Wednesday, June 20, 2018

223rd General Assembly - Day Four

Today was the second day of committee work, but the power was at the Bible Study which began the day, and the Public Witness on the streets of St. Louis and on the steps of the St. Louis Court house in the heat of the afternoon.

New Testament scholar Raj Nadella, professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary where Leanne VanDyk is president, led the Assembly in a Bible Study entitled "Imperial Paradox and the Kin-dom of God in Matthew's Gospel."  He explored several stories:  a deathly birthday banquet where John the Baptist was beheaded, and Jesus' encounter with the Canaanite Woman in 15:21-28, where the Canaanite woman moves past the zero-sum worldview and stretches the kin-dom family to include the foreigner/enemy.  Matthew's Gospel shows us how Jesus stood against the Roman Empire and occupation where the Roman elite lived in opulence and peace at the expense of the conquered people living at the margins of the empire.  A few elite lived blessed opulence at the expense of the masses.  Matthew sandwiches this story of an enemy seeking to eat the crumbs under the table, while Jesus fed the thousands in the wilderness before and after her appeal.  A fresh reading of Matthew's gospel shows how "Jesus' acts of kin-dom undermines borders, redefines community, and challenges Rome's oppressive economic structures--which ultimately got him killed."
"Kingdom is defined by greed, competition, oppression and violence and it closes borders to anyone who looks different from us and separates kids from parents in the name of keeping us safe.  In Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz's definition, Kin-dom is about love, compassion, mutuality, and solidarity.  It makes you cross dangerous borders for the sake of the very other.  Kin-dom makes neighbors of enemies and of people who look and think very different from us...Reading the Bible is somewhat like reading American history or like reading the history of Presbyterians.  We get to read about the times when we Presbyterians stood up for what was right, about times when we were ambivalent about justice, but also about times when we were too timid to speak up for the oppressed.   Our job as Christians is to grapple with the difficult parts in the Bible and in our history, ponder the mysterious, and build upon the liberative aspects."

"What does Kin-dom building today in America entail he asked?  Cross borders-literal and metaphorical--and make neighbors of people who look and think differently than us.  Advocate for the immigrants and refugees as we would fight for our own siblings, children or parents. Leverage your privilege wherever you need to.  Get on the phone and be persistent; act like the nasty Canaanite woman.  Expose the American imperial paradox."

Then after some committee work, at 3 o'clock in the heat of the day, the Assembly took to the streets of St. Louis and marched to the Court House and delivered $47,000 bail money for the release of the untried prisoners held for misdemeanor offense charges, who can not afford bail.  End the cash bail system which unjustly oppresses the poor.

This is a most powerful Assembly.  It was a most powerful day.  None of us will return home quite the same persons. 

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