I have a beautiful serigraph on the wall of my office, John August Swanson’s Story of the Prodigal Son
. It’s a blur of rich colors and textures suggestive of Oaxacan folk art. When I put on my glasses back on it snaps into focus, telling Jesus’ parable about the unshakable love of a father for his wandering son.
Stories are powerful. The most powerful of them provide lenses through which we pull our story and the world around us into focus. Sometimes they provide meaning and purpose. Sometimes they explain how things are connected and who are the actors. Some of the best ones disrupt the way we see the world and suggest another way, perhaps a way towards more abundant life.
Our world is filled with such stories. They compete with one another for our attention, our loyalty. We both tell them and live them to one another, sometimes consciously trying to explain who we are and other times broadcasting it inadvertently with our actions.
One story we often tell ourselves these days is about that great and powerful god, The Market. It is a virtuous god, full of wealth and ego building potential. If we are willing to serve it, to make sure it is fed and watered and free from all bondage, along with its friend The Economy it promises to take care of us. Or so the story goes.
In this story, The Market doesn’t really like the minimum wage
. It especially doesn’t like the idea of raising it. Raising the minimum wage will cost jobs says The Market. Don’t you want more people to have jobs? Don’t you know how important small businesses are? There are people who just shouldn’t earn this much---at least not until they work a little harder. The Market has much to say.
For Christians this is Easter, the day we celebrate new life from death, a new story through which we view all others. But the resurrection we celebrate today comes only after a week marked by a journey toward suffering and death. At the cross many stories were put to death, many tales carefully crafted to protect the status quo. Dead is the story that left to our own devices we will use our power for the good of the neighbor. Dead is the story that power and violence will bring peace. Dead is the story that we must go it alone.
The story of those early followers of Jesus that we find in Acts 2 suggests that seeing the world through the cross and the resurrection was transformational for this community. Choosing to trust in the risen Christ rather than The Market led to radical concern for the neighbor, new ways of organizing economic life that prioritized people. At least that’s the story.
I’m convinced that the Easter story is still transformational. It still invites us change how we see the world, to view our neighbor differently. As our world comes into focus we too are challenged to organize an economy that serves and empowers people rather than the other way around. I really need Easter. There is too much death, sometimes even my hope for a meaningful minimum wage, real immigration reform or a strengthened right to organize ends up on life support. But then the events of Holy Week and Easter remind me again that with God, all things are possible.
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