I was dreaming the other day. President Obama was taking the oath of office and I heard some of what he set for his second term agenda. It’s a tough one because he can only do so much. This being an election year for Australia I dreamed of we might hear from Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, presuming they both make the distance. Follow me on this one…
I imagined turning on the evening news and hearing a future Prime Minister set their agenda. Against the backdrop of economic prosperity and growth, lower taxes, climbing the social ladder of success, sharing the affluence and so on, I heard them say that they were going to stand alongside the poorest and most marginalised people in our nation. That single parents struggling to hold together a household – paying rent, buying food, paying for education, electricity, water telephone bills… – without support from their ex-partner would be supported economically and socially. That those who work long hours for basic wages that barely hold the household and family together, will receive more. That people deprived education and the opportunity to reach their potential because of family dysfunction and social deprivation will receive opportunities – if they want them.
The economic system that favours the wealthy and those in particular sectors of the workforce needs to be redressed. We need a just system whereby those who work hard will be fairly remunerated and looked after. Where there is obscenity in remuneration, it needs to stop so that all can share in prosperity of our nation. We will also do our part in sharing resources with the world’s most desperate people, providing resources that help meet and extend our obligations to the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN and signed off by Australia.
I heard an impassioned plea for compassion and openness towards people who live with disabilities and their families who sacrifice much to care for them. There was a commitment to provide real resources to these families torn by the stress of long hours and much energy given to caring for their children and siblings and who receive little respite from their toil of love. There was a commitment to provide resources for families caught up in the confusion and grief of discovering their child was different in some. The endless rounds of medical testing and uncertainty is very difficult and stressful. Often the costs to care for, educate and support these children runs high and parents are caught between giving the child the time they need and finding work to pay the bills!
I heard a call for the community to embrace with tolerance and understanding those who live with mental illness and whose world is often very different from that of most of us. There is tremendous creativity amongst those who see and experience the world differently and they have much to teach us – if we will listen and learn. They have particular needs as people, to be able to live fully within the community in safety and security.
There was a call for us to be welcoming of the stranger in our midst, especially those who are traumatised, confused, angry and fearful because they are seeking refuge from their lands where there is insecurity, warfare, danger… We will welcome people who are refugees and help them settle into a new life, sharing our wealth and prosperity. We will deal with the boats – that is another issue – but make it easier for genuine refugees to find the help, support and compassion they desperately need.
We will work to release those who are captive, people who are caught up in various forms of bondage that debilitate and imprison them. So many people live lives of addiction. Drug addiction and gambling are sources of very significant social stress and dysfunction that do great harm to individuals, families and the broader community. These are illnesses with serious social consequences, often leading to criminal actions. Crimes and acts of violence towards people and property must dealt with through the legal system – there are consequences. Simultaneously we must work to help people become free from the burdens of oppression to addiction, poverty, social exclusion, violence, racism…
In my dream, the speech went on and I sat transfixed, disbelieving. When reality returned I knew that no such speech would ever be uttered because it would be instant political death. A person in power who tried to implement any such agenda would cause revolution and be thrown out of office so quickly.
Ah, a dream! If only…
Then I turned to the Gospel reading for this week – Luke 4:14-21. Jesus’ read from a scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed and chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom, release and pardon to the captives and a message that will open the eyes of those who can’t see, to let the oppressed, the used and abused, the burdened and battered go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour – that this is God’s year to act!’
This is Luke’s version of Jesus’ inaugural address. This is his mission statement, his agenda for action, his priority in a God-given mission to the world! It speaks of release from various forms of bondage and oppression – economic (poor), physical (lame and crippled), political (condemned), and demonic. In Jesus’ ministry, the forgiveness of sin can therefore be seen as a form of release from bondage to iniquity and its implications – social, economic, spiritual and political.
Recovery of sight is linked to the prophetic vision of the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. Jesus is symbolically speaking of himself as a light to the nations – opening eyes that cannot or will not see and setting in motion the agenda of God’s reign amongst people. This is an alternative vision and platform to that of our political and economic systems that benefit some and oppress others.
It is a radical statement that would cause revolution if it was allowed to be enacted – perhaps that’s why they had to kill Jesus??!
I wonder what might happen if someone, today, launched such a platform? Martin Luther King jr, Ghandi, Madella/FW deKlerk…?
I have a dream…