This blog post is brought to you by the staff member Deth. Not to be confused with what happens when one ceases to live. My name is pronounced DATE, as in on a DATE or a double DATE or the sweet, tropical fruit DATE. I’m a newbie on the CCO staff (hired in March) and my primary responsibilities include working on the economic dignity team, developing individual donors for our economic dignity campaign, developing a new process for congregational membership and organizing clergy as relevant, prophetic voices in the community.
I’ve been thinking lately about John 1:14. It’s a pretty familiar verse. In the NRSV it reads, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
I like the Message rendering of this verse as well, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
Most of my reflections have focused on the first part of the verse. I’ve been trying to live with the idea of the Word becoming flesh and as Eugene Peterson describes, “moving into the neighborhood.” For those of you familiar with CCO’s work, you know we’ve been working on two ballot initiatives in the state of Missouri that will cap the rate that payday lenders can charge on a loan at 36% and will raise the minimum wage $1/hr to $8.25/hr.
There are 3 parts to this campaign. The first part was to obtain enough signatures across the state of Missouri to qualify the ballot. Our goal was to get 240,000 signatures across the state, and we (and our partners) turned in 350,000 signatures. We’re confident that we have enough signatures and currently are waiting on the Secretary of State to validate what we turned in. In the second phase of the campaign our goal is to register 3,000 new voters. Our third phase, which is to come, will be a massive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort that mobilizes all the people we’ve identified who are willing to vote yes on Cap the Rate and Raise the Wage.
Having been involved in the signature gathering phase and now immersing myself in the voter registration phase, I don’t have any problems admitting that this is grueling work. It’s exhausting, time-consuming, sweat-rendering, ego-deflating grunt work. There is no glory to be had and quite frankly no magic bullet to do what’s necessary to get signatures and register new voters. The only way to make any movement is to keep plugging away, finding new venues and mustering up the energy to get back out there.
And isn’t that the point, particularly for those of us who are called by faith to seek God’s justice in the world? The question becomes, how do we faithfully live our lives in response to the One who has created us? Moreover, how does that faithfulness become manifest in the world rather than just being an academic exercise that we practice in our heads?
I think part of what it means to put flesh on the bones of our faith is to find tangible ways in which we work for justice in the world. And if we are working for justice, that is attempting to change the systems that oppress and bind rather than simply do individual acts of charity, then we must immerse ourselves in those inglorious activities, which seem insurmountable and require all that we have. Have you ever seen blood, flesh and bone together? I remember when a friend broke his leg severely enough that part of his bone protruded from his skin. It was grisly and messy. I think that’s one of the implications of engaging in the work of justice: changing entrenched, oppressive systems is grueling and messy.
You know what else though? It’s the work that God compels all of us to engage in. If we are going to be more than ethereal in our faith, then we must move into those neighborhoods which are afflicted by crime, disease, poverty and racism (to name just a few examples); we must dwell in them so we can faithfully hear how God is calling us to enact our faith (bringing flesh to bone) in that context. Only then can we reflect the glory of God that is seen in the Son, inside and out that is true from start to finish.