The first ever pop concert I went to was in September 1984.
One of the songs was a powerful lament of the situation in U2’s home country – Ireland. And when it was being introduced, Bono said
“This song is not a rebel’s song … this song is Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
Actually, I think every lament is a rebels song.
I think that Fantine’s song is a rebels song.
Feel free to refresh your memory with Rob Page’s version of the song from the 1030 service at Kippax today – I dreamed a dream
And there is no doubt that Mary’s song – we call it the Magnificat – is a rebel’s song. They are deep expressions of a truth that is self-evident to anyone who bothers to look:
The world is not right.
Things are not fair.
Something needs to change.
A lament is the emotional foundation to change things that are not right.
A few years back the radical revolutionary organisation called the Bible Society
released a version of the bible called “The Poverty and Justice Bible”.
It highlights in orange the verses that refer to the poor, to poverty, to justice. The book is filled with orange. My only real concern with putting out a version known as the Poverty and Justice Bible is that it runs the risk of leaving the impression there is any other version.
God is biased to the poor
God has a preferential option to those who are marginalized.
God takes sides.
It is not an optional extra part of faith – it is fundamental to who God is.
Take for example,
‘Do not reject a supplicant in distress, or turn your face away from the poor.
Do not avert your eye from the needy, and give no reason to curse you;
for if in bitterness of soul some should curse you, their creator will hear their prayer”.
“Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;
for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils the life of those who despoil them”.
Hasn’t God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith
and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him”.
or more simply
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor”
Verse after verse.
Story after story.
Healing after healing.
Warning after warning.
Les Miserables – Les Mis – is a story about the poor. The wretched. The underclass. It is a book that points us to the setting of our faith and the priorities of our faith.
Victor Hugo wrote about his novel – “It is a religious book”.
And then said “Dante described hell in the afterlife. I have described hell on earth”
And in the early critiques of both the book and the musical, critics wrote “This is a dangerous book” and “There is too much Christianity in it”
As we looked at last week in our sneak preview, the story is founded in grace –
God’s crazy, absurd, ridiculous grace that is reflected in the life of the Bishop
who not only forgave Jean Valjean, but who set him up for a whole new life.
Everything after that is simply showing the results of grace.
But the emotional foundation of the story lies in the lament of Fantine
A woman abandoned by her lover, and now with a child she cant afford to raise.
A woman wrongfully dismissed from her work and forced to sell herself
so that her child has the chance for a life.
God chooses Fantine. God is biased towards Fantine.
And towards all the people whose names we never hear or know, but whose lives resemble Fantine.
This is something that I find really easy to agree with.
And even really easy for my heart to feel.
But it is so hard to do something about.
In the news this week,
around 1500 people were killed in what is a chemical weapons attack on civilians.
And the lead story in many of the news broadcasts? A football club dealing with drugs. Seriously??
It’s easy to become numb to the reality of life that people live.
It’s easy to think that it’s too much to do something about, or that someone else should. Or to think that we can outsource it to the professionals.
Or to think that our role as people of faith is something more important than that.
The letter of James puts it like this
“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them,
‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’
and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
God is biased.
God is biased towards the poor.
And the movement from the lament of Fantine to the hope-filled defiance of Mary
is a movement which is based in faith-filled action – hopefully by people who are faith-filled.