Rev. Eric Jackson Introduces Clergy Occupiers

Occupy Advent on Wall Street on Sunday was good for Communities of Shalom, good for Drew University, and good for United Methodists. I think it also was a powerful and prophetic witness to those who did not expect the Church to occupy Zuccotti Park for prayer and protest, for Christians clergy to call for a separation of Corporation and State, or for Jesus to be identified so closely with the the 99%!

There was a lot going on in an untamed public space, and perhaps too many moving parts and pieces in the program–planned and unplanned.  But overall, I’m pleased that the radical gospel of Jesus Christ and his special interest in the poor and marginalized was proclaimed loud and clear.  Though we could be criticized for not being interfaith enough, or succinct enough in the words we shared, most of the comments I heard from the crowd were extremely positive and affirming. Individuals thanked us for just being there, for speaking truth in a powerful way, for witnessing to peace and justice, for connecting the ‘spiritual’ and ‘social’ gospel, and for not letting the so-called ‘religious right’ co-op the strong name of Jesus.

Jesse Jackson seeks Shalom

I’m glad we invited Jesse Jackson up to speak when he was spotted in the crowd. Even after all these years, he still has a powerful prophetic voice and  is not shy about invoking the name of Jesus to advocate for the marginalized and instill hope. I enjoyed his speech, and it swelled the size of the crowd from 60 to over 100.  

I’m also glad that Obery Hendricks (former Drew professor of NT) occupied Advent with us.  I liked how he took the stage to talk about the “politics of Jesus” and the social implications of shalom.  (I highly recommend his book–The Politics of Jesus– which we use in class and in Shalom Training).

I want to thank all who came out to support Occupy Advent today: Drew faculty and students, shalom interns, United Methodist pastors and church members, and others who came to church in the Park. 

Specifically, I want to thank each minister of shalom for the part you played on ‘stage’:

Bless you Eric Jackson for your faithful leadership, unflappable presence, and coordination of these weekly services in Zuccotti Park.

Thank you Dr. Althea Spencer-Miller for delivering your delightful and inspiring adaptation of “Let the weak say I am strong… and something about sod and God.” (Please send me what you wrote. It was pure gold.)

Bishop Jeremiah Park

Thank you Bishop Jeremiah Park—first UM Bishop to Occupy Wall Street! You were bold and brave, prophetic and passionate, kind and credible. I’m glad you invoked the name of Jeremiah the prophet.  And you reminded me of why I am a Methodist, and what our founder, John Wesley, taught about personal and social holiness, what JW did in his day to occupy London and what he would do and say in NYC if he were here today. You’re a good Bishop!

Rev. David Best, thank you for bringing your guitar and collar, and for letting your country best do the talkin and walkin your faith requires. Love those new verses you wrote about ‘no more hate, greed or war’ “Down By The Riverside.” You should become a Methodist!

Dear Dr. Tanya Bennett, our fearless chaplain leader, gifted with profound words and wisdom. You set the table and prepared the feast. Occupy Advent was your good idea. And so was the image of Jesus occupying the Temple and throwing out the money-lenders who exploited the poor. We all followed your lead, and the theme was played out at every turn (including when Jesse and Obery spoke).

Minister Annie Allen, what would we have done without your non-anxious, self-differentiated, spiritual presence on stage, calmly dealing with the ‘interruptions’ to the program, having us hold hands to pray, and letting that shalom energy flow through you and through us all. You knew your audience and led with prophetic imagination and professional skill.

Bishop J.

Finally, Bishop J. What more can I say? Your prime-time sermon was cut short on stage, and yet you joyfully went with the flow with guileless grace, humility and humor. You yielded most of your time to Jesse, and abbreviated your own sermon with so much left unsaid.  (Didn’t you say something this morning in church about how God fills in the valleys and brings down the mountains, makes the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth? Well, you ‘humbled yourself in the sight of the Lord…’  In God’s good time, he will lift you up! 

Well, what next?  I’m convinced that God is doing a ‘new thing’ in our midst.  ‘It is springing up before us.  Do you not perceive it?’   Let us not miss it!  Let us proclaim it. (Isa. 43:19).

Advent means a Time for New Beginnings. Time to discern the Kairos in relation to the Occupy Movement.  Time to seize the moment for Shalom.

Dr. Obery Hendricks talks about Jesus and the 99%