I was asked this week to speak to a group of students in the Presbyterian Chaplaincy at Queen’s on EBM‘s approach to social justice. Rather than speaking directly about what we do in terms of numbers and budgets and staffing etc. and amazing people with the scale of Skainos, all of which can be profoundly debilitating for people, I thought of framing the conversation with reference to some biblical texts which have become significant.
The questions provoked by these texts can be asked whatever the context.
1. Ezekiel 33:21-22 “..’the city has fallen’, so my mouth was opened and I was no longer unable to speak’
As Brueggemann points out the prophet recovers his voice when the city had fallen. This, it strikes me, is a distinctive contribution of the church, to find our voice when everyone else is struck dumb by the scale of the need.
So two questions emerge: a) where is the fallenness in my context? And, what is given to me to say into that fallenness?
2. Isaiah 58:6-7 “..Is not this the kind of fast I choose…not to turn your back on your own flesh and blood?”
The other marks of acceptable fasting are obvious, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless and so on, this is the unusual one. For us at EBM it has been a call to work with loyalism – the black sheep of the Protestant family.
And the questions, who in my setting is easier or more comfortable to ignore, who I should rightly consider my flesh and blood? And, what would it mean to be oriented towards them and not away from them?
3. Hebrews 13:12-13 “..and so Jesus suffered outside..let us go outside to him, bearing the disgrace he bore.”
So much time and effort in the church is consumed with getting onto the inside of culture, reputation, celebrity, power and we wonder why we struggle to meet Jesus? The answer is because he is outside.
The questions, who or what represents the outside in my context, association with whom would bring disgrace? And what would it look like to go there?