This widening wealth disparity between the 1% and the 99% is not a new thing – in fact it is quite old really. Over 2,000 years ago, the economic system of the Roman Empire was composed of the “1 percenters” (Caesar Augustus and his family, King Herod and his clan and other puppet rulers in the Empire) and the “99 percenters” who lived under the Empire’s occupation and who bore the cost under a very oppressive taxation system. It was here, on that night over 2,000 years ago that God made a choice – to Occupy Earth. Ironically, this occupation began in the midst of a census ordered by the Emperor himself – a census designed to estimate the taxable income the Emperor would receive from these 99% folks who would finance their own occupation.
On that night, God went over the wall – or more correctly, God snuck through the back door of history as part of the 99%. God did not come through the powerful halls of the Roman Senate or through the Temple leadership in Jerusalem. God came to us as an outsider born to an unwed teenage mother and her boyfriend … a couple of upcountry rubes from a place called Nazareth – a place with such a questionable reputation that a man named Nathaniel would later ask his friend Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yes … our God is a sneaky God.
This sneaky God came to us as a vulnerable child in a vulnerable place where life was hard. This child would grow to be a man who would challenge the occupation of Rome in a way far different from other resistance movements of his time. He would challenge the powers of a religious system obsessed with deciding who was holy enough to be counted worthy by God. Jesus would lead an occupation movement which brought together an unlikely group of rag tag disciples, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, the great “unwashed masses” who were on the margins of Jewish and Roman society – the other words, the 99%. But Jesus would not stop there because God would not be satisfied if this movement was only for the 99% – God wanted them all and would not be satisfied unless the “1 percenters” (the ones inside the power structure) were transformed too. And so we find among Jesus’ followers religious “insiders” like the Pharisees Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, Roman centurion whose slave needed a healing, and Jairus the leader in the local synagogue who turned to Jesus seeking a healing for his daughter. Jesus did not come to save some – he came to save all.
What was true then is true now. Christ did not come to one place, at one time to one people to be locked behind the gates of history. He came for you and for me too. After his death and resurrection, the movement was no longer to Occupy Earth – it became Occupy You … and Occupy Me. Christ came to occupy our hearts, to claim us and transform us to continue God’s reconciling work for justice and peace … here and now. But we cannot be transformed unless we let Christ come over the wall of our hearts and minds to occupy us completely. I love the prayer for self-dedication found in our Book of Common Prayer (Prayer 61 under Prayers and Thanksgivings) which in part reads: “Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you ...” If that isn’t a prayer for God to occupy us, I don’t know what is!
Christ came to occupy us and to draw us into a larger occupation movement we call the Reign of God. It is the reign of a king who snuck over the wall of history; an occupation marked by justice and peace; a movement to transform the world … one heart at a time. Let us pray:
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.