Upside Down Kingdom
‘Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man take pity on him..’ St John Chrysostom
As Orthodox believers are called to practice what we believe. If Orthodoxy means the ‘correct belief’ than Orthopraxy means ‘correct practice.’ This correct practice involves preaching by using our hands to serve. It means clearing the stench of economic division with the air of reconciliation. It means doing more than theorizing. It means acknowledging the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and walking humbly – and boldly – into the thick darkness, so that we might proclaim freedom to the captives, and demand justice for the oppressed.
The thing about social justice is that it’s not “elsewhere,” it is here and it is a part of us. It is healing the wounds that we have created in the body of Christ. It is breaking every barrier that stops us being gathered together into the arms of Christ.
“How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)
Would you do honor to Christ’s body? Neglect Him not when naked; do not while here you honor Him with silken garments, neglect Him perishing without of cold and nakedness. For He that said, “This is my body,” and by His word confirmed the fact, This same said, “You saw me an hungered, and fed me not;” and, “Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” Matthew 25:42, 45. For this indeed needs not coverings, but a pure soul; but that requires much attention.
-St. John Chrysosotom Homily 50 on Matthew
In the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man saw poverty and suffering around him, but he chose apathy. Maybe, he, like the priest who passed by the man in the story of the good samaritan, was on his way to church or some service. Busying himself, he forgets to act justly. He forgets he is made for justice. Maybe in serving at the table of the Lord, we have forgotten to serve the table of the poor.
“When His table indeed is full of golden cups, but He perishes with hunger? First fill Him, being an hungered, and then abundantly deck out His table also. Do you make Him a cup of gold, while you give Him not a cup of cold water? And what is the profit? Do you furnish His table with cloths bespangled with gold, while to Himself you afford not even the necessary covering? And what good comes of it? For tell me, should you see one at a loss for necessary food, and omit appeasing his hunger, while you first overlaid his table with silver; would he indeed thank you, and not rather be indignant?” -St John Chrysostom, Homily 50 Matthew
The thing about social justice is that it is forgotten. We forget that working towards social justice is what it means to celebrate the liturgy on the streets.
When seeking the kingdom of heaven, let us remember that in the parable of the pearl, the pearl was not found in the clouds but amongst the dirt, hidden under rocks and soil (Matthew 13: 45-46). It takes getting your hands dirty to get it out; hidden behind the poor, the broken, the marginalized.
Do you desire greatness this lent, and in your spiritual life?
Jesus redefined it:
“he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:26-27)
We serve a God of an upside down kingdom where the meek will inherit, where those who serve are greater than those who sit on thrones, there is strength through weakness, exaltation through humility, receiving through giving, freedom from servitude.
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry.
O Lord Jesus,
Let your upside down kingdom come
Help us fast from injustice
Keep our eyes wide open to suffering
Help us flee from apathy
this post is dedicated to a friend in Jordan
(Photo courtesy of Ondro Miklas)