Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The God of Dusk and Social Justice Movements

Yesterday was a low energy day.  I expected to have that kind of day a week ago, my first day back after Hawaii.  But yesterday was rougher.

There were highlights, of course.  I went over to a former colleague's house for lunch.  She made us great salads.  It was good to reconnect, to hear that life goes on after a RIF.

I got some writing done for the Living Lutheran site. I spent time in the late afternoon writing a piece about being in an Ash Wednesday frame of mind as Pentecost approaches. 

I got home feeling drained and might have gone right to bed, if not for our evening plans.  Our church is part of a multi-church group that has a justice rally every year.  It's the culminating event of our year of study of two or three justice issues chosen by the group.  We invite county leaders to meet with us and work towards a solution to problems of injustice.

In the past, we've worked on basic issues like the need for more low-cost housing, more jobs, more access to dental care.  This year, we demanded that county officials do more to save elderly people in assisted living facilities from abuse and to move towards a less punitive approach to minors who commit non-violent crimes.

For more on the theological reasons why we do this work and why I feel it is important, see this blog post on my theology blog.  Suffice it to say, some years have felt more successful than last night, and some years less.  Some years we've felt successful, only to see gains reversed.  Some years, officials seem to have hardened their hearts against us, only to reverse course later.

I like to be with a big group (over 1600 people) who give up their precious free time to come together to work for a cause greater than ourselves.  I like to be reminded that change is possible--but often not possible until ordinary people work for it.

I also like to go to worship spaces.  Last night, I was struck by the stained glass windows.

Can you make out the words?  The glass says, "May the God of dusk bring you peace."

And it happened.  I returned home to a much better sleep than the night before. 

And this morning, I see signs of rebirth all over.  Our gumbo limbo trees recently lost their leaves (it's normal), but now they're about to burst into leaf.  And an orchid which has looked dead for the better part of 9 months, now has a stalk with 7 flowers on it.  Two weeks ago, there were no flowers.

In times when I'm tired, I forget how much change can be possible in such a short amount of time.  In one day, I moved from exhaustion to exhilaration and back again.  I've seen the same in many a social justice movement too. 

The quest for justice is so fluid, gains one year, setbacks the next--it's one aspect about social justice movements that I was never taught.  In school, it seems like a straight line from injustice through the struggle to a more just world.

It wasn't until much later that I realized that those sweeping changes were started with small, halting steps.  I suspect that most changes that lead the world to a more socially just place begin with tiny steps stepped by people who aren't entirely sure what they're doing or where they're going.

Back in the 80's, when we gathered to pray for South Africa, we had no way of knowing that Nelson Mandela would soon be free, and then be elected president. We had reason to be despairing and cynical. I would have predicted civil war, not freedom.

That stained glass window and its blessing makes sense on more level than just the literal.  Most people I know think of God in terms of bright, shining light.  But a God of dusk makes sense too.

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