Monday, March 1, 2010

Ending Poverty in Minnesota

Minnesota Without Poverty Event

February 27, 2010
Centrum, Concordia College, Moorhead

Thank you for being here. It’s a privilege for me to participate in this evening, representing over 100,000 Lutherans here in northwestern Minnesota….lending my support for this grassroots, statewide movement pursuing the goal of making poverty in Minnesota a thing of the past.

Digging into my own faith tradition as a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m reminded of three ways Jesus approached the perennial issue of poverty:

1. Jesus lived as one for whom talking the talk was never a substitute for walking the walk. It’s been said that Jesus spoke more often about wealth and poverty issues than he did about prayer….but he never was content with “mere words.” Jesus moved toward the poor, sought out those on the edge, embraced hardscrabble lives, rubbed elbows with those at the end of their ropes.

a. And it is in the spirit of Jesus that you and I have a chance in these next ten years to walk the walk by pursuing the concrete, realistic steps that fill this legislative report.

b. I am particularly struck in this vision by its thoroughgoing emphasis on accountability. If this vision succeeds, as I trust it will, it will be because it challenges us to monitor our efforts and hardwire into the fabric of our state concrete means of accountability for the common good of all who call Minnesota home.

2. Second, Jesus was forever conniving ways to widen the circle. It’s a little like when we were children, playing a circle game, and needing to stretch that circle out—make it wider, more permeable, more open to include all sorts of folks.

a. We who love and live in Minnesota have a long-standing bias toward “widening the circle,” following in the footsteps of great bi-partisan leaders like the late Hubert Humphrey and the lateElmer L. Anderson….we’re always finagling ways to “widen the circle.”

b. I see that impulse played out in this vision which is such a comprehensive vision, recognizing in so many ways that the call to end poverty is too important to be a Democratic or a Republican issue. What gives me hope in this vision is the fact that it draws upon the best wisdom from all points on the political compass….there is so much here that can energize all people of goodwill.

3. Third, I recall all the ways that Jesus lived in boundless hope. Jesus continually called people, you and me, to live into God’s preferred future….a future in which Kleenex won’t be necessary because tears will no longer flow, a future in which justice will no longer seem like a pipe dream, and a future in which God will be all in all--surrounded by a redeemed humanity and a new creation.

a. As I read this vision, I am struck by the fact that it’s short on band-aids and quick fixes and long on visionary, far-sighted thinking. This vision of a Minnesota Without Poverty has “legs” under it, because it commits us all to the long haul together…and it gives us ways to let God’s future draw us forward.

b. I appreciate the careful ways this vision reminds us that our understandable concern for the momentarily urgent, dare not displace our “in-this-for-the-long-haul” need to attend to all that is profoundly important-- the vital, the structural and infrastructural ways that God’s preferred future is already embracing us and leading us and all God’s children toward a hope-filled tomorrow.

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