Bishop Jeremiah Park, Resident Bishop, New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, offered these prophetic words with great passion on Sunday, December 4, at the Occupy Advent church service with the OccupyWall Street congregation:
Long ago, the prophet Jeremiah heard God speaking:
“For I know the plans I have for you,”….
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”(Jeremiah 29:11)
God’s plan for us is clear: hope and a future.
Our hearts are broken to know that God’s plan is denied to so many people. God’s heart is broken when any one is denied hope and a future.
What is missing in our society is hope. The absence of hope has moved so many people around the globe to occupy their public centers following the example of our own Occupy Wall Street.
Something is seriously wrong in America when the land of the greatest opportunity cannot inspire hope among its citizens, particularly the young! Something is seriously wrong in America when the so-called richest nation on earth has one of every four children living in poverty. Something is seriously wrong when people have to choose between food and medicine or medical care. Something is seriously wrong when so many people are living on the streets.
Something is seriously wrong when young people graduate from college with a heavy load of debt but can find no employment. Something is seriously wrong when the dream of a decent living becomes beyond reach to people, even though they work hard. A decent living must be a basic human right.
Something is seriously wrong in America with the way we’ve been doing economics and life. We are polarized; we are paralyzed. And, as usual, those with the least are suffering the most. Now, thanks to Occupy Wall Street, we’re being compelled to confront this reality and to do something about it. The United States of America has been found guilty of reckless practices of a greed driven economy that benefits mostly the richest at the peril and expense of the rest. This leads me to ask, “What has happened to the America of my dreams that inspired a future with hope for all people?” The economic system that feeds and satisfies the untamed greed of the most powerful who possess the most resources so that the richest get richer, while the poor stay poor and the middle are squeezed, is not God’s plan. A future with hope! That’s God’s plan for all of us. When hope is missing, we have the God given right to demand it.
In eighteenth century England, a young Anglican priest named John Wesley, looked upon his society with horror. People were suffering in their poverty and oppression. Wesley was determined to do something about it. A movement called Methodism was born to offer new life and hope to people of all ages and stations. It was John Wesley who said, “There is no religion except social religion; no holiness except social holiness.”
What’s social religion all about? A religion that brings hope to everyone. What’s social holiness all about? A holiness that brings hope to all people, particularly to the most underprivileged.
Thanks to Occupy Wall Street, we are being reminded that unless we are looking out for the poorest among us, we are not being faithful to our God. If we are not in the hope-giving business to the marginalized among us, our business model is all wrong!
I call upon our church to be a house of hope. I call upon our people to be agents of hope.
For Christians, we are in the season of Advent, a season of hope.
Let me end with a prayer:
We are waiting for the One who is the Healer of our brokenness,
the Prince of shalom, and Hope of the world. Come to us until hope occupies our hearts, our wills, and our streets. Amen.
To hear the Bishop and others of us speak, click to view 2 min. video clip: