My Lenten reflection commissioned by the St. Luke-in-the-Fields blog, and also appearing on Walking With Integrity
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|The Judean Wilderness, pilgrimage 2012
I often describe Lent to my parishioners as a time set aside each year to practice faithfulness in the midst of wilderness. When Lent comes around, we may, or may not, be in the midst of actual, in-the-moment spiritual wilderness, but sooner or later - in the season of Lent or in some other season of our lives - at least a bit of wilderness will inevitably fall. So in this season of the church year, we learn how to be faithful even in the midst of those more difficult times. And we learn through continued practice, again and again. The work is never really done. We always have more to learn and we always can grow ever deeper in our spiritual maturity.
The same is true in our commitment to justice. Despite the amazing strides we, as a church and as a society, have made in recent generations, the truth is, the struggle for justice for all of God's people is ongoing. In the past few weeks, I've seen a few theater pieces that have reminded me of this anew. As a part of my own spiritual disciplines of self-care and nurturing my creative tendencies, I regularly go to the theater and reflect on what I've seen. Recently I've seen two shows that have reminded me that the work of striving for justice for all is not yet finished.
http://www.jonmrichardson.com/2012/03/fcs-carrie.html), but the take-away for me was a firm reminder that - despite incredible progress - we still live in society where misogyny and bullying are very real, and that those realities continue to have tragic consequences.
http://www.jonmrichardson.com/2012/03/fcs-porgy-and-bess.html) Though we in the United States have been consistently struggling with racial inequality for many generations, our work there is nowhere near ended, either.
As Vice President for National Affairs of IntegrityUSA, people often ask me, "Haven't we already won?" It's true that openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clergy are the norm in many of our dioceses. It's true that openly LGBT parishioners are welcomed and fully assimilated into many more of our congregations. It's true that we now even have bishops who are openly gay and lesbian. But if we can learn anything from our sisters and brothers in other justice movements, it's that the struggle for equal access to God's justice in human institutions continues long after the initial signs of progress are won.
Justice is not so much a goal as it is a discipline. That's why the work of IntegrityUSA is still important, even in the shadow of the incredible progress we've made in recent years. That's why we still need to keep showing up to General Convention, and why we still need to keep educating and empowering people at every level of the church.
Just as we have to keep practicing Lent, we have to keep practicing Justice. The reign of God is still too much a dream. Wilderness is still too near.