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Life Together: The Diomass Intern Program

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Hope Moves Into Action

This post was contributed by Relational Evangelist Kelsey Rice Bogdan. 

Seven months ago, as the long-delayed summer of 2009 finally brought Boston the hot and humid days for which summers in Boston are known, a group of enthusiastic, hopeful interns gathered in the undercroft at Trinity Church, Boston for training in community organizing. Both Trinity’s undercroft and community organizing were unfamiliar to me then, but would later become central to my day-to-day life. And while it took me months to fully understand some of the skills and strategies we learned in those warm August days in Trinity’s basement, one thing was clear—on April 10, 2010, we eight community organizers were to bring 500 people to an event that would signal their commitment to economic justice and the overall impact of our campaign.

So it was fitting that on April 10, we would once again start the day in the undercroft at Trinity Church, this time to welcome hundreds of people to our celebration and action on Copley Square in the heart of Boston. The cold winter days between August and April had been full of small victories—young adults growing in their leadership capacity, congregations revitalized by the energy and passion of their younger members, greater awareness of the entrenched, systemic economic inequalities in our city. There had also been struggle and frustration. But on April 10, a pervading sense of hope eclipsed all of that. As the sun shined down and signs of returning life surrounded us in Copley Square on Saturday, I felt hope that perhaps we could address the injustices in our city. Hope that people really did care about standing in solidarity with those in need. Hope that God really is at work in our efforts.

And for me and my colleagues in the Relational Evangelism Pilot Project, hope that this event would be a successful end to the task our leaders—Rev. Arrington Chambliss, Kate Hilton, Jason Long, and others—had handed us back on those humid training days in August. But no sooner had our Trinity community made its decision to support adult learners in Villa Victoria through academic coaching than people began approaching me to ask, “What’s next? What are we going to do now? When will we meet again?” I realized then that April 10, far from being the end of the Hope in Action campaign, was really just a transition into another phase. On April 10, we did celebrate the close of one chapter, but we started another as well. Our Hope in Action event signaled a shift from hope into action, talking into doing.

What Saturday taught me is that justice isn’t like the term paper I wrote about mentoring last year, or the development consulting work I did for a faith-based nonprofit a few years back. Those were finite projects, tasks that I could finish and move on. The struggle for justice, on the other hand, has no starting and ending date, no term paper to signal that you’ve completed it and can take on the next challenge. The work for justice keeps drawing us further and deeper, into more complex challenges and new understandings. It constantly draws us into action, reflection, and further action based on that reflection. It is a lifetime pursuit.

In this, justice work parallels the journey of faith. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we rarely “solve” the great questions about God and move on. We sit with them, wrestle with them, live into them. We are always searching for God, but what we end up finding is ourselves—our vocation, our purpose, our way of acting in the world as a response to God’s love. And if justice is one of the characteristics of God, one of the realities God desires for the world, then it makes sense that justice won’t be complete on April 10 or any other day. We will work, learn, and grow in the pursuit of justice until the day when God makes all things new.

So for me and my fellow Relational Evangelists, it’s time to get back to work and begin converting all that hope of the past seven months into action. We are only just beginning!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Letter to Judas Iscariot

 This post was contributed by Caroline Hunter in response to Matthew 16:47-27:6.

Dear Judas Iscariot,
     If only you had never repented, you wouldn't have had to hang yourself. You wouldn't have been advised to carry out self-retribution by those whose protection enabled your sin. Your wouldn't have felt the weight of your soul-friend's heart as he learned that you had left him alone to face violent crowds.
     Judas, your worst sin was not when you betrayed Jesus to the authorities, but that you did it with a heart that was still half-living. How dare you invite others into your life when it contained such corrosion? Why didn't you live alone, with no friends, no goals, no political connections with which to kill those whom you claimed to love? If you hadn't betrayed Jesus, somebody else might have, but it didn't have to be you!
     You, who said "Not I, Lord?" in the company of all the disciples, who had learned of a new way to live with your humanity and without violence, who had been a source of hope and joy for others. You gave yourself to darkness before another person had the chance to be born as light into your life.
      What made you believe that Jesus was an obstacle to your safety, to a life of kindness to yourself? What weird visions did you see as the threat of death began to dance circles around you? Did you accidentally stumble away from yourself before waking up in horror and repentance? Was there a part of you saying in tears all along, "Not I, Lord?"
       I cannot imagine the moment you realized that your betrayal had been neither necessary nor something for which there was a place in Jesus' Kingdom of God. I think of my own failures in faith: I believe that my future will be dark and strange even though my Father has promised to guide me; I see people as what they hold against me instead of for the kindness they have to offer; I refuse to look at myself in the mirror in order not to see my unashamed enthusiasm for life. I find comfort in burying my sins alone rather than admitting them to an unknown authority.  I plot against Jesus' life with you, Judas, so that I won't have to open my heart to a world that has unconsciously torn me apart so many times.
       Judas Iscariot, show me how it is good to repent. Show me how to keep looking for my Father in life and in death. Will you help  me when I come to see all of the life I could have saved by believing? Let me not wonder with you, "Where have I gone?" Save me, as Jesus must have saved that part of you still saying "Not I?" after your body had died hanging from a noose. Let me be human, rather than an artificially preserved soul in a sterile, modern world. Judas, give me courage to love this fleeting, imperfect life.

Caroline Hunter

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