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Bulletin #1: October, 2016

Consider This:

Justice is the practical, every-day, common-sense working out of love from our hearts towards other people and God’s creation. Wherever inaction and indifference to injustice are prevalent, suffering and violence are on the rise.  This Fast for Justice Campaign is designed to guide us on an 8 month, multi-church journey towards justice in the New England region.  In this introductory month, we’ll explore what it means to “fast for justice.” Fasting requires sacrifices on our part in order to better hear God’s voice. In months 2 and 3 of this journey, we’ll examine issues of American over-consumption, domestic and foreign worker exploitation and slavery.  Then in months 4 and 5, we’ll analyze justice in our social behaviors towards others and how to speak words that bring life.  In month 6, we will consider environmental justice and personal changes we can make and then in months 7 and 8, we will learn about human dignity issues.  During this Fast for Justice Campaign, we will try out helpful disciplines of slowing down so that we can hear from God in our pursuit of justice.  We will connect with and learn from each other.  To be clear, this isn’t a fast from food.  This is an active fast for justice. 

Here’s An Applicable Scripture:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  Isaiah 58:6-9

The type of fasting described in Isaiah 58 is very different from a typical fast from food.  It is a fast to withhold something from yourself so that you might ensure justice for another.  It is also a fast to positively take an action to ensure justice for another.  It is a fast against indifference to suffering and distress. It is the single-minded pursuit of God’s ideal for creation.  It is passionate but also full of divine strategy.  It is the truest fast, the one that Jesus engaged in that took him all the way to the cross.  If we want the anointing of God on our region, then we must give this fast for justice our fullest attention, we must not hold back on our efforts.

This Fast Is A Journey We Are All Taking Together:

Pursuing justice is a lifestyle adjustment that can sometimes feel overwhelming.  We mustn’t try to fix everything all at once.  During this campaign, we will explore many areas of injustice.  Even as we jointly explore these areas, please focus on one area that particularly interests you, whether its economic, environmental or social justice and try to prayerfully unpack everything God has for you in that limited area over the next 8 months. As you begin to understand the issues in your chosen area, you will begin to see how you can personally take actions to help.  Pursue your actions one steady step at a time.  Be balanced.  Trust that God is taking care of other areas through other people in this region that he has called for those purposes.  Let’s all pray for each other’s success during this Fast for Justice Campaign and that we will ignite a mighty move of God in our region.                 

How One Person Can Create Change:

In April 2014, Flint, Michigan, a low-income city of approximately 100,000 people, changed its water source from treated water to the Flint River.  The state and local governments failed to implement the necessary safeguards to ensure that water from the Flint River was safe to drink.  The complaints of the Flint citizens fell on deaf ears.  One mother of three sons, Melissa Mays, while still ill from the effects of the poisoned water, took her complaint one step further and launched a group called “Water You Fighting For” where residents could share information. Her organization then joined forces with churches and other organizations to expose the water crisis. It later became a national story.  These groups now distribute clean water to the residents of Flint. Melissa’s story underscores the power of single-minded pursuit of justice.  No matter who you are, where you come from, alone or not, sick or strong, rich or poor, or your racial or ethnic background, if you give up your personal comfort to pursue justice, the forces of heaven will support your efforts.  It might take a while to see the results, but justice is certain to be done.

Personal Meditation:

Read the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector in the Bible, Luke 19: 1-10, Zacchaeus was part of a group of corrupt tax collectors taking more taxes from his victims, the people of Jericho, than he was entitled to.  When he met Jesus, Zacchaeus decided to repay fourfold the amount of taxes he overcharged to his victims.  This is called “restorative justice”. Can you think of an area in your life where you might have supported a situation of injustice to others or the environment because you were a member of a privileged group?  Have you considered how you might be an agent of restorative justice in that situation?   

Esther Circle Activity:

Gather with a group of friends and discuss what you believe God is calling you to be and do to restore justice to the world. Then, take short individual videotapes of yourselves explaining the same.  Save your videotapes and keep adding to them monthly as you unfold your own personal video blog of this 8 month long journey towards being more just person in the world around you. 

Extended Activities You Can Do:

Gather a group of friends together and watch the documentary Poverty, Inc. (It is available on Netflix and through other sources).  The documentary discusses how fighting poverty and distress in certain shallow ways might actually create more long-term harm than the good we are trying to achieve.  For example, if we hear that there is a need for food in a particular area due to a temporary distress, we might collectively donate so much food as to put local growers and food retail establishments out of business in that area.  Our goal in this Fast for Justice Campaign is to be deeply thoughtful about our actions.  In this bulletin, we give a general overview of the issues we will explore in the next 7 months of the campaign:  American overconsumption, domestic and foreign worker exploitation and slavery, justice in our social behaviors towards others, environmental justice and human rights issues. If one these issues interests you, form a supportive group where you can collectively dig deeply into those issues and come up with a plan on how your group might creatively and thoughtfully restore justice to that situation, without creating more long-term harm than good.

 Useful Links:

Poverty Inc. Documentary Trailer

Huffington Post on Melissa Mays (Flint Water Crisis)