Nikos Kazantzakis wrote that, in this harsh, harsh world despoiled by greedy "elites," "Christ wanders about hungry and homeless, that He is in danger, and that now it is His turn to be saved by man." And, one has the sense, this Thanksgiving week, that it is the church's turn – the turn of its aging, cautious, guardians, some of whom may have forgotten last Sunday's Gospel – to be saved by young people, who may not realize they're Christians, but, nonetheless, have remembered…and, as we're wont to say, inwardly digested Matthew 25.
In their caution and amnesia, those we look to for ecclesial leadership have been slow to speak or act…lest they offend. It takes money to maintain those buildings. And, so, they keep their silence, forgetting – or looking away from - so much recent history…when silence killed. They seem to have forgotten the lament of Leo Baeck, the leader of Germany's Jewish Community from 1933 to 1943 – "Nothing is so sad as silence;" or that of Stephane Hessel, the French Resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor, writing of today's indignities and inequality – "The worst attitude is indifference;" or Martin's j'accuse – "There is a time when silence is betrayal."
That time has come again. And, in the face of the suffocating silence and indifference, the young people of America and the world have taken to the streets to stand in dignity and voice a cry that can no longer be stifled – "Enough!" We've heard it in the canyons of Chiapas – "Basta!" We've heard in Tahrir Square - that place named "Liberty" – "Kefeya!" And now we hear it on our own streets - from Zucotti Park to Justin Herman Plaza - Enough! Enough of the self-serving greed; the indignities heaped on God's people; the despoliation of God's creation; the worship of that false god, the golden calf of an amoral, uncaring, unfettered "Market;" the endless wars that devour our youth, our treasure, our souls; the lies and manipulation that mock our intelligence and feed our outrage; a silent church of too many buildings and not enough people.
But the people are there. They always are. They're on the street and doing church in new ways that are very old. They don't ask "Lord, when did we see you hungry?" They feed the hungry. And the unseen God smiles. They break bread together – sometimes a long Italian loaf, a thin pita, or thinner taco – and pass the cup - grape juice, perhaps, for those struggling with addictions. They hold hands in growing circles of protection to say together the Lord's Prayer and sing - with feeling not felt in any building - "Amazing Grace" and "We Shall Overcome." And, on a trolley track on Market Street, they light some candles and sit in silence…not knowing what will come, but prepared and free of fear.
"This," as Josh Griffin, a young priest in Portland, said, "is not a protest movement, it is public liturgy of the finest sort. This movement is powerful because it is showing us a way forward." In their disparate voices, in terms that should speak to Christians, the young people of Occupy have decried an unfair, often inhumane system. And, now, with clear vision and engaged minds, they are beginning the task of formulating the concrete goals and objectives the cognoscenti mockingly clamor for. They will lead the "leaders" and show them the way out of this morally bankrupt cul-de-sac into which they have led us…and left us. They will, indeed, show us the way forward. And, if those of us in our comfortable churches will follow…out the doors of our aging buildings…to where God's people are huddled in their pain, their fear, and yearning, we – together - may save the good name of God.
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