This month's lectionary passages seem to be, subtly but sincerely, asking us a question: Is 'being faithful' different from 'having faith'?
This month's scriptures paint a picture of a God who is consistently and persistently located alongside the mar
ginalised, a God who ignores boundaries and who challenges the powerful who seem anaesthetised, who set injustice in m
otion then step away, not even recognizing their part in it until a mirror is held for them.
God's responses to the taking of Naboth's vineyard and the destruction of Uriah and Bathsheba's marriage exemplify a solidarity with those who are victims of injustice and an unwavering allegiance to those the system takes advantage of.
Two challenging stories! They expose the machinations of injustice, the parts people play in them, and how an imbalance of power can corrode and tear down all it touches.
In all the lectionary passages, there is action from surprising sources and a consistent call for God to redress imbalance.
Elijah's epic begins with famine; a scarcity that stalks everyone except the elite.
It is deeply important to the story that Elijah is sent to a widow in Zarephath - need extends into the homeland of Queen Jezebel, his nemesis, and God's love locates even there, outside the confines of where Elijah would find acceptable. He is asked to provide, and partner with everyone caught up in that time of crisis, not just his own people.
'Do not be afraid', Elijah says in the midst of a famine, to a desperate woman who has 'a few sticks, a handful of meal and a little oil in a jar'. What an audacious thing to say! There will be enough, all evidence to the contrary. There will be enough.
Is being faithful different from having faith - having faith that things will get better, or being faithful to the principles behind that confidence – locating yourself, your actions, your voice and your money behind that belief, and pushing?
The Psalms add a layer of intensity to the other narratives, and throughout our lectionary readings there is a consistent crying out for God to intervene. There is a ceaseless call for justice and for an answer. 'Listen to the sound of my cry ... I plead my case to you' (Psalm 5:2-3).
This is no weeping in an empty darkness. Interwoven throughout is an unexpected confidence that God will listen, that God is listening. That God can be trusted and will deliver justice.
So what part ca
n we play in all this?
- ‘We have to be faithful to the vision of God who stands in solidarity with the poor.'
If the calls of those pushed to the margins are going to be heard, then we have to be faithful to the vision of God who stands in solidarity with the poor, who challenges us to see the part we play in the unjust systems that keep people poor and that diminish the earth.
We need to listen to the wisdom of those with lived experience of poverty, who experience the hard edge of injustice first-hand.
In our gospel readings, we have stories of surprising people putting their love into action - the woman with the ointment who washed Jesus' feet, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Suzanna, and many others, who provided for Jesus and the disciples.
We hear the anguished voice of the Gerasene man, who when asked to name what was wrong, said 'legion' – so many things! But the change started when Jesus asked him the question and respected the answer.
Our final gospel reading for June has Jesus 'turning his face toward Jerusalem' (Luke 9:51), and he is insistent in his path. He calls us all to follow, to push on for justice, walking the path together.
Christian Aid exists to eradicate poverty, to be faithful to the vision and location of God and to walk and work in solidarity with those who cry for justice. Thank you for joining us on that journey.