A weekly Rector’s Notes article for May 20, 2019

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will, with God’s help.

I have been asking a lot lately for God’s help.

This final question of our baptismal covenant tasks us with what loving our neighbor looks like in real, tangible practice. It reminds us that the love of our neighbor extends to ALL of our neighbors, regardless of their station or situation. It reminds us that we have to show God’s love by striving for justice and peace, for ensuring that the very dignity of every human being is respected. And, I have been coming back to this question time and time again these past couple of weeks following the actions of our city council and the venomous responses by many in our community towards people who are currently experiencing homelessness.

First, I know I shouldn’t read the facebook comments, but the dangerously tilted public discourse found there has moved outside of those comments into effecting real public policy by elected officials who feel pressured to respond in a way that makes people satisfied, and yet, only serves to harm more and more. This community has decided through ordinance implementation and the angry shouts of many voices into echo chambers, that it is acceptable to strip away the dignity of human beings, fellow beloved children of God, because “those people” are homeless, are addicts, are poor, are uneducated, are lazy, are selfish, are not from here (as if Jesus ever said: “help each other, but only if they’re from here”). This approach that our community is taking is not solving any of the underlying problems at hand. This approach that our community is taking is not living into the life we are called to live as followers of Christ.

And, this is the hard part. As followers of Christ, as baptized believers who reaffirm our baptismal covenant every time there is a baptism among us (and at other times too!), we are called to live a different life. We are called to respect the dignity of every human being. And, when that dignity is systematically being stripped away in our own community, then we must stand up and strive for justice for those who have been marginalized, we have to strive for peace among all people in our community, finding that middle ground that creates avenues for pathways forward and enables us as a community to support one another, seeing the dignity in one another, creating space for that unending, uninhibited love of God to be known and felt deeply by all.

Here at St. Stephen’s, we have committed this year to strengthening and growing our ministries for those who are marginalized, specifically focusing on working with those who experience homelessness. This is a wonderful first step towards bringing dignity back into the conversation. But, it cannot stop here at our walls. We, as people of faith, have to have these conversations with our community in the public sphere and insure that the dignity of all people is respected, justly, peaceably. We, as people of faith, must be willing to walk the way of love, the way of Christ, and change our world, starting right here in our very own community.

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