It is fortuitous that the common lectionary brings forward the story of Lazarus and Dives as the New Testament lesson a week from this Sunday. Luke 16: 19-31 opens with the following words:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.”
Increasingly the distance between the “rich man” (Dives) and Lazarus represents the state of Illinois in microcosm.
Over the past several months, I have been struck with a growing sense of unreality on Sunday mornings. There are, of course, the familiar words of concern for the poor, even occasional references to social justice. But nowhere has there been a hint of awareness in my congregation, or the ones I have visited, that the fiscal crisis in Illinois is causing pain and suffering that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.
I say this not in the spirit of scolding. Trying to break the Illinois budget gridlock, and reverse the evisceration of human services across the state, leads one into public policy debates and political discussions. It is not an easy matter to conduct such conversations, or to frame action steps, in a congregational setting, especially one day a week on a Sunday morning.
This is why Protestants for the Common Good, in collaboration with the Community Renewal Society and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, is calling for at least one special weekend on which congregations might focus on the Illinois budget. We have chosen September 25-26. Our shorthand name is “Budget Sabbath,” or more formally, “Faith Focus on a Fair Budget.”
We have prepared a variety of worship and teaching resources for you to use. We are proud of this resource packet: we commend it to you for use beyond the ‘Budget Sabbath” as your congregation develops programs in pursuit of social justice.
As we enlist your support for our “Budget Sabbath,” we urge you also to join the PCG Advocacy Network that PCG has begun to build throughout Illinois. This group will connect you with our work, with others around the state, and ensure that your collective voices will be heard.
Your first step as a member of the Network can be to ask your state senators and representatives whether they have yet responded to the candidates questionnaire on political reform developed by the CHANGE Illinois coalition. Our democracy is broken in Illinois. If we are to avoid the need for more “Budget Sabbaths” in the future, we must find new ways of holding our elected officials accountable.
Please become a member of the PCG State Advocacy Network. Engage your congregation in the “Budget Sabbath” on September 25-26.
Dives suffered the agony of learning that in all lives there comes a time when it is too late to act, to do what we should have done. Let this not be the case with any of us.