Thursday, March 14, 2013

Same Old Same Old

Thursday, March 14, 2013 -- Week of 4 Lent (Year One)

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 954)
Psalm        67:1-23(24-30)31-38 (morning)      //       73 (evening)
Jeremiah 22:13-23      
Romans 8:12-27      
John 6:41-51

I have an early appointment today, so I knew I wouldn't have time to write a Morning Reflection.  So I looked back, and found this from 2005:

Last week I visited with a friend whose knee problem has taken away her former livelihood as a housekeeper.  She can't get down on the floor to scrub things like bathtubs and showers anymore.  She can't carry a vacuum upstairs.  She's gone back to working as a waitress again.  She can stay on her feet all day long, she says.  It was the bending and kneeling and climbing that became impossible.  She's lost her car, but she can ride the bus.  She found a place in one of the motels on College Avenue renting for $150 a week.  She can make that in tips, she says.  She just needed the first week's rent.  Then she can get by.

Jeremiah's words today speak judgment to King Jehoiakim of Judah.  He describes the king's "spacious house with large upper rooms, ...paneling it with cedar, and painting it with vermilion."  I sit typing in my comfortable upper room study, looking out over my lovely neighborhood.  Jehoiakim, unlike his generous father King Josiah, has cut the wages of the builders and ignored the cause of the poor and needy.  Jeremiah speaks judgment upon Jehoiakim.  It is a regular theme of the Biblical prophets.  How we treat the poor and needy corresponds to how God will treat the nation.  That should give us pause.  The numbers of poor have been rising in our nation; the minimum wage has remained stagnant; in the past two years 10,000 more neighbors in NW Arkansas alone have lost access to health insurance; and several safety nets are newly threatened with budget cuts.  People working with non-profit relief organizations are strained as never before with more desperate people needing their services.

But, prophets always offer a word of hope.  "If you will change your ways..." they say, "God will bless you."  Paul today speaks in mystical tones about the hope "that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  ...For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." 

I heard that kind of hope from my friend last week as she returned to waiting tables.  "Oh, I can make it.  I'm real good at waiting tables.  I can make $80 or $100 a day in tips."  That would be enough, she believes.  That's what she's hoping for.  I just hope she doesn't get sick.  And I remember another friend who lost a job waiting tables when a rather important diner complained to the manager.  I hope that doesn't happen to her.

So I pray Paul's words for her today.  "You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption, by which we cry, 'Abba! Father!'  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ -- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him."  May those who suffer be so glorified.  May those of us who don't suffer be gracious and generous.
___

Okay.  That was 2005.  Before the huge recession hit in late 2007.  Recession always hurts the vulnerable harder.  Our homeless population has exploded in Northwest Arkansas.  It's risen every year since then, including last year.

Now it's 2013.  The stock market is at a record level.  Whatever the wealthy lost they've regained.  The economic benefits have not trickled down.  Unemployment it still remarkably high nationwide -- less so here in our corner of Arkansas.  Again, productivity has increased, but wages and benefits have been flat or declined for those who still have work. 

And Paul Ryan has just presented the same immoral budget ideas he offered last year.  More tax breaks for the rich, kick the struts out of Medicaid, make healthcare inaccessible for millions, let the poor go over the cliff, cut education, and protect defense spending.  It's a Jehoaikim budget proposal.  At a time when corporations have more ready cash then they've had in decades and when more wealth is concentrated in fewer hands than since the roaring '20's.  Make it more so, says Mr. Ryan. 

I guess he doesn't know any housekeepers or waitresses.  Makes me wish for a reincarnation of Jeremiah.


Lowell
___________



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to: http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

11 Comments:

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Barry Chitwood said...

"How we treat the poor and needy corresponds to how God will treat the nation." I find it interesting that many evangelicals believe that our perceived decline as a nation is linked to such things as prayer being banned in school, gay marriage, and legalized abortion. According to them, we are receiving God's judgment. What if we are receiving God's judgment because of political policies that have created a wide gulf between the wealthy and those who are poor? Excellent meditation, Lowell.

 
At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your thoughts and lessons, however, I think it might be prudent to leave your political views out.

 
At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Pamela Nelson said...

I believe our spiritual leaders should take a stand on politics. Also, I am in a very difficult personal and financial situation right now. I have had many people reach out to help over the last six months. I am grateful to those people, many who aren't much better off than me. I have never had to live like this and have learned a lot from the experience. I have helped many people in the past, as well. Aren't we supposed to? Thank you, Lowell, for this meditation.

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the comments. My views on a budget proposal like Mr. Ryan's have a political aspect, but they are moral and theological views much more than political views. If the bishops from Mr. Ryan's own Catholic church could condemn his budget proposals, as they did last year, so can those of us from different religious traditions.

 
At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Lesley K said...

The origin of the word "political" is "pertaining to the 'polis'" -- that is, the way that people live in community.

If a priest -- or ANYONE -- is to be prohibited from speaking about how we should live with each other, that pretty much restricts him or her to posting recipes and funny cat photos.

Not, I think, what Jesus would do ... or actually did.

 
At 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lowell,

Don't even know where to begin..there is so much here.. Do we march on Washington???? I find myself contemplating the individuals involved. Sequester (what a word!) actions on say Head Start program, a proven program, estimates are 70.000 children will no longer be eligible..think of just one family, a single working mother, finding daycare for a 3 and 4 year old, maybe having to quit a job, or work more hours, less time with her children, it is a nightmare... or one who lives on disability from cerebral palsy.. Oh my heart hurts for them!

I have pretty much concluded that those in Congress live in a bubble. How they can continue to vote against the least of these again and again is almost incomprehensible to me. They represent us - us as the 99%.. except they don't make policy with us in mind, ever!

Very frustrated for myself and any others that continue to try to live as we are nickel-ed and dime-d to despair.

And I wonder where the waitress is these eight years later.

Peace, Hope, and Blessing (because God is in all of this somewhere),
Janet

 
At 8:16 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks Janet. Your note reminds me of that amazing book "Nickel and Dimed by Barebar Ehrenerich. I wish everyone would read it.

Lowell

 
At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think we should be taking political cues from our church leadership either. As humans and Christians we should be caring for the poor and those in need. The government needs to balance it's budget. Yes there needs to be a safety net for those that need it, but it seems to me that the government is encouraging people to join the free ticket line. 2Thessalonians 3:10 "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." I think we should help them up out of poverty, not hold them down.

 
At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Lesley K said...

Dear anonymous:

Current U.S. official unemployment rate: 7.7 percent.

Effective unemployment and underemployment rate: 14.3 percent.

(source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm)

I find it hard to imagine St. Paul being so cruel as to preach the statement you quote to one out of every seven American workers. Not to mention the tens of millions who are too young, too old, or too disabled to be employed.


-- Lesley K

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you want them to balance the budget on the backs of the working poor, disabled, and? The problem is not balancing the budget, the problem is balancing the budget and not asking rich Americans who have enough to eat to not contribute, but rather to take 5% from Medicaid, and cuts to valid social programs that aid those who desperately need aid. There is no free ticket line in America. You stating that simply proves that you don't get the point. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter and listen to the stories, or volunteer at Head Start and work with the kids. Do something with someone you quote as getting a free ticket and then blog.. I challenge you.

That was a great book, Lowell, and another more timely is The Working Poor; Invisible in America.

Peace,
Janet

 
At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Janet -Of course I do not want to get a balanced budget on the backs of the poor. I know there are families out there that are hurting. But there IS a free ticket line in America. I have seen it. I personally know people in this area that have taken advantage of it. And thank you for your challenge, but I have volunteered at homeless shelters and spent my time in other means of helping the poor. I agree there are a lot of people that need our support and will get it. My point is that the current administration talks about helping the poor while at the same time is making sure the poor are forever dependent on the government. THIS IS NOT HELPING! It is a politcal move whether you choose to believe it or not. The more people dependent on the government equals more votes for the party. We need to help these people break the cycle of poverty. The church is a better source of help for those in need. We can help feed them, clothe them, encourage them to work and bring them closer to God. That is our job. The government can provide a safety net and then get out of the way.

 

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