3-13-22 Reflection by Chanthip Phongkhamsavath

Second Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2022

Why do we constantly ask what God will do for us? Why is it so important for Abram to know
what his descendants will have and why is it that heirs are so inherently important – why is it that
a slave would not be as worthy to be an heir.

I wonder about our own Christian history and its role in creating the social structures we live in
today. Within many readings we encounter roles of the masters and slaves. There is a
differentiation that existed, that would change eventually, however it is easy to dwell on that
existence of privilege that existed through the ages. For as long as we have known it seems there
have always been those who are more privileged than others in land, wealth, strength, and other
ways. Where privilege for some becomes so inherent that there isn’t even a willingness to
understand its root in order to begin to address and unravel it.

It makes me think about the focus in recent years on diversity, equity and inclusion in the
workplace and in education overall – the beginnings of understanding privilege and its impacts.
Earlier in the year as a staff we had a professional training day on diversity and race and there
was one particular exercise that stood out for me. Because it was all virtual we had an
opportunity to participate in a jamboard exercise where we were all asked to respond to the
question of our experience with race with one word – and the benefit of being virtual – if a word
was repeated by multiple people it was larger on the screen.

When the exercise ended, I was surprised that one of the largest words on the screen was
privilege. I had to take a step back and think about the demographics of our staff versus the
students that we serve, especially in Richmond and East Oakland. And it made me wonder what
the difference in response would be if we had our students do the same exercise. If we looked at
those responses side by side what could we do then to recognize our inherent places and
experiences in the world. One of our campuses recently attempted to further engage the staff in
an exercise on privilege and there was an overall negative response with certain staff refusing to
even participate – and I was surprised although in thinking about it I shouldn’t have been.

It is uncomfortable to think about the benefits that we have been born into, whatever they may
be, and there is natural resistance if someone attempts to disrupt or even point it out. It seems to
make sense then that Jerusalem keeps killing the prophets and stoning those sent to it. Maybe
they were not ready to hear the news because it meant that there might be changes that on the
onset might not look so positive for them – even if it might mean a better overall future for their
children and other children who were not theirs.

I know I struggle with balancing what benefits myself and my family versus what might better
the greater good. I can see why Abram would keep asking what the benefit would be for him to
follow God, because oftentimes it can be challenging to look at what is ahead of us and think
about the future and what is left after we are gone.

Although that is the piece that we look towards, not being gone, rather, being able to join God in
heaven and salvation. For being true to following the way of everlasting love and grace. When
God is already light and salvation – when our salvation and citizenship is in heaven – why is what
is left in the flesh so important. It is not what is left, as what opportunity we leave to those after
us. The opportunity to know and love God – to be able regardless of position and privilege, to all
strive together for salvation.

We are constantly asking God what can be done for us and it makes me wonder why God keeps
trying. Then I remember that God is light and salvation and love. That God is the strength when
I am weak or when I am afraid. And maybe then it isn’t what will be available for our heirs in
the here and now in the flesh, but to ensure for them the opportunity to hear of God’s love and
grace. That change and salvation is for all the heirs of the earth, if there is willingness to lean
into God’s grace and love and be open to the constant change in one’s life. Amen.