Joshua 6:1-2 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men."
At Occupy Wall Street I saw two men. Each there for different reasons, having different desires, from different backgrounds. Yet they shared a common trait: a deep frustration with what America has become. This ancient story of Jericho finds new life in these two men I met at the Wall.
The first protestor carries a large square signed around his neck. In large block letters, the sign announces a hunger strike. I ask him why, he responds: "before I join the larger protest, I must first purify myself." This struck me. Many think the Wall Street protesters are foolish, irrational and unorganized. But this man was serious. He understood that protest is an honest and personal commitment to revolution. While everyone else was loud and moving about, he stood in place, preparing himself for change. Before Israel marched around Jericho's walls, everyone was told to examine themselves, to ensure their commitment to the struggle.
Jericho was supposed to win, the wall wasn't supposed to fall, so every protestor around that ancient wall needed to take this battle seriously. The protestors must take Wall Street seriously. Wall Street is supposed to win. Wall Street will not fall easily. Therefore, each protestor must take personal inventory, making sure they can commit to -- and be ready for -- change.
Too often, our social movements are filled with people who are unprepared and uncommitted. America is in serious trouble; we need men and women like this protestor, who understand the individual dimensions of change. For this movement to matter, each protester must renounce and reject our present economic system. Without honest self-reflection and self-denial we are not prepared for the change we desire, and Wall Street will never come down.
A hunger strike is the ideal symbol of preparation, for it teaches us that we are not our own source; God is.
America exposes exceptionalism and individualism. These principles are inconsistent with a Godly life.
Throughout the bible we are invited to be like God, to follow God, not simply admire him from afar. American capitalism has 99% of us gazing upon the wealth of the 1% who live within the wall.
By recognizing that God is our source, we become dependant on God, and are now prepared for change.
I walked and met a younger man and asked him his reasons for being there. His response "I'm here for the food." I laughed only to find he was serious. He was poor and hungry. He came to Occupy Wall Street for the food!
Everyone around the Jericho wall was not there for the same reason. By the time of this story, Jericho had become an amazing place to live. In fact all the rich and influential citizens maintained summer residences at Jericho when they wanted to escape the brutal Jerusalem heat. Jericho was filled with the best of everything. However, this amazing city was once a barren desert. Nothing was there. Jericho was built from scratch. Jericho was not built by the rich and influential, but by ordinary men and women. Ordinary people who worked in factories, people who paved roads, people who built houses. But one day these ordinary people found themselves unable to live within the very walls they helped to build.
Like Jericho, ordinary people, built America.
From nothing but barren wasteland, America has become the place to be. But now America and its amazing cities, like New York and Chicago has pushed its poor, its ordinary people to the edge, outside its' walls.
Most Americans live outside the walls of the nation they helped to build. We live outside America's walls of wealth and prosperity. We live outside America's walls of employment and healthcare. We even live outside America's walls of food and shelter. "I'm here for the food," captures the root of the Occupy protest: too many Americans live outside its' walls. Yet this man who came for food, exposes another stark reality of America. It is best captured in the words of Jesus "many have ears but do not hear, and eyes but do not see." While the majority of Americans live outside of its walls, we are unconscious of what this protest means. Even worse, some of us will miss the revolution all together.
A movement is happening all around us. People are Occupying Wall Street, Boston, Chicago, and cities around the country and the world. But many of us are too self-obsessed to pay attention. Our problems and burdens blind us to everything else. This man who came for food had no other concern but himself. Because no one in his country has concern for him. How many hungry men and women do we pass every day?
A hungry man is protesting for food, while being surrounded by walls of excessive wealth and greed. America thrives in poverty, with banks posting profits and paying bonuses. Because the vast majority of us are simply trying to eat, thinking about ourselves. But this moment demands the attention of the poor, working and middle-class, for it offers us more than daily bread, it offers us a real opportunity to reverse the spiral turn of our nation.
For six days, Israel was told to march around Jericho's walls and to say nothing to no one. While they marched, people called them foolish, unorganized and troublemakers; but they kept on marching. God's promises contradict reality, and require that we look like fools to those who have no faith.
Yet this scripture is clear: God cares for those who Jericho, and America has rejected.
These two men did in part, what another man at the wall, did in whole. Jesus is at the wall.
Jesus prepared himself for the ultimate revolution. Jesus purified himself, in fact, Jesus emptied himself of everything. He emptied himself of privilege and power, He took off heavenly clothes and took upon the likeness of a servant. That not being enough, He purified himself even more, by emptying His blood. " There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel veins..." Jesus gave Himself you and for me. Jesus is concerned with you and me. And Jesus stands with all men and women who have been pushed outside the wall.