files/2016/09/the-simple-truth-figure-2-v2.jpg

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

God’s Privilege

health-careLiving in the Spirit
October 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:11-19

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’ –Luke 17:15-19

What do we take for granted? Much, I fear. The availability of health care is one thing we probably should not be taking for granted. In rural Oklahoma, the actual accessibility of health care is threatened. Three major rural hospitals have closed in the last year because of lack of funding. The debate of whether health care is a right or a privilege ends at the doors of a closed hospital forcing families to travels many more miles to have a baby or an appendectomy. Whether people can afford the health care they need is another issue to consider.

There are good, selfish reasons for assuring health care for all. Preventing people from dying in the streets of communicable disease would be one. Jesus modeled a different vision. The model includes wholeness for all of God’s children. Such wholeness is a necessity to the attainment of the kingdom Jesus champions.

Our scripture today illustrates the wisdom of seeing the world through objective eyes. A Samaritan was the one leper who knew his healing was a privilege and returned to give thanks for it. What we must understand is that God’s privileges are for everyone and we are not to take them for granted for ourselves at the expense of others.

Prayer: God of Justice, we confess it is very hard to see the world from your vantage. Help us to understand our role in making your model of life our reality. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Living in the Spirit
October 2, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:5-10

‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!”’ –Luke 17:7-10

Harsh words attributed to Jesus make me uncomfortable, particularly when read in a world trying to deal with the concept of privilege. Albeit, these are true words reported by an astute student of human interactions. While slavery still exists in some forms in our world today as in the sex trade phenomena, slavery is illegal in our country, and we are 150+ years from its being legal. Today classism is indirect in most cases, which makes it a different kind of insidious—gradually harmful, destructive.

I sometimes wonder how people see the world so very differently than I do. Working for 35+ years in human services systems leaves its impact. The US government essentially eliminated welfare with a check sent every month in the 1990’s. It morphed to thousands of people forced to work at one or more low-paying jobs with few if any benefits. Many of these workers receive SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and child care subsidies, which are supplements to the low wages not charity or a handout. The people caught in this system are very much the same as those described in our scripture today worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done. The people paying for these supplements are the poor through fees and finds and sales taxes, and the middle class who are not able to take advantage of the same tax deductions as the wealthy.

We are called to do justice by Jesus, called to create a world where all have3 the opportunity to have enough. For a start, we might try to see the people working in these low-wage jobs as our brothers and sisters in Christ held equal in God’s love.

Prayer: God of Justice, help us work to create a world of “haves” where no one is designated as worthless. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Comfort Zones

CircleLiving in the Spirit
June 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 7:36-8:3

Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ –Luke 7:43-50

I am a horrible card-sender. I currently have two get well cards and a birthday card for the same good friend, not yet sent. I mean well, but apparently not well enough to act. It is not because I did not have a good example. I had the very best example. My mother’s final ministry after she was ninety, primarily consisted of prayer for others and sending cards and notes of encouragement.

What I understand from our scripture today is the woman being condemned was very good at doing the little things that demonstrate compassion and love. I do not think the scripture is suggesting that one must sin greatly to have a closer relationship with God. I think it is saying that perhaps one who has knowledge of their separation from God has a greater appreciation for grace and knows how much a simple act of love can mean when love has not been otherwise forthcoming.

Some of us are experiencing much needed internal conflict dealing with the whole idea that we might be privileged in some way. We think our place in the world, in culture, and in class distinctions is normal and we do not get what this fuss of equality is all about. God is stirring our consciousness to see the world from the vantage point of others upon whom our status of privilege is stacked. It is not an even pyramid. If it were, I think it might be easier to see. There are varying combinations of race and class, gender and race, class and gender and other categories that can be rated in hierarchies of privilege. It is incumbent upon each of us to gain knowledge about how our comfort zones may be separating us from God and let our lives reflect what we have learned.

Prayer: Lord, broaden our awareness of the world about us and enable that widening circle to be reflected in our love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Privilege

PrivLiving in the Spirit
May 18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 8

What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all things under their feet,
All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes along the paths of the sea. –Psalm 8:4-8

It is painful to see how we as human beings treat each other. I suppose we are all guilty of harming the wholeness of another human at one time or another. I do not know why. Perhaps we think if we make someone else feel less whole, we will feel more whole. Actually relationships work exactly the opposite of that sentiment. When we work at building up another, we experience growth in maturity.

Those of us who find ourselves in the classification of the privileged have a particularly difficult challenge because we do not recognize the advantages that we have in life. They are our norm. Thus when we see something that impacts the “other” in our lives we do not get why they think our privilege is a problem.

Our Psalm today tells us that in God’s eyes all human beings are privileged to be acknowledged by God and given responsibility by God. We are called to share in God’s opinion of all human beings and even to render proper care for all the creatures of the earth as God cares for us.

Prayer: Lord, help me see the privilege in my life and help me to rectify any harm I may bring to others as a result of it. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Wisdom at the Crossroads

stand-at-the-crossroads-1024x791Living in the Spirit
May 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
Beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
To you, O People, I call, and my cry is to all that live. –Proverbs 8:1-4

If we reach down deep inside, most of us know what is right and what is not. We in the USA do stand at a great crossroad between doing what is right or doing what is expedient to meeting our desires. We have lived too long settling for the lesser gods of instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now without regard to who may get hurt including ourselves. We also want what we want without having to pay for it in many instances. We want well educated people to keep making all those things we want but we do not want to pay for the education. We do not want our environment to make us sick or destroy our homes, but we do not want to invest our time and energy in creating a world that reduces the risk of environmental damage. We do not want to deal with the health problems of third world countries but when we finally have a health care system that is available only to the wealthiest that is exactly what we will have. We do not want to live in fear of crime or terrorism. . . .and so on it goes.

We have become addicted to greed and privilege and we either do not know how to escape their grasps or are so far gone we do not want to escape it. Wisdom does stand at the crossroads readily available for accessing. There are no quick fixes. There is no white knight going to ride in, wave a magic wane, and get us out of this mess. We have only ourselves to blame for being at this intersection and we, ourselves, will have to take the steps necessary to get us out.

I, probably like you, do not look forward to six more months of political campaigning but who we put into office matters. Will our desire for instant gratification override wisdom in our decision making?

Prayer: Lord, open our minds to your wisdom. Infuse us with wholeness enabling us to see wisdom at the crossroads. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Children of the One True God

privilegeAdvent
December 19, 2014

Scripture Reading: Romans 16:25-27

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen. —Romans 16:25-27

What must it have been like on that road to Damascus when the light suddenly dawned on Saul that all people were the one true God’s children? He said it himself that he had been as good a Jew as anyone could have been. He followed all the rules, did all the right things unlike those heretics who were followers of the now dead man called Jesus. They were even saying this prophet was the long awaited anointed one, the Messiah. Could such a one come out of Nazareth? The impact of this Damascus road experience was so dramatic that Saul even changed to using his Roman name, Paul. He had become a new creation and led the way to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

It is ironic today that we, who call ourselves Christians, are being challenged to welcome this same truth that all people are the one true God’s children and we are to love them. Those of us who find ourselves living in what can only be considered privilege by much of the rest of the world’s standards are so used to that status that we take it for granted and, perhaps, even innately believe that for some reason we are more deserving than these others.

Yesterday I accompanied another member of my Sunday school class in delivering Christmas presents to a young single mother with two children, one of whom is tutored by a member of our class. The mother was, I think, a little overwhelmed, but very gracious. After we left I could not help but long for a world where she had the resources to provide for her own family. Where she could earn a living wage, her children could excel at school, and our knowing one another would be based on mutual friendship as children of the one true God. I have no problem with meeting immediate and remedial needs of people, but we are called to take the next step and assure that those needs are not the result of economic injustice. Is that not the light this baby Jesus brings to us today?

Prayer: God of all, shine your light on us. Open our eyes to see the world as you would have it be and show us the ways we can work to make that reality. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.