For Faith

Enjoy

It can all be so exhausting: life, livelihood, striving, even spirituality with its laundry list of how to be. Maybe that’s why Psalm 130 is one of my favorites. The poet seems to want one thing, to enjoy God! When last did you just enjoy God? The fact of God? The way God chooses to be God as made clear in Jesus’ doings and sayings? Psalm 130 invites you to breathe and put your shoulders down as it hums to you, there’s no place too deep for God to reach you. God hears and forgives. Plant your hope in God’s garden. That God is trustworthy. All together trustworthy. Like a sunrise. Like a morning. Watch and see. Enjoy.

Psalm 130

For Faith, 2021


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.


Disfruta

Todo puede ser tan agotador: la vida, el sustento, el esfuerzo, incluso la espiritualidad con su larga lista de cómo deberíamos ser. Tal vez por eso el Salmo 130 es uno de mis favoritos. El poeta parece querer una sola cosa, ¡disfrutar de Dios! ¿Cuándo fue la última vez que disfrutaste de Dios? ¿El hecho de Dios? ¿La manera en que Dios elige ser Dios como se deja claro en las obras y dichos de Jesús? El Salmo 130 te invita a respirar y a bajar los hombros mientras te tararea, no hay lugar demasiado profundo que Dios no pueda alcanzarte. Dios escucha y perdona. Planten su esperanza en el jardín de Dios. Que Dios es digno de confianza. Enteramente confiable. Como un amanecer. Como una mañana. Observa y mira. Disfruta.

Salmo 130

Revista For Faith 2021


Tags: For Faith

Speed-up

When the bible finishes its story, we are left with an image. It’s a gathering of people, a family reunion. Every nation, language and tribe. We’ve all got on long white robes, and palm branches in our hands. And we’re singing, all of us. Singing, “thanksgiving, power and might be to God forever!” In that place there’s no hunger, no homelessness, no wealth and no war. No more tears! No divisions. Just with God. In God. Raindrops returned to the ocean. Reconciled, Repaired. Rejoicing. But for now, we have the grace of knowing that we can speed up this day with our words and with our deeds.

Revelation 7:12

For Faith, 2019


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.


Avancemos

Cuando la Biblia termina su historia, nos quedamos con una imagen. Dicha imagen es una reunión de gente, una reunión familiar. Cada nación, idioma y tribu. Todos revestidos en largas túnicas blancas, y con ramas de palma en nuestras manos. Y estamos adorando, todos nosotros. Cantando, “Toda la gracia, poder y honra para Dios por siempre.” En ese lugar no habrá hambre, ni falta de techo, ni riqueza, ni guerra. ¡No más lágrimas! Sin divisiones, sólo con Dios y en Dios. Unidos como gotas de lluvia que regresan al océano. Reconciliado, reparado. Regocijándonos. Pero por ahora, tenemos la gracia de saber que podemos avanzar a este día a través de nuestras palabras y con nuestras obras.

Apocalipsis 7:12

Revista For Faith 2019


Tags: For Faith

Confrontation

Jesus wasn’t meek and mild. You don’t publicly execute meek and mild people. You crucify people who confront the system.

Life with Jesus then and now is 50 percent comfort and 50 percent confrontation. If Jesus’ words and example aren’t confronting you about how you live and what you treasure, then maybe you haven’t met the Jesus of the Bible.

Two-thousand years ago Jesus rode a donkey into the big city to let everyone know peace had come to town. Not a cheap peace or a false harmony like the ones we sometimes prefer. Not a “just let sleeping dogs lie” kind of peace, but a confronting peace that insists on justice and truth. A peace that won’t allow us to call darkness light or bitterness sweet. An incision-making peace necessary to drain infection.

This is the Jesus who confronts us for love’s sake.

For Faith, 2014


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.


Confrontation

Jesús no era ni débil y ni tímido. No se ejecutan públicamente a gente débil y tímida. Se crucifica a personas que confrontan al sistema. La vida con Jesús de entonces y de ahora es de 50 por ciento de consuelo y 50 por ciento de confrontación. Si las palabras y el ejemplo de Jesús no te confrontan sobre cómo vives y lo que atesoras, entonces tal vez no hayas conocido al Jesús de la Biblia. Hace dos mil años Jesús montó un burro en la gran ciudad para que todos supieran que la paz había llegado a la ciudad. No una paz barata o una falsa armonía como las que a veces preferimos. No es un tipo de paz «que se hace de la vista larga», sino una paz confrontante que insiste en la justicia y la verdad. Una paz que no nos permitirá llamar a la oscuridad luz o a la amargura dulce. Una paz de incisión necesaria para drenar la infección. Este es el Jesús que nos confronta por el poder de su amor.

Revista For Faith, 2014


Tags: For Faith

Status

If you and I are immersed in a love that has no borders, limitations or litmus tests, then we have all we need to go to places that appear loveless. We walk in love so, we can walk into rooms rife with political rancor. We are ambassadors for Christ. And while we may differ on political personalities or policies, our primary citizenship is with the saints in light and so we holdfast to love and do the things that love demands: “We resist evil. We respect the dignity of every human being.” We care for the immigrant, the indigent and the ignorant. For the baptized, the present political climate is but a useful precondition for us to show the world what it means to “walk in love.”

Ephesians 5:2

For Faith, 2017


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Read the Transcript:

Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau and this is Summer Shorts. This summer, we’ve asked our listeners to share questions they have for Bishop. This is Question 3 of our 5 part series.

Chiminea from Georgia said, I feel as though people have lost respect of others choices. Rather than acknowledge our difference, people want to force their personal views on others. Which is actually not a question, Bishop.

But Stacy from Georgia had a good one. In light of Roe versus Wade being overturned, how do we remain empathetic toward others?

Rob: Wow, okay. Where do we start? You know, I think, running roughshod over people and being disrespectful or trying to coerce people are all enemies to what we would understand as Christian Fellowship, right? Those are sort of examples of not respecting the dignity of every human being, right?

And so, it’s sort of a crass and base way to do disagreement, right? I think what we’re called to do, if I’m reading my Bible right, is to disagree, but disagree perhaps with a different spirit. And so, we’ve got to sort of eradicate contempt, one for the other. I think that’s one. We are all talking about spiritual formation work, down into our own guts, right? Do you just disagree? Are your talking points differ? Or do you actually have contempt for the other person? I think that’s something we all have to investigate.

And nobody is exempt. I mean, you see this on the right and on the left if we want to use that language. You see this in all kinds of quarters. I think this is where we are in the culture. It’s sort of a scorched Earth approach to conversation, which just shows you that we’ve lost, I think, a better part of ourselves and how we hold these tensions and these very complex conversations.

So, I think that’s number one. We’ve got to all interrogate ourselves. Do we contribute to this? And when we look at our social media platform, and all these sorts of things, you know, are we contributing to the culture of disrespect of running roughshod over people? I think that we’ve got to do that interrogation. And we’re only responsible for ourselves. That’s the other thing too. I think people immediately race to sort of the penthouse view. Like what is happening in our country, and I understand it. But you and I are one person, right? And so, we’ve got to in our sphere of influence try to make Christ real.

And one of the ways we try to make Christ with real is being able to sit with people and hear past their talking points and hear their fears. Be curious, rather than defensive. It’s amazing that Jesus finds all these kinds of conversation partners who we otherwise– Yeah, you would be surprised that he would have–

One of the lessons that I learned again, in preparing for a sermon, was that Jesus was actually at the head of the Pharisee’s, right? So, Jesus is this sort of outlier guy. But he goes to a party at the head of the Pharisee’s house, right? And, you know, if you read the story, Jesus is not sort of blasting him, wagging his finger at him, etc. I mean, so what we realize is that we’ve got to find a way to connect. We have too. We have to find a way to connect. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re all going to agree on the reversal of Roe v. Wade, we’re not. We’re not. But how do we push forward? It was amazing to see, the day after that decision dropped, how many companies and corporations decided, Dick’s Sporting Goods and others, decided to then lay out for their employees how they were going to care for their employees who found themselves in a situation where they had chosen abortion was their way forward. And I was really struck by that. It wasn’t bombastic. There were no trumpets blaring. It was, this is the way that we will care for people going forward.\

And so, I think we’ve got to think in those terms. I think we’ve got to really interrogate our motives. Yeah, who do we want to promote here? And I think that sometimes if we’re honest with ourselves, we want to promote our own ego. And we want to promote our own side of things. And I think there’s another way to find consensus.

Melissa: So, Bishop, you used a big word earlier on, you used the word contempt.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And I feel like whenever I’m running up against something or someone with whom I disagree, contempt is often what is working on me. And I’m wondering how do we transform contempt in order to show up to those dialogues, those arguments?

Rob: Well, you know, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because what we’re talking about, you know, what makes us sort of more malleable and ready, I think, to sort of give and take is if we have a robust prayer life. And it’s a funny kind of thing, right? So, do you go deep in your prayer life for your neighbor? Do you go deep in your prayer life for those who disagree? Do you go deep in your prayer life for those who hate and who are enemy? I mean, Jesus says, “Pray for your enemy. Bless those who curse you.” Right? I mean, that’s Jesus’ spirituality. Jesus’ spirituality is not finger wagging in the public square.

And so, I mean, we’ve yet again have to ask ourselves, who is the Lord of our lives? Who is the Lord of our lives? And if that is Jesus, then we have to adopt, willingly adopt his spirituality and try to learn from it. And I think what he’s trying to teach us is that if we can bless those who curse us and we can pray for those who despitefully use us, pray for our enemies, that we deepen our sense of connectivity one to the other. And when we do that, that is a better place to have a conversation, especially a hard conversation.

But if you and I stay up at the veneer level, you know, transacting and ideas, simply ideas and talking points, we will never get a damn thing done, right? And so, the way we have made progress going forward is to get down deep into the fact.

I mean, Desmond Tutu, I mean, sorry to trot him out. And I was angry with Desmond Tutu, in his first book when it showed his letters with the Head, the then President of South Africa. And I thought to myself, sure, as I was going to read this, he was going to take these guys to task, and he was going to tell them what for, and he’s going to talk about their mom, and all kinds of stuff. I thought, for sure. And if I’m honest, I wanted him to. I wanted it, let them have it, Desmond. Let them have it. But he said, “You’re a grandfather, and I’m a grandfather. What kind of South Africa do we want for our grandchildren.” And I think that was out of his, up every morning at 4 a.m., talking to God, realizing whether he likes it or not, you and I are connected. And so, if we just castigate each other, try to set each other on fire, we make nothing. We make nothing. Hatred is an inferior building material. It’ll last for a little while, but ultimately to crash and crack, right? But love, deep neighborly love, soul force love, not the sentiment, is how you and I get weighed down deep and that’s how we make things happen.

And so, what people are saying when they get to this level of conversations, they’re not committed to that level. And it’s just easier to throw stones. It’s easier. Because I get to feel right.

Melissa: Dang, so I got to hit my knees.

Rob: Well, I mean, that’s the guy spiritual. That’s what he said.

Melissa: That’s right. That’s right. Well, Chiminea and Stacey, thank you so much for your–

Rob: Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

Melissa: Well, I don’t know, right? I hope they are thanking you Bishop.

Rob: Bless you. Bless you.

Melissa: Listeners, thank you for listening to For People and our Summer Shorts. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And we look forward to bringing you question number 4 next week.


Estatus

Si usted y yo estamos inmersos en un amor que no tiene fronteras, limitaciones o pruebas de fuego, entonces tenemos todas las herramientas que necesitamos para ir a lugares en los que carece el amor. Caminamos enamorados, así que tenemos la fortaleza para poder caminar en situaciones llenas de rencor político, ya que somos embajadores de Cristo. Y aunque podemos diferir en cuanto a nuestros lideres o ideologías políticas, nuestra ciudadanía primaria es con los santos en la luz. Así que comprometámonos a amar y hacer las cosas que el amor nos exige: “Nosotros resistimos al mal, Nosotros respetamos la dignidad de cada ser humano. Nosotros nos preocupamos por el inmigrante, el indigente y el ignorante. Para los bautizados, el clima político actual no es más que una condición previa útil para mostrar al mundo lo que significa “caminar en amor”.

Efesios 5:2

Revista For Faith, 2017


Tags: For Faith

Agency

People remember Jesus calmed the wind and the sea with a phrase, “Peace! Be still!” What is less remembered is Jesus taught his followers to be able to do the same. “Where is your faith?” Jesus asked them. Following Jesus is about taking up agency. It’s about Jesus believing in us to do the things he taught us. Following Jesus is not some always-trepidatious, hand-wringing kind of hope. Following Jesus is about being immersed in his teachings and hazarding faithful, audacious actions. Maybe church has taught us to be fans of Jesus instead of partners with Jesus.

Original For Faith, 2018


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Read the Transcript:

Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau and this is Summer Shorts. This summer, we’ve asked our listeners to share questions they have for Bishop. This is Question 2 on our 5 part series.

Bishop, this is a question from Christian from Georgia. And he asked, how can we work for lessening income and inequality and pushing for universal healthcare as a church?

Rob: Great question. Let me just tell you where I start. This will be sort of infinitely, you know, an adequate answer. But let me tell you where I start there. I always get a little bit– My antennas go up when people say what can we do as a church? And you know, the sort of the teacher in me wants to remind us that, are we talking about an organization or as individuals, right? Because we are the church, you and I, individuals. And anytime we’ve ever made any progress in this country, it’s because individuals who understand themselves as church, that is baptized, Holy Spirit guided folks, have decided to beat the drum about something, and continue, and persevere against the odds to make the changes necessary to sort of close the gap between, you know, as I like to say, between heaven and hell.

So, the first thing I want to ask is, is that, let’s not sit around and wonder what the organization is doing. Let us as individuals, take this passion that burns in us as a calling and get to work. That is true for any number of organizations that have been following, Habitat for Humanity, the Highlander School, the work that led to the Civil Rights Movement, the Children’s Defense Fund. It’s always been about what I like to say as, a few pissed off Christians, who have decided to change the world. And, you know, against all odds. So, I want to say that number one.

So, if this is burning on someone’s heart– Christian, if this is burning on your heart, perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something about how you should spend your life, right? That’s number one.

Number two, if we are talking about organization, because there is an organizational part about this. I think it is, how do we get the message to more people in the organization about the perils of radical economic inequity, right? Because it is perilous. And all the research says to us that this country is becoming, you know, mostly have nots with a, you know, few of us, being haves. And that is the way that things are going. And the disparity is just jarring.

And in Atlanta, sadly enough, Georgia is actually, you know, is leading the nation in a lot of these causes, housing, income, etc. And so, we’ve got to get some information out. But again, it all boils down to, you know, who’s got the fire, right? We can play the should game. We can say, you know, all these congregations should this and should that and should the other thing.

Here’s what we learned from Bryan Stevenson, it’s all about proximity. When people meet, authentic care and concern in you, or in I about something, that we want to give our life too, that is when the needle moves and that is when things change. But otherwise, this is just a issue on a mountain of issues that people have some sense of, but it’s never really come close. So, Bryan Stevenson asked us to sort of, number one, get really close to the issue, right? And then, number two, take that closeness and to be close to other people. And so, we need somebody to beat the drum on this.

But yes, it is the church’s business because it is about neighborliness. So, your question is fantastic in that regard. You’re asking us about what is the quality of our neighborliness? Do we actually manifest real world care and concern for people who are without?

Melissa: Yeah, there was a follow up question, right? Because Christian also mentioned universal healthcare. And I’m wondering, is that the answer?

Rob: Well, I mean, again, this is where some will agree and someone won’t agree with me. I actually believe healthcare is a human right, right? And so, you know, that’s a real grievous disparity for me. I believe that the floor height of this country should be at a certain level, where all of her citizens enjoy certain benefits and healthcare is one. Why should we, a great country like this country, why should we be peer with other countries less developed than us in terms of not providing these benefits? Or to say it another way, why should countries who are smaller than us and who don’t proclaim themselves to be great, they’re ahead of us in leave taking for women with children. They are ahead of us in universal healthcare. They’re ahead of us in so many categories. And so, I think that it’s where we have to definitely get to. And again, that starts all with us joining in, beating the drum about these things. And you know, what we have to say about the Christian part of this is, is that, unless we’re ready to give our life for something, you know, then we’re just talking. You know, Miroslav Volf, said, you know, there’s something hypocritical about praying for something that you personally are not actively working on, right? And so, are we trying to outsource some stuff to God and other people, or do we want to take up our cross and walk?

Melissa: Well, and so, Bishop, you talked about being, you know, a few Christians being on fire and doing great. And yet, our Episcopal Church has an Office of Government Relations and a number of other ways for people to get involved and advocate for the things that are on their heart. Do you know of other churchwide organizations that people might be able to plug into?

Rob: Yeah, no, I don’t. I mean, that’s one of the best ones. Because that office sort of lives at the intersection of faith and public policy. But there are other organizations that we can familiarize ourselves with too. And you know, I would also say to anybody, we don’t have to look for “Christian organizations”, right? I think we can get alongside of all kinds of people in service to this great cause, right? And so, if the cause is the purpose, and you happen to come at it as a Christian and it’s part of your vocation as a Christian, then hallelujah and twice on Sunday, right? But we don’t have to be looking specifically for Christian organization.

What we’re looking for is to change the country for the better. And so, we can find all kinds of partners if that is our aim.

Melissa: Great. Christian, thank you for your question. And Bishop, thank you for your wisdom. And thank you listeners for listening to For People and Summer Shorts. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And check us out next week for Question #3.


Tener Agencia

La gente recuerda que Jesús calmó el viento y el mar con una frase, “¡Paz! ¡Permanece quieto!” Lo menos que recordamos es que Jesús enseñó a sus discípulos a tener la capacidad de hacer cosas similares. “¿Dónde está su fe?” Jesús les preguntó. Seguir a Jesús es tomar la agencia. Se trata de Jesús creyendo en nosotros para hacer las cosas que Él nos enseñó. Seguir a Jesús se trata de estar inmersos en sus enseñanzas y ser tenaces en la fe. Es posible que la iglesia nos enseñó a ser fanáticos de Jesús en vez de ser compañeros de Jesús.

Original para la fe, 2018


Tags: For Faith

Good News

Jesus echoed the good news from Isaiah and brought it forward. Enfleshed it. Good news that disrupts the bad news. Good news for the people who are on a constant diet of bad news. Good news for the poor. Good news for the blind and those behind bars. Freedom for those with the iron foot of oppression on their neck. Release for those who have their dignity denied, disparaged or contained. And a year of favor-over generous preferential treatment-for those who watch the years unfold and wonder where is God. Jesus said these things, and then poured out his life to make them real.

Original For Faith, 2019


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Read the Transcript:

Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau and this is a summer short. This summer, we’ve asked our listeners to share questions they have for Bishop. This is Question 1 on our 5-part series.

Bishop, our first question is posed by Cindy from Colorado. She said that she lives in a conservative military town and has yet to find a good church match. She walks into church for the first time and sees an American flag on the altar and knows it’s not a good sign for what’s to follow. What’s your perspective on how to find a church of like-minded people?

Rob: Wow. So, great question. I think these days, you know, given the internet, we have a better chance at finding a community, a church community than ever before. We can do a lot of shopping, you know, on our laptops so to speak. You know, I take this question very seriously, because what people want to do is they want to walk into a community that is sort of living out the gospel in a particular way. So, I would ask, you know, what are you looking for? You made a comment about the flag being in a prominent place in the church. That happens in lots of churches. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss those communities out of hand.

But I guess what I would say is, is that what are you actually looking for? Make a detailed list of what you’re looking for. Are you looking for justice work? Looking for generosity work among the poor? Maybe you’re looking for a community that really takes scripture seriously, has a robust Bible study. You know, what are you looking for? And I think the more detailed you can make that list, the better off you’ll be. And of course, that is bound by proximity, how long do you want to travel? How much are you willing to travel to find this community? I would say that first.

And then I would say something that we don’t hear very often, and that is, you’re in a season of prayer, whether you know it or not. You’re discerning. You are asking God to drive you somewhere that you need to be so that you can grow, right? We talk about believing, belonging, and becoming. That’s the community that you are looking for. And so, you’re not just shopping, you’re discerning. And so, you need the Holy Spirit for that help. And so, I would invite you and your family to a season of prayer, Lord, guide us to that place where we can grow to know you and to love you and to love our neighbors.

And then, you made a last comment about like mindedness. And I would say, I certainly understand exactly what you mean. But there is this notion when people do church shopping, that they are sort of looking for a place that already agrees with everything that we know right now. And that sort of discounts this formation opportunity, this growth opportunity. And so, I’m so glad in retrospect that I ended up in communities in my formation that would have not necessarily been my first choice. But they broadened me and deepened to me, and I know that clearly in retrospect. And so, I would say, when we’re talking about like-minded, what are we talking about? Are we talking about our political views? Are we talking about, you know, other views? Likeminded for us, as Christian’s, is this a place that lifts up Jesus Christ and invites people to grow and give their lives away to the service of Christ? And so, that’s the best part of like mindedness for us. And we might be surprised if we open up ourselves to that, where we would end up.

Melissa: So, the challenger part of me is going okay, Bishop, what are the dangers of being associated with echo chambers?

Rob: Yeah. Well, no, that’s a great question. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Is that if you want to walk into a place that already agrees with you 100%, that’s an echo chamber, right? And perhaps, there’s not enough growth opportunity there. You know, perhaps we want to be challenged a little bit. I mean, if I know anything about the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit doesn’t really care what you think right now. When you say, welcome, Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit says, okay, strap in, let’s go for a ride. And you know, it’s almost like the Holy Spirit says, you know, oh, the places you will go, right? And so, we know that when people have sort of said, okay, God, you drive, and I’ll be the passenger. They end up in all kinds of places.

But if we’re just looking for an echo chamber, let’s be honest and say that, right? But maybe what they need, that community needs, is you. Let’s not also forget about that part. You know, communities have needs as well. I’m always so glad to confirm young people in the Episcopal tradition to confirm them. And what I say to them upon their confirmation is, we old people need your young perspective. And you, your young perspective needs us, right? So, the Bible says iron sharpeneth iron. And so, that’s my vision of fellowship. I need something from you, Melissa. And I think Melissa, you need something for me. That’s the way Christian Fellowship works. And that keeps us from being arrogant, right? And it keeps us open.

Melissa: That’s right. Thank you for listening to For People and Summer Shorts. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And be sure to check us out next week for Question #2.


Buenas Noticias

Jesús hizo eco de las buenas nuevas que Isaías profetizó y las perfeccionó al Encarnarse. Son buenas nuevas que interrumpen las malas noticias. Buenas noticias para las personas que están en un ciclo constante de malas noticias. Buenas noticias para los pobres. Buenas noticias para los ciegos y los que están encarcelados. Libertad para aquellos que como con un pie de hierro son oprimidos. Libertad para aquellos a quienes se les refuta, se les menosprecia o se le niega su dignidad. Y un año de bendiciones donde sobreabunde un trato preferencial- especialmente para aquellos que ven pasar los años y se preguntan dónde está Dios. Jesús dijo estas cosas, y luego entregó su vida para hacerlas una realidad.

Original para la fe, 2019


Tags: For Faith

For America

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, Pg. 820


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Read the Transcript:

A mature sense of patriotism holds together in a tension, the things that we need to lament about and the things that we hope for. What we do is we get spiritual and intellectual lazy people who want to sort of alleviate that tension. No, you’ve got to hold it together in the way that God holds God’s viewpoint of us together. I am saint and I am sinner. I am both.

Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau. Bishop Wright and I are having a conversation based on For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and the link to subscribe in the episode’s description.
Good morning, Bishop.

Rob: Good morning, how you doing?

Melissa: I’m all right, man. You named this week’s devotion For America.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And it’s taken directly from the prayer for our nation, which is on page 820 out of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Rob: There you go.

Melissa: And July 4 is coming up. And so, I imagine that’s why you chose it. Or perhaps it’s because the last couple of weeks have felt insane and tensions are running high.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: Do you want to tell us why you chose to share this with us this time?

Rob: Well, yeah, sure. Well, I mean, you know, I am born and raised in this country. I love this country. I’ve served this country. I wore the uniform. I believe in the experiment called democracy. I believe we are an imperfect union. And I believe that we can perfect this union, through government, through neighborliness, and all of that. I think, even though we’re facing difficult days right now, I think that America is worth saving.

And so, you know, when I think about that, I think about people like you and I who have faith, and we ought to pray. And so, the Fourth of July is not only a time to celebrate, you know, the legacy of democracy that we have as imperfect as it is, it is also a time to sort of celebrate along with the baseball and the apple pie and all of that, it’s an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the work of neighborliness in this wonderful country called America. And so, sometimes, we can be so critical of our union. And we’ve got to hold our legitimate critiques in tension with an acknowledgement of the ground we’ve crossed in this country. And the opportunity that we enjoy.

Melissa: Wow, that was a big statement right there. And it kind of shaded my next question. So, we’ve got a whole intention and so I wanted to like, get the bad stuff out of the way first?

Rob: Okay.

Melissa: Before we dive into the good stuff of this prayer, I’ve heard it said, that belief shapes prayer, and prayer shapes belief. So, it’s hard for me sometimes to pray this prayer because of how it begins. It says, God who has given us this good land for our heritage. And that feels wrong to me. Unless it’s a prayer written solely for indigenous people. I mean, I don’t believe God gave us all this land. But many of us, you know, many of us took it. And so, can we just get this tiny part out of the way? How do you prayerfully, standing alongside other people who may not have a problem with anything in the prayer? Like, how do we pray this authentically? And again, hold intention, kind of what you said before, you know, the imperfect stuff? This is an imperfect prayer to me. Got any thoughts on that?

Rob: Yeah. Well, it’s an imperfect prayer for an imperfect nation for a bunch of imperfect Americans, right? Born or naturalized. And so, I mean, that’s not an excuse. The fact of the matter is, we did take the land. We did, you know, exterminate an entire group of people. We did seize property and call it our own. And we did transport human beings to labor in the land that we took. And by we, I’m claiming my part of we as an American citizen. So, even though I’m an African American, because I live in America, I enjoy the benefits of stolen property and stolen personhood as other Americans do. So, that is the fact of America.

And you know, I’m glad we get to talk about this because some people are so afraid to talk about America’s sort of shadow side. And I think they do the country a disservice by negating or neglecting to talk about our journey. We have a very complex family dynamic in America. From 1619, when the first Africans arrived, which is a year before the pilgrims, to the men and the women and the deep, rich culture that we found when we got here. A civilized culture, a genius culture that paid attention to land and water and thought in terms of decision making around seven generations. I mean, we called them savages. But nevertheless, that was a high culture. And it’s only now some of us are discovering that we sort of ran roughshod over something that we should have conserved and preserved and been humble enough to learn from rather than lean into extermination.

But I think that we do America a real great service when we talk about who we have been and our mistakes and the things that we have done to hurt people. Because we have thou a realistic sense of who we are. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Any therapists worth three cents, will not, will never tell you to sort of just push away all the bad stuff and put it into a closet and leave it there, right? And sweep it under the rug. No, you’ve got to process that. And we’ve got to do that as a nation. What really concerns me is that people think they are not a patriot if you name what we’ve done to women and what we’ve done to indigenous people and what we’ve done to Africans, and, you know, the internment camps for the Japanese, and the abusive policies even right now for immigrants. I mean, just 52 people have died in the back of a truck, you know, in Texas being transported as labor. And the reason that happened was because there is a market still for, you know, to exploit cheap labor.

And so, yeah, America is not a perfect nation. But I think that America is worth working on, is worth saving. And how I get to see this, look, we have to make the connection here too is that– What does that have to do anything to do with me being a Christian? And you being a Christian? And you and I being people of faith? For me, it’s all about neighborliness, right? My first citizenship, our first citizenship at Saint Paul has said is in heaven. And then, everything there after is another context, a lesser context for our citizenship. So, because I’m a citizen of heaven, by virtue of my relationship to Jesus Christ and your relationship to Jesus Christ, I therefore now am in a specific locale and context. And so, my calling therefore, is to reflect heaven even amidst the most tragic looking hell. And this is our add value as Christians to wherever we are. And so, it makes sense to me, therefore, for us, to celebrate our nation. And also to deepen our sense of commitment and dedication to making this nation, even in our specific locales look more like heaven and less like hell.

Melissa: Right. Which is actually, to me the definition of what reconciliation is.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: So, how do we– How do we be neighbors, good neighbors without being able to tell the truth?

Rob: Well, you have to. I mean, this is it, right? I mean, and so what we have to do is try to increase the capacity. And this is where the church has failed in many ways. We have not done a whole lot better in the church than civil society, right? And so, what civil society should take from us is an example of how to tell the truth in love. How to name all these grievous factors that I just named and sit with them, live in that tension. I think what people are so worried about is guilt, condemnation, shame, right? And so, because of that we can’t talk about who we’ve actually been. We have to dispute it. And we have to burn books and we have to outlaw books, etc., etc. And, of course, we have to be careful with information. But the facts are clear about what we’ve done to indigenous people. And that we have withheld the vote to women until the 20s. And I mean, it’s not like we are making this stuff up. So, I think it’s a much more rich conversation. In fact, a much more hopeful conversation. If we can name where we have been, and begin to sort of talk about where we are, and then name, you know, those things that keep us from being, you know, the great country that we aspire to be. That’s all hopeful for me.

Melissa: I agree. Friends, we’ll be right back after a short break.

Easton: Hi, friends, thank you for listening to For People, the space of digital evangelism. It’s summer and a perfect time for some summer shorts. Join us over the next five weeks as we respond to questions from our faithful listeners. These are short, real short, like five minutes short. Listen in next Friday for question one. And now back to For People.

Melissa: Welcome back to For People. Bishop, many Americans will be celebrating Independence Day in just a few days. And I’m curious what you think about freedom? Especially through your perspective as a veteran?

Rob: Wow. Oh, my goodness, that is a great question. Well, freedom, yes, I want some. And I want it for everybody. So yes, I’ll have a double scoop of that, right? We know that freedom ain’t free. We know that people have to pay the price. And so at least on this Fourth of July, we have to give thanks for the men and the women who paid the ultimate sacrifice, families, spouses who paid the ultimate sacrifice, mothers and fathers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in sending a loved one, you know, off to war. So, we remember that. And we remember the great cost of freedom.

But then, you know, we’ve got to think about freedom, I think as being extended to all, right? And so, for me, that ends up being a justice conversation. So, justice and freedom are intimately linked together. Right? So, if we want more freedom for everybody in the culture in society, then we’ve got to talk about justice. We’ve got to talk about the scales of justice in this nation. And you know, can a woman and a man earn the same for the same work? Not yet in America. Not yet in America. You know, does a person of color have exactly the same kind of opportunity that a white brother or sister has? Not yet in America. In many places, in some instances, to be sure. I’m an example of that. But not everywhere. Not everywhere. And so, we have to talk about that. Do gay and lesbian people have same opportunities? Can they move forward without some kind of taint or some kind of, you know, sidelining? Not everywhere in America, just yet, right? Does a congress represent the tapestry that is America? Not yet.

So, we’ve got work to do. And so, all of that work for me is about fortifying this idea of freedom, making it real. It’s a great idea. It’s a great word to use. And everybody can get a little weepy eyed, or, you know, the sort of chin starts moving when we start talking about freedom. But all the freedoms that you and I enjoy, were hard won by generations before us. Hard won. And so, I mean, think about the women who did the legwork to make women’s suffrage a reality for you. So, that you get to go the polls, your daughters get to go to the polls, and you don’t have to think about being excluded, right?

And so, I guess, I always think in terms of what is the work here? What we want to do is extend the blessings of liberty as they say to ourselves. And our posterity, right? So, this is the work for us. And what guides us as people of faith is our absolute radical commitment to the fact that we are siblings, you know, in the eyes of a loving God. So, all of that, that theology is what drives us. Now, what drives other people, I don’t know. And it’s not for me to say. But what drives I think people of faith, how they marry these ideas of following Jesus and working on making this a more perfect union is that it’s the rocket fuel for us. We have a radically clear idea from the Gospels and the Epistles in the New Testament, Old Testament as well, about neighborliness. And that’s what we’re working on.

And so, it comes out in the polls. And it comes out in the grassroots work that we do. And we’ve got to do more. I was talking to Andy Young the other day, Ambassador Andy Young. If I ever had a grandpa, I would choose him. I never had a grandpa. But you know, so maybe God gave me a grandpa, he’s 90 years old. And he said the most jarring thing to me the other day. He said that he reads the newspapers and takes in all the data that is today. He said, it seems that hate is more organized than it’s ever been. I was so struck. I was blown away by that comment. I said, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute. You’ve got to go slow here. I said, this is a guy that face downed dogs and state police, racist state police. And I mean, he’s just seen the worst of us, you know, and all these little towns that many of them are in the Diocese of Atlanta. He confronted these places. And he said, that now hate is more organized than before. He said that the only way they were able to make the progress that they made, which you know, even accrues to us now, you and I sitting here talking as brother and sister, was because love was more organized than hate in his day.
How they made a difference in Montgomery, how they made a difference in Birmingham, how they made a difference in all kinds of places was because love was more organized than hate was. That was how they were able to run the non-violence strategy. And to break the backs of segregation in lots of places. Right? Wow. I mean, that’s a PhD dissertation right there. But what we’ve got to do now, I think, as Americans, as followers of Jesus, is that we’ve got to get our love organized.

Melissa: Amen to that. Which leads me to the question, Bishop, is there room for lament when coupled with the idea of patriotism or American pride?

Rob: I think in a mature sense of patriotism holds together in a tension, the things that we need to lament about, and the things that we hope for. I think those two things have to stay in dialogue in us. What we do is we get spiritual and intellectual lazy people who want to sort of alleviate that tension. You know, falsely or immaturely, it just sort of puts one away. No, you’ve got to hold it together in the way that God holds God’s viewpoint of us together. I am saint and I am sinner, I am both. I am both. So, we’ve got a whole lament of where we’ve been, with the hope of where we are going. We have too.

Melissa: And we’re talking about the great we, as the Christian we?

Rob: I’m talking about the great we as the American we.

Melissa: The American we. Here is the tension though, right, many of us would, many people would call America, a Christian nation?

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And that rubs me the wrong way.

Rob: I don’t think numerically you can bear that out. When you look at recent data, I don’t think you can bear that out. Many of us in America have no religious affiliation at all. And that number is increasing rapidly, right? And so, Christian is becoming associated with sort of xenophobic, homophobic, white, you know, evangelical prejudice, those sorts of things. These are the words that people are ascribing to Christianity, right? And so, a lot of young people are walking away from that. Islam has a certain population. Judaism has a certain population. And so, we are becoming as a country something that does not have a shared lexicon vocabulary on how we shall proceed to make a difference in America as a believing group. There are pockets certainly. But as a general matter, not so much. In some ways, in some places, it is pejorative to be labeled as a Christian because of how people have come to that. Pedophile, abusive, authoritarianism, all of these negatives, that are being continually ascribed to what it means to be Christian these days. And so, we’re having to work through that as well.

Melissa: Right. I would say a dominant minority of us would call themselves an evangelical Christian. And so, I’m wondering about the shoulds. You know, there’s so many people who should on us, you know–

Rob: For the listeners, she said should.

Melissa: Well, I took it from Brenea Brown. I think it’s fabulous.

Rob: Yeah, yeah.

Melissa: How do we reconcile the fact that we can show up to people and say, we can stand firm with our Jewish, Muslim, and other faith-based Christian? I’m sorry, other faith-based Americans? And say that this our country, we are globally, a united we. That we do this in response to our calls, Jesus followers, but with respect for people who are not?

Rob: Well, yeah. Howard Thurman said this better than anybody, which is it is my Christianity that puts me beside other brothers and sisters from other fates, as sibling, right? So, it is because I follow Jesus and try to build some depth in that, that I end up beside lots of different kinds of people, right? So, what they say and Habitat for Humanity and the good work that happens there, right. It’s a Christian organization, founded as a Christian organization continues in its Christian identity. But what they say is Christ is our center. But Christ is not our border. And I think that’s just a wonderful way to say that. Jonathan Reckford, who is the executive director says that again, and again, and again. That’s perfect, because what that means is, is that out of our center, we find ourselves side by side with lots of different kinds of people doing the work of Christ in the real world. And to that we can, you know, add all kinds of partners, right? Because it’s just about the work getting done. Yeah.

Melissa: That sounds like freedom.

Rob: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, what freedom is, freedom is also connected to partnership I think.

Melissa: Yeah.

Rob: I think what makes us free is that if we join together with a clear sense of purpose, the worst kind of partnership is coercion and obligation, shame and guilt. The best kind of partnership is as I do this, of my own volition, this is the place I want to spend my agency for this thing, you know, this enterprise, in this case, this country. And so, this is why Jesus kept trying to make partners, kept asking people, you know. And this is why when, like, people like the rich young ruler, you know, when he was invited to go forward with Jesus, he said, no, I’m good, I’m going to keep my stuff and he turned around and went away. But Jesus didn’t shame him, right? Because the best expression of partnership, is uncoerced partnership, right?

And so, well, you know, out of our own deep commitment to what we say are our values, it should bear fruit in the world. And so, if we love this country, and we understand this country, right, we should find our way into listening with other people, deeply listening for fears, and not just opportunities to sort of bludgeon people with our talking points, whatever our talking points are.

And while I’m on this tirade, let me say this. You know, I hear from people all the time in the body of Christ, that is the Christian family. They want to use the terms liberal and conservative all the time. And may I just say, so very humbly, that is not in the Gospel. It’s not in the Epistle. And it has no benefit to Christian Fellowship. It’s just a way to diminish people. And so, what I’m more interested in is trying to find out what my brothers and sisters on either side of things are afraid of, what is their concern? And figure out how we can get something done. We just passed a gun bill here first one in 30 years. It was bipartisan. It’s not perfect. I’m not saying it’s perfect. Please don’t send me any emails. I’m not saying it’s perfect. But you know, it got overshadowed by some of the horrible things. It got overshadowed by the Roe reversal. But you know, for some of us, it was a glimmer. It was a glimmer. By no means is it perfect. We could have done more, should have done more in my opinion. But it is a step.

Melissa: Yeah. Well, Bishop I’ll be celebrating with you I’m sure this very imperfect yet, I guess experiment. We’re still experimenting, right.

Rob: We are still experimenting.

Melissa: I’m grateful. Happy Independence Day, y’all.

Rob: Happy Independence to you and just remember, pray for this country. If you love this country, pray for her.

Melissa: Amen.

Thank you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we look forward to being back with you next week.


Por América

Dios Todopoderoso, que nos has dado esta hermosa tierra por herencia: Humildemente te rogamos que siempre podamos ser un pueblo agradecido de tu protección hacia nosotros y felices de hacer tu voluntad. Bendice nuestra tierra con una industria honorable, un aprendizaje sólido y modales puros. Sálvanos de la violencia, la discordia y la confusión, del orgullo y la arrogancia, y de todo lo que conduce al mal camino. Defiende nuestras libertades, y conviértenos en un pueblo unido, uno nacido de múltiples tribus y lenguas. Proporciona un espíritu de sabiduría para aquellos quienes en tu Nombre hemos sido confiamos la autoridad del gobierno, para que haya justicia y paz en nuestros hogares, y para que, por medio de la obediencia a tu ley, podamos mostrar tu alabanza entre las naciones de la tierra. En el tiempo de la prosperidad, llena nuestros corazones de agradecimiento, y en el día de la angustia, confianza plena en tu voluntad; todo lo que pedimos por medio de Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén


Tags: For Faith

Steady

I wonder how anxiety has shaped you, is shaping you-your family, your work? Our anxieties drive our relationships with God, reality and one another more than we know. They can keep us meek rather than bold; coy rather than candid; fearful when faith is needed. The leadership Jesus practiced invites us to increase our capacity for holding steady in the face of personal and institutional anxiety. Holding steady is not the performance of calm. It’s not inaction or indifference, it’s a proactive stance. The chess player waiting for his turn to move is not inactive. The scientist waiting for the results from her latest experiment isn’t being passively inactive. Holding steady is not rigidity. Rigidity is an inability to bend. Holding steady is an embodied spiritual stance on the way to adaptation. Holding steady is what the Apostle Paul is referring to when he says, “…having done everything to stand, stand therefore.” Which is, having executed the plan according to the purpose, now actively waiting and watching for intended impact and new iterations.

Ephesians 6:13


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Read the Transcript

You know, a listener might go to a food pantry to help. I encourage them to sort of get out from behind the table where the bags are, where the food is, and go have a conversation and learn about what’s been going on in the life of someone who’s there to get help. And then, think about all the forces in society that have had an impact on that person’s life and what we might do differently.

This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Rob: Hello, everyone, this is Bishop Rob Wright and this is For People. We’ve got a great treat today, we’re on with Professor Luke Shaefer from the University of Michigan. He’s educated at Oberlin College and a PhD from the University of Chicago School of Social Administration. And he cares an awful lot about poverty. His work has been cited in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Atlantic, and The LA Times. Luke, Good morning.

Luke: Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Rob: We are so glad that you’re here to have a conversation about America to talk a little bit about poverty in America. So, I always like to start off asking folks sort of how do you come to this work? You’ve got a wonderful body of work, you co-authored a book about living on $2 a day, how do you come to this work? Why this work for you?

Luke: Well, it actually came through my faith life. So, I grew up as a preacher’s kid. My dad was an Episcopal Priest. We were in a small town in Michigan. And when I was in about seventh grade, he went through a career crisis and left the church pretty quickly. And we had the move within a month. And, you know, as a small town, an Episcopal priest, I think we were sort of clinging on to the bottom rung to the middle class. And in that moment, we experienced a pretty bad spell, you know. We only had a place to live because of a parishioner who sort of helped us get a place that at a low rent. And I, you know, went through this period where I realized we just really didn’t have enough to make ends meet. But my family, rather than having to go to the to the welfare office to get a little bit of help, when it was in crisis, we had a family network. You know, we had grandma and grandpa who could help out. Things weren’t great, but we had that safety net to fall back on. So, that really had me thinking about– You know, sort of in that moment I thought of myself not as poor because I had the safety net inside the family, but I certainly wasn’t middle class. And we moved into Ann Arbor, which was a more affluent place, so I could see that other people were doing a lot better.

So that just got me really sort of thinking that somehow I was in between parts of society and wondering if I could do something to try to help make connections, right? And try to help people in different parts of the economic ladder understand and especially folks further up that really had no ideas what was going on with families that struggled to make ends meat. I wanted to help them understand and see if I could help us do something about it.

Rob: Yeah. You use the phrase, make ends meat. I’m a kid who grew up in public housing. And knows something about sort of clinging to bottom rungs. I used to hear my parents talk about ends meat so often I thought it was actually a meat dish. I would hear them talking about ends meat, ends meat, I was like, will someone please call this ends meat so that we can stop talking about the thing.

Luke: What’s all the hype about?

Rob: Exactly. Of course, I grew up and learned exactly what they meant. They meant that it is tough to be poor in America. And you can be a working poor. Both my parents always worked, worked long days, many hours, kept a roof over our head. But it was always robbing Peter to pay Paul to use another phrase.

So, give us a sketch. What are we looking at in our country right now? You know, what we say and what we here said, is that the gap is getting increasingly wider between the haves and have nots. And of course, COVID has accelerated some of that. It’s sort of amplified or laid bare these disparities. So, how are we doing in terms of the poor in America?

Luke: Well, I’m going to sort of start with the pre-COVID answer. And then I’m going to give a little bit of the COVID answer, which is there are some actual positive notes in there that I would like people to recognize. I would like to lift that up.

As you were sort of saying about your parents, the experience of most poor families are working families. Especially when you are looking at children who are experiencing poverty, 70 plus percent have parents or an adult who is working over the course of the year. So, we sometimes make these distinctions between the working poor and the non-working poor, and to some extent those can help us. But really the predominant sort of experience in America, is a family who’s trying to work but the you know, often that job is low pay, the job is unstable. So, a lot of retail jobs, of course, have hours that fluctuate. You might be working 30 hours a week one week, and then 10 or 15 the next. And that makes it really hard actually to, you know– One thing humans are really bad at is instability or volatility like that. How do you plan when your paycheck is changing? And what happens to your public benefits, if you have to renew when you’re making, you know, you are working 30-hours a week or go down to 15. Your benefits sometimes go down when you are making more.

So, I like to think of poverty in America as really, an unstable, sort of a volatile experience where if you catch me at one point in the year maybe there is someone that is working in the household. We think maybe we are sort of on the way out. Another part of the year, something happened in that job, the hours changed, go cut, or something happened in your family. That is another piece of the puzzle. Low income families often have sort of family lives that change a lot, people coming in and out of the house. And some of that is driven by the expenses. A real big expense that low income Americans struggle with is housing. A huge fraction of Americans pay more than 30% of their income towards. That is our usual designation for unaffordable.

Many Americans pay half of their income towards housing. So, we’ve increasingly seen families who are doubling up, families that can not afford a place, they are couch surfing and may be working during that period. But they still can’t afford an apartment on what they make. We have a lot of instability. We have a lot of instability in housing. We see a lot of kids that are moving a lot and don’t record at school that they have a permanent place to stay at some point, as they are growing up. We see instability in jobs where there is a lot of hour fluctuation, or you know, a lot of labor law violations, turns out there is not a lot of consequence if you break labor laws. And folks that might get paid less than minimum wage or asked to work overtime without added compensation, there is not a lot of tools at their disposal to fight that. And then, a lot of instability in family life too.

Rob: Yeah. Yeah. I think the word that I want to take away from all of that is just this volatility, right? And certainly, in Atlanta, I’m in a Atlanta, you are in Michigan, we see a lot of that in Atlanta. We see that it comes with a white face, and it comes with a black face. You know, it’s in the immigrant community, Hispanic folks. It is just a high degree of volatility and people are sort of one catastrophe away from real destitution. Is that right?

Luke: Yeah. That’s exactly right. So, you have a lot of people who are living on the edge, a lot of people that we have sort of fallen off the edge. Just lives that are constantly in flux because of that. And as you said, poverty affects, you know, pretty much any person that you can imagine. Poverty can impact families. People of color are disproportionately likely to experience poverty. I think of that as like the consequence of century-plus of structural racism. But white families, also the majority of people, according to our data that are in poverty, are white families. So, it’s not right to say it only affects sort of one group or another. It disproportionately affects people of color. But there are millions of white families who are below the poverty line or just sort of right above it as well.

Rob: Yeah. We’ve had in advance of your visit with us we’ve had on Jonathan Redford, who’s executive director of Habitat for Humanity. Excuse me. And we’ve had Dr. Starsky Wilson, who’s executive director of Children’s Defense Fund. And so, we’re sort of working out this theme. We’re sort of talking about the poor among us. We do this for people who are wondering, so what’s the faith component behind this? You know, Jesus talked a lot about the poor, talked a lot about people that we would label now as having pre-existing health conditions. He talked a lot about even his own homelessness. And he told us amazing story about a man who died sumptuously, night after night. And he had to walk past another man who was at his gate, who was unwell, who was poor, even the dogs licked his sores. That’s a very familiar story from the Gospels.

I was always struck by the tension in that story, that from the front gate to his dining room table, where he died sumptuously, that was the gap. That the poor lived right at his gate and he died sumptuously. And so, the poor are all around us. There may be some people who are listening who would say that they are poor. And so, we’re talking about sort of being in close proximity, and yet living two very different realities in one, you know, what I would say, is a great country. And so, what percentage of folks in America would you say are living below the poverty line and tell us about that poverty line?

Luke: Yeah, and I want to come back to this sort of theme of being in relationship and where that comes from the gospel to, because I have some thoughts on that as well. I like to use a lot of different kinds of data to try to sort of really triangulate on who is really below what we would call poverty. The official statistics, I think at last count, put it somewhere around 12%. So, that would be 12% of the US public would be something along the lines of 35 to 40-million people. That is a lot of people. And I think some people would argue that line is set pretty low and that you could actually double it to twice the poverty line. So, just to give a sense of where we are, the official statistic would put you under the poverty line if you have an income of less than $24,000 a year. So, a lot of people say, if you are making $30,000 a year, you are still really struggling with rent and still really struggling to put food on the table. Maybe it could be $40,000. That is where you may have a fighting chance. And if you do that, you are talking more like 50 to 60-million people. And it is in urban areas like Atlanta and Detroit. It is growing fastest in the recent years in the suburbs as well. We’ve seen some out migration from cities and into suburbs. And that has some positive things for families, sort of reduces the concentration of poor families and poor places. It can create its own challenges. William Julius Wilson wrote a very famous book on this.

But it also has some challenges where a lot of our service providers are actually clustered in the cities. And so, if you get out to the suburbs and you need help, you get into a crisis. There’s sort of fewer sort of types of services that can really help you out. And then finally, some of our very, very poorest places are in rural America. I think, you know, for every 100 books about poverty, we think about it are about urban poverty. Sometimes we even just say urban poverty. But if you look at the places that have the lowest incomes, you look at the places that have the lowest life expectancy, you know, like 10-years less than the average American lives. Look at the places with the lowest mobility, that’s often in rural places, and that’s a very racially diverse space to. I think some people think rural America is predominantly white. And some places it is. But in other places, you have communities that are predominantly African Americans, or predominantly Latino, you know, many different types of communities. And a lot that are struggling because the fewest resources tend to go to those places. I think they’re often sort of forgotten.

Rob: Sure. And certainly, that is the case here. So, the Diocese of Atlanta, which is my jurisdiction as Bishop, is 75-1/2 counties in the middle of north Georgia. And, you know, yeah– And what’s interesting about that is, is that it defies easy definition and stereotypes. So, there is white rural poverty, there is black rural poverty. And then of course there is the urban phenomenon.

And then increasingly over my time in Atlanta, I’ve been in Atlanta 20 years now, we’ve seen the suburbs, you know, also be shaken by this. I remember when we had the 2008 housing crash, all the bank issues with the bad mortgages, and I had some friends who were in the luxury real estate business. And it sent a lot of these folks who had these plush homes, extravagant homes really spirally down and really sort of trapped. They had sort of built up a life with all the decorations of what we would call financial success. And then now, all of that was sort of eroding away. And they didn’t have anyone to tell.

So, a friend of mine called me who was selling real estate and he said, “You got to give me some of those Pastoral tricks. You got to help me talk to these folks. These folks are on the ledge here.” The shame of it all.

Luke: Yeah.

Rob: Of having had, but not having now, of it all going away in an instant. And so, this is hitting our suburbs, you know, as well. And so, you wanted to make a connection about the Gospel. I love when people have got their own, who bring their own sort of understanding of the Gospels to their work. Tell me something about that.

Luke: Yeah, I mean, just thinking about the story, the parable that you were referencing. As I thought about my own work, I’ve really thought that the call of the Gospel is to be in relationship, across divides. And so, there’s a very clear path that I can do my work, and mostly in my fairly nice office at the University of Michigan. And, you know, I could read books and I could look at data. And then, when I get frustrated, I could go down and get a cup of coffee at the coffee shop down the corner. And I think I could do okay work that way. But I have really come to believe that from that positionality, there are sometimes questions that I don’t even know to ask. There is this whole reality, you were sort of saying, I think of it has often being in the same places but not the same spaces. So, my book $2.00 A Day was really the first time that I did work like that. We looked at a lot of big data, administrative data, and survey data. But we went out and got to know families who were really, really not just poor by American standards but really, really poor. They might have food assistance. Some had a housing subsidy. But they didn’t have any money coming into the household.

 

And I always remember, we were getting to know a couple of moms in Chicago actually, Jennifer Hernandez asking folks, you know, what do you do to get that little bit of money to get toothpaste or toilet paper, keep the utility bill, you know, keep the utilities on? And she was walking us through things and talked about selling blood plasma. So, as we got to know families, we started to see a little divot on the inside crease of their elbows. And, you know, the first time I saw it, I actually thought, “Oh, well, that’s a drug track line maybe.” Maybe she’s clean now. But maybe that explains some of her experience. And in this case, it wasn’t it was a scar from selling her blood plasma so often. So, that’s what got us into looking at the plasma industry. And it turns out the United States is the only developed country where you can sell your blood plasma twice a week, every other country is deemed the health risk is too great. We don’t have a lot of information on the health risks, but that’s sort of not by coincidence either. And the United States actually accounts for about 70% of the world’s plasma supply and only 40% of the demand. We actually export the blood plasma of predominantly poor Americans all over the world. And it turns out to be one of the most profitable industries in the world, one of the most, according to The Economist, it one of the most profitable industries in the world. And so, we literally have an industry, where the raw material is the blood of poor Americans, we’ve been called the OPEC of blood plasma, fueling this internationally, you know, extremely profitable industry.

And I was a so-called poverty expert. I didn’t know anything about it until I went out and actually talked to people.

Rob: Right. That is amazing. And I know people can only hear my voice, here our voices. But if they can see me, my mother is on my desk. The OPEC of blood plasma.

Luke: Yeah. Yeah, so, you know, we got to know Travis and Jessica Compton in Tennessee, they’re in eastern Tennessee. And this was the only money coming into their household when we got to know them. Travis had some tattoos that he couldn’t account for exactly the timeline when he got them. So, Jessica was the one that sold her plasma. She would buy with their full assistance an iron rich breakfast bar to eat because she went because your iron levels have to be at a certain level. And she’d get a little nervous. And so, she also had to keep her blood pressure down. So, she would check out a book from the library. It turns out libraries, you know, we think of as the living rooms of America’s extreme bore, because they really provide sort of an open space and access to books and resources. And they would walk over to the plasma center and she would fill out the forms and then sit on a, you know– She would go back, into the back, she would get hooked up, and it would take an hour or an hour and a half of so in total. And she would walk away with 30-bucks. And this money was essential, right? And actually, when we looked at the data, it turned out between about 2006 and now, we’ve had a quadrupling in the number of plasma sales in the United States. We are up over 40-million in the most recent years.

Some people read our book and thought, we should– This is exploited. We shouldn’t allow people to sell their plasma. And I said, no, no, no. I know what the other options are. I know what Jessica has to do if she can’t sell her plasma. In the short term, I would rather have her sell her plasma. It is legal. What we really need is to figure out ways that she doesn’t need to sell her plasma, right? To make ends meat.

Rob: Exactly. Let me make a point there, about what you learned, by sort of leaving your office and leaving your coffee shop, and getting, you know, up close with folks. I remember a story that I heard some time ago about a woman who wrote, she was a foremost authority on sort of slave plantations in the Caribbean. Sugarcane plantations and all the wealth that was generated there for the “new world”. She went on a trip to Jamacia with other scholars, they were on the proverbial tour bus and going around. They saw kids eating a long stalking thing. She wondered out loud to the tour leader, what was that stalk thing that the kids were eating? And of course, it was sugar cane. So, here she was as the foremost authority on slave plantations and sugar cane plantations, she didn’t know the day to day reality of that.

And so, Bryan Stevenson has told us some time ago, that it is proximity, proximity, proximity, proximity. And of course, Jesus’s ministry bears that out. Sort of the walking around Galilee and the insights that come from talking to people who are actually experiencing the hardship. So, I think that is one part of the invitation today. If I don’t really make a great effort myself, you just drive past folks. You don’t have any ill will for anyone, but they are just not part of your circle, part of your life, and therefore, you don’t really get the need. When you drive down the roads in Atlanta, I’m sure this is true in Michigan, you see them under the bridges. You see folks all around. You see the lines outside of Home Depot and Lowes, people trying to do a little bit of labor for a few dollars to subsistence stuff.

So, it’s all about proximity. You talk about relationship. The Bible talks about neighborliness. Dr. King helped us to understand that, you know, we can build up wonderful little walls in our cul-de-sac and put gates and guards out front. But at the end of the day, we’re still going to be neighbors. Because what affects one affects all. And I think we’re starting to really get that. We are way late. But I think we are starting to get that. You began to make a move now in this conversation about short term solutions and perhaps overall solutions.

So, I wonder, what can we do about this thing? I mean, relationship, and neighborliness, proximity is all good stuff. But what can we do? Are there policies that are coming out of this administration? What’s cutting edge to begin to reduce poverty in our country?

Luke: Yeah. I’m going to highlight two things. One is the is the COVID experience. So, during COVID, we took a very different path. By we, I mean, the federal government of how do we address an economic crisis. That last crisis that you mentioned, you know, starting in like 2008, we did many things to help families who were struggling. But the were often very targeted, lots of eligibility requirements to make sure somebody who didn’t really need it, didn’t get it. And I think that had the impact of meaning, we didn’t do as much as we could and a lot of people were left out. And we had a really long recovery from that. We had many, many years of high poverty. And it just took a really long time to get the jobs back.

During COVID, the only explanation I have is some folks on the left and on the right have been thinking differently about things. And also, I think that sort of the crisis, of the public health crisis, that really brought us together in a way, for a short period of time, at least, that hadn’t in the past, we took a very different approach. We took really broadbased type approaches, like the economic impact payment, where we said, we’re going to do the exact same thing for pretty much everybody, all low income families, all middle class families. We’re going to expand unemployment insurance. So, that’s an example that program isn’t really effective for people who are in low wage jobs a lot of the times, they don’t meet the eligibility requirements. And during COVID, we did away with that. And we said, we’re going to try to create a path where everybody can come in. And the results have been astounding.

So, we had no increase in people, you know, according to official statistics, there are lots of people who’ve been in crisis. And I want to make that clear. But when we look at the 2019, and 2020, and 2021, there was no increase in the number of people reporting they couldn’t put food on the table. And that’s astounding. Because during the last recession it skyrocketed, right? There was actually a drop in poverty, in the best ways we know how to measure it. Because of that money coming in the door.

And then here’s my favorite fact, right now, the number of Americans with bad credit fell to a 16-year low. And maybe it’s even longer than that. That’s just as far back as we have data. So, there are fewer people in 2021, who have a bad credit report than ever before. And that’s a result of the fact that when the government sort of engaged in giving families money, they tended to spend it on things like their rent, and their utilities, and their grocery bill. And they made themselves better off. So, we have fewer people behind on their mortgages. People pay down their credit card debt. So, I think that’s one piece of the puzzle.

And the Child Tax Credit, it’s probably the thing that we could bring along with us in the future. We’re not going to do stimulus checks, I think, on a regular basis. But the child tax credit was this modest cash transfer we would call $250 per kid that happened in the second half of last year. And the researcher is really looking quite good. I happen to be a part of the group that sort of built the, you know, was a part of shaping the idea for many years. We thought it was, you know, pie in the sky many years ago. And then it became a reality. And when it became a reality of saying raising kids is expensive for all low and middle income families, we’re going to do this small $250 per kid per month. We saw child poverty plummet. We saw food insecurity plummet. We saw no impact on work whatsoever. A lot of people thought that if you give people money, they are not going to work. There was no impact. No discernible impact. That is something that we can move forward.

I think when government does things that it should keep it simple, often empower families, and it should try to treat families the same. So, rather not saying we are going to do this thing for poor families, this thing for middle income families, do the same thing for everyone. And that also proves to be more politically popular.

Another space that I think we can be a doing a lot more about are the things that we shouldn’t be doing anymore. So, if I just give you a few examples, over the last couple of decades, states have been reluctant to raise their income taxes. So, they’ve been increasing their fines and fees. You know, if you get a speeding ticket, it costs a lot more than it used to. If you are driving without auto insurance, which by the way can be pretty expensive, right? That tickets a lot more than it used to be. And then we suspend people’s licenses in a lot of places. And that really has the impact of catching people in what I call a structural cycle of poverty, where I don’t pay my auto insurance, but I got to go to my job or I’m going to lose my house. So, I drive that one day without it, I get pulled over, I get a huge ticket that I can’t afford, because I couldn’t afford my auto insurance to begin with. And then you suspend my license. And then I definitely lose my job. So, we need to figure out how do we address those things. And so, my call to people is to think, you know, we tend to think like some things are poverty issues, and then there’s everything else. That everything else often affects families who are in poverty, too. So, what are the things that we can change in our communities that makes systems work better? Maybe we can stop charging people quite as much for tickets or giving them another path? What about, you know, legal fees? Like how can we reduce the cost of legal counsel so that families are better protected, right? Or don’t get caught up in huge costs there.

What about healthcare? How do we reduce the cost of healthcare? So, there are things that we can be doing and things that we really need to think about, how do we do it differently in a fundamental way. I hope that can be really empowering. I think there is something everyday that someone, pretty much any level, at your school, Church, that you can do to make a system work better for families that are struggling.

[commercial]

Rob: Yet, on the other side of perhaps this conversation, there are people who are wondering about de-incentivizing hard work, what we used to call bootstrapping. In other words, how you pull your– We don’t want so many giveaways, so much intervention from the state such that it de-incentivizes the individual to get up early, work hard, and make a way. What do you say to folks who are really concerned about that?

Luke: Well, I think there’s a place for them in that sort of second bucket of what should we stop doing? One great example, so we were looking in the city of Detroit, there’s huge amounts of debate in the city where we’re really trying to figure out, how do we help connect Detroiters to jobs? How do we help increase success? And there is an interpretation of that where, you know, people say, oh, you know, folks don’t want to work. I’ve been on the ground, and I think there might always be people like that. But more so, you can look at the structural issues, right? It turns out a lot of the jobs are in the suburbs. And we’ve never been built sort of any reliable public transportation that can help Detroiters to get to the suburbs.

Another thing that really struck me, we scraped all of the job postings, from jobs that are available, you know, there’s often people saying, oh, there’s all these jobs available. And there’s some truth to that, you know, at certain points in the economic cycle. But it turns out, like a quarter of those jobs require some form of occupational licensure. So, when we dig into that, to get that occupational license, you often have to go to a training program that’s an hour away, right? Or you often have to spend $500, to take a licensing exam. And $500 is a lot. So, that’s where I would really encourage people, I think that’s where the bang for our buck is.

And then on the giveaways, that’s partially why I think we should try to keep things simple and do more, where we are treating more people similarly.

So, Milton Friedman famously said, you know, when you give food assistance, rather than giving cash. Or let’s say, work requirements in place, that’s big government, right? It takes a lot of government work to make a work requirement that is going to work well. Otherwise, people just shut off the roles. And if you believe there is no hardship out there, maybe that’s okay. But there is a lot of hardship out there. If you want a work requirement that really works for people, you have to be willing to spend big. And it’s a lot easier to say, you know what, let’s take the simpler approach. Let’s provide the same benefit. Let’s not spend a lot of time trying to figure out if people are eligible and treat people similarly. And the other impact is that the programs that we’ve had in the past, they climb as your earnings go up. That does really create a dis-incentive to work. So, an approach that folds more people in like the Child Tax Credit, it has a benefit saying we are going to provide you that small amount of stability, but we’re not going to stand in your way as you do right by your families, which is the vast majority of families want to do. 

Rob: You know, we had Jonathan Reckford on, as I’ve said, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity. He shared with me a personal letter from Clarence Jordan to the Friends of the Koinonia Farm, and it was 1968. So, let’s listen to what he said.

He said, “What the poor need is not charity, but capital. Not caseworkers, but coworkers. And what the rich need is a wise, honorable, and just way of divesting themselves of their overabundance.” And I guess that’s the last part of our conversation. We can talk a lot about what the poor need to do and certainly there is work to do. And we can talk about what government needs to do and clearly we need to bring more imagination to some of our solutions and run some experiments on how we can make life better for our neighbors who happen to be at the bottom of the socio-economic rungs. But Jesus had a lot to say about the rich divesting themselves out of their overabundance. And that is the third rail in America. It is to talk about, you know, what the rich can do? Personally, those of us like myself, for instance, who by the grace of God, I call it by grit and grace have a few extra dollars laying around. You know, talk a little bit about that side of the equation. Maybe that doesn’t come up in your work, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Jordan says is the honorable way of divesting oneself of overabundance.

Luke: Well, starting out, I really love the coworker versus caseworker. And I just think that the more that we can think about how we do as being in relationship like that, right? Being a partner and going into that work ready to learn about what the world is like and then try to do something about it. The next time, a listener may go to a food pantry to help and do charity work. I encourage them to sort of get out from behind the table, where the bags are, or where the food is, and have a conversation. Learn about what has been going on in the life of someone who is there to get help. And then, think about all the sort of forces in society that have had an impact on that person’s life and what we might do differently.

On the second part of dis-investing wealth, boy, you know, I think like you. I like grit and grace. I think– I don’t like to say that a lot of times people who have more, some have gotten it because they have inherited it or had advantages, right? But there is a lot of hard work there too a lot of the time. So, trying to figure out what is that balance, sometimes I feel like Jesus could have given us a little bit more to go on for that, you know, honestly. I think he left us hanging a little bit.

I think trying to grapple with, how much is too much? Right? How much is too much in what we as a society can do? That we can sort of agree on to bring some of that into balance? That is the big question that I don’t totally have the answers too. But I think we need to figure that out in both a more equal society and secondly, I think we need to figure it out for the environment. Driven by my 12-year-old daughter, I am starting to grapple with climate change in a serious way. I sort of always thought that, you know, my thing was poverty and I was going to let someone else figure out climate change. But recently, I have been trying to figure out like, I need to live, I need to be a better steward. We are really looking into what it would look like to put solar panels on our house. This would be a stretch for us. But I like to think that maybe it’s something that I’m trying to use some of the financial blessings that we have to change my impact on the world for both, you know, bringing our economic community more into balance and reducing my actual impact on the world to be a better steward of this Earth.

Rob: I think you’ve answered and asked your own questions in some ways. Yeah, we’d love a little bit more information from Jesus. But he does leave us with this notation of stewardship. And he does leave us with this notion of relationship. And he does say, you know, where your treasure is, there is also your heart. And you know, what I love about Jesus is that there is no browbeating, no guilt, or shame. But he is naming the work. He has left it in our hand.

Well, this has been fantastic. And I think you’ve given us a lot to think about. Tell us the name of your book and where we can find it?

Luke: Yeah. It’s called $2.00 a Day, Living on Almost Nothing in America. It’s a book that I co-wrote with Kathy Eden, who is now at Princeton. You can find it online, you can find it at Barnes and Nobles. If they don’t have it, you can do me a favor by telling them to get a few copies for the store.

Rob: Sure.

Luke: Yeah. We have a new book actually in the works. In a year’s time, we are writing a book about some of America’s poorest places. So, we’ve been getting to know a handful of communities in Appalachia, in the Mississippi Delta, and in South Texas. And so, our first book was about very poor families. This will be about very poor communities. Maybe people can check it out.

Rob: Professor Luke Shaefer, thanks so much for being with us.

Luke: It was really my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

Rob: Yeah, God bless.


Hermoso

Si somos una familia estadounidense hermosa y compleja, como creo que somos, entonces las celebraciones del Orgullo (Pride) y Juneteenth este mes nos pertenecen a todos. ¿Cómo no alegrarme especialmente cuando un miembro de la familia anteriormente relegado a las sombras de la vida ahora es bienvenido bajo el cálido sol de visibilidad y afirmación? Cuando era niño, recuerdo que mi madre afroamericana usaba un botón que decía “bésame soy Irlandesa” en la celebración del Día de San Patricio. Mi hermana y yo pensamos que ella era peculiar por asumir esto, pero creo que ¡ella era ingeniosa! No me disminullo al celebrarte en toda tu maravilla particular. Curiosamente, mi dignidad se enancha al afirmar tu dignidad. Y, mi dignidad se disipa a medida que yo, por omisión o comisión, participo en tú disminución. Y por esto te digo, Feliz Orgullo (Happy Pride), Juneteenth y Día del Padre y mil celebraciones más también. Dios se regocija cuando celebramos la verdad, que fuimos hechos el uno para el otro y para la gloria de Dios. “Qué bueno y qué agradable es para los hermanos y hermanas vivir juntos en unidad”.

Efesios 6:13


Tags: For Faith

Beautiful

If we are a beautiful and complex American family as I believe us to be, then celebrations of Pride and Juneteenth this month belong to us all. How could I not rejoice especially when a family member formerly relegated to the shadows of life is now welcomed into the warm sunshine of visibility and affirmation? As a child, I remember my African-American mother would wear a “kiss me I’m Irish” button every St. Patrick’s Day. My sister and I thought she was peculiar for taking up this ritual but maybe she was on to something. She was onto something! I am not diminished by celebrating you in all of your particular wonderfulness. Funny enough, my dignity swells as I affirm your dignity. And, my dignity dissipates as I, by omission or commission, participate in your diminishment. And so Happy Pride, Juneteenth and Father’s Day, and a thousand more celebrations too. God rejoices when we celebrate the truth-that we were made for each other and for God’s glory. “How good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters and siblings to dwell together in unity.”

Psalm 133


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.


Hermoso

Si somos una familia estadounidense hermosa y compleja, como creo que somos, entonces las celebraciones del Orgullo (Pride) y Juneteenth este mes nos pertenecen a todos. ¿Cómo no alegrarme especialmente cuando un miembro de la familia anteriormente relegado a las sombras de la vida ahora es bienvenido bajo el cálido sol de visibilidad y afirmación? Cuando era niño, recuerdo que mi madre afroamericana usaba un botón que decía “bésame soy Irlandesa” en la celebración del Día de San Patricio. Mi hermana y yo pensamos que ella era peculiar por asumir esto, pero creo que ¡ella era ingeniosa! No me disminullo al celebrarte en toda tu maravilla particular. Curiosamente, mi dignidad se enancha al afirmar tu dignidad. Y, mi dignidad se disipa a medida que yo, por omisión o comisión, participo en tú disminución. Y por esto te digo, Feliz Orgullo (Happy Pride), Juneteenth y Día del Padre y mil celebraciones más también. Dios se regocija cuando celebramos la verdad, que fuimos hechos el uno para el otro y para la gloria de Dios. “Qué bueno y qué agradable es para los hermanos y hermanas vivir juntos en unidad”.

Salmo 133


Tags: For Faith

Unmute

“The truth about God must be spoken. This is how God began creation, by unmuting God’s self and speaking life into existence. “Whatever the Trinity wants from creatures or creation, God does it through words-efficacious, non-violent words.” Words that destabilize and deconstruct old worlds and envision new worlds. That is what the prophets did when they unmuted themselves. That is what Jesus did walking around the neighborhood. He put his tongue in service to the new world of grace and love that he wanted to emerge. That is precisely why they crucified Jesus, they wanted to shut him up. And so we have a choice to make, as individuals and organizations – We can stay muted on matters of God, justice and neighborly love and collude with the attempt to silence Jesus on Good Friday or we can participate with God and break the silence of tombs and proclaim the ongoing and unfolding Easter with our full throat.”

An excerpt from Bishop Wright’s sermon to the Southeastern Synod of the Lutheran Church.


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Transcript:

Rob: If it weren’t for God’s goodness, knowing who I have been, and knowing how I’ve missed the mark, how could I stand if it weren’t for the gracious words, the non-violent words that come to me through scripture that say, you are my bellowed. And that when it comes to your sins, God says, that you know, I have amnesia. Cough it up, confess it, and let’s move on. This is the Word of God to us.

Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau. Bishop Wright and I are having a conversation based on For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episodes description.

Hey, hey Bishop.

Rob: Hey, everybody. Hi, Melissa.

Melissa: Hey. Well, this week’s devotion is an excerpt from a sermon you gave to Lutherans at a Southeastern Senate gathering. You called it unmute and opened devotion up with the truth about God must be spoken. Which got me to wondering, how is the truth about God not being spoken?

Rob: Well, that’s it. First of all, let me just say that I was honored to be invited to the Southeastern Senate of the Lutheran church. And we met in Chattanooga just a couple of days ago. And, you know, on the way to answering that question, they did a marvelous thing. Of course, it was the day before Pentecost. Pentecost in church is where we celebrate the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit breaking in to a very average, very traditional sort of gathering 2000 years ago and changing everything. Allowing people to communicate across ethnicity and cultural differences, etc. So, it was revival. And what I love about being with them was when you think about Uvalde, you think about Buffalo, you think about all the woes of the world, in addition to thoughts and prayers, and in addition to some courage from Congress, and local politicians, revival is the best response to the woes of the world. The people of God can be refreshed by the activity of God, to speak it, talk about how it is happening in their own lives, at their own addresses, and sort of bathe in it so that we steal ourselves to have something to say to the world.

So how it’s not being said, I mean, you know, how God is– And their theme was, Unmute, right? Whenever I’m a guest speaker, I always try to work with people’s themes. And so, that was really their theme. And so as far as I could tell, what they were really saying that we have to do what they did at Pentecost. We’ve got to unchain our tongues, take some risks, and talk about how God is alive in our own lives.

And they had a really wonderful worship service. Bishop Kevin Strickland is the Bishop there. They had this wonderful worship service where people were invited to come to the microphone and talk about how God was active in their lives. And of course, Lutherans like Episcopalians, you know, when they first gave the invitation, nobody moved, right? Nothing happened. And then after some singing and gentle encouragement, people came up remarkably and began to talk about the truth of God in their own lives.

Melissa: All right. So, this is kind of a complicated one. As I was listening to you, I even thought back to a most recent sermon that I heard at Pentecost. So, you mentioned two choices. You said, we can basically stay on mute on matters of God or join God and proclaiming Easter with her full throat. And I can’t help but notice at least one other choice that a number of people have made?

Rob: Okay. Yeah.

Melissa: That’s to talk at full volume ensuring that the loudest ones in the room talking about God are twisting God. And so, I’m wondering, Pentecost, if you read the stories, like the gift of tongues. And it was also, I think, based on the sermon that I heard, the gift of listening.

Rob: Yes.

Melissa: So, how might we discern those full volume characters from those who are using their voice for spreading the love of God without them being dubbed false prophet?

Rob: Right. Well, I mean, you know, full volume with words of grace, full volume with words of love, full volume with words of kindness, full volume with not being full of content, full volume with being helpful and useful, full volume in terms of living out loving neighbor and loving God, yeah. All of that and twice on Sunday, right? But not full volume where I have to put my foot, my metaphorical foot on your neck. Not full volume, where I have to win at any cost. Not full volume, where I have to sort of give you words of contempt. I sort of just have contempt for your right to exist, or your right to have a different opinion. We don’t need more of that.

And as I say, in the sermon, you know, we got plenty of religion all around the world. I mean, you know, good Lord, we don’t need more religion, what we need is people with a relationship with God, right? And here’s what we find out. When people have a relationship with God, they get quieter and gentler. They get quieter and gentler, without fail. They get quieter, gentler, and they laugh a lot. Because they know that human beings are silly things. And we’re just so full of arrogance. And it’s a silly thing that we sort of puff ourselves up so much.

What’s not funny is the tragic things we do to one another, you know, sort of puffed up on arrogance. But when you think about the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, and so many other people, you know, who have lived lives of amazing faith, you know, they’re just like, sort of children, you know, in one regard. In one regard they are sort of these men and women of incredible intellect. I think of Sister Helen Prejean, who we had on the podcast. I mean, they’re just fun people to be around. They’re just so silly. And you just love them, you want to hug them. And at the same time, they say things which destabilize the status quo. They call all of the BS into question. And so, the people that I know who I would say sort of spend time with God, are people who have sort of kindness on their tongue. They have a little bit of mischievousness, a little silliness. But at the same time, they’re salt and light, as Jesus said, you know. What they say is impactful and effective. And it doesn’t cost anybody sort of any dignity when they talk. And I think that’s a crucial distinction.

Melissa: You know, I’m listening to you, and I’m like, dang, I’m nothing like that.

Rob: Sure, you are. We’re all we’re all aspiring. And I think if Ambassador Young, or CT Vivian, or Sister Helen Prejean, or any number of people were sitting right here, they would say, damn, Bishop, I’m nothing like that, either. I mean, you know, it’s always this notion of self-effacing. When you spend time with God, you are so aware of the goodness of God, the magnanimity of God that when you begin to think about yourself you say, who am I? And that’s where the next piece of God comes through which you say, you’re my beloved. And so, we’re in constant dialogue of sort of not being quite there and yet still striving. And that’s what gives us the ability to be with other people, you know, sort of with respect and with love. It’s because I am so abundantly aware of how much I missed the mark. So, abundantly aware.

Melissa: Exactly. And how maybe that there is good, God’s goodness, in all, somewhere deep down, maybe.

Rob: And if it weren’t for God’s goodness, knowing who I have been, and knowing how I have missed the mark, how could I stand if it weren’t for the gracious words, the non-violent words that come to me through Scripture that say, you are my beloved, you are made in my image, right? And that when it comes to your sins, God says that, you know, I have amnesia, right? Cough it up, confess it, and let’s move on. This is the Word of God to us.

And then no matter what you do, what you say, how you do it, your worst day, your worst deed, you’re still God’s beloved. Now, if we can get down to speaking words like that then there’s hope, right? There’s hope in the world. And so, I thank God for those men and women that I’ve encountered over the years, who have spent enough time with God to be able to be really good neighbors. And I mean, you know, we just don’t see this enough. I mean, think about it. 80% of Americans right now, realize that we’ve got a problem in America when it comes to gun violence. 80%. That’s really overwhelming. Amazing, right? But for some reason, our elected officials, the people that we sort of voted in to do our work for us, representative work for us, you know, are stymied, you know, they’re giving us all of these sort of platitudes, etc. They’re not doing the work, right? What would it be like if we started off with, well, let’s just sort of work on this thing. Let’s figure out a way to talk about holding our rights intention with our responsibilities to generations now and generations yet unborn. And let’s try to do that without contempt. Let’s try to do that affirming that people come at this a lot of different kinds of ways. But we’ve got to do what’s good for the country right now.

And so, you know, what’s helpful about Pentecost and what’s hopeful about you and I getting the invitation to unmute ourselves is that the truth of God is that we’re siblings. I’ve said it a thousand times. We’re siblings and God has given us one another to try to make this Earth look less like hell and more like heaven. And that is the encouragement for all of us.

Now, let me just say also, one of the things that people immediately default to when we say we can unmute ourselves and be gracious and you know, respectful all this sort of thing. They think automatically that the hard conversations go out the window. No. I think hard conversations get better and the quality of them get better when we start off by saying, Melissa, you and I are related. We worship the same God. We are siblings made in God’s image, you and I both. And so, that sort of says what things are out of bounds in terms of you know, personal attacks, etc. But everything else is in bounds. And so, the responsibility really the privilege of the conversation is how do I affirm your dignity and at the same time really work on a hard issue? That’s harder and I think it’s better. Because in football you have out of bounds, basketball you have out of bounds, and tennis you’ve got out of bounds. When we fuss in marriage we should have out of bounds. So, we should have out of bounds in the way that we speak to one another.

Melissa: I love that idea. Friends, we’ll be right back after a short break.

[commercial]

Melissa: Welcome back to For People.

So, Bishop speaking of revival. I’m wondering, do you think there are groups of people who need to find their voice more so than others? In other words, are there groups of people who have been silenced or need to be raised up in the spirit of revival?

Rob: Without a doubt, without a doubt. If we’re all made in God’s image, you know, and all have equal worth, value, and dignity in God’s eyes, then we have to look back with a constructive critique of who has been given the microphone over and over again in our culture, in our society, etc. I mean, look at it, Congress doesn’t equally represent America in terms of race, gender, and orientation, and those sorts of things.

And the House of Bishops that I’m a part of, does not represent the church, 98 million Anglicans globally. The average Anglican around the world is brown, a brown woman, the house of Bishops doesn’t look like that. I’m about to go to Lambeth, which is a gathering of the global Bishops, majority of them will be male and even though they’ll be brown or of color, still, they will be overwhelmingly male. And precious few will be gay and lesbian. And even of all the spouses invited, the gay and lesbian spouses have been disinvited. So, there’s no doubt about it, that we continue to allow some to the microphone, allow some the prominence, and we restrict other voices. And when we do so, we’re poor. If it’s true that the Holy Spirit speaks through all, then we need all so that the Holy Spirit can speak more forcefully and fully. And so, I think what we’ve got to do really is to think critically here and ask ourselves, those of us like me, who are given the speaking, you know, what opportunities do I have and that I need to take to shut up so that other voices can come through? And maybe some of us who are over represented in places need to stop talking, a little while, so that other voices can start talking about it.

I realize, you know, I have two daughters. And I realize that somehow, they are socialized– And a wife who has earned PhD, smartest person in my house, and I realize that they have been socialized to apologize when they offer an opinion. Right? Or when they offer a thought that is counter to the prevailing thought. So, oh, I’m sorry. I notice that in so many women. They have been taught to apologize for being smart, well read, or forthright, etc. I wonder about that, I wonder if we as a society of culture, family, etc, have been diminished because we have not encouraged, you know, these folks, these parts of our community to bring their full throat.

I was talking to a minister the other day in another diocese. And he was telling me about their commitment to diversity. But when you go to the website, it doesn’t look like that. And so, the optics are damning for us a lot of times. I mean, even if we have good intentions. And the church is 150 some odd years old and they just have invited their very first somebody to come who’s brown and he’ll be on staff. But, you know, representation is so important, not only, you know, some people think I’m talking about political correctness, but I’m not. I’m talking about the full family of God being represented. That’s what I’m really talking about. We’re talking about diversity in worship, lots of different kinds of ways in which God speaks, different kinds of music that God uses, that God is still animating people to write, and to perform. So, that you know more people can hear their way in, think their way in, feel their way in to the family of God, and to know God for themselves. And so, these things are important, not because of, you know, this sort of notion of political correctness. I’m not exactly sure what the hell that is, anyway.

But what I’m concerned about is the whole family of God represented? Are the elderly voices still represented? Are the youngest voices still represented? Are the voices who are who are not sure represented? Are the voices who bring a contrary note, are they representative, etc.? I mean, I think the best sort of snapshot of community, especially church community I would say, is that when we have the capacity as a community, to listen to everybody, and to figure out how to build, you know, worship, expressions, liturgies, etc. so we can hear everybody. I think when we do that, then we can account for the broader swath of who we are, and then we can move forward with a bit more confidence.

Melissa: All right, well, I’m wondering if you’ve seen or heard a powerful movement of prophetic voices being lifted up? Who we might celebrate today? Like, who are they? And how can people learn more?

Rob: Yeah, well, you know, I want to go back to this revival the other day. What was so amazing to me and what really animated me, I mean, I was the preacher. And I must confess, I drop up from Atlanta to Chattanooga. I had my little sermon, you know, in my back pocket. It was ready for a decent and orderly sort of worship service. I had never worshiped with the Lutherans and there I was going to be with a couple of Bishops. Everything nice and tidy, decent, and in order. What really broke it open? Was the music, right? So, music has a role in reviving our spirits, right? We know this. We know this that music is like praying twice, right? There’s something about music. So that’s sort of unlocked, you know, and, and not some obscure sort of 15, 16, 17 century settings of anything. With all due respect to those expressions. But something that people could really lean into and give themselves too. And the music was wonderful. So, God bless these musicians who are committed to excellence. Because what they really do is they create a space for us to sort of stop being so self-conscious, right? And to be more worship conscious. So, God bless them.

But then what really sort of, I think unleashed spirit in the place was that, as I said to you, people were invited to the microphone. And one woman got up and she was really reluctant. As an older African American woman, she got up, and she said that she had had a stroke just before Easter. And everybody sort of gasped because shew as one of the praise dancers at this event. So, here we are some 50 days from Easter. And, I mean, now she wasn’t, you know, a Russian ballerina or anything like that. But she was up and she was moving and it was beautiful. And, you know, the fact that she said that, you know, she just refused that in her life to believe that the stroke was going to impose these limitations on her and that she would not be able to worship in the way that she wanted to worship, which is liturgical dance, which is giving her full body. And so, you know, she gave her little expression of testimony really. It was amazing to watch 3, 400 people in the room.

Another woman got up and her granddaughter, grandchild had been in a car accident, a little baby. And tragically, you know, they had to cut him out of the wreckage. And the baby was a paralyzed from the chin down. So, from the neck down, right? Terrible. And the doctors said, that this child would not have any motion in their limbs and their body, below their neck for the rest of their life. The grandmother who stood up to talk about it, she said, we believe God. We believe science but also believe in God. And they prayed for two years. Two years. Can you imagine holding on to something in faith for two years when the doctors tell you, no way, no how. But this grandmother help on to it for two years. Well, the story goes that there was a video monitor in the child’s room and a video monitor in the living room. And the grandma looked into the video monitor and said to the baby, see you honey, I’m leaving. I will see you soon. And the baby waved back and said, see you soon. And after two years now, there is life in the limbs of this child and this child is moving.

And so, some will write these kinds of expressions off. And there were seven or eight more of opportunities where people got up to talk about things large and small, you know, things huge, and things seemingly more mundane. But what was amazing was is that people talked about God. They didn’t refuse to speak about God. They got over their coyness or shyness and began to talk about how God was alive and well in their life. And I think that is our response to the woes of the world is to begin to be the community that we actually are, which is we worship a living God, in spirit and in truth. And we refuse to be bought off by all the narratives that say that we sort of moving forward in a hopeless, despair written reality and future. We are not. It is hard, life is hard. Evil has always been our companion. And there is still God. And God finds a way to break in and make a difference. And that is the best thing we have to offer the world, and that happened dramatically in the person of Jesus Christ, who broke into an empire that was abusing and oppressing people and destabilize the whole joint with words of love and grace. 

Melissa: Thank God for that.

Rob: Amen. Thank God that. That my friend is revival.

Melissa: Amen. Bishop, thank you as always. And listeners we thank you for listening and sharing For People with others. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.


Rompiendo el Silencio

La verdad sobre nuestro Dios debe ser dicha. Así es como Dios comenzó la creación, rompiendo su propio silencio y pronunciando el yo de Dios, e invocar la existencia de la vida. «Lo que sea que la Trinidad quiera de las criaturas o de la creación, Dios lo hace a través de palabras eficaces, palabras no violentas». Palabras que desestabilizan y deconstruyen viejos mundos y/o imaginan nuevos mundos. Eso es lo que los profetas hicieron cuando rompieron su silencio. Eso es lo que Jesús hizo caminando por nuestro mundo. Puso su voz al servicio de la creación, de un nuevo mundo de gracia y amor que deseaba esparcir. Precisamente por eso crucificaron a Jesús, quisieron silenciarlo. Y, por lo tanto, nosotros necesitamos tomar una decisión, como individuos y organizaciones – Podemos permanecer en silencio sobre los asuntos de Dios, la justicia y el amor al prójimo. Este silencio se confabula con el intento de silenciar a Jesús el Viernes Santo o podemos participar con Dios y romper el silencio de las tumbas y proclamar la Pascua que se renueva en nuestras vidas a cada momento con voces llenas de valentía.

Tomado del sermón del Reverendísimo Robert C. Wright D.D.
Obispo Diócesis Episcopal de Atlanta, durante Sínodo Suroriental de la Iglesia Luterana.


Tags: For Faith

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