September 4, 2011 – Cesar Chavez

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

This summer, we are seeking to be inspired by counter-cultural prophets, who have sailed against the prevailing winds and charted a new course for the communities in which they serve.

Theme Background

Cesar Chavez was born in March of 1927 on a small farm near Yuma, Arizona.  This made Chavez a second generation American and at age 10, he and his family became migrant farm workers after losing their farm in the Great Depression.  The family migrated across the southwest laboring in the fields and vineyards.  This exposed him early on to the injustices and hardships of farm worker life. Eventually, the family ended up in California where they lived in a barrio called Sal Si Puedes (Get Out If You Can) and worked in the fields to stay afloat. 

Family was always extremely important to Chavez.  He credited his family for lessons that he learned about charity, sincerity, helping others, spirituality and morality.  These lessons came primarily through his mother and grandmother.  He learned that he had to show how to live by example from these women in his life.

After finishing eighth grade, Cesar left school to work in the fields full time to help support the family.  At this point, he had already attended over 30 elementary and middle schools.  Although he ended his formal education, education would later become a passion of his. He continued to be well read in life and found learning to be of utmost importance.  One of the readings that Cesar really took on was the Life of Gandhi.  This book made a deep impression on Cesar and he would carry those teachings into his non violent protests.

Chavez jointed the navy in 1945 and served in the Western Pacific during the end of World War II.  When he returned from war, he married Helen Fabela whom he met in the vineyards of California. They settled back down in the same barrio and would eventually have eight children.

Chavez’s life would take on another flavor in 1952 when he found the passion of community organizing.  He joined the Community Service Organization (CSO), a prominent Latino civil rights group.  Although he learned much from this organization, Cesar wanted to realize a dream of forming an organization to protect and serve farm workers.  He related so deeply to the positions of the farm workers that he knew, he had to take action.  In 1962, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association which later became the United Farm Workers of America.  They quickly adopted the first motto of “Viva la Causa” (Long Live Our Causes).

Through UFW, Chavez created platforms and organized unions.  He fought for the rights of people and communities.  Buying grapes became a moral issue, not just a consumer issue.  Chavez really showed how non violence and communities can move mountains. He came out of a deep call that movement can happen.  His personal motto was “si se puede” or “it can be done.”  He believed that people are valuable no matter what their background is.  God loves all people no matter who they are.

Chavez’s life can not be measured out of material goods, but like the loaves and fishes, he multiplied goodness and life.  He believed in an abundance that multiplies wherever people gather.

Quotes for the Week

“From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”  –César Chávez

“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”  –César Chávez

“What do we want the church to do? We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice and for love of brother and sister. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don’t ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.” —César Chávez

“One of these lessons I have learned is that there exists a chunk of responsibility to fight for justice this is mine alone, and I can either accept that responsibility or run from it. It is no one else’s by my own.” –Leone Jose Bicchieri, farmworker organizer

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williams

Isaiah 62:8‐12 (Message)

God has taken a solemn oath,
an oath he means to keep:

“Never again will I open your grain-filled barns
to your enemies to loot and eat.
Never again will foreigners drink the wine
that you worked so hard to produce.
No. The farmers who grow the food will eat the food
and praise God for it.
And those who make the wine will drink the wine
in my holy courtyards.”

Walk out of the gates. Get going!
Get the road ready for the people.
Build the highway. Get at it!
Clear the debris, hoist high a flag, a signal to all peoples!

Yes! God has broadcast to all the world:

“Tell daughter Zion, ‘Look! Your Savior comes,
Ready to do what he said he’d do,
prepared to complete what he promised.'”

Zion will be called new names:

Holy People,

John 6:1‐14 (NRSV)

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him,
because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

Questions for the Week

Who is someone in your life that multiplies life wherever they go?

What sparks your passion?

How can we apply these lessons to our context?




About pastorcourt

Courtney McHill is the pastor at Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Northeast Portland where they love compassionately and inclusively!
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