Growing the Light: Advent Reflections on Farmworker Justice — Week 3

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This Advent, join unwavering allies of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Rev. Brian McLaren, Rev. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis in preparing to grow the light of farmworker justice throughout the new year. The season of Advent draws us into a time of anticipation and preparation with all who long for release from oppression. Through the Fair Food Program (FFP), the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, together with student and faith allies, kindles the flame of justice for farmworkers in the tomato fields of Immokalee and now on farms across seven states.

You’re My Joy by Jacqui Lewis

This poetry/song in First Isaiah is so beautiful, even more so in Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

Isaiah 12:2-6 

Dr. Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a 1,100-member multiracial, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City. She is an activist, preacher, fierce advocate for racial equality, economic justice, LGBTQIA+ equality and longtime supporter of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)

Dr. Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a 1,100-member multiracial, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City. She is an activist, preacher, fierce advocate for racial equality, economic justice, LGBTQIA+ equality and longtime supporter of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)

“Yes, indeed—God is my salvation.
    I trust, I won’t be afraid.
God—yes God!—is my strength and song,
    best of all, my salvation!”

3-4 Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water
    from the wells of salvation.
And as you do it, you’ll say,
    “Give thanks to God.
Call out his name.
    Ask him anything!
Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done,
    spread the news of his great reputation!

5-6 “Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all!
    Let the whole earth know what he’s done!
Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out, O Zion!
    The Greatest lives among you: The Holy of Israel.”

I see the words, “…wells of God’s salvation,” and my heart remembers Jesus blessing those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and the promise that they will be satisfied. I think of drought in the Sea of Galilee, and wildfires in California. I see the scorched and charred Mama Earth, desperate for water that will save her and her creation. I think of children in Flint, Michigan, whose little minds will be forever altered by water that did not save them, but rather poisoned them. I think of some who patrol the border, who find gallons of precious, life-saving water, left there for those who would sojourn to a land flowing with milk and honey, and pour the water onto the desert floor. I think of the water I sometimes waste, standing too long in a deliciously hot shower, singing my favorite Advent Song.

They say you walked around in the flesh,

and if that is true, then I guess

You must understand how it feels,

When your faith is wavering

And you want to pray but can’t find the words to say

Oh, God, what a mess I’ve made of things

And no reversing it, that’s how it seems

But a second chance from you is always guaranteed

And I know they don’t accrue

But you say my child take as many as you need

You’re my joy, you’re my peace

And all my cares I’ll cast on thee

Never take your love away from me

From You’re My Joy by Tituss Burgess for Middle Church Music

No matter what, God never takes her love away from us. Our constant, faithful God is our joy. Isaiah expresses this ever-present, salvific power of God in a song almost identical to the one Moses sang, following the deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt:

The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation. Exodus 15:4

The healing, salvific quality of water is everywhere in the Hebrew scriptures. God provides water for desperate people (Genesis 21:19) and communities (Exodus 17:1-7). Water is a metaphor for salvation (Isaiah 35:6-7 and 55:1; Ezekiel 47:1-12). And water represents the very presence of God with individuals (Psalm 42:1 and 63:1) and with communities (Isaiah 44:3). We who are incubated in a pool of water know its power to heal us.

Moses, Isaiah and my friend Tituss, who penned You’re My Joy (a track on the album, Welcome!) all testify to the way God continues to provide deliverance of God’s people from all that oppresses them. Those on the margins, without power, thirsting for hope can find comfort in this text. Those who toil in the fields, picking the fruit of the earth, backs bent, knees sore. Those paid low wages, exposed to the elements, unsafe at times from predators; it is to these people across human history our God has come. Hearing the cries of the enslaved and the vulnerable; lighting a path home to those outside and cast away. Offering a cool dip of living water to those whose souls are scorched by the hot mess of their circumstances. God is our salvation. This eternal truth is cause for an eruption of joy.

This is our blessed assurance, and this is our prayer.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, Lord please answer them, do not forsake them, or us. Amen.

Based on Isaiah 41:17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

An Advent Call to Action:

Give joyfully to fuel the fair food movement! By supporting the Fair Food Program, you are standing shoulder to shoulder with farmworkers who are eradicating sexual violence, forced labor, and many other human rights abuses from U.S. agriculture. Become a Fair Food Sustainer today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

When she was eight years old, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis hid under her bed as bullets flew in her Chicago neighborhood following the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In that moment, she felt called to work for racial equality in the United States. Dr. Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a 1,100-member multiracial, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City. She is an activist, preacher, and fierce advocate for racial equality, economic justice, and LGBTQIA+ equality. Middle Church and Lewis’s activism for these issues has been featured in media such as The Today Show, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Essence, and The Huffington Post.