Some words about being on the margins . . .
Is this not the fast I choose, to loose the bonds of injustice? - Isaiah 58:6
The realm of God is intimately related to the concept of justice. Both the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and Jesus of Nazareth taught that worship without justice is meaningless. The term “justice” often has different meanings and connotations in today’s world, however biblical understandings of justice are based on people getting not what they deserve, but rather people getting what they need.
According to the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, the realm of God is a reality that is both present and not yet totally realized; both revealed and being revealed; already and not yet. Jesus described the realm of God as being good news for the poor, the sick, the widowed, the imprisoned, the stranger, the children and childlike, and the outcasts. In other words, the realm of God is where the marginalized of our society are brought back into the folds of the community. The realm of God is about justice and good news for all God’s people. Justice is what love looks like in public.
The realm of God in Waterville, Maine, would mean that every person is fed, sheltered, healthy, safe, and welcome. This means especially looking out for those on the margins of our community: those with the lowest incomes, those in prison, the mentally ill, those with developmental disabilities, and those who are hungry, for instance. If the realm of God were fully present, everyone in the Waterville area, and especially those on the margins, would have their basic needs met and they would feel safe, loved, and empowered to be fully themselves.
The term empowered is an important one. Because the realm of God is both present and not yet fully revealed, it is vital to acknowledge that the work of unveiling the kingdom is partnering work: partnering with God and partnering with one another. We are participating to reveal and unveil the realm of God together. Rather than shouldering the weight of this work ourselves, we are called to be with and in relationship with others. Christ does not call us to be the voice for the voiceless, but rather we are called to be speaking with the voiceless.
It is also important to recognize that the Church, in our desire to do this partnering work, needs to be nimble in its responses to injustices and new needs. Justice can change, depending on who is in power, what needs arise, and who is marginalized. In the past the Church has taken too much pride in “Band-Aid solutions” and fear getting involved in addressing root causes of injustice because it often involves politics. However we are often quick to forget the fact that Jesus was nothing if not political, and he was not afraid to speak truth to power. As followers of Jesus, we are called to accompany Jesus on the Way of justice and good news for all. Because as we walk with Jesus, we know that we walk with the least of these.