06 March, 2017

For Such a Time as This

We are living in a difficult time in our world where historically stable nations are choosing leaders who are surround themselves with inexperienced and unstable advisors and administrators who appear to lack a genuine interest in the people they serve. This is a time in the life of our own country where we seem to have more interest in serving the two percent than the ninety-eight percent of our own population. When this happens, it's easy for us to forget our covenantal obligations that our own Christian gospel requires of us. As Paul has written,"...When one person suffers, we all suffer. When one person rejoices, we all rejoice..."1 Corinthians 12:26.

In such a time as this, it is all the more important for the church to be present and engaged in the world. We must be a voice in the wilderness, a balm healing, and we must take to heart the words of the prophets and the apostle to be present with the marginal, the rejected, the stranger, and the alien. This is sacred duty that is guided, not by profits or bottom lines, but by compassion, empathy, and acceptance of all. This is the vision of First Congregational Church. 

On Sunday, March 26th, we'll have another opportunity to live into our vision by sharing our gifts for One Great Hour of Sharing. When someone you care about suffers, all your truest words and most loving actions must declare: "I am here!"

The Bible tells us that God is like us in this respect. When one of God's beloved children suffer, God declares, 'I am here.' God hears the cries of the poor and oppressed. The scriptures remind us that we must live our lives in such a way that people know that 'God is here!' God is here in our actions, in our words, in our ministry, and in our worship. The promise, 'I am here!' is a constant refrain from Genesis to Revelation.

When we see the latest tragedy on the news, we might ask, 'where is God?' But we already know the answer before we ask the question - the answer - God is here, in the midst of those who are hurting. When Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, God reveals to us a mystery. God is most tangibly present in this world where people hunger, thirst, lack adequate clothing and shelter, or is sick and/or imprisoned. Christ cares for the suffering. God is present when we feed the hungry, care for the sick, or welcome the stranger. When we care for the least of these, we care for Christ.  

We are living in a difficult time and we need to be present, anywhere in the world, including our own cities and neighborhoods. For those who are suffering, those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, or those who are imprisoned are not people over there or in another place, they are people right here in Chicago, in the suburbs or along the highways and byways of the state that is our home. 

We need to be the tangible gifts that declare the same message as God declares: 'I am here.' By reaching out in this way, we let God's people know that they have not been forgotten. Even when the need seems far from here, by acting together as the body of Christ, we are able to declare, 'I am here! God is here!' Through our special gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing we proclaim a countercultural message that while some may have forgotten you, we, as caring, loving, disciples of Jesus Christ have not. Let us be present with all God's people so that one day we can rejoice together!

Reaching out with joy and compassion!

01 March, 2017

Fair and Living Wages: A Justice Issue

Scripture teaches us that each person is created in the image of God; we have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters - especially those who are working hard to keep their heads above water.
Common sense tells us that all human beings get sick. But if a person is forced to work when they are sick due to fear they will lose their job or they will not be able to pay their rent, it diminishes their humanity and puts the public health at risk.
Our faith teaches us to share in the abundance of creation, and that all workers are to receive an honest wage for an honest day's work.  In La Grange, the average family income is seven times greater than a minimum wage earner in La Grange. Should we not share our abundance with hard working people?
I am concerned about a local movement that would exclude the businesses in La Grange from the Cook County Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Days ordinances -- and any future regional ordinances dealing with the same issues.  There has been very little publicity about this ordinance which will be voted on by the Village Trustees on March 13. Why would La Grange want to be known as a village that takes away rights from workers, the very people who help to make our village so enjoyable?  
Will we choose profits or justice for hard working neighbors?  Will some have to choose between putting food on the table or a roof over their heads and their jobs? Will a local employee be forced to choose between staying home with a sick child or with the flu and paying their bills?  To ask our brothers and sisters to make such a choice is unfair to those who serve us food, who decorate and clean village streets, and who take care of our children.  I don't want La Grange to be known for our lack of caring for everyone. Will you help to keep this from happening?
I'm putting on my Prophetic Cap and calling upon my sisters and brothers in faith to do the same. Will you join me in this struggle for justice? Will you make a stand for the Realm of God?
You can help in three ways:
  1. I invite you to join a postcard campaign. There will be postcards available in the Founder's Room and in the back of the Sanctuary to write to the Trustees and voice your opinion of this ordinance. These will be presented to the Trustees at the meeting on March 13.
  2. Contact each of the village Trustees and voice your opinions about this ordinance, and ask each where he stands on the issue. (Maybe remind him that there is an election on April 4).  A list of the Trustees and their contact information available here.
  3. Join us as we gather to organize before the Village Trustees meeting.  We will gather at 6:30 at First Congregational Church of La Grange. We will walk together to the Village Hall for the meeting. 
Lenten Blessings,