Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ministry with Those in Need

Our pastor recently made a point in her sermon (which I wrote down on the bulletin so I wouldn't forget), "Jesus offers a justice that makes things right." She contrasted justice-as-retribution with justice-as-restoration and talked about the restorative power of Jesus. Many of us, on the other hand, would like to see people get some kind of "karma" when they hurt us or otherwise do us (or someone else) wrong. While we need forms of retributive justice, Jesus points us toward the greater good of restoration.

Although our pastor did not refer to the following essays, her sermon did create a mental connection in my mind to these two posts, which a clergy colleague, knowledgable in justice issues, had posted on her Facebook status. The first, by Rev. Mike Mather, is "Five Rules to Keep From Being the Agent of the Devil in the Middle of the Church: A Practical Guide to 'Ministry with'": The post concerns ways that the church can be truly in ministry with the poor and those in need, compared to a more programmatic approach to ministry.

As my clergy colleague noted, be sure to read the accompanying article by John McKnight, which provides the context: "Why 'Servanthood' Is Bad." McKnight writes, for instance, "Service systems build on people's deficiencies; communities on their capacities." To paraphrase our pastor, these ideas help us think not only of issues of distributive justice (like service systems) to the challenges of restorative justice.

I share these pieces here on my blog in case others would like to think along with me about these ideas!

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