U2charist: Stand Up Against Poverty!
by Elaine VanCleave
“I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song”
U2’s nod to Psalm 40, aptly named “40”, played at a low volume over the sound system as 200 + people in Birmingham, Alabama walked down the aisles of Trinity UMC’s Wesley Hall to take communion. Although, the Eucharist was traditional, everything else about Wednesday night’s service was contemporary and pulsing. We did indeed “sing a new song” as we worshipped and reflected on ending hunger and poverty in God’s world.
The service began and ended with special selections by international guests from SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology). All other songs were from U2’s spiritually rich songbook.
Rev. Max Blalock of Eastlake UMC preached on the story of the Good Samaritan and asked us to reflect on the question posed to Jesus: "who is my neighbor?" To help illustrate Jesus' very unsettling answer, Max put the story in modern terms: “ The ancient kingdom of Samaria is the present day West Bank. So if we want to imagine the scenario in present day terms, according to New Testament scholar Amy Jill-Levine: ‘the person in the ditch is an Israeli Jew, and the two people who pass him by are a rabbi and a member of the Israeli Parliament. The person who stops to help him is a member of Hamas.’’ But the challenge for many of us is not yet to get to the point of being the Good Samaritan, it is getting to the point of being the priest or the Levite and actually seeing the needs of people around us. Then we might be able to be on our way, with God's help, to actually seeing and acting to do something about the needs of our brothers and sisters living in poverty.
Dr. Suzanne Martin, program director for Leading Edge Institute, reprised her role from last year and led the group in reciting the UN Millennium Campaign’s Stand Up pledge. 232 people in Birmingham, AL stood in solidarity with the over 38.7 million people worldwide who publicly demonstrated to policy makers that governments’ promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and help the billion living in extreme poverty, must be kept.
Local ONE members enthusiastically remarked on Birmingham’s inaugural U2Charist: Heifer volunteer and ONE activist Gay Johnson said, “SIFAT did a great job! Max was effective! Everything was very meaningful!” Homewood High School student Christin Mize said, “I came last night, and it was SO awesome. My friend and I are going to talk with some teachers this morning about starting a group at Homewood High! “
Bread for the World is a founding partner in ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History.
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