life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

My Photo
Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

justice and mercy and the kingdom of God...

Well, I received what might be good news about the insurance situation last night. Maybe. Evidently, someone along the line gave an additional diagnosis code which is not covered (and which my daughter does not have) and that has held up the entire works. It is still not resolved, but at least there is some hope that resolution is possible. The insurance company hates like thunder to allow changes in diagnosis code, but this appears to be a clerical error. I hope. This has been very scary and very frustrating for me. It represents a very large sum of money (to me at least—one-third of my annual gross salary). Having said that, when I look at the images and hear the voices of those from New Orleans and Gulfport and Biloxi and Mobile and other devastated cities/areas on the Gulf Coast, my problem is a pimple compared to that full-blown stroke.

I would point you this morning to Larry James’ post of two days ago (see my “Links” in the left-hand column). He has made me think about how many of those who are really suffering there were already near or below the poverty line. I also heard in yesterday’s news that we added another 1.1 million people nationally to the poverty rolls last year. Yet the rich get richer. Personally, I don’t think God is happy about this.

If you are like me, you probably sat in front of your television when Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans and wondered out loud about why people were staying. I am sure that the word “idiot” and other words perhaps a bit stronger were used by some of us.

Consider this (as Larry James points out). Some of them had no transportation, nowhere to go, no one to stay with, no money with which to rent a motel room or pay for food. Nada. Hard for some of us who are well-provided for to comprehend. That we can’t is even more scary than my insurance fiasco. True?

I’ve also watched the scenes of looting. Have you noticed how many folks are stealing diapers? People are also grabbing food off of shelves. I’m not trying to defend looting. But I would point out that there are no neighborhood stores where these people can get the supplies they need to survive right now. And relief efforts are being hampered by all the flooding.

Of course, some of the looting comes from hooligans. But still. It’s something to think about.

On the suture zone, the church is going to have to reexamine how it engages (and serves) those in poverty. Part of the in-breaking kingdom of God involves good news to the poor. In the words of an old His Players vignette that echoes a passage in James, that doesn’t mean patting a needy little girl on the head and saying, “Be warmed and filled little girl.”

The real question is to respond to the poor in a way that is transforming for them... and for us. “Oh, trysting place where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet,” is the line from the old hymn. It speaks of the cross in more juridical terms. But I would suggest that the kingdom continues to break in at the meeting place of justice and mercy. That goes for the poor, the sick, those who are enslaved, prisoners, the desperate, the widows and orphans, the hungry and thirsty.... You get the idea.

How the church engages the poor and disenfranchised is a measure of how much it resembles (or doesn’t resemble) its avowed Lord.

Sobering. Much to chew on. I wish you good chewing!

Grace and peace,



Blogger Tones said...

It seems to me that we seperate the poor into a few categories: those who are poor and wouldn't be if given the right break, those who are poor and will remain so because of some outside force (mental illness, etc.), and those who are poor and make choices that keep them that way.

Often our response is to help someone as long as they fit into the first category. When they fit the second we send them to "professional help", and if they fit the third we quit helping them and call it "tough love".

I don't know if this is right or not, it's simply my observation. I frankly have no idea how to begin to work on this problem. Maybe the categorizing creates more confusion than clarity. I'm particularly confused on how to help those who are clearly just "working the system". Is it our responsibility to judge how they use help? Is that responsible stewardship? Are we called to love people despite their reaction?


11:57 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home