Throughout the season of Lent, pastors and other Christian leaders who are in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will offer short Lenten reflections that intersect this holy time of discipline and self-determination with the ongoing struggle for Fair Food. These reflections will be released to our Interfaith Network every week between February 14 and March 28.
Today, we have a Lenten reflection by Rev. Dr. Audrey Warren, Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Miami and a preview of the latest "A Look Ahead" podcast by Rev. Michael Livingston, Senior Executive Minister at The Riverside Church in the city of New York (the church hosting farmworker and ally fasters during the upcoming Freedom Fast) in which he reflects on what protesting outside of Nelson Peltz's Midtown Manhattan offices is like.
Lenten Reflection #3
“...While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.
Growing up my grandmother always told me, "Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see." Although this Southern saying caused me to be a skeptic for much of my life it also helped me cling to wisdom and seek truth in all situations.
Today in the lectionary text, John 12:36-43 we see that John points out some skeptics. The writer complains that although Jesus had performed many miracles there were still people who did not believe in him. John first says that this is so because it fulfilled a prophecy of Isaiah which stated, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn- and I would heal them."
John cites Isaiah who understood that correct seeing and understanding do not come from the eyes but rather the heart. John later states that even if people did believe they would not announce it publicly as they cared more for the glory of humanity than the glory of God.
In this somewhat weird text John gives us some wisdom for today.
First, we must see with our hearts. Our eyes and ears are often deceiving but when we seek to understand with our hearts we are often converted. I remember back in 2010-11 while working on the Fair Food Campaign with others. At the time we focused on getting Publix to join the Fair Food Nation. I remember often times there were arguments on either side of the table that often surrounded data and education on how farmworkers were paid and how farmers were paid. Most of the data and education were often misconstrued by Publix. That is the problem with data and facts as we have learned the past year and a half. It always depends on who is telling the story and who is interpreting it. We realized that we could not rely on data to tell the story but that we must rely instead on the experiences of women who could not get their kids ready for school because they had to catch a bus while it was still dark to go and work. Surprisingly, many held on to this point of the argument. Hearts that had been hard soften a bit and new supporters came to the table. As we continue our work together in the fight for fair food let us remember that at the end of day our work is about people and their stories. This is where our power comes from. As much as our work is about improving unjust systems it is also about making family systems stronger.
Second, John teaches us that in all we do our motivation and purpose should be to give God glory. Through the work of the CIW I have seen small glimpses of the kingdom of God. In November 2010, I remember gathering at the CIW center to celebrate the 50 years of the documentary, "Harvest of Shame." There, one of the women shared with us a story about working in the fields just after new regulations about bucket filling size were instituted. She told us how she filled the bucket under the new regulations and handed it to the crew leader who shamed her and told her to pick more before she handed in her bucket. She quickly reported the injustice and the next day the crew leader had to publicly apologize and then teach the rest of the workers the new regulations. The story reminded me that through the powerful work of the CIW the lion and the lamb can come together. All of this work brings glory to God and I am grateful for the courage of the woman to stand up for herself and so many others!
As we continue to walk through Lent I pray that we would see with our hearts and walk with courage in order to bring God glory before man.
Let us walk together with the powerful stories of courageous farmworkers today.
"A Look Ahead" Riverside Church Podcast on what protesting outside of Nelson Peltz's Midtown Manhattan offices is like
"It's like a few moments out of time, a little surreal in some ways. Because here we are: people of faith, farmworkers, women and their children...standing on this busy, famous, New York avenue outside of the offices of a powerhouse Wall Street firm and Nelson Peltz. Life's going by, cabs are passing by, people are going in and out of this building and we're there saying, Listen, Nelson Peltz! Talk with us. Have a conversation about fairness to farmworkers. And of course, we're just this little speck of humanity while all of this is going on and people are passing by. Of course he's either up in his office somewhere or not up in his office somewhere else, not really caring that we're there. But it doesn't deter the farmworkers who keep coming here demanding justice and getting right up in the face of Nelson Peltz and Wendy's saying, you need to do the right thing." - Rev. Michael Livingston