Voices from around the world: a dialogue of scripture and story
World Communion Sunday, October 7, 2012
Kent Wittler and Rev. Stacy Swain
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Release for the captives From Half the Sky
We took the girls out of town and back to their families. Neth’s home was closer, and we left her money to open a little grocery store in her village. Initially it thrived. American Assistance for Cambodia agreed to look after her and help her. Neth had been away for only six weeks, and her family accepted her story that she had been selling vegetables and welcomed her home without suspicion.
Momm lived all the way across Cambodia, and with every passing mile of our long drive, she became more anxious about whether her family would accept or reject her. It had been five years since she had run away and then been sold into a brothel, and she had had no communication with her family. Momm was bouncing up and down nervously as we finally approached her village. Suddenly she screamed and, although the car was still moving, yanked open the door and leaped out. She hurtled over to a middle-aged woman who was staring wonderingly at the vehicle, and then the woman, Momm’s aunt, was screaming as well and they were embracing and crying.
A moment later, it seemed as if everybody in the village was shrieking and running up to Momm. Momm’s mother was at her stall in the market a mile away when a child ran up to tell her that Momm had returned. Her mother started sprinting back to the village, tears streaming down her cheeks. She embraced her daughter, who was trying to drop to the ground to beg forgiveness, and they both tumbled down. It was ninety minutes before the shouting died away and the eyes dried, and then there was an impromptu feast. Family members may have suspected that Momm had been trafficked, but they didn’t press her when she said vaguely that she had been working in western Cambodia.
“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me.”
The Least of These by The Reverend John Campbell-Nelson from East Timor**
Much has changed in Indonesia over the last 25 years, and many people’s lives have improved. But the shift from a traditional to a “modern” way of life is a constant source of social conflict. The hidden constant in this conflict is the role of personal relationships and social status: you are who you know, and who knows you. If you don’t know anybody, you are nobody.
That realization has been haunting me lately, in the form of a dead baby. Her name was Rita Norlina Selan. Her mother died when Rita was a few weeks old. Her father is a farm laborer who had no money. Unable to buy milk, he fed her rice water and sugared tea. Rita starved to death.
This sort of thing happens in the hills of Timor all too often. But in Rita’s case, it happened less than a mile from our house. The milk she needed was sitting on a shelf in our pantry. The car that could have taken her to the hospital (or her mother before her) was parked in our garage. So why didn’t she get the help she needed? Because her father didn’t know us, and we didn’t know him. Because while we were neighbors we lived in two different world and a vast chasm separated us.
When asked why he didn’t come to us for help, he said he was malu (translate that as a combination of shy, ashamed, and afraid). He said did not feel as if he could or should make requests of the “Big White People.”
Luke 19: 37-40
As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stone would shout out.”
Living Stones by Erik Cramb from El Salvador***
“I am a stone!” shouted Marta, a young Salvadoran woman, rolling up her sleeves, shaking with frustration and pointing her finger in accusation. “You gringos must be intentional about working together with us. Your must get clear about what you are doing. Do you not know that the European Community is in an all out war against the poor? You are out to kill us? But as Christians, we are one body, and if one part hurts the whole body hurts… Is that not what the Bible tells us?”
In the stunned, embarrassed silence she went on: “I need to shake the world to a new reality and if you are not expecting to shake the world, why are you here?
“One day the stones are going to speak… Well, here is a stone talking to you… I am begging you to really listen to us, read the signs. Unless you really listen to us you can talk yourself to sleep.
“I am alive thanks to God and it is one of the tricks of God that I can still call you brothers and sisters. I am bringing you not the helpless but the hopeful of the struggling people. We don’t need help, we need brothers and sisters in the struggle to change the world.”
John 17: 20-21a , 23
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, God, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us. I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” Amen
* From is “World Communion Sunday Service with Missionary Letters” written by Karen Farthing for Global Ministries, United Church of Christ.
**From Holy Ground, liturgies and worship resources for an engaged spirituality by Neil Paynter
and Helen Boothroyd. (Wild Goose Publications: Glasgow, 2005) p. 348.