Our Power to be Able to Fight for Love

Matthew 11:2-5
When John heard in prison what the Anointed One was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

Luke 4:18-19
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. Yahweh 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.”

The Latin root of the word power is “to be able.”

When we wake up to this reality of “being able” we begin to see that “the norms and institutions that order this world are not inevitable but constructed—and therefore can be changed.”

Consider Jesus of Nazareth, who was “anointed” by the Spirit, the same Spirit that the prophet Isaiah spoke of so long ago. What is clear is that for Jesus, the role of sage/prophet meant more than just words and prayers. Jesus was active in the pursuit of justice and the movement of love-compassion. That meant tipping over tables in the Jerusalem temple, marching a parade of poor people and so-called sinners from town to town, and opposing the Roman legions and Religious Sanhedrin. It meant breaking Sabbath and other religious laws. It meant refusing to worship an empire or an institution. It is obvious what broke Jesus’ heart and motivated him. They were: the blind, those unable to walk, those with illness [mental, physical, spiritual], those who were impaired, those who were dead [in a metaphorical sense, in the case of how society treated them] and those who were materially poor. Add widows and abandoned children to the list, and you see a pattern. The most marginalized and vulnerable were those whom Jesus sought to free.

And therefore many [even within the tight circle of family and friends] did not like Jesus’ message and certainly disapproved of his actions. He was too radical for even his own disciples. Jesus’ words and actions did not fit into the religious structure. While Jesus certainly was non-violent, that does not mean Jesus was passive, docile, and unfeeling. For centuries, the institutional church [European in its roots] has painted Jesus as a lamb—nice, kind, non-threatening, comfortable, and oh yes—pale skin, blue or green eyes, flowing, beautiful hair.

And those images of Jesus distort the fact that the stories of Jesus in the Gospels describe a warrior-sage Jesus, a prophetic voice but also a prophetic body; a human being who felt pain, sorrow, anger, joy, even torture and death; an enlightened soul with wisdom to share with the world; a committed justice-maker who was willing to take risks and put his own life on the line for the sake of others living in unjust systems.

While I am not one for militaristic imagery at all, I am inspired by Jesus and by the words and work of the Sikh community and by Valarie Kaur, when she speaks about the mentality of being a warrior-sage in this current world. So I ask you to consider these questions:

What does it mean for us to be warriors and sages at the same time?

Who must we fight for? What are we willing to risk?

If you need another way to think about it, consider what Valarie writes:

“Think about what breaks your heart. Notice what it feels like to like to fight back. Honor that in yourself. You are alive and have something worth fighting for.”

And then ask 4 questions:

What is your kirpan [sword]? What can you use to fight on behalf of others?

What is your dhal [shield]? What can you use to protect yourself?

What is your dilruba [instrument]? What centers you?

What is your sangat [sacred community]?

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Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has worked in a variety of settings, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of Love in Action United Church of Christ, a progressive, Christian, LGBTQIA+ affirming and interfaith community in Hatboro, a suburb of Philadelphia. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 25 years regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, education, and group-building. Josh is also committed to promoting religious pluralism and partnering with people of all faiths and those who identify as atheist or agnostic to build bridges of shared values and cooperation. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia as a Fellow and a Consultant. Focus areas include: University alternative spring break and summer programs that incorporate faith encounters and service-learning for students; workplace diversity programs that promote understanding in organizations, corporations, schools, and hospital settings. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philadelphia and thinks vegan cheesesteaks are amazingly good.

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