A Word In Time
“There's a little ballot that every one of us votes with every single day,” the speaker said, and held up a credit card.
Imagine, he said, if we were to spend our money only with companies who “treat the environment well” and treat laborers and migrant workers in the same way. “That could be the basis of a different kind of political action,” he said. “I have a feeling that the activism of the future is going to be an activism that focuses on economics.”
An “activism of economics,” I believe, is the activism we see in the life of Jesus. We see it in his very first sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4) when spells out his gospel of liberation, and in his public manifesto that challenged the economics of Empire, the Beatitudes recorded in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.
And we see Jesus’ “economic activism” in a story that comes up in Holy Week—it’s the one about an angry Jesus overturning the moneychangers’ tables in the temple. Jesus denounces the temple practice of profiting from the poor who are forced to buy animal for required ritual sacrifice.
Again and again, in word and deed, Jesus decried the Empire’s economic system of amassing wealth for a few on the backs of the many, many poor. He decried the temple’s complicity with the system of empire.
On this Monday in Holy Week, in towns across America, Christians are observing “Table Turning Monday” with actions of conscious and concern about economic justice. I am so proud of our Beatitudes Fellow John Helmiere, who has been building creative new ways to worship and to extend radical hospitality to the neighborhood and to foster green practices at their church in Seattle, and has led his community in the observance of Holy Table-Turning Mondays every Holy Week. See John’s story below in Echoes from the Edge. This is what engaged faith—the church in the public square—looks like.
Now this kind of activism—in John and in Jesus and in the ethical use of a credit card—is not only a different kind of political action, of course. For Jesus, economic activism is at the core of his vocation as the One who shows us what God looks like and cares about. For us who call ourselves the followers of Jesus, economic activism is at the core of our faith in the God of abundance who calls us to care for creation and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is our spiritual practice.
It is not by coincidence that Holy Week begins with a public procession through the streets of Jerusalem. Our holiest of weeks brings us to the streets, and leads us to the cross. At the cross, Jesus introduces us to a God who suffers with us in the face of injustice.
And three days later, Jesus introduces us to a God who sends us running forward to Galilee, out to the streets where we live and work and pray and shop, to be activists for a new way of living, activists for the future.
Out, as the poet Mary Oliver might suggest, to change our lives.
Echoes from the Edge
Jesus enters Jerusalem on a Sunday and gets crucified that Friday. What happened in between?
Beatitudes Fellow John Helmiere and his community Valley and Mountain Fellowship establised Table Turning Monday in 2011 to protest Bank of America by closing their accounts and taking them to local credit unions. They have continued this tradition each year and have now launched a website with ideas and materials for other groups to engage Table Turning Monday in their community.
We’ve heard that he had a last meal with his friends and even washed their feet, but those don’t seem like capital offenses. But according to Mark, on Monday, Jesus walked into the Temple and turned over the tables of the money-changers. This act shined a light on the alliance between the religious authorities and the Roman Empire. Okay, now it’s starting to make sense…
Table Turning Monday is a holiday started by those who believe Jesus’s action in the Temple is a crucial part of the Holy Week story, and the Jesus story. It is a day for people inspired by the creative and liberating work of Jesus to engage in coordinated actions that shed light on injustices and offer positive alternatives.
Divest and Reinvest Toolkit
Download resources for individual action, small group conversation, and worship resources. Great for Table Turning Monday or for Earth Day!
Resources are courtesy of Valley and Mountain Fellowship, Fossil Free UMCand GreenFaith.
More resources available under the Resources link above. To have your action or resource posted, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, the Poet
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air
an armful of white blossoms,
a perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
a shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees
like a waterfall
knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds
a white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light
of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?