Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stand with Jesus, Stand with the Poor

Below are remarks made by Rev. Ed Middleton during the 2011 Good Friday Walk. Rev. Middleton has been the pastor of First Community Church of Dallas, an Open and Affirming, Just Peace congregation of the United Church of Christ, for the past thirteen years. He is a North Carolina native having graduated from Gardner-Webb College and Southeastern Theological Seminary both Baptist institutions. Ed is a member of the local Jobs with Justice Worker's Rights group, board member of the English Language Ministry, and has worked with the Human Rights Campaign in Dallas. He is married to Christine Sekerke and has three daughters. Rev. Middleton will be the opening speaker in the fall Faith Voices on Justice series.

Many of you, like me, may have attended those somber Good Friday three hour marathons in which overworked and tired clergy were ask to speak on one of the seven last sayings of Christ as taken from the various gospel accounts. These past days I have remembered some of those occasions, as well as some of the sermons preached by my colleagues and me

I remember, for instance, hearing sermons on Jesus' declaration, "I thirst." It is so easy to spiritualize these words and in doing so miss the point. Similar despairing cries are heard today not from the cross, but from people around the world, in our nation, and even here in the metroplex as people thirst, but have no clean water to drink. Some of our neighbors are finding their drinking water polluted by the fracturing of the shale. Those who have been appointed to keep watch over our common welfare have apparently been bought and paid for because they are concerned only about their budgets and the welfare of business, not the health of children and adults. There are those who truly thirst, but get no satisfaction or protection from our political leaders.

Jesus, we are also told, cried out at one point as if quoting from a Psalm, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" There are also cries from brothers and sisters across the land that are feeling forsaken today because they have lost hope, having no jobs and dwindling prospects. The poor get poorer while the rich prosper and a political system is manipulated by two particular brothers and their corporate lobbyist, who look down from their high towers and mock those who suffer with vague promises about trusting in the market.

It was not God who abandoned Jesus on that cross, but those who refused to stand with him. Nor has God abandoned the poor today, but it is we who have failed to stand with them against the principalities and powers of our time.

We also read that Jesus prayed for God to forgive those who had put him on the cross because they knew not what they were doing. Let us be clear about this. We live by God's grace and depend upon God's grace, but when all is said and done, ignorance is no excuse for our moral failings. Those who are choosing to make these callous political decisions that visit hardship and suffering disproportionately upon the marginalized cannot plead ignorance before God anymore than can we. The principalities and powers may have fallen and lost their way, but we need to be working to redeem them so that justice and mercy might prevail here on earth for all of God's children. This is our work and ministry to be claimed on this day.