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By Rebecca Linder Blachly
“Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31: 8-9)
In the midst of these 40 days of Lent, many of us turn inward: we seek to deepen our practices of contemplative prayer, to reinvigorate our worship, and to read and to meditate on God’s holy Word. Indeed, we are all called to renew our repentance and our faith; we ask for this when we pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with me.” (Psalm 51:11)
For those of us who also understand our ministry to include public witness, what particular meaning does this season of fasting and penitence have for us? How can we – and how should we – integrate our fasting and self-discipline into the work we feel called to do in the world?
The seemingly outward-facing work of public witness does not have to be separate from the inward work of quiet prayer and self-examination. In repentance, we examine our hearts and our consciences in the hopes that we can move forward transformed and renewed. Our advocacy begins from that place of repentance, forgiveness, and renewal, and from there, we go out into the world, transformed and transforming, calling our society to care for the hungry, the sick, and the prisoners. We sustain ourselves in and through our inward work. Ephesians 6:2 tells us that, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
We come to this work with humility – knowing that we live in a world that is redeemed through Christ and not through our own efforts. Advocacy at its best can address great systemic injustices: protecting society’s most vulnerable, responding to the call of the Prophets: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). We must strive for justice even as we know we live in a world that is aching and broken. We know that our faith must lie with God, and not in illusions about our own strength or power.
Advocacy is one way among many to answer the call to righteousness and love we find in scripture. We work alongside those who live out the gospel in their communities: feeding the homeless at soup kitchens, visiting the incarcerated and their families, and welcoming refugees to their communities. We are not in this work alone, and strive to serve as witnesses as we advocate for more just policies and laws, even as we recognize the complexity and variety of righteously-held views. We bear witness, knowing that the outcome is God’s kingdom.
Rebecca Linder Blachly is director of government relations for the Episcopal Church.
Advocacy is one way among many to answer the call to righteousness and love we find in scripture.
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