On Dec. 5, 1955, the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott was launched. Of the 50,000 blacks in the city, 30,000-40,-000 participated. These were people who commuted on the bus everyday. Who rode the bus routinely. And they stopped riding the bus. Not for a day or a week. But for over a year. For 54 weeks.
A bus boycott. Most of us who will read this probably haven’t ridden a bus in years. For many of us, we might equate boycotting the bus with boycotting our cars. Can you imagine living without a car for 54 weeks? Walking, taking the bus, riding a bike, etc.? It’s hard to imagine. I can’t think of the last time, if ever, that I have inconvenienced myself to that degree for something I believed in. To make a statement. To bring pressure to bear so that meaningful change takes place.
In this season, we sing about peace on earth, good will to all. We herald tidings of comfort and joy. We donate to charity. We pursue alternative gift giving – donations to an organization someone cares about, tickets to an event to give an experience. We want to be more gentle to the earth and know our consumption is taking its toll. This is all lovely.
But Jesus came to inaugurate major change. He came to redirect the river. He is about moving the mountain. What Jesus taught is not about tweaking, or even overhauling or re-branding. It’s about dismantling what was and constructing something new. These things take time, commitment, energy, passion, persistence, and sacrifice. More than 4 weeks. More than 54 weeks. Probably even more than a life time.
If we are so busy worrying about today and tomorrow and keeping on top of all of those commitments, we may never get to considering the big picture. So there will just be another Ferguson, and another Ferguson, and another Ferguson. We’ll get upset in the moment. And then worry about what to make for dinner.
I spoke with someone who was grief stricken about the killing of Eric Garner of Staten Island with the choke hold. There was a protest in the city the person is from. I asked if this person was going to participate in the protest. “I can’t. I’m too busy.”
Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t too busy to embody justice, healing, and peace. Thankfully, the people of Montgomery weren’t too busy to boycott the bus system for 54 weeks, because that initiative led to many others which snowballed into some of the major progress that has been made in civil rights in this country.
For reflection: What great themes of social transformation do you see in the teachings of Jesus? How can you/we embody those themes and invest ourselves in meaningful change? What is holding us back?
Prayer: Progress and transformation require sacrifice. Jesus gave his life. Others make sacrifices to devote themselves to scientific inquiry, or the arts, or social transformation. May we not be afraid to give our lives to a cause greater than ourselves. Then we will know peace, and comfort, and joy. Amen.