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Worship Materials: Justice and Peace

From the Celebrating Mystery collection

THEME                Dreams and Harsh Reality

THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION

  1. For the rich poverty is obscene. For the poor wealth is obscene. For God both are obscene.
  2. Material poverty tends to unite. Material wealth tends to separate.
  3. If you have found all things within, you will not seek to accumulate all things without.
  4. Culture divorced from justice is an empty shell. Justice divorced from culture is a stone embryo.
  5. A society’s greatest wealth is its people.
  6. There is no peace without compassionate justice, no justice without perceptive analysis of the many ways in which the misuse of power, wealth and education can masquerade as charity. So it can be said that there is no justice without sharing.
  7. It is only in our separation from divinity, from God, from the I AM that we can possibly harbor the illusion that we are of superior value to another human being.
  8. Trust the market – it is on the side of the rich!
  9. Getting it right for the rich is normally getting it wrong for the poor.
  10. The economic trickle down effect from rich to poor does not occur significantly until the dams of power and privilege are breached.
  11. A popular prophet is a contradiction in terms.
  12. One of the sociological functions of religion is to legitimize the unjust    acquisition of wealth and power.
  13. Love grows through sharing.
  14. A commitment to the cause of justice is likely to be purely academic unless it springs from the fire of anger at what injustice does to the oppressed.
  15. Peace on earth must be peace for the earth, as well as for the people of the earth.
  16. The divinization of particular human beings or particular human institutions can be a way of avoiding the need for radical social analysis. It can lead to the denial of the mysticism of Jesus and of the socialism of his initial followers.
  17. A revolution undertaken by people who do not have peace in their minds can go horribly wrong.
  18. Do not say that you can do nothing about changing the world. Major changes in the way people think and the way that society organizes itself have always been started by one person, or by a small group of people.
  19. Do not under-estimate the power of an idea whose time has come.
  20. The prosperity of the rich must be replaced by the prospering of all life.
  21. The blood of the prophets is the hope of the poor.
  22. To see all things as inter-related is also to discern the manipulative technique of the rich and powerful; therefore cling to the vision of oneness lest you allow your knowledge to corrupt you.
  23. Do not confuse ‘immoral’ with ‘illegal’. The two may coincide but equally they may not. Institutionalized injustice may be legal but it certainly is not moral.
  24. A humorless revolution is but a short step away from turning last year’s oppressed into this year’s oppressors.
  25. Prophets have always been called upon to expose the legitimization of unjust wealth and power. Clergy have often been expected to clothe it in beauty and rhetoric.
  26. Modern economic systems, be they Communist or ‘Free Market’, all spring from a distortion of spirituality in which the material and the spiritual, nature and humanity are separated.
  27. What good is individual freedom if it allows one to be poor, and without hope: That is simply tyranny masquerading as freedom.
  28. Christ’s third temptation was the temptation to acquire wealth and power (“all the kingdoms of the world”, Matthew 4/8-9). A contemporary example of the same temptation is rampant consumerism, regardless of the cost to other nations or future generations.
  29. The cloaking of violence in beauty does not make it any less profane.
  30. Thank God the prophets and the reformers did not believe they should have positive thoughts about all forms of human behavior and all social institutions.
  31. If we do not use our imagination, we will want to own all things. If we do use our imagination, we already do own all things.
  32. The golden thread of the tapestry of life is not made from gold in the bank but from that within one’s spirit.
  33. To break the cycle of hatred, violence and destruction is to join the circle of love.
  34. If you want to see the ugly face of the first world, pilgrimage to the third world and see what we have done to them through colonialism, imperialism and economic and ecological exploitation.
  35. Peace is not just the absence of war – it is being at home with the rhythm of one’s own spirit and the rhythm of nature. It is being at home with other people and accepting their rainbow diversity. All this is part of being at peace with God.
  36. The pursuit of positive thinking without a corresponding commitment to transformative action can lead people to disregard the severity of many of this world’s problems.
  37. Anger can be one of the greatest motivators for action but inappropriate vindictive anger can produce some of the most unjust results.
  38. Freedom of thought can only occur in a society where people are free to listen. It is only those who have listened who have earned the right to speak.
  39. The art of the few is the misery of the many.
  40. Wealth built upon a base of poverty is like a skyscraper without adequate foundations.
  41. The freedom of the market is the flexibility to manipulate.
  42. The gated, guarded and walled compounds of the rich are symbols of enforced injustice, the few who are chosen by Mammon and not by God!
  43. The poor who celebrate are richer than the affluent who don’t.
  44. What use is gold in the ceiling, gold in the heavens if there is no gold in the heart.
  45. Outside the walled cities of the rich dwell the poor and the marginalized where Christ dies again and again.
  46. Religion that claims to have nothing to do with economics becomes the agent of those very same economic policies.
  47. Economics can easily be corrupted to become the deification of human greed.
  48. When the wealth of the few replaces the welfare of the many economics becomes the enemy of the people.
  49. The miracle of the free market is its ability to disguise a Count Dracula as a Father Christmas.
  50. Dreaming of a better world can be little more than a debilitating illusion unless it is fortified with analysis of society’s unjust mechanisms and a willingness to participate in their replacement.
  51. To choose love is to choose sacrifice, to choose to stand up and be counted whatever the cost.
  52. Freedom of speech only occurs when people are free to listen.
  53. While anger suppressed can be destructive of our spirit anger informed and channeled can motivate us to work for justice and peace.
  54. It has been said that the one thing that we can learn from history is that we never learn from history. Certainly this is true of the mistaken belief that the contemporary rich will not abuse the power that wealth gives them in the way that most of the rich have repeatedly abused the poor in the past.

 

PRAYERS

  1. God of liberation, whose will it is that the poor should be raised up, the captives freed and the impoverished nourished, help us to work with you for the nurturing of all the life of earth.
  2. O God of both the fire and the stillness, enable us through the transforming power of your love, to lay to rest the anger that springs from hurt and fear. Direct our inner fire towards transforming the world in ways which are not destructive of other human beings or of the rest of nature.
  3. O God, to whom all injustice is repugnant, help us to identify and  transform the many ways in which we and our society deliberately or unwittingly oppress others. This we pray in the spirit of Jesus, the liberator.
  4. O God who delights in the song of the human spirit, help us with courage and joy to sing your song of justice, justice for the people, justice for plants and creatures, justice for the Earth.

 

HYMNS

Deep in the human heart. (BL)

When the picture haunts my mind. (BL)

Aid will never save the world. (BL)

The meek shall inherit the Earth. (BL)

Holy Spirit as you speak. (BL)

Most noble of creatures on Earth. (BL)

Spirit’s golden fire. (BL)

Who maims life today? (BL)

The dough is rising. (BL)

What can we learn from war? (BL)

Within the shadows of our thinking. (BL)

Our hands O God. (BL)

We thank you God for history’s tales. (BL)

My desire for you my friend. (BL)

My spirit shall rejoice (a paraphrase of the Magnificat). (BL)

Repaying force with counter force. (BL)

 

The first are losers.

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

I saw the gardener dancing.

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

The Way of God.

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

In the fields where rice is planted.

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

Help us, O Christ. (Peace Prayer)

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

One justice for land and people.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

What does our God require of us?

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

God of forgiveness.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Choose life.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

God gives the song.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

When the wall is broken.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Christmas is a mother.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Wild wind of the holy spirit.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

May we all live as grains of rice.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

How can the people’s cries? (STS1)

Wealth and poverty. (STS1)

Many people die in anguish. (STS1)

Give joyful praise and honor. (STS1)

We call the wealthy rich. (STS2)

O Lazarus don’t beg beside my door. (STS2)

If my heart grows icy cold. (STS2)

Singing the Sacred Vol 1 2011, Vol 2 2014 World Library Publications

 

Sound a mystic bamboo song. (“Global Praise 2” The General Board of Global Ministries)


TEENS’ SONGS

How can the time of peace? (SYSJ)

There are times. (SYSJ)

Enough is enough.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling


SUNG RESPONSE

I don’t want your pity. (SYSJ)

 

POEMS / REFLECTIONS

REFLECTION ON THE PROPHETS

The prophets always seem to be ahead of the times, but that is only because most of us are unaware of the beginnings of a process and only notice it when it has gathered some momentum.

The prophets will always threaten us if we live in a static thought world. If we do live this way then our reaction to change will always be one of fear.  It is fear of the future, fear of loss of our controlling position in society which leads us to stone the prophets in one way or another.

The prophets do not predict what will happen, come what may, they lay out the options and the consequences of our choices.

 

THE TOURIST

When you have had a second awakening,

rivaling the awakening of adolescent sexuality,

an awakening to Earth’s injustices,

you can never again become

a mere tourist

but always behind the pretty places

and pretty faces have to ask

‘who owns what?’

‘who controls whom?’ –

for poverty and riches

are no accident

but arise out of economic design,

greed and the brainwashing

of the people

THE PEOPLE TALKED

The people talked and the rain still fell,

The people talked and the leaves turned to gold,

The people talked and the poor still starved,

The people talked and the earth lay raped,

The resolutions reflected the people’s mind

But where was the people’s heart?

 

FEED THE POOR

“Feed the poor,

Aid the victims

But don’t ask questions”,

The rulers said.

“Don’t ask how they became poor,

Who benefits from their poverty

Or how the rich/poor gap widens.

“Remember”, the rulers said

“The economists are right!”

“The economists are right?” I said

“Right out!

Right out of their hearts!

Right out of their gut!

Right out of their minds;

For their minds have become

Disembodied,

Disemboweled,

And there is no connectedness,

No wholeness.”

Outside and inside of the Church

The Babel tower of the Market-Place

Is worshipped in the new temple

With the God-like face ‑

The temple of simplistic ideology

And economic fundamentalism ‑

The temple which offers the illusion

That the poor are the problem

Not the rich

“My God my God

Why have you forsaken me!”

Cry the poor

And God replies

“I have not forsaken you;

With you I hang on a cross

Made by politicians, economists

And multi-national executives

For at the moment

the devil

has two right wings.”

MIDDLE CLASS AFFLUENCE

Living in middle class affluence

It is easy to be oblivious

Of the forces that control

National and international

Economic systems.

Freed from the threat of perpetual poverty

And the daily struggle to preserve life

We can imagine that matters of social correctness

Are the central issues for morality.

But if we, ever so briefly,

Shared the lot of the poor

We would have a totally different perspective

On the world’s free market economic system

And discern how it benefits the rich

Who continue to exploit the poor.

Then perhaps we would see that robbery

Dressed up as altruism

Is still robbery!

FREE MARKET BEATITUDES

Blessed are those who are poor for they belong to the majority of the world’s population, and it is the will of the market that they remain so.

Blessed are those who mourn because they do not have enough;
they are the life blood of capitalism.

Blessed are those who know their place in life;
oppressors will rejoice in their attitude.

Blessed are those whose greatest desire is to succeed;
they will cease to be aware of all the people they trample on.

Blessed are those who treat all others as competitors;
they will be freed from the notion that all people are of equal value.

Blessed are those who see the free market as the only way;
they already know that personal riches are more important than community services and that Earth exists solely for the benefit of human beings.

Blessed are those who only concentrate on inner peace;
they will become oblivious to the injustices in the world.

Blessed are those who are condemned by the Prophets for their wealth;
they will pay no attention since they are convinced that life’s greatest reward is their bank balance.

 

A JUSTICE CELEBRATION

Let us celebrate the martyrs and

The prophets

All who have taken sides with the poor,

All who have been ostracized and marginalized,

Those who were fearless in their analysis

Of what was really happening,

Those who marched to a different drum

Than that played by the rich and the powerful,

All who gave their lives for the people’s cause.

 

FOCUS FOR ACTION

  1. What would be the reaction of the Hebrew Prophets, especially Amos and Micah, to the satirical description in the Free Market Beatitudes of the destructive effects of extreme neo-capitalism?  How does it fit in with the declaration of Jesus that it does not profit a person at all if he/she gains the whole world but loses their own soul?

 

  1. It has sometimes been said that since the church operates under grace there is no issue of power and control in the church. However, whenever two or more people meet there is either power sharing or domination by one over the other, even though the method of domination may be ever so ‘peaceful’ and subtle.  In what ways is power being used constructively and destructively within my congregation and denomination? How can I become a more effective agent of change?

 

  1. What changes could we make to our political ideologies which would reduce the rich/poor gap? (Note: poverty forces the poor to cut down forests to meet their basic needs and encourages the rich to consume much more than their fair share of the world’s resources, especially resources situated in poorer nations).

 

  1. What is your reaction to these words from St Augustine: “The person who possesses a surplus possesses the goods of another?”

 

  1. Religion has often been used to legitimize violence and injustice e.g. claiming God is on our side in a war, or supporting governments which disadvantage the poor. It has also been used to divert the attention of the poor from grappling with the causes of their plight by promoting fatalistic ideologies which claim that what is happening is the will of God, or by focusing exclusively on other worldly spirituality. Can you think of examples of how religion is still being used in this manner?

Celebrating Mystery Logo

LOGO NOTE: At the heart of the mystery all the separate boxes disappear and all is one, all is love.

Text and graphic © William Livingstone Wallace but available for free use.

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