From empire to the margins

 Luke 3:7-18

In this third week of Advent, we are again given an opportunity to name the context, the brokenness, and the need that is awaiting the birth of the prophet and teacher Jesus Christ.

We hear from John the Baptist calling from the margins again, preaching that something new and wonderful is on the way.  Before people can share in the abundance of God’s love, John tells them to repent.  He says the empire we are living in is killing us and that we are acting complicity and choosing to deny that it’s happening.  John is radical here.  He calls people not to deal with symptoms of oppression and injustice caused by the empire, but to look at the roots.  In repenting, people must join in turning the whole world around.

We are living in midst of empire today.  Many in Canada are living in poverty and not receiving fair wages.  Farms across the country rely on migrant workers from Jamaica, Mexico, and elsewhere to maintain the land and gather the crops.  Support workers like nannies and home caregivers come to be with families in Canada in order to support their own families whom they have left behind. Migrant workers often face abuse, poor living and working conditions, and unfair wages.

Migrant workers in Leamington, ON bring in a tobacco crop.

Migrant workers in Leamington, ON bring in a tobacco crop. Many church and union groups in this farming area work with both migrant workers and farmers. (Photo: Alfredo Barahona/ KAIROS)

So what are we to do?  That is precisely the question that people asked of John.  His answers were practical and immediate.  If you have two coats, give one away.  This is John’s way of pointing to redistributive wealth and what justice can mean in the lives of the wealthy.  Don’t cooperate with systems of the empire.  He spoke directly to tax collectors: do not collect more than what is fair.  He called for an end to greed, and because of how the empire paid them, an end to the taxpayers’ livelihoods.  John is radically calling people to stop the status quo and choose instead a path of justice and peace.

How can we choose that path today?  Well, listen once again to John.  We can no longer be complicit in the injustices of our neighbour.  We can seek relationships with those who, like migrant workers, live on the margins of our society.  We can form partnerships as we listen to their stories and call for new ways of working together.  We can advocate for proper working and living conditions, adequate health care and resources.  The joy that can be found in living in a new way is overflowing and waiting for us.

Bag at conference: recognise migrant work as work.

A bag at an international migrant justice conference in Manila sums it all up. Migrant work and low-wage work are realities across Canada. What can faith communities offer to the conversation and to collective action? (Photo: Alfredo Barahona/ KAIROS)

This transformation of the world is happening in anticipation of the one who is coming, the Beloved.  John says there is someone coming who will baptize people with the Spirit and who will live in a new way.  Jesus will be even more radical and will change the world in ways never before imagined.  And so, we are all called to live into this new way, waiting and praying for abundant love and life for all.

God of Joy and Transformation, work with us as we strive to live in a new way in right relationship with each other.  Be with us as we await the coming of the radical prophet to enter our lives again.  Amen.

Filed in: Spirited Reflections


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