THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME
DR. DIANNE RUSH WOODS
Hello everyone. I am Dianne Rush Woods. A little of my background. I am a lay leader, mother to two boys, Alex, Cory and foster mom to Eiji. Grand aunt to Taylor Chavez and Jordan Jerrels, sister and friend to many, and daughter of Tommie Dorsey Rush and Alice Rush. I was born and raised a Baptist and I carry a lot of that theological orientation with me to this day. I am also an advocate for the poor, the oppressed and the imprisoned. Finally, I’m a social worker, a change maker, a diversity advocate, a Methodist and a believer.
Jesus read the following words in the Temple,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind. To set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Why don’t we…why don’t we proclaim this the year of the Lord’s favor? Why not?
A quote from the Right Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King:
"The acceptable year of the Lord is any year when “we” decide to do right…The acceptable year of the Lord is any year when “we” …stop throwing away the precious lives that God has given us in riotous living."
Life is pretty riotous right now. That definition is, by the way, unruly, rowdy, disorderly, uncontrollable, unmanageable, undisciplined, uproarious, tumultuous; and, boy have we ever entered a time of riotous living.
This is the 178th day of the current presidency and every day we are bombarded by the conflict that has ensued with this new presidency and shift in power… executive orders, law suits against those orders, policy changes, states announcing their dissent, federal program changes, conflicts between the two primary parties and exposure to tweets, blogs, news stories, the questioning of topics, issues that we all have opinions about…. These are indeed riotous times.
No matter what party that can claim you as a member, this level of stress, distraction, and controversy place us in a position that can often feel overwhelming. The definition of stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances, problems in your life, work, or environment. Something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. That is where I stand right now.
So, where do we find comfort…where do we find focus…how do we live out our “Christian spiritual journey” during a difficult time. How can we refocus, how can we catch our breath? I would say that it is finding our core, finding our true North Star. The North Star, Polaris, is famous for holding nearly still in our sky (holding the center, the core) while the entire northern sky moves around it.
I want to thank Angel Rivero, our Youth Director and his adult study two weeks ago for pointing me in the right direction and helping me understand how the structure of the Methodist Church historically and currently can help serve as the core…that North Star.
Remember that I was born and raised a Baptist. So, some of the history and processes of the United Methodist Church has been beyond me. What I usually hear about is the great differences within the church. But, Angel discussed his trip with the incredible Odette Lockwood-Stewart and other pioneers of change to Washington D.C. . While he was there he visited the historic UMC Methodist Building and the General Board of Church and Society. And he brought back information about Church and Society and materials – Faith and Facts cards that addressed the Social Principles of the UMC.
I was so impressed by the resources and materials that I joined the General Board of Church and Society. Interesting enough, our past intern, Warren Gill , was the person who responded to my email. I was also reminded through reviewing the materials, that our own Dr. Randall Miller, is vice president of the General Board of Church and Society.
So, as soon as I joined, I receive an introductory email that stated the following:
Jesus repeatedly commands us to love one anther. This love demands that we seek justice and pursue peace.
John Wesley, one of our founders, actively preached against the social problems of his day, like slavery and child labor.
Methodists in the 1908 adopted the first Social creed that called for workers’ rights and a living wage. Some things never change do they…we still yearn for solid workers rights and there is a national push for a living wage.
UMC’s General Board of Church and Society is dedicated to the work of living faith, seeking justice, and pursuing peace. As I mentioned, Angel, in his adult study lesson, shared with us the Faith & Facts sheets from Church & Society. I’ve focused on the one that addresses Health Care in the United States. There are at least 20 others including sustainability and climate change, the death penalty, gun violence, hunger and poverty, immigration, religious freedom, and worker justice to name a few.
Four things: The fact sheet focus on:
What the bible says
What the UMC says
What the facts say AND
What you can do!!!
I was flabbergasted. I think that I have been such a strong Epworthian that I haven’t allowed myself to expand into the broadness of the church and have focused on the dissent in the church. I tell you, I just had my 65th birthday, and really had an epiphany. This connection to Church and Society was and is a great present to me. The larger church structure has much to offer despite the conflict that we are in around the acceptance of all into the church.
So, the Health Care fact sheet in brief: Remember that each sheet has 4 sections.
What the Bible says: The Lord who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry; sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous: Psalm 146: 7-8
What does the United Methodist Church say:
Health care is a basic right
Creating the personal, environmental, and social conditions in which health can thrive is a joint responsibility—public and private...We affirm the importance of preventive health care, health education, environmental and occupational safety, good nutrition, and secure housing in achieving health.
We encourage hospitals, physicians, and medical clinics to provide access to primary healthcare to all people regardless of their healthcare coverage or ability to pay for treatment
What do the Facts (data) say?
That we spend more on health care than any other country. But that healthcare is a commodity, not a right in the U.S. And, that 67% of American bankruptcies are associated with illness and medical bill.
Finally, it talks about how people without health care forego preventative treatment and are much more likely to receive emergency room treatment and/or to be diagnosed at the later states of a disease.
Finally, what do we do to take action for justice?
Remind your member of Congress that health care is a right and not a commodity, if you believe this to be true.
Ask them to work to correct inequity, especially as it affects the poor, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations unable to access health care.
Each sheet connected to the social principles is formatted to inform us. I was so pleased for this focus.
So, at the end of this message I want to say that we are indeed in riotous time, but interestingly based on what I learned from Angel’s adult study, I was redirected back to my own church, the Methodist church, to the social principles and suggestions for action.
Here are some of the recommendations that I saw:
Tell Congress: Fund Family Planning Programs
Stand with Immigrants and refugees
Increase Access to Affordable, High quality health care.
This language …these imperatives are accessible to all of us.
A hospital social worker who writes a blog about fearless social work wrote the following:
There were so many moments during the past year where I felt overwhelmed, helpless, and often in despair.
This riotous year has taught me finally what it is to stand for something. What it truly means to live one’s values. And that the value of my life is the sum of what and how I contribute to this world. The final tally will rely more on how I’ve left it, than in what I’ve gained from it. AMEN
Now I say this “that WE as Methodists , as Christians – are needed now. More than ever!”
The work ahead of us takes courage and is not for the feint of heart. And courage during these riotous times is what is needed now.
Let us work individually and let us work together to
proclaim good news to the poor. proclaim freedom for the prisoners and the recovery of sight for the blind. Let’s work to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim this the year of the Lord’s favor.”
So, roll up your sleeves. Our work is only just beginning.
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"