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A meal of solidarity with the oppressed.

I had a coffee with a Jewish lady who does a similar work to me going into schools to talk about her faith. We were talking about Passover wondering if we could do a combined lesson around the Jewish Passover and Christian Eucharist. She spoke of the part of Passover where they retell the story of God’s rescue from Egypt and then shared about a Passover meal with a holocaust survivor who continued the Exodus account with their experience in Nazi Germany.

Lynda -the lady I was chatting too, spoke of how Passover is a time when the Jews stand with solidarity with all oppressed people, and their story reminds them to remember others. Yet, this is rarely how we think of our Communion meal as standing in solidarity with the oppressed and partnering with the God of liberation (as Moses did) and seeing Jesus as the ultimate liberator and rescuer. The crucifixion shows the barbaric torture and murder of a prisoner of conscience. We remember our oneness as the body of Christ across the world and throughout time and history and many of our brothers and sisters suffer horrifically for their faith.

I wonder do we spiritualize memories to make them purely about ‘life beyond the grave’ rather than allow ourselves to be caught up in a story that is deeply and challenging and uncomfortable?

Do we rush to the resurrection to make it a happy ending and try to ignore the wounds in the hands, head, feet and side of Christ preserved forever in all eternity?

As someone who has been hugely influenced by the work of liberation theology within the Christian tradition, this was a reminder that this was not an invention of a new theology but rather a rediscovery of truths that are dominant in scripture -just often overlooked- right from the beginning of the scriptural narrative. A reminder that scripture speaks into this life as well as into the age to come.

On her worktop were coconut pyramids which is another popular tradition in Jewish homes for Passover season, and I thought for a moment about all those in forced and exploitative labour, modern day slavery, which is happening unseen (or perhaps unacknowledged) all around us; statistically something you are wearing at the moment statistically could have been made by slaves, or at least by someone who is not receiving a ‘fair days pay for a fair days work’.

As I thought of the story of Moses speaking truth repeatedly to power with clear demands to end this barbaric and exploitative practice of slavery and to free God’s people which fell on the deaf ears of Pharaoh; I thought of the Clapham Sect with William Wilberforce (a Christian) placing motion upon before Parliament (which were repeatedly and shamefully rejected) for the whole of his parliamentary career before finally seeing slavery abolished.
As I thought about nineteenth century abolitionist Wilberforce I was reminded of the call for a new 21st Century generation of abolitionists rests with our generation -true slavery looks different now in a globalised world- but we are not without power, influence or opportunity to change and transform this world. The call to be salt and light has not diminished over the past 2000 years.

The problem is not that people think slavery is a good thing, but rather we feel powerless to stop it, we don’t know what is produced fairly or not and buying ethically is often more expensive (we often buy second hand which although the garment may have originally been produced unfairly it is given a second life and the money goes into the hands of charities rather than exploiters). Yet, I believe we fall for the myth of all established sin (such as apartheid in South Africa) is it looks so entrenched that people cannot imagine a world that looks differently nor a path to walk on to get there. True, the path will be steep and costly, but ultimately when we side ourselves on the marginalised we discover we have sided ourselves with almighty God, and with God no one is in the minority -despite how it feels.

So, as we think of our story lets not gloss over the uncomfortable, painful and difficult bits but rather to spur us into action of solidarity and liberation. I’ll close with a quote from Bonhoeffer:

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

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