Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of Salvation Army Bell Ringers, Preacher/Professors and Social Justice

No doubt about it, I have preached some real humdinger social justice sermons in my day. Here I am, approaching the 3rd. Sunday of Advent.  I've been reading all of those lectionary texts about "mountains and hills brought low,"  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," and the justice of God-- "God will cast down the kings from their thrones and lift up the meek and the lowly." "The hungry God has filled with good things; the rich God has sent away empty."  I've really been hitting it hard.

Then, tonight came (Dec. 11)-- a cold night in Owensboro.  I'd forgotten about my commitment. You see, a little over a month back, I cut my hand and had to get 25 stitches.  Today, in my college education professor job, I was taking a student teacher to meet the cooperating teacher she will work with next semester.  I'm pretty clumsy, and I fell in the parking lot-- right on the place where the stitches had recently been.  By the time I got home, I decided I was not having a good day.  Then my wife reminded me.

Brucie had called a few days back and asked if I would be a bell ringer at Kroger tonight.  I had forgotten.  But, I had promised Brucie when she called that I'd do it.  So, off I went.  And, did I mention, it was cold?

I took over for the guy before me.  He had been standing inside the store a good bit.  I decided that to be effective, I was going to have to get outside and stay there.  I smiled and said "Merry Christmas" to every one.  Some cut a wide path to avoid me.  Lot's walked right up and put some dough in the kettle.  Then it happened.  Someone said something to me like, "How long do they make you guys work at a time?"  I realized that my benefactor thought I was a paid bell ringer.

I remembered seeing some obviously needy folks, of a rather unsavory appearance, right across the way at K-Mart ringing the bell for hours on end.  I thought, "I don't want folks thinking I'm one of them.  I want them to know that I'm a respectable teacher/preacher donating my time to needy people.

You can see it coming, can't you?  My Advent texts.  Jesus came as a beggar, one of those people and found solidarity with them.  Was I any better?  I felt the shame of my judgmentalism.  I grabbed my bell, pulled my jacket around my neck and begin ringing for all I was worth.  Only this time, I tried to be a beggar.  After all, aren't we all?

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