December 19: Seeking Justice or a Guilt Washing Station?


Advent Devotion: Seeking Justice or a Guilt Washing Station?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Seeking Justice or a Guilt Washing Station?
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Sandhya Jha, the Executive Director of the Oakland Peace Center, recently noted, “If you want to know how power works in your community, ride public transit.”

I live in Marin County. I fell in love with the stunning natural beauty of this place upon first sight in 1999. To live and/or work in Marin County, having access to a personal vehicle is almost a necessity.

The ferry building in the Port of San Francisco has a plentitude of boats going to, and arriving from, Oakland and Alameda in the East Bay, Vallejo in Solano County, and Larkspur and Sausalito in Marin. However, there are no ferries between the East Bay and Marin. While there are plenty of buses traversing the Golden Gate Bridge, there is only one bus that goes from Marin into the East Bay, the 40 bus.

Some live in gated communities. I live in a moated community. Furthermore, all public transit from Marin, save the 40 bus, has one single destination, the Financial District of San Francisco. If you want to access any other part of SF, you’ll need to hop on the muni or BART.

Our lectionary for today is Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. It is telling what is skipped over from the lectionary selection – from our call to proclaim good news to the oppressed:

Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; but you shall be called priests of God, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.

It seems that our desire for justice often means that we want to continue to benefit from the exploitation of the labor of others and then pat one another on the back for offering charity. Peter Buffet, son of Warren, has called this “conscience laundering,” and at its most egregious “philanthropic colonialism.” Fortunately, Isaiah’s vision for the justice that God desires for creation unfolds further in chapter 65:

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by God— and their descendants as well.

God’s hope for us is that we, and our descendants, will live long lives enjoying the fruits of our labor. The new thing that God is doing is inviting us to imagine economics that end the exploitation of all of creation, including humanity, as resources from which to extract profit that benefits only a few.

As the world continues to struggle to turn our limited visions for justice towards the will of God, I wonder how we will author chapter 2018. Perhaps, we will find a way to examine our complicity in how our economics are killing many of us, oppressing most of us, and distorting all of us by robbing us of our dignity and sacred worth. Perhaps, we can return to the awareness that our economics need to be transformed into the oikos, house, of God.

Rev. Bentley Stewart
Director of Student Life, Disciples Seminary Foundation (DSF)
Pastor, gathering-desire
Interim Director, Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy
SFTS MDiv 2015