Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

In a Good Friday meditation a few years ago, I said that Jesus' death on the cross was God's act of solidarity with us humans. I don't much care about the atonement in the sense of reparation or appeasement. What's important is the original meaning of atonement - reconciliation. In Jesus' death, God reconciles us with himself.

Last Sunday Liz and I were at Christ Church, Montpelier, Vermont. The rector, David Hall, told us he was very fond of the processional, celebratory part of Palm Sunday. He referred to The Last Week, the book by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. The opening of that book is cited here in a post this afternoon by Doorman-Priest. Jesus's entry in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was a subversive event. Both David Hall's sermon and Doorman-Priest's post remind us that we are faced with the question of which camp are we in -- in simplest terms, that of the rich or that of the poor. For many of us, it's a bit of both.

Two weeks ago, we were in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at Moravian Theological Seminary, for a talk by Ian Douglas, the priest and missiologist. He got us all to think about being either in a p0sition of privilege or a position of being a target (I don't have the vocabulary quite right) and made us realize that we may well be in different positions in different areas of our lives.

Last night at St. Mary's, our Deacon in training, Sydney Blake, preached on servant ministry. Sydney reminded us that Jesus's statement in John 13:15 "I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" calls us to all aspects of servanthood, not simply foot washing.

Next weekend I will be attending the Left Forum. One of the reasons I go every year is to be reminded that our economic system is inherently unjust. The Religion & Socialism Commission of DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) is sponsoring a panel "God's Economics: Is an Ethical Economy Possible?" I look forward to it -- I know many of the panelists. The question makes me ask myself about employment practices here at Morningside Gardens. I'm an currently 1st Vice President of our housing cooperative, so I get reports of personnel actions taken by management. Here is a case that came to my attention.

Tom needed to unlock a door in the course of his duties. He discovered that the new key he had recently been given was defective. Tom left his assigned place and went to the shop. The locksmith was not there so Tom began making a copy of the key himself. A supervisor told Tom to stop because he was not authorized to use the key making machine. Tom protested in an angry manner and went on to make the key.

Tom was suspended pending investigation for the following reaasons:

* unauthorized use of the key machine
* failure to follow supervisor's instructions
* insubordination
* unauthorized break

The actions of management in this instance are fully consistent with the culture. Tom is a union employee and is being treated fairly according to the union contract. But I suggest that there is something wrong with the culture operating here.

Tom needed a key to do his job, so he took steps to get a working key. This was initiative which should be commended. But instead, Tom is charged with violating a boundary (using the key machine,) insubordination, and leaving his post. There's a presupposition here that Tom (or any employee) needs to be subordinated to a supervisor and needs to operate under strict rules.

How does the way I (by proxy of management) treat our employees square with the Baptismal Covenant? Is it a proclamation of the Good News of God in Christ? Is it seeking and serving Christ in every person, loving my neighbor as myself? Is it striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being? In our complex, and all too human society, is there anything I should be doing to change the way we conduct employer - employee relations?

I don't know the answer. And yet, even on Good Friday, the kingdom of God has come near: repent and beleive in the good news.

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