Friday, May 24, 2013

Camp Egan Retreat Communion Worship Sunday, May 26, 2013

Camp Egan Retreat Worship, 2013
Call To Worship
Today is the day which God has made:
Let us rejoice and be glad therein.
What does the Eternal require of us?
To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you
As the day rises to meet the sun.  
Be with us in our humble and deliberate beginning of the day
We Come into God’s presence with thanksgiving.
Opening Songs of Praise
Holy, Holy, Holy
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
For The Beauty of the Earth
Morning Prayers
Prayer of Confession:
Gracious and Loving God, we acknowledge to you, to one another, and to ourselves that we are not what you have called us to be.
We have stifled our gifts and wasted our time.
We have avoided opportunities to offer kindness, but have been quick to take offense. We have pretended that we could make no contribution to peace and justice in our world and have excused ourselves from risk-taking in our own community.
 Have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and help us to live our lives differently.
We long for peace within and without, for harmony in our families, for the well-being of our neighbors, and help us to love our enemies.
Yet we have too often not made the hard choices that love requires.
Show us how to walk in your path of faithfulness, hope, and love.
Words of Assurance:
One fact remains that does not change: God loves all. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This is the good news that brings new life.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Pastoral Prayers:
Eternal Spirit, we come with hungry hearts, waiting to be filled: Waiting to be filled with a sense of your presence; Waiting to be filled with the touch of your spirit; Waiting to be filled with new energy for service; We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
Loving Creator, we confess what seems always with us: broken things within us that seem never to mend, empty places within us that seem always to ache, things like buds within us that seem never to flower.
God of everlasting hope and forgiveness, help us to be open to your Presence within us, mending and tending to our aching hearts and to our hurt and wounded land. Help us to listen to others, and empower us to be your hands of action and healing, sowing seeds of compassion and justice into our families and communities and to support all those in need in our one world which you made and called good.
Song: Peace Like A River
Pastoral Prayer

Let us pray for those who weep, and for those who cause their weeping. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who are without food, clothes, and a place of shelter this day and everyday. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who live without hope and meaning. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who live in fear or sickness. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who make gods of things and of themselves, Hear our prayer, O God. For those who are working to serve others this day, Hear our prayer, O God. For those travelling today, Hear our prayer, O God. For those in harm’s way, in homes and on battlefields, Hear our prayer, O God. For those who are finding their way again to love and laughter, Hear our prayer, O God. And for the great mission of God to bless the poor, to pardon the imprisoned, to bring sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to provide hospitality to the resident aliens, to clothe all, to visit the sick, and to proclaim the year of the Lord and end all debts, Hear our prayer, O God.
Lift Up Names For Prayers
Eternal Spirit of Life and Love and Liberation, may we be open to your presence in our lives, in all our joys and sorrows, fears and faith, dreams and disappointments, hurts and hopes, those shared openly with others, and those shared only with You.
Everlasting Hope that holds us up, so that we may go hold others, we give thanks for all that has blessed us, and all that has brought us to this day of Life’s Celebration.
Universal Love, continue to show us the way home to our own true hearts, our duties, and to the service of creating a better world for all. Help us to see anew the sacredness placed right before us, right beside us, right within us.
Deepest Source of All, may our prayers be times of listening as well as speaking. May we be open to what Life yet speaks to us of truth, joy, and goodness.
God beyond all human naming, yet as close as our breath and beating hearts, we bring today these reflections of our minds, these meditations of our hearts, these prayers of our souls. Now we join in praying as Jesus taught all those who would follow in his radical, inclusive, compassionate and transforming way, we pray,
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Song: Amazing Grace
 O God, we gather at this welcoming table open to all no matter what, remembering how Jesus gathered people from all the walks of life, stranger and friend and enemies, gave thanks to you, offered all the bread of life and the cup of blessing and proclaimed a covenant of love for all in your name.  We remember too the wonder of his life, as we remember the wonder of all of Creation given unto us and how all are One, and all lives sacred.  We remember his death and how on the night before he died he still gathered in love to share a meal and the hope for a better world, and we remember all the terrors and the tyrannies that oppress people today. In the mystery of faith in the everlasting Spirit, the triumph over fear,  help us to remember to practice resurrection everyday as we remember all those who have given Love the ultimate trust and the last word and who have worked to create the beloved community of renewed and abundant life. Help us to remember with this sacred and symbolic meal especially all those who are hungry, and may we treat all our meals as sacred and to be shared. Take us, bless us, so that even in and with our brokenness we may serve others and receive Your Spirit.
Song: “I Love To Tell The Story”
Communion Homily: Being The Story
Blessing of Plate and Cup
Jesus said I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. And they said, Lord, when did we do this? And he said, You did this for me when you did it for the least of these.
Here is the bread of life, food for the spirit. Let all who hunger come and eat.
Here is the fruit of the vine pressed and poured out for us. Let all who thirst now come and drink. 
We come to make peace. We come to be restored in the love of God. We come to be made new as an instrument of that love.
All are worthy. All are welcome.
Passing The Bread of Life and Cup of Hope during Singing of “Let Us Break Bread Together”
Closing Song: “Love Lifted Me”
The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you;  The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Place At The Table: A Homily from the Welcome Table, to the Phillips Theological Seminary community


A Place At The Table

Homily by Rev. Ron Robinson at Phillips Theological Seminary

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 Noon Chapel

Acts 2: 43-47

43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.44All who believed were together and had all things in common;45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. The official film site link. Go see trailer and film clips that were shown today at Phillips, and find how to see the full film.


            One of the things that the documentary A Place at the Table gets right is about the presence of hidden hunger and food insecurity in our land. It is hidden to the extent that many Americans have a television image of what hunger looks like. I just came back from another trip to the Philippines where you can easily see that picture of hunger along the streets. But, even here, it is not that hidden really; it is just that we don’t put ourselves where we will see it.

            I know a woman, 86 years old, all of it spent on Tulsa’s northside, from the days when family structures took care of those falling through the cracks, to the days of the working class structures and union jobs and when people knew how to grow their own food to the more recent days of the neighborhood and family decimation and death of all the places where people met others in shared common life together. She came to one of our community holiday festivals where our group provides free entertainment and food; she watched as we had to go to the store six times during the night; she saw the people of all ages eating everything, including the healthy food, and stuffing pockets and piling plates high to take back with them.

 I saw her, who lived in the midst of these neighbors, see a part of their lives for the first time. In terms of the language of Acts, it was a sign and wonder that changed how she saw the world and what God was calling for in response. It is what teachers see on Mondays when the students return to school. It is what social workers see who hear the stories of individuals and families trying to dig out of holes of all kinds of illnesses, or to put their lives together after prison, and having to rely on the pittance of assistance that is gone in a SNAP. It is what you would see if you go to Warehouse Market at midnight on the first of the month when they stay open two extra hours when benefits kick in for even just a percentage of folks. It is what we see each week during our Food Days. And the truth is that if we held our Food Days everyday, as would be nice; if we continue to triple the number of people we serve each month, if we were serving ten times as many people each month, we would continue to see it. For the documentary is also right that the need is too great and diverse in its causes for non-profits alone, especially those with all volunteers like ours, or philanthropy and business alone, or government alone. But I believe, as they say in the film, that it is possible to make hunger and food insecurity go away in my lifetime.

We begin by creating Acts 2 relationships, where we see that we are all bound together, with mutual relationships, and that to form those relationships we must be with one another, talking or planning or acting not just about the poor but with them, and that the issue of food is bound up with other issues; in our area, for example, it is connected to the lack of sidewalks and street lights and transportation; so that people must often walk for more than a mile to get to a grocery store, taking the store’s cart to carry food back home, often in the middle of Peoria Ave. if it has been snowing or raining, or they are in a motorized scooter.

The film also addresses the problem of the kind of food assistance the poor receive, not just the lack of adequate purchasing power. In fact much of the food one purchases at the local stores in poor communities, or much that one receives through the food bank, through us apart from what we grow in our community gardenpark and orchard, is part of the problem. For high calorie, low nutrition foods are just another addiction that many of our neighbors have, adding to the life expectancy gap of 14 years in our zipcode. Such food, readily convenient especially for folks who struggle so much in other ways that they look for convenience where they can find it, such food contributes to the bad emotional responses, to the short day to day subsistence cycle of lives unable to project a future to live  and transform toward.

 It is also a hard but at times necessary addictive choice, too, because of the choice we force on them between the needed nutrition and the needed calories for daily energy demands. Top chefs like Mario Batali who have been trying to live on food assistance and food pantries have not been able to navigate those choices. If you are at our cornerstore, and have a certain number of items per household, and you have to choose, for example, between lettuce and mac and cheese, you are likely going to choose mac and cheese—it will give you the calories your body needs, especially if you are doing physical day labor trying to make some money each day, or walking or biking for miles looking for work or food or shelter. But, as the chef found out, it is difficult to ever feel full, and the process of trying to find food, prepare it, and eat it is tiring, and meals that become chores are also not going to have any interest, nothing special in them. I wonder how that in itself drives people to seeking flavor in all the wrong places because they aren’t getting it in the daily ordinariness of life. For a growing number of people we take something, our daily meal, that scripture and our Christian tradition, as well as that of many other traditions, says is an act of sacred living, and we take the sacred life out of it. The result? We grow lives without a sense of the sacred, damaged from daily life itself, and we punish them, we put them out of sight and out of mind, and making it easier for them to get access to guns than to healthy food and health care so we can keep them out of sight and out of mind. It is the opposite of an Acts 2 culture; in fact, where the Acts community expands and grows its relationships, our dominant culture is shrinking its circles of common life.

 I know the Food Bank and our folks are aware of this and working on it, and we are getting more and more healthy food items, more vegetables and fruit, if not fully local and fresh.  It is one of our dilemmas, but we say that what we are trying to do is to give what we can, in order to gradually grow in relationships to be able to influence food choices; what we are trying to do is to make it just a little bit easier on a few folks to be able to have a little bit more agency in their lives, a bit more dunamis, in order for it to be easier to make a few more right decisions. When you are hungry it is hard to think ahead, to think straight, to think evenly. Anything we can do to mitigate against that in just a few lives, we believe, makes a difference that affects many. We are becoming a part of an initiative between the Food Bank here and the University of Oklahoma called FeedHope. It is based on cultivating three factors that lead to more hope-filled lives: instilling more of that sense of agency (not just urgency) in lives; providing real pathways for people to take to change once their new sense of agency enables it; and helping them set goals in life for coming through those pathways into a more abundant life.

Where the film leaves off, or leaves out, is where I believe the deeper solution lies. Yes, increase immensely the resources and capacity for food banks and meal ministries and school programs to help take that edge off of hunger and food insecurity. But the real win-win is to get more people growing, cooking, and sharing their own food, from their own homes, own neighborhoods. As guerilla gardener Ron Finley in South Central L.A. says, growing your own food is like printing your own money. It is also taking your own health back into your own hands. It is making blighted communities into beautiful and bountiful communities. It is reminding the world as Jurgen Moltmann says that the opposite of poverty is not property, but the opposite of both poverty and property is community.

To that end, many such groups as ours are beginning the risky and difficult process of getting new generations of people to taste what healthy food is like, to give it a try, and from that to make it as convenient as possible for them to both get it and grow it, through gardens, kitchens, markets, mobile healthy food trucks, neighborhood events, a re-emergence of true  home economics in schools, and yes even in churches of many shapes and sizes and missional communities. So far though these all too often are still located and resourced in places away from communities with the most need of them. You can use SNAP to buy fresh local grown food, and you can use SNAP to buy seeds, but even if you are convinced you can do it (when so much of your life you have seen yourself and been told that you are unable to do anything) and even if you have a place to grow, you have to be able to get to where the food and the seeds are.

What we want our still emerging abandoned trashed out properties turned into a gardenpark and orchard to be is not so much really THE place to come rest and play and grow and connect, but A place to learn and be inspired so that our neighbors will go back to their own homes and own blocks and cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets full of abandonment and do the same right there. Our goal is to create Apostles of Abundance, those who are Sent to the world, Sent back to the world of their own street and home. Not only every school then a garden, every church a garden, but every subdivision and neighborhood a garden. And When that happens every garden itself then will become a school, a civic group, a church, a temple.

That would be a sign and a wonder. We have seen shining glimpses of it already. Come and see.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Jesus' Lost and Found: Coming Alive Again In Community...Sermon given at the 58th Anniversary Celebration of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental



Jesus’ Lost and Found: Coming Alive Again through Community

Rev. Ron Robinson, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship

To The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Philippines on the Occasion of the 58th Anniversary of the Church.
Text: Luke 15: 11-32

Then Jesus* said, ‘There was a man who had two sons.12The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them.13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.16He would gladly have filled himself with* the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.17But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ”20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.21Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”*22But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

25 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.27He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.”28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.29But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!”31Then the father* said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’


Thank you for inviting me back to be with you, and to help you celebrate this anniversary. The story of your 58 years together is one that has inspired me, and my ministry and people.  Your story of relating and embodying God to the people of your communities is about being in right relationship with those around you. 

In Jesus’ time and place, in the ancient world and Roman Empire, there was very little question about how to be in right relationships with others. According to how the world worked, everyone had their fixed place in the Great Chain of Being, their fixed responsibility to others, and preserving that status quo was a divine purpose. The purpose of life, according to the world of the Empire, was to gain honor from others by helping more powerful others to gain honor in the world. Honor to them was about having power over people. Avoiding being shamed and not bringing shame to others was the way you kept in right relationship. First, according to the world, the primary one of honor was the family Father, and then the Village Head, then the Governor, then the Emperor who was treated as God. When the fathers or leaders received shame and not honor, they regained honor, they regained what was considered their right relationship, through fear and punishment, often severely.

That is because of how they thought God acted and should be viewed too.  But then into this world, into this worldview, came Jesus. His stories, like his actions, changed the world by re-imagining and re-defining God and pointing people to a different understanding of what it means to be in right relationships.

The parables that Jesus told, and the way he lived them out, show us how very different his view of right relationships was from that commonly practiced in the culture of his time, and still practiced too often by all cultures in our world today. He saw relationships, and God, not as being about controlling others, but about cooperation and commitment to one another even when we are abandoned and when we abandon others, when we are disappointed and when we disappoint others.  

Jesus said God’s community, God’s family, is like when a father has two sons. Now they are most probably adult sons, and yet the father is still considered their master. The father had almost complete power over the sons. Right away though we find out that this father, this family, these relationships are going to be different from the ones the ruling Empire and culture sought to enforce. The story starts when the younger son goes to the father and demands that he get his inheritance now so he can go out on his own, away from land, away from family, which were the two most important things in life and the way someone achieved immortality. When the younger son did this it was the same as telling his father to Drop Dead.

To those first hearing the story, at this point they would have expected the father to banish or kill his son, with little thought or regret, in order to retain or regain his honor. Instead, when he gives the money to his son, when he actually divides his life, they would have thought him foolish and even more shamed and dishonorable. They wouldn’t have been surprised by what happened; the younger son goes and wastes it all and ends up living with pigs, which were considered an unholy animal; he was even eating what the pigs ate. No one could be more shameful to them. At that point he decides to return to his family but to return to them as one of their slaves not as he was before. As he returns home he practices how he will beg his father to treat him as a slave.

Next, in Jesus’ story, we see the father again. Instead of ruling his estate from inside his house, we see he is out by the road, looking with longing eyes off to the horizon, hoping his son will return. The hearers of the parable expect the father to make the son grovel and beg, and for the world to then be once again in right relationship after the son disrupted it with his behavior and attitude. They got something very different. When the father saw the son approaching on the road, he lifts his long robe and runs out to meet his son, and there he embraces him and kisses him deeply.  The listeners might have expected that from the mother but not the father. Then The son begins to beg his father, but the father stops even that. He tells his slaves to prepare for a party, to kill the prize cow for a feast. He says that his son was lost and is now found, was dead but is now alive. It is clear though that he always thought of his son as part of him, part of the family, no matter what he had done.  It is clear also that In the world’s eyes the father has now lost all honor and respect and sense of himself. The father has disrupted the world’s view of right relationships even more than has the younger son.

To many people this is where the story ends; many church stained glass windows depict this parable and show the father forgiving and embracing the younger son, the way God will forgive and embrace us. But that is only part of the story.

There is another son, the elder brother. We almost forgot about him. He is out working in the field while all this has been going on, the way he has been throughout his life, serving his father, silently doing the thing expected of him, keeping in right relationship. He sees the activity at the house and asks a slave what is going on. He is told that his brother is back and his father is throwing a party. This upsets the elder brother and he stays outside working, feeling betrayed, bothered by his father’s shameful actions and attitudes, just the way those who are hearing the story imagine they would feel. When he doesn’t go into the house, into the place of family intimacy and relationships,his father then goes out to him, too. Another act of shame, not making the son come to him. He keeps going out to others, to listen to them, to let them know they are not alone. The elder son affronts him as never before, tells him of his anger, his jealousy, feeling abandonment by the father who never threw him a party even though he had done everything right for so long. The father says to him that he has always been there with him, that he always will be, that that is what counts, and he goes on to say that all that he has will still be given to the elder son. The younger son will be a part of the family, but perhaps not quite in the same way as originally, but that is not really important, who gets what, who gives what,  not really the ultimate reward of being in right relationship; it is the relationship itself and all its possibilities of a future unfolding that we can’t imagine. When we are in mutual relationships with one another, and with the God of forgiveness, that love is worth more than anything, and in that world anything is possible.

And there is where the parable ends.

 That is when we get to the point of the story about what kind of God God is, what kind of right relationships we should practice. Jesus’ story about what God is like ends with the elder brother standing outside in the field, thinking about what to do next. He, like us, has a choice. He can stay there, away from his family, just another kind of prodigal, cutting himself off from others, alone in his rightness, strong in his sense of righteousness and honor, waiting for others to come to him, pay homage to him, the way an Emperor does, the way God was depicted. Or…Or, he can lay all that aside and answer the call, the invitation to join the party, to be a part of the family, to welcome his brother as a brother, to grow the relationship through participation and cooperation, not through fear and control and conquering. He can go inside and focus his world on the future and what love and justice it might hold, or he can stay outside the party and focus on the past and let it control his future. To Jesus, God is found in the newer and stronger relationship especially because it has been seeded by what the world views as mistakes, bad judgements, selfishness, vulnerability, loneliness, shame.  Jesus walks a very different path of  right relationships than that created by Emperors.

What that means for us today is that real strength in community comes through our covenants, our bonds and right relationships with one another and with our world beyond ourselves and with God, bonds that are like those of a certain father with two sons.

In the United States, our Unitarian Universalist Association was founded by some of the oldest churches in the country, some that are more than 400 years old, and while they were strongly Christian they were still founded ultimately not so much on the creeds they professed but on the covenants that had created them in the first place.  One of our church historians, Conrad Wright, has written that there are several major covenants or relationships that need to be nurtured for a church to be a whole church. [See “The Doctrine of Church for Liberals” in the book, Walking Together]

These are the relationships between a person and church; between church and its elected leaders, including ministers. Also between churches themselves; and between ministers themselves.  These four covenants are our mostly internally-focused covenants of our association helping to establish right relationships and our Identity. They are like the materials of a ship that hold it together and give it, the church, its own particular shape.  But there are two other more externally focused relationships, ones shared by all churches:  one of those is between a church and its world around it, and the other is between church and God. If the first four sets of relationships are what, like a ship, give the church its unique shape, these two broader relationships are like the Sea and the Wind; they are what give the ship of church its purpose, its reason for having its particular shape, and are what sets it on its journey. As they say, a ship may be wonderfully built, but if it stays in its harbor it is not being what a ship should be.

The four internally focused covenants are often the relationships we spend most of our time dealing with; they are the ones that present us with urgent matters; they are the ones we often have conflicts over and the ones we most often celebrate on occasions like this and in ordinations. But if  a church is not grasped by the other two relationships, with the world around it and with God, the church will not be complete, not be church; instead it will become, as Conrad Wright also said, merely a collection of religiously-oriented individuals.

Just like in the parable of the father and sons, the right relationships are all inter-connected.  When we have breaks in any one of the relationships it affects the bonds of the other relationships by putting extra stress on them. But the good news is that when we focus on any of these relationships, like we are doing this week, and make them stronger, especially when we grow in right relationship with the world and with God in the way of Jesus it will also in turn affect each of the others, growing the kind of trust and loving justice that can change the world, the way Jesus did 2000 years ago and the way Toribio Quimada did 58 years ago here, and the way we all can do today and in the years to come.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Redistribution and The Spiritual Life, part 2: Lecture Notes on John Perkins' 3Rs

What would a "truly Christian economy" look like? Those who live in places where the American economic life have abandoned their regions, as money has followed rooftops during white flight and the loss of living wages and the working class culture where one full time job was enough to care for the financial needs of a family, often live with a different view of "unbridled capitalism" than those with the privileges and access to the system. What about a system that has morphed into ownership of property not in the hands of people who live in the area anymore, but who live farther and farther away from the ones who live here, and so there is little accountability to neighbors from "neighbors"? Was an Acts 2 kind of shared possessions economy, as well as a morally-driven capitalist free economy situation, workable only in cultures where peoples were gathered into small communities unlike our global community today? And what does this have to do with the mission of the church and spiritual life? 
Using the metaphor of giving a person a fish to eat, or teaching the person to fish, these questions get to the heart of that often unseen part of the metaphor: what kind of water and environment do we provide for the fish and the angler? 
And, as Perkins reminds us, this is not just about free enterprise and its effects in the world at large, but how has the "baptism of free enterprise" also affected and effected the church itself in North American context especially? How are our churches following more the American Dream than God's Dream is a constant call to discernment by Perkins. 
What role should the church have to mediate in situations of abandoned places and places of oppression and with cultures who have been oppressed through the years as they seek to engage with the forces of free enterprise in order to make up for years of being kept out of the system? Can those individuals do it all on their own? In my neighborhoods the minority owned businesses are struggling because they have chosen particularly to stay and serve their own community, and yet that makes it harder for them economically, and so they often don't have the growing resources to be able to compete on a wider scale with similar companies owned by whites who will come in to get contracts on big projects or to expand into our neighborhoods. It is harder for them than it is for others located elsewhere to comply with all the rules that governments impose to be eligible for projects that are being built here in their own neighborhoods. The irony is that those who seek to serve the poor often are kept poor themselves in the process, while those who leave the neighborhoods of the poor and make money elsewhere are then better able to come back in and make more money off the poor, be it through franchise restaurants versus the neighborhood resident owned restaurants, or various service companies. As Perkins says, there is little even playing field to begin with for centuries, and still little now in reality. How can the church, besides being witness to injustice, help to correct it?
Church as Co-Op Creator is one of the responses Perkins recommends, but over the years he said experience taught his community that direct coops as businesses didn't work as well as coops such as credit unions which can loan funds to idnividuals in poor areas to enhance their own businesses and empower them. Creating businesses that operate primarily in areas that other businesses have abandoned,but are businesses created to meet needs not greeds has been one of the ways in theory to do Redistribution from within a community, instead of relying on Redistibution to come from good or committment from those outside of a community being served. It gives a more local, empowering, and moderate characteristic about Redistributing goods and The Common Good than people think of when they hear the term redistribution. 
These are grander visions than simply giving out food or clothes, for example. But they also can begin with simple growing of relationships, particularly between people who have experience in the free enterprise system and those who do not. Perkins maintains that the vision of Redistribution will drive the means for how to do it; that there will be multiple ways needed. In this way he links all back to the experience needed of Relocation, because he says we ultimately Redistribute ourselves. And one model for personal living is to live simply so that others may simply live, for by doing so we create more within ourselves to be able to give to others. And this, he says, goes for the church too in how it is able to simplify its life for the life of the community beyond it. Look for ways that people living in close proximity to one another can better share life together, for the purpose of growing in relationship and the Body of Christ but with the byproduct of creating more shared possessions. 
Engaging in the vision of redistribution brought many unexpected lessons to Perkins, and it deepended his understanding of the way oppressive cultures tend to keep people impoverished. He learned to focus on economic opportunities that created a sense of agency within people,and not a sense of dependency, and he sees that the resources for doing this need to come from that three-legged stool of more government help, more free enterprise business help, and more nonprofit and church help. About churches, he makes an interesting but illuminating statement as one of his final sentences in this section. In the vision of what will happen when economic justice becomes the forefront of efforts, he says there will be "nurturing churches" as a part of this community development. Notice that it is the churches who are nurturing the people and the neighborhoods in which they exist; their purpose is not to get the people and the neighborhoods to nurture them, flowing into them as institutions, as was the old way in the churched culture, but now the church is found in how it nurtures what is beyond it. 
Questions for Reflection and Responses:
1. How do you, or would you, teach and preach and relate the scripture of Acts 2: 44&45 to a congregation today?
2. What do you think it will take to stimulate business development in and with poor communities, and how might the church participate?

Redistribution and The Spiritual Life, part one: The Final and Scariest of the 3Rs of Community Development

Background Lecture Notes on John Perkins' book With Justice For All, from my community ministry class at Phillips Theological Seminary this semester. 
Redistribution might be the scariest one of the three R's---relocation, reconciliation, redistribution. In these two chapters, Perkins begins to confront that reluctance head-on, drawing from examples local, national and global.
Dom Helder Camara, a Brazilian archbishop, said (in a quote often attributed to Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement and houses of hospitality here in the U.S.) "When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are hungry, they call me a communist." Perkins moves in the same direction, but note he is also critical of the way the government has been involved in efforts to ostensibly help the poor.
In the movie, Entertaining Angels, about Dorothy Day, where they do attribute the above quote to her, she is also quoted after it, when people talk about what a saint she is for her efforts at housing and feeding the poor (not so much her opposition to war, interestingly) "Don't call me a saint. Don't dismiss me so easily." Not only was Day an unmarried mother, a big stigma in her day, and had radical left leanings and activities which brought her much controversy. The film shows some of the struggles that her life caused for her daughter. When people can identify or make idols of people like Day and Perkins (or any minister too by the way), it can be a way of distancing themselves from the responsiibility needed to be shared by all. It works against the Body of Christ (as 1 Corinthians 12 for example displays the needed mutuality of leadership and responsibility). It can be a way to actually hinder the work that called forth the efforts of people like Day and Perkins, and us, in the first place.
The hard work of acting on redistribution, as Perkins describes it, of the whole self, including financial resources but not limited to that, will often cause us to look for any detour from it that we can, including creating saints. Another form of this selected sainthood is to turn any one model or avenue of redistribution, such as church charity or non profit philanthropy or government assistance, into that one above all system. Sojourners editor and author Jim Wallis says, in a nod of sorts to the model of the Wesleyan quadrilateral, that the most effective actions or projects designed to break poverty include not just one main source of redistribution, but will draw from government, from business, and from nonprofits including faith communities; all are needed for the legs of a stool to make it effective, he says; without any one of them, the stool to support the anti-poverty effort will be lopsided and not work.