By Stephen H. Padre
Five years ago today, Washington, D.C., was hit by a rare earthquake that was felt along other parts of the East Coast. It took everybody by surprise. It was reminder that one of the most powerful cities in the world could be powerless against some forces, that a government’s authority could do nothing against shaking from certain sources. A few civic structures like the Washington Monument were damaged, but those were fairly quickly repaired and returned to their former glory. One major building, however, is still showing the effects of the quake. Washington National Cathedral still has damage to its highest towers that will take $22 million and five to 10 years to repair.
Last Sunday, the Gospel appointed for the day in the Revised Common Lectionary was Luke 12:49-56. In this story, Jesus talks about a house in which family members are divided against themselves – mother against daughter, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law, etc. It’s a rare type of talk from the peace-loving and non-violent Jesus we know.
As we all know, it doesn’t take much to create division among ourselves. The “household” described by Jesus could be the American electorate during election season when Democrat is divided against Republican. On a smaller scale, just a little thing can cause my two daughters, ages 9 and 4, to fight.
These types of divisions that we see today were not created by Jesus or allowed to happen by God. But Jesus does come to shake us up, and Jesus can challenge the current structures in our lives in big ways – governments and the way we order our civil society. Jesus can even be downright revolutionary in our lives individually and collectively, and this is the Jesus we hear in Luke’s Gospel.
Washington National Cathedral stands as a beacon in our nation’s capital, a representation of Americans’ faith in the midst of our national government. The scaffolding it still wears five years after the damaging earthquake is also a sign of what can happen when something is shaken. But we as Christians know that our faith can’t be shaken. We know God is our rock, our shelter in a storm, our anchor in shaky times.
Instead of letting the church be the one shaken, what if we are the ones doing the shaking? What if we become the source of the earthquake in our nation’s capital? What if we follow Jesus the revolutionary we see in Luke? What if we divide the parties and systems that create rich and poor, the hungry and well-fed?
We have a faith that can move mountains. It’s a faith that can unsettle the ground under those who think they’re firmly planted in their political and systematic beliefs. We don’t actually need to move a mountain but just a hill – Capitol Hill – and a big white house. We can put our mountain-moving faith into action by voting this year. We can shake our nation’s capital again and bring the foundations down. We can rebuild a new foundation, a government that considers people who are hungry and poor and includes them in the wealth and well-being of our country.
We can call on our government to step up and play its part in ending hunger, to draw on its resources, authority, and influence to solve this problem. We can elect leaders who will make this happen in our government. We can vote, and we can vote to end hunger this year.
Stephen H. Padre rode out the earthquake five years ago in a downtown D.C. office building and is currently Bread’s managing editor.
Photo by Flickr user Leon Reed.