Dear Friends in Christ,
As we tell the story of God coming among us in human flesh once again, we can point to parallel contemporary realities. In San Diego alone, more than 9,000 have been told repeatedly there is no room in the inn. A few hundred have glimmers of hope as tents and camping spaces are set up along with increased help to find permanent housing, yet more than 90% will not find a space in a tent, apartment, or inn.
The housing crisis is paralleled by food insecurity across this country. While we’ve made global progress in reducing the worst of the world’s poverty, more than half of school children in the US get free or reduced-price lunches. In other words, their families don’t have enough income to ensure there is food on the table.
In spite of warming climate, we can still grow and gather enough food to feed all the people of this country–and globally. The problem is that we don’t have the collective will to distribute it equitably. Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes is powerful witness to how it can be done: with prayer, a laser focus on the assets available, and an unwillingness to stop until the work is done.
San Diego has the resources to house everyone who needs shelter. It will need creative partnership, a willingness to transform NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) toward Neighbors Invested in Meeting Basic Yearnings, and a tireless clamor (like the widow pestering the judge) until it is accomplished. The same can be said of feeding all the hungry–we and many others are working to do it, yet some are working almost as hard to shut down those attempts. City officials deem it hazardous to feed people in parks, even as the purported issue (the Hepatitis A outbreak) is nearly behind us.
Christ’s body has work ahead–recognizing the least among us, including those hidden in middle class homes; responding with deep generosity (giving our lives, and finding them in the process); challenging the systems that maintain the status quo with creative and non-violent methods; and partnering with any and all who seek a society of justice for every human being.
Jesus was born to homeless parents; his family fled state-sponsored violence as refugees in Egypt; and the domination systems of his day were enormously effective in maintaining the inequity every prophet has railed against. The inequity around us today is tipped so far out of balance that the wealthiest 400 individuals in the US control more wealth than all African-American households and a third of Latino ones (20 million households).
We, too, have been anointed to bring good news to the poor–and Epiphany reminds us that we walk the way of Jesus with companions who may not know his name but share God’s dream of a compassionate, peaceable, and healed world. The Magi’s lavish gifts may strike us as outrageous and excessive, yet they represent a righting of ancient inequities–the poor child receives homage from the wise, who go out of their way to avoid the local imperial system, rigged for inequity maintenance.
May the body of Christ spend itself in the name of a child born to a teenaged mother in a frigid cave, in the name of fleeing refugees, and in the name of all who work ever harder for shrinking rewards. The reign of God asks nothing less. May the coming year keep us on the way of Jesus, toward a just and peace-filled world!
Shalom, salaam, y la paz de Cristo,
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