By John Mark Boes
In recent weeks, we have seen devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky, another mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX (not to mention mass shootings elsewhere), continued war in Ukraine and across the globe, the ever-increasing scourge of hunger, and migrants continue to arrive at our southern border. In the last 2 years, this is seemingly a calm time in our cultural and political history! I find myself wondering what we are supposed to do when times are like this.
While wondering what we are supposed to do, my mind wanders to our churches that we love so much. What is the point of no return for our churches? When do we say enough is enough and then when do we stand up for migrants, stand against gun violence, and say we must work to alleviate the systemic issues that cause people to be hungry? When is that time?
I recently heard a sermon at church on selected texts from Ecclesiastes. Included in these passages was Ecclesiastes 1:2 where we read, “’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless’” We probably know that text better as reading, “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” And, that is what this seems like. Everything seems meaningless, especially when 21 people (19 children and 2 teachers) are killed in an elementary school. Everything seems meaningless, especially when at least 37 people have died in catastrophic flooding in eastern Kentucky. Everything seems meaningless, especially when more and more people are struggling with food insecurity today.
This time seems meaningless. What are we to do for such a time as this? The author of Ecclesiastes continues explaining the futility of it all. But then, we arrive at chapter 3. The beginning of chapter 3 tells the reader that there is a time for everything. “A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” The list continues. There is a time for our toil and our work. There is a time for us to respond to injustice.
Is now such a time? I am convinced that the answer to this question is a resounding yes. The moral voice of our churches can and should be a clarion call in the midst of rising, partisan clamor that distracts from God’s call on our lives. The moral voice of our churches should boldly proclaim the good news of the Gospel in a world that sees no solutions to school solutions or rampant hunger. The moral voice of our churches should sound like Jesus rather than partisan talking points.
Yet, I often hear that we don’t want our churches to be unnecessarily divided nor do we want our churches to become unwitting actors in the culture wars. Further, I often hear that we just want to talk about Jesus. I want to talk about Jesus and I do not want those things for my church or any other church for that matter. But, here we are nonetheless. We are in such a time as this.
Such a time as this calls us to speak out on behalf of those who are unheard. Such a time as this calls us to the words of the Old Testament “to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly your God” (Micah 6:8 NRSVUE). Such a time as this calls us to the very words of Jesus, that we should “bring good news to the poor,” “proclaim release to the captive,” and “to set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18 NRSVUE). Such a time as this calls our churches to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
Such a time as this calls our churches to feed the hungry and advocate for solutions to food insecurity. Such a time as this calls our churches to welcome and care for the immigrant and refugee and to advocate for policies that protect them. Such a time as this calls our churches to offer relief to victims of natural disasters and advocate for policies that care for God’s creation.
So, join us. The work of advocacy needs the voice of congregations. If we are to truly work with God to renew God’s world, then we must renew our systems that are broken and in need of repair.
If you don’t know where to start or how to begin, contact us. Amplify: CBF’s Congregational Advocacy Initiative is a resource your congregation can use to begin a ministry of advocacy. Find out more at www.cbf.net/amplify. Our work, the work of advocacy, is stronger with you.