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“First Class Citizens”

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead and offers us “life to the full.” As I shared in church this past Sunday, I recently had the opportunity to travel as part of a short-term mission team to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The trip was enjoyable. The island was beautiful, full of scenic beaches, rainforests, and kind and generous people. As I write this article, I once again find myself on an airplane, headed to “far off places.” I am aware that I have much privilege. The ability to travel, to enjoy a paid vacation, to visit family, and to enjoy the summer with my children, are blessings that I don’t take lightly. As a middle class, white, educated, married, male, living in this country, I realize that I check off many of the boxes regarding power, class, and social standing.

At the same time, my mind calls me back to a comment made by one of our host leaders in Puerto Rico. She referred to herself and her fellow Puerto Ricans as “second-class citizens.” If you’re like me, then you probably don’t know much about Puerto Rico, but I learned that Puerto Rico is a US Territory. That means it’s part of our country. Puerto Ricans are American citizens. You don’t need a passport to travel there, but at the same time, Puerto Rico is not one of the fifty states. Puerto Ricans don’t have representation in congress. Puerto Ricans don’t have a vote when electing the President of the USA. The currency in Puerto Rico is the dollar. They are a part of our country, but they predominantly speak Spanish. When we travel there, it is sometimes a challenge to communicate and vice-versa.

If Puerto Ricans are second-class citizens, that means that you and I are first-class citizens. We are often reminded in the media that we are privileged in certain ways. While there is much discussion about whether wealth, skin color, education, or social standing affect the ways society includes (or excludes) certain people, I am aware that, for me, these factors rarely hold me back. Those of us familiar with the Spiderman franchise are familiar with the line, “with great power comes great responsibility.” What opportunities do we have that others around us might lack? In what ways does the kingdom of God call us to works of justice, or a life-style of peacemaking?

Perhaps this topic feels heavy as a midweek reflection, while we are just trying to enjoy our summers, keep cool, and avoid excessive time in the sun. Or, perhaps these quiet months, amidst leisure and sunshine are the very occasions when we have room to challenge ourselves. Maybe it’s precisely the time when God is inviting us deeper into the work of our church’s mission: “seeking Christ and serving others.” What do you think? Are there ways that you use your status as a “first-class” citizen to make a difference? I’d love to hear about it.

Very truly,

Pastor Adam

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