Was reading in Isaiah this morning, alternating between the TNIV and The Message (yes, I have a parallel Bible with each of these "rogue" translations), and Eugene's translation of Isaiah 32:15-20 really made sense to me in the context of Glenwood and our new Community Garden (see this link for a newspaper article) that we have built (see this link for a news story and accompanying video).
15-20Yes, weep and grieve until the Spirit is poured
down on us from above
And the badlands desert grows crops
and the fertile fields become forests.
Justice will move into the badlands desert.
Right will build a home in the fertile field.
And where there's Right, there'll be Peace
and the progeny of Right: quiet lives and endless trust.
My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood—
in safe houses, in quiet gardens.
The forest of your pride will be clear-cut,
the city showing off your power leveled.
But you will enjoy a blessed life,
planting well-watered fields and gardens,
with your farm animals grazing freely.
Justice will move into the badlands desert
Right will build a home and where there's Right, there will be Peace and what does Right bear? Quiet lives and endless trust.
Are peaceful neighborhoods, safe houses, quiet gardens only for those who can afford them? Of course not. And this garden, I hope, is a part of bringing Right to Glenwood, not to exclude the poor but to bless them, as well as everyone who makes up our community.
In a sermon by Ray Bakke (an urban ministry veteran and "grandfather" in this movement) he recounted a conversation he had with some evangelical leaders in Chicago. They were hearing about his ministry, and one said, "When you talk about sharing the gospel with people in your neighborhood, I get excited, but when you talk about changing systems and things like that, I get uneasy because it sounds like a social gospel." This particular man lived in the suburbs (and there is nothing wrong with that, let me say up front), and Ray asked him why he chose the neighborhood that he did. The man proceeded to list the advantages - safety, good schools, great healthcare options, peace and quiet, and more. To which Ray replied, "All of those reasons that led you to choose your neighborhood are social reasons; you believe in a social gospel as much as I do. Everyone wants those things, but those who have them often say that those who don't should just be content to not have them and that we shouldn't get involved in those social issues." (this is a less-eloquent paraphrase of his story).
As Christians, whether we move in to hard places or not, I think we are called to bear the progeny of Right and work for peaceful neighborhoods and well-watered gardens for all, using whatever gifts and influence that we have on behalf of others, and I have seen many wealthy Christians in Greensboro who don't live in the harder parts of town do just that. I just think that in general it is easier to care about these things when you live on the unpeaceful street, because you are working not just for others but for your own living space.
Interestingly, I feel like my neighborhood association in Glenwood is working for peaceful streets and quiet space, but I fear that this will happen at the expense of the poor. Unless we plan now and make room for Right, for Justice, the peace and quiet will be affordable to fewer people. When others are excluded because they are forgotten and not fought for, that is not God's plan for Shalom, true peace and right-living. I don't think that my neighborhood association is out to get anyone or exclude anyone intentionally - many of them are sympathtic to this issue and sincerely are considering the implications, but displacement is going to happen unless there is intentional and creative planning and leadership.