Monday, December 17, 2007

christmas solidarity

As I pondered themes in this week's scripture passages from Matthew and from Isaiah, I initially thought that "faithfulness" was the idea I'd preach on. Mary and Joseph both choose faithfulness to one another, to this unlikely pregnancy, and (above all) to God. God chooses faithfulness to us all--becoming Emmanuel, "God with us."

The more I pondered this (taking my cue from Mary, who we all know pondered these things in her heart...), the more it seemed like "faithfulness" doesn't quite capture it all. And, besides, when I think of faithfulness, in our time and culture, I often think of it as being passive or restrained. (As in, remaining "faithful" to one's partner--usually defined by what one refrains from more than what practices it requires.)

Don't get me wrong: I think there's a whole lot more to being faithful (to God or to one's partner, among others) that not cheating or doubting. I just think we've weakened our understanding of the word.

So this year, I think we ought to talk about solidarity.

As in, God chooses solidarity with the world in becoming Emmanuel. And people like Mary and Joseph choose solidarity with one another and with God as they make choices and take actions that allow Christ to be born into the world.

My first real encounter with the idea of "solidarity" came from my dad's visit to Poland, back in the late 80's, when I was in Middle School. He brought me a souvenir shirt, emblazoned with the logo of Solidarity, the nonviolent, anti-communist labor movement led by Lech Walesa, who was then yet to be elected president in the Polish amazing elections of 1989. Solidarity was a political movement, asserting that workers deserved decent pay, access to basic resources, and freedom. The route it chose to persue these was through solidarity--honoring our belonging together.

It turns out that at least some of these ideas likely came through Christianity. Maybe it was the visit of Pope John Paul II to his Polish homeland. Maybe it was the theology of the many who believed in Christ, who taught that our acts of love and mercy to the "least of these" in our midst were acts of love and mercy toward God.

All I know is that Christianity seems to be all about solidarity--about standing together and seeing that each of our needs is all wrapped up with the needs of others. I think that's the whole point of God as Emmanuel--God is with us, standing beside and within each of us, giving us the courage and love and strength to live into God's kin-dom. To believe we can live in the world as God intends for us to live it in, now.

Let's gather in worship this week to celebrate God's solidarity with us, and to imagine how we might share it with a world in need.


Simon said...

What a great word, solidarity...although I think it should be in caps, like it sounds: SOLIDARITY. Or even: S-O-L-I-D-A-R-I-T-Y! You're right, it is so much more powerful, so much stronger than "faithfulness" (try typing that in CAPS - my computer refuses!)

I was fortunate enough to visit Poland in 1999 - my mother's father came from Poland in the early 20th century, and while much of the family came to America eventually, a branch stayed in Poland. The two branches stayed in contact over the years and my sister visited them in the early 1980's, setting up our return visit later when I accompanied her.

We stayed with a cousin and his family, and met, among lots of other wonderful people, his brother. His brother was involved with Solidarity from its beginnings, and spent several long stays in prison for doing such things as circulating literature and printing copies of same. Years later, of course, such people are revered for the part they played in Poland's rebirth as a free nation.

A number of people I met there, family and not, told me of the importance of the Church in Poland in the struggle, and the role of John Paul II was a crucial and critical one. We are yet to learn fully, I have been told, of that role.

My visit to Poland - to be in the church where my grandfather was baptized, to walk through Lublin, a good sized Polish city where every 100 feet one would find yet another church and to see statues everywhere, many of which were of John Paul II - that visit reinvigorated my understanding and respect for the role that faith, based in SOLIDARITY, can play in people.

We should not forget the power of S-O-L-I-D-A-R-I-T-Y, whether as part of a political movement, as part of a search for justice, or as a way of expressing a Oneness with the world and each other every day.

- Simon.

Anonymous said...

At the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel there is a stone statue of The Ecumenical Meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Atenagoras in Jerusalem 6 Jan 1964. Now that is a SOLID.