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Lori Walke calls PNC into its ministry of vitality

The PNC is ready to do a new thing, Lori Walke, associate pastor at Mayflower UCC in Oklahoma City, told participants in the Fall Gathering at N-Sid-Sen’s shore-side chapel as dusk turned to night.

Courtney Stange-Tregear and Lori Walke at N-Sid-Sen.

Courtney Stange-Tregear, minister for church vitality, met her at a Next Generation Young UCC Clergy meeting.

By installing a minister of church vitality, the PNC is discerning how to be the church in this time.  It’s casting its nets on the other side of the boat as Jesus told fishermen on the Sea of Galilee to do,” Lori said.

After 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus went to his home church in Nazareth and announced he was bringing good news to the poor.  It went over “like a lead balloon,” she said.

So Jesus went to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee to recruit the disciples from the fishermen. They left everything to follow him and fish for people, she said, adding that there’s more to the story.  He went there to do community organizing in the largest town with the largest harbor, Lori said.

Jerry Chang and Chiao-Ling Kao bless elements in Taiwanese.

“If you want to get the word out, tell it to fishermen. They love to talk, Lori said. On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, there were many villages.

They also were oppressed and “occupied” by a fishing industry that was regulated for the urban elite benefited Greek, Roman and Jewish oppressors—the one percent. The fishermen were the poor, the 99 percent, she said.    

In Capernaum, it’s not just that there were more people and it’s not that Jesus needed to start over, but his call was more political than theological, Lori said.  His message was about class and poverty.  This ministry began in a moment of misery with the occupation of Rome.

Sharing communion with each other in small groups.

“Jesus came to a world of oppression and insider trading.  There was a tax on fishing. People bought boats and paid interest on loans.  They paid to sell the fish in the market.  Fishermen needed a union,” she said.

“We are told there is no place in the church for politics, but without politics there is no church,” Lori said.  “Jesus did not start a union, but he did something more dangerous.  He preached, taught and lived God’s kingdom by the shores of the lake, where fishermen worked hard, but did not earn enough to feed their families.

“He preached to the working poor who knew the system was broken.  Jesus occupied Capernaum,” she said.

Where would Jesus go today?  To a small town in South Carolina where textile and furniture building jobs have been shipped overseas; to Detroit where the car industry exists in a city walled off from a collapsing city; to a border crossing near Tuscon where undocumented immigrants cross in search of the hardest work for the lowest pay only to meet the scorn of those who are enriched by their labor and who use their brown skin and foreign tongue as political weapons.

Lori then contrasted the familiar verses of “Jesus Loves Me” that focus on Jesus dying for “me” and washing “my sins away,” and then offered amending the lyrics to comply with the truth about Jesus:

“Jesus organizes, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  The poorest ones to him belong.  They are broke but he is strong.”

“See how limited the saving work of Jesus is,” she said, comparing it to saying, “The day is coming when the rich and powerful will be brought down, when Mary’s Magnificat will be realized.

“Those who believe in the biblical mandate to care for creation know we are not doing well at transitioning from a petroleum-based society,” she said, frustrated that millions gain access to health insurance but complain it’s not perfect, or that Washington and Oklahoma are having a hard time funding public education.

If Christians stop talking about blood atonement and talk about justice, they could see that Jesus was a community organizer, she said,. 

“No politics in the pulpit means no gospel,” she said. “It’s time for Jesus’ followers to occupy and organize the PNC.


Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ News © November-December 2017


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