A democratic fever is breaking out in United States of America. Young people have assembled in town squares throughout the nation, most notably on Wall Street. And while religious leaders have played a minor role in the Occupy movement, there is something deeply spiritual if not religious taking place.
As Jesus's life was coming to end, his disciples were still trying to grapple with his notion of the Kingdom of God. In the tenth chapter of Luke, Jesus tells the now familiar story of the Good Samaritan. A man is robbed on a treacherous road -- only to be ignored by countrymen and clergymen. The robbed one lay bleeding and broken. He is then happened upon by a Samaritan -- an othered one -- hated by oppressed and oppressor alike.
The Samaritan tends to the robbed one's wounds, insures his safety with a place to rest, and continues to make sure that the robbed one is well. Jesus says that it is not the countrymen or clergyman that have lived out the sum of the love, but the Samaritan that loved the Lord God with all his heart, mind, and soul and his neighbor as himself. One might consider it odd that Jesus would lift up a Samaritan as the hero of this parable. From Genesis onward, Samaritans are treated with contempt and considered outliers throughout the Biblical narrative.
They worshiped the wrong God and their religious practice was considered illegitimate. They tended to live on the outskirts of the city and keep to themselves. Yet somehow this maligned people bore witness to the sum of Biblical authenticity according to Jesus in his parable. The action of the Samaritan is to allow God to reign.
As veteran organizers have lobbied the Occupy Movement to streamline its message and elect a spokesperson, and the media has mocked their dress, both have missed the gift of this public congregation of hope. While politicians and the media have shielded bankers from real scrutiny, the Occupy folks have come to Wall Street to tend to the wounds of those who were robbed on the roadside of the American Dream. While prosperity preachers continue to beat people over the head for the little money that they have and politicians blamed the foreclosured and jobless, these democratic Samaritans have come to their aid by simple being there.
A few days ago an ecumenical group of clergy conducted a tender communion service at Occupy Boston. Supported by the generous heart of Harvard Divinity School students, we broke bread and served wine in the holiest of Christian rituals. This Eucharist table was the table of Jesus -- defender of the poor. Hymns rang out in the crisp evening air. Thirty or so clergy in vestments and stoles strolled through the crowd for each one to hear -- believer and non believer alike. "Thank you." We simply responded with equal gratitude. "No, thank you."
The gift and genius of Occupy is that places all progressive if not revolutionary issues on the table. Racial, environmental, gender, sexuality and food justice are seen as direct links to the economic question. The Occupy folks are the incarnation of the life and legacy of Jesus of Nazareth. With a billionaire mayor shooting down Occupy Wall Street, we see the incarnation of Pontius Pilate, who presided over Jesus' crucifixion.
In the richest nation in the world, Mayor Bloomberg, one of the richest men in the world, told students, veterans, homeless and former members of the middle class, that you cannot disturb the business of Wall Street. But Occupy Wall Street's elegant and eclectic revival is ushering in the spirit of a new mode of being. Only if the church and politicians could be as prophetic.