Monday, May 26, 2014
Pastorgraphs: “The Heart of a Sojourner”
May 26, 2014
Pastorgraphs: “The Heart of a Sojourner”
I shared with many of you last week that I was honored to be selected by Sojourners as one of 50 “Greatest Social Justice Leaders We've Never Heard Of”. Sojourners has invited me to attend their inaugural Summit, “World Change Through Faith and Justice” to be held at Georgetown University in Washington DC next month.
I have long been an admirer of Sojourners, a community started in the early 1970s by a group of students at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School whose motto is “Faith in Action for Social Justice”.
In our polarized world, no organization is as well-respected as Sojourners by liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, Protestants-Catholics-Evangelicals and most major faith groups. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and a New York Times best-selling author, often appears on national talk shows when a word of wisdom is needed to cut through the banal “talking points” of the left and right. Sojourners is “an influential voice at the intersection of faith, politics and culture”.
Unfortunately “social justice” has become a bad word for some. Not for me.
Social justice is caring for the hungry, spiritually thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned (in jails or bondages of their own making) and strangers (i.e., “sojourners”). It is caring for the rights of women, widows and orphans. It is racial justice and economic justice and environmental stewardship. It is understanding that God is no discriminator of persons, so neither should we be. Social justice means all men and women are created equally in the image of God. It means no one should be cheated, segregated, disadvantaged or despised because of race, color, creed, gender, national origin or any other artificial lines of demarcation we draw to keep “us in” and “them out”.
A sojourner is a stranger in a foreign land, an alien, or immigrant. The Lord God reminded the children of Israel they were once sojourners in Egypt. At first, Pharaoh welcomed Joseph and his family. But soon a new Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph. The Israelites were exploited, despised and enslaved. When God led the Israelites out of Egypt into the land He promised would be theirs alone, He instructed them to never lose “the heart of a sojourner”. “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) It was an early version of The Golden Rule.
My ancestors have been in America since shortly after the Mayflower arrived. George Washington’s city plan for the nation’s capital included using a plot of ground then known as “Jenkins’ Hill” where the U.S. Capitol Building now stands (“Capitol Hill”). I was born a sixth-generation Mississippi Jenkins. Although my roots run deep in the soil of America, I’m a pilgrim; a wayfaring stranger.
I am a sojourner in this land and life.
The invitation from Sojourners affirms my life-long quest for social justice. It’s a tired old story, but please suffer me one last recap. Growing up in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, my first impressions for social justice came when, as a teenager, I tagged along with my father on his dry cleaning routes. That provided some amazing father-son quality time. Since 90% of our customers were Delta sharecroppers, I saw first-hand the disparity of opportunities. Pop and I formed genuine friendships that transcended the racial tension of that time and place. That prepared me to later accept the challenge of being the first white student-teacher at an all-African American high school in the Mississippi Delta. It changed the trajectory of my life and ministry.
When I entered the ministry, it became apparent that the most segregated hour in America was 11:00 AM on Sunday. (It still is!) Then there was that matter of women being prevented from serving as deacons or ministers. (They did serve, we just didn’t ordain them!) [Sidebar: Don’t start quoting me Bible verses to prove your racial, sexist, economic or sojourner discrimination unless you include the verse about plucking out your lustful eye or chopping off your offending hand!]
There are thousands of people engaged in urban ministry and social justice who are on the front lines, heads down, who never seek nor receive any recognition. Sojourners knows there are “hundreds of leaders across the globe on issues affecting poverty, immigration, racial justice, women and girls, and the environment. They are academics, activists, nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs, local pastors, and denominational leaders — but all of them care about changing the world through faith and justice.”
To be nominated and selected for this inaugural Summit class is a validation of our efforts through Christ Ministry Center, The Fount of Blessings Project and the emerging Exodus Cooperative Parish. What better way for me to close out my ministry than as lead pastor of a multi-ethnic parish! And our urban experiment in bringing Christ incarnate in the Concrete City is focused upon ministries for hunger, spiritual thirst, clothing, prison, health and wellness, and sojourners, whether from Haiti, Ethiopia, Mexico, Eritrea, the Marshall Islands, Mississippi, or orphans in Russia.
I’m excited the invitation stated Sojourners is “in particular looking forward to hearing more about your use of technology for social change”. My dissertation on using technology in ministry was laughable in the early 1980s, but I’m gratified to see that vision come to fruition in The Fount of Blessings (www.MyFount.com ). Attending the Summit will allow me to share our story with others and hear their stories as well so we might learn from and support each other in our efforts to bring God’s love incarnate within our communities.
I am a bit uncomfortable with the label “great” and “leader”. I’m use to “never being heard of”. But thank you for calling me a person of “social justice”. For that, I am genuinely proud.
Devotedly yours, Bill Jenkins
From the Quote Garden:
“When did we trade the idea of public servants for the false idols of power and privilege? When did we trade governing for campaigning? And when did we trade valuing those with the best ideas for rewarding those with the most money? We’ve lost something as a nation when we can no longer look at one another as people, as Americans, and — for people of faith — as brothers and sisters.”
~ Jim Wallis, Sojourners founder ~
Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205
News from Around Christ Ministry Center:
“EVERY GOOD FRIDAY” Events
Community Youth Drug Awareness Program
SDPD NARCOTICS SPEAKERS BUREAU
THIS FRIDAY, May 30, 6:00 PM
ATTENTION ALL PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS AND STUDENTS!!!!!
STOP CRIME IN OUR SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY
Representatives from the Mid-City San Diego Police station will present an awareness session parents, students and adults need to know regarding the new forms of drugs our youth are being introduced to. A recent incident involved a teenage girl who became ill after simply taking a piece of candy from a friend. Fortunately, she is ok. Parents and adults need to help make our youth aware of these dangers. Help us get the word out regarding this meeting!
And a bit further out,
Lifeline Stroke Prevention Screening
Thursday, September 4, 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Tentative date for Lifeline Screening to set up at Christ Ministry Center for screening to prevent stroke with early detection. More on this as we get closer to September 4. (This “Every Good Friday” event will be on Thursday because they will need the whole first floor of our facilities for this health screening opportunity.)
For more information on these events, call our office 8:00-11:00 or 12:-3:30, Monday through Friday. Thanks in advance for helping get the word out!