• Rev. Sara Lilja

Are people of faith today as concerned about the physical health of God’s people as Jesus’ concern in the upcoming text? Matthew 14 recounts Jesus feeding the multitude, providing for the physical need of food for all that were hungry. Again and again Jesus cares for the health of those in need.

As we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that improving access to health care helps to improve public health for all New Jerseyans. By getting more people covered and giving them greater access to quality care, we can improve the health and well-being of all of God’s people.

Currently the New Jersey legislature is debating legislation that will bring in more than $300. Million to support health care in New Jersey. This bill S2676/A4389 requires funds to be used to increase affordability, reduce racial disparities, and decrease the number of uninsured in our new in our new State Health Exchange that opens in November.

The Rev. Alyce McKenzie professor of Worship at Perkins School of theology wrote in Patheos in July 2011, “This story motivates us to get up out of our comfortable chairs and throw ourselves into offering our resources on behalf of a needy world. It calls us to remember and to anticipate. We are to stand in the story, looking back and looking forward…We are to stand, looking back, re-experiencing who God has been in the past. We are to stand looking ahead with faith in who God will be and what God will do in the future. This is the dynamic of anamnesis (active remembering) that undergirds participation in both the Passover and the Lord's Supper.”

Active remembering is participatory. An activity that is both remembering where we have been in the midst of this health crisis, and engaging in future measures to care for those who are most vulnerable. During this pandemic, we have stood in the shoes of the disciples: surrounded by human need, faced with huge challenges, and felt over whelmed. God has been with us, and promises to be with us still.

With your advocacy efforts, we can address our neighbor’s need of affordable health care. This legislation S2676/A4389 would allow New Jersey to implement our own Health Insurance Assessment (HIA). The Health Insurance Assessment (HIA) is a federal fee on health insurance companies that was established in 2014 to help fund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This fee is set to expire on January 1, 2021, giving states the opportunity to take on the assessment, and in so doing capture the funding without raising insurers’ payments. States that implement their own HIA have the ability to spend the funds however they see fit, providing them the flexibility necessary to meet their own unique health care needs. Governor Phil Murphy first proposed the HIA for New Jersey in his Fiscal Year 2021 Budget.

Are we motivated to share our voices as we stand in the shoes of the skeptical disciples on the brink of a miracle? Follow this link, advocate for NJ’s Health Insurance Assessment so that we improve public health and ensure all residents can lead healthy lives. Follow this link to take action today!

Want to learn more about NJ’s Health Insurance Assessment? Follow this link…

For the complete article, “You Want Us to Do What?” By Dr. McKenzie follow this link…

  • Rev. Sara Lilja

Matthew 13:31-52

In this week’s Gospel reading we hear Matthew recount several parables about how God works in unexpected ways, using ordinary means to bring about God’s Kingdom. God’s activity propels those acted upon to change and grow.

How has God’s activity in the events of the past month caused you to change and grow? Did you notice that God is active in reforming Criminal Justice in our state?

On July 1st the Governor signed into law three pieces of legislation that promotes criminal justice reform. These pieces of legislation require greater transparency for law enforcement agencies when officers move to new positions; assist juveniles to move into post-incarceration supervision; and assist inmates in obtaining re-entry benefits. As our state moves to address the serious inequalities in the criminal justice system, we must address policing as part of this much needed systemic reform.

In an opinion piece published by the New York Times recently, Major David Hughes a police officer wrote, “The world has changed. Policing needs to catch up”

God is at work. We are being called to reimagine policing and public safety in our state and communities. This means changing the statutes for the use of force by police, providing greater investments in public health responses for those who need intervention not arrest, and creating community led accountability structures.

In mid-June the Attorney General's Office notified county prosecutors that the use of chokeholds and neck restraints could only be used when officers believe that they are in serious danger and the use of deadly force is necessary. This does not go far enough; we must change the standard for the use of deadly force in the state and the Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal agrees. He announced that his office would be updating guidelines on use of force, which have been unchanged in 20 years. But his office has been working on these new guidelines for nearly three years.

God has acted, and we have changed. We can no longer accept racially biased policing, excessive use of force and police budget that well exceed the needs of social service budgets. Call the Attorney General’s office at 609-292-4925 to share your outrage and insist on swift reform to the Use of Force Guidelines or email his office sharing your concern about the use of force Here in the public comment section. The following are suggestion for you to advocate for when making your comment.

The new guidelines should require officers to attempt to control an incident by using time, distance, communications, and available resources in an effort to deescalate a situation whenever it is safe, feasible, and reasonable to do so.

And the Guidelines should limit the use of deadly force, as defined, by an officer to those situations where it is necessary, to prevent or defend against a threat of imminent and serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to another person.

Here is the link for the Public Comment page on the Use of Force.

Take some time in prayer and conversation, notice where God is active building the Kingdom from your view. This is God at work, and our hands are needed to send emails and to make calls.

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