By Reverend Peder Johanson
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, ELCA – Brodhead
Rev. Johanson spoke at the Expose Walmart event in Madison in May 2017. The following is the text of his remarks.
An injury to one is an injury to all. Not only is that a battle cry for this movement and a theme for this important day, but it is – in a sense – the very gospel of Jesus, who proclaimed a vision of the reign of God that begins first with the injured…with those denied justice, with the poor and the marginalized, with the legally, socially, and economically vulnerable. An injury to one is an injury to all.
It is – in a sense – the very gospel of Jesus, who reminds his followers that they are branches of one vine…or as the apostle, Paul, put it, members of one body. If the eye is unhealthy, we cannot see. If the ear is unhealthy, we cannot hear. If the feet are unhealthy, we will go nowhere. And if the heart is unhealthy, our shared life is in peril. An injury to one is an injury to all.
As a member of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, I can speak for my partners of other faiths, that this is true for all who worship the God of love and justice. As people of faith, we see
that when the violence of deportation is inflicted upon individuals and families among our immigrant sisters and brothers – when they suffer even the fear of threats of deportation, detention, harassment, and discrimination – we all suffer. An injury to one is an injury to all.
We see that when legislative violence against the legally, socially, and economically vulnerable among us today – against LGBTQ persons, people of color, native americans, refugees, immigrants, women, exploited workers, the sick and the poor – when they suffer from unjust laws that strip away their protections and deny their human rights, we all suffer. An injury to one is an injury to all.
We see that when our economy puts the bottom line of shareholders, the comfort and convenience of the privileged, above the dignity and freedom of those victimized
by poverty wages, by wage theft, human trafficking, and modern day slavery, we all suffer. An injury to one is an injury to all.
My participation and my words here today are not about being political. For those of us of faith, this isn’t a matter of politics. This is about being faithful. This is about being faithful to who we are as people of God. It’s about being faithful to the justice our God promises and demands. We are one body, united for life, and we know in faith that we will not live fully if we ignore the social, economic, and legal injury inflicted upon our immigrant, refugee, and minority members. We know that we will not live fully if we ignore the injury of injustice suffered by any and all who are vulnerable to the powers of this state and nation and world who seek to do them harm. And we know in faith that we have a responsibility as the faithful to call those powers out, to demand better for our shared life together, and to be a voice of truth and hope.
And there is hope. In these last weeks, Christians around the world have been celebrating the season of Easter, rejoicing in the remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection. It is perhaps the most important part of our sacred story, declaring not only that God – embodied in the person of Jesus – lives, and lives forever, but that in the face of violence, and death, and fear, and hatred… in the face of oppression and injustice and apathy to the suffering of the vulnerable…God’s love wins. Life wins. Mercy wins. Justice wins.
As a believer in the risen lord Jesus Christ, I stand on the hope that God lives and that God is not done with us. While the powers of this world may claim victory and celebrate their greatness at the expense of those they harm through economic, social, and legal injury, we in faith know that their victory will not last forever. We in faith know that as we gather on this rainy May Day, to demand justice for the immigrant, the refugee, the worker, and all who suffer the moral injury of oppression and discrimination, that we stand with the living God.
I am grateful to be with you all today. I am grateful for your voice, for your witness, and for the communities you represent. I am grateful for the opportunity to share this life with you and for the opportunity we have been given to be a living sign of what is possible: one body living with dignity and hope for all of God’s beloved. Thank you all for being here and God bless you.