Life on the Margins: Defending the Poor
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners; ~ Isaiah 61:1
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. ~ Luke 4:18-19
The church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being . . . a defender of the rights of the poor . . . a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society . . . that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history. ~Oscar Romero
After this baptism and his testing in the desert in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus returned to his hometown in Nazareth to begin his ministry. These were the very first words he spoke - paraphrasing the prophet Isaiah - and after he spoke them, he said that these words had been fulfilled in their hearing. HE had fulfilled these words
At first there was some excitement about the hometown boy who seemed to have made good. Excitement and some disbelief.
But as Jesus turned these words into a sermon of openness in the Kingdom of God, the crowd turned against him. They wanted him to tell them good things about themselves, not remind them of how God cares for outsiders.
Things got so bad that they tried to throw him off a cliff!
And in the 2000 years since, priests, pastors, deacons, and other leaders have also sometimes found themselves out of favor from congregations, communities, and/or government leaders who aren't fond of the words they hear preached. Some, in fact, like Archbishop Oscar Romero, found themselves not being as fortunate as Jesus in this scenario. Oscar Romero was gunned down in El Salvador while he celebrated mass. His words of liberation for the poor and oppressed led to powerful forces in the government wanting him dead.
But Romero took these words from Jesus took heart. And in the ELCA and other denominations, priests, bishops, preachers, pastors and deacons are charged with taking them to heart as well. As part of our ordination promises in the ELCA, we are called to advocate for the poor and marginalized.
Sometimes that doesn't go over so well. Maybe not enough to get us thrown off a cliff, but....
Deeply embedded in our Christian faith is a call to advocate for the poor. It was important enough to Jesus to begin his ministry with words to that effect.
Question for thought: Has there ever been a time you've felt God calling you to speak out for the poor in a time and place that didn't go over so well?
Pray: Ask God to give you courage to speak out for the poor and oppressed.