Thursday, March 5, 2009

If You Have More, Will I Have Less?

“We sometimes fear ‘If you have more power, I will have less.’ That may be true in the world’s economy of power, but God’s unconditional love, new liberating life in Christ, and the power-filled Spirit transform our very concepts of power and partnership.” (From Norma Cook Everist and Craig Nessan, Transforming Leadership, Fortress Press, 2008)

I believe that when you learn more, I will not become ignorant, but together we can increase our knowledge, and our curiosity for more learning. I believe that when you grow in ability, I will not be less skilled, but, rather the potential for ministry is multiplied. I believe that when you are empowered, I will not have less power, but, together, we will have the power to work together to care for the earth and its people.

That concept is being tested today in the midst of economic recession. But perhaps it is true in new ways. We are learning, painfully, that when my neighbor has less power economically, I also have less, even if I have paid my mortgage on time and have some money in the bank.

In all of the recent conversations, people who are poor have been mentioned very little. Yes, we understand: talking about the middle class is necessary for Congressional votes. However, we need to never forget that in a global economic recession it is the poorest of the poor who suffer the most and the longest.

In not forgetting those in most need, we increase our capacity to see the whole picture. We need each other all the time. Will we learn that now? Will we remember that?

United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking March 4 to a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C. said “Let us not forget the poorest. As we strive to spread the values of peace, political liberty, and the hope for better lives across the world, perhaps the greatest gift our generation could give to the future…would be for every child in every country of the world [to have] the chance millions do not have today; the chance to go to school...

“At their best, our values tell us that we cannot be wholly content while others go without, cannot be fully comfortable while millions go without comfort, cannot be truly happy, while others grieve alone.

“And this too is true. All of us know that in a recession the wealthiest, the most powerful and the most privileged can find a way through for themselves.

“We do not value the wealthy less when we say that our first duty is to help the not so wealthy. We do not value the powerful less when we say that our first responsibility is to help the powerless. And we do not value those who are secure less when we say that our first priority must be to the insecure.

“….I keep returning to something I first learned in my father’s church as a child. In the most modern of crises I am drawn to the most ancient of truths; wherever there is hardship, wherever there is suffering, we cannot, we will not, pass by on the other side.”


Beth Lewis said...

Thanks for launching this new blog, Norma. The book you & Craig wrote, mentioned in this posting, Transforming Leadership, is one of my favorites that we have published. I have used it with groups of staff at Augsburg Fortress, our Board of Trustees, and the Cabinet of Executives at the ELCA churchwide office. It's such fine work. Thank you for writing it and publishing it with us!

Blessings to you in this new writing endeavor!
Beth Lewis, President & CEO
Augsburg Fortress

Jeff said...

Hello Norma. Your posting struck a chord deep within me when you speak about forgetting those who are the poorest.
Since traveling to Tanzania 2 years ago I have felt a calling to speak for and about those living in third world countries. I applaud and am thrilled at the number of churches and synods that are developing sister church/synod relations with people in developing countries. Without having spent the time I did among the people in Tanzania I know that I would not feel nearly as passionately about the issue as I do today.
My home congregation has for years sent delegations to El Salvador. Each time new faces take the trip and come back different people with a newfound passion/compassion for those living with far less than we have. I feel that for many people to learn real concern for the welfare of others it is necessary for them to go and live with them; to get to know them; to put faces on the mind bending numbers of those who are the least powerful in our world.
Who knows what will come of the many small trips that are happening each year? Perhaps we will convince our governments that the needs of the world's poor are just as relevant as our needs?

rcrystal said...

I found that I was recently irritated by my church's canvassing team that seemed to be emphasing the large donars to the church instead of the many smaller donations that add up. I had hoped Barack had taught us we can do it, but I guess not yet.

Michon said...

The gift of teaching is not one to see how much knowledge that one can have, but that you are able to touch the lives of those who cross your path., to inspire and encourage the gifts that they have. In these economic times we are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we are to inspire and encourage one another we need to see each person on the path as they are; meeting the hungry with food; the homeless with shelter; the naked with clothes.

Anonymous said...

My first blog comment, ever. Yea! The title of this blog struck me, "If you have more, will I have less?" I think this question comes from a place of fear; a place where human beings think of only taking care of themselves, because they are afraid to have less, to suffer.
The quote taken from Norm Cook-Everist and Craig Nessan's book that was referenced, that God the Trinity "transform[s] our concept of power and partnership," is to me the key. Instead of asking this question, trusting in an abundant God, we know that we will have enough, and even more, if we share with those in need. This is a leap of faith: to share that which we're afraid of sharing because we may not have enough for ourselves. That's my calling: "To love my neighbor as myself."

Anonymous said...

AS I read this, I cannot help but noting the words of our friend John Wesley, "Do what you can, where you're at, with what you have." Although I have been a Lutheran for as long as I've been alive, my mother grew up Methodist, and she quoted these words often. As I walked with her in that journey, I learned to note through her pointing that when we proclaim the good news of the kingdom to the people near us, we hear good news in return. It is not a one-to-one ratio, but it is an overwhelming overabundance of love that comes from Christ, which fills all the containers we can gather - like the Lord filling the jars with oil in the story of Elijah and the widow. When my neighbor's life is better, mine is truly better also.