Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lead with your Ears

In the Epistle of James that is part of this Sunday's lectionary Eugene Peterson in "The Message" translates a small part of the first chapter as saying "Lead with your ears..."

On Monday night, August 24th there was a City Council committee meetingto consider an amendment to a so-called "panhandling" ordinance. I attended that hearing with Mari Evans.

After she spoke I asked her if I could have a copy of her remarks and I was struck about how much they seemed to go along with the words of the text from James. Below you will find the text of Mari's talk interspersed with the passage from the Epistle of James the first chapter (in italics)

Mari Evans before the City-Council committee meeting on an amendment to the so-called “panhandling” ordinance on August 24, 2009 [The amendment in question restricts panhandling to 50 feet away from intersections where there is a traffic light]

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are Rivers of light cascading down from God. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. God brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all God’s creatures.

Post this at the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue…

At a time when there is already so much misery in the world it is inconceivable that it has become necessary for citizens to come down here to protest the egregious initiatives that are being generated (apparently from the mayors office) toward the end of further devaluing those of our citizens who are already our most vulnerable. Are we trying to create a group of American untouchables that can be identified by the fact that they are without homes, the jobs, the basics that it takes for human beings to survive?

I resent the insensitive negative labeling of the poor, across the board, as “panhandlers.” These are men and women and in some cases children, down on their luck that society does not serve. Institutions run out of beds, food and other forms of help. Are we institutionalizing the personal venom, callousness and disregard for the have nots that often characterize those elected to govern all the people wisely and compassionately, but who find it impossible to look compassionately at folks who are not mirror images of themselves?

The Ordinance demeans me as much as it does the most vulnerable, for it interferes with my constitutional right to interact with whomever I choose. The mayor cannot tell me to interact with a cardboard box instead of a human being.

Further, we as citizens are reasonably sensible. This is not a “public safety” issue. “Public safety” is language used to rationalize what is self serving for the administration. Thank you.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

Anyone who sets himself up as ‘religious’ by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air.

Real religion the kind that passes muster before God…,is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Later, De'Amon and I were talking about it and we focused on those words "Lead with your ears." It got us thinking that this is a good way to talk about our calling in the world with one another. This will stay with me for awhile.