Saturday, August 19, 2017

15A, Liberators and Prophets (and I don't mean Jesus)

The scripture appointed for today can be found here


Today we're going to travel back in time. Back to July 20th when the church remembered Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Amelia Bloomer; Sojourner Truth; and Harriet Ross Tubman.

In the introduction to their biographies, in Holy Men and Holy Women, they are described as women “who in the nineteenth century blazed the trail for equal rights and human dignity for all people regardless of race or gender. All four were deeply religious Christians who acted out of response to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of Paul that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.”

They are described in the Church as liberators and prophets.

(four different women in the congregation declaimed these from the pews)

"Elizabeth Cady Stanton led in the organization of America’s first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. She was a dynamic speaker and traveled throughout the nation speaking wherever she could against the oppression of women and the,, enslavement of African Americans.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was a leader in the antislavery, women’s rights, and temperance movements. She was also a popular public speaker and she published a newspaper, The Lily. A native of New York, later in life she moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where she worked to establish a church, a library, and a school.

Isabella Sojourner Truth escaped from the slavery into which she was born, settled in New York City, became a street preacher, and opened a shelter for homeless women. She was six feet tall, had a powerful voice, and became a traveling evangelist and one of the most popular speakers on the abolitionist and women’s rights circuits.

Harriet Ross Tubman was born a slave on a Maryland plantation but escaped to Pennsylvania and freedom. She led more than three hundred slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad in the decade before the Civil War. During that war she once led a unit of black troops on a raid which freed more than seven hundred slaves."

I continued...

The Canaanite woman was born a Gentile and was an outsider to the Jewish community in the region. She was known for her advocacy efforts and persistence in confronting those who would withhold care from those they considered unworthy. In a time when honor and shame dictated the social hierarchy, she was willing to dishonor herself in her pursuit of what was right. Her efforts, changed the trajectory of Jesus’ ministry and gave people of all nations the opportunity to experience the love of Christ.

History writes a different story than the present we are in.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer faced angry mobs.

Harriet Tubman had a bounty on her head.

Sojourner Truth had to confront the court system to free her son from slavery.

The Canaanite woman was dehumanized and called a dog.

The social and political forces were at work against them.

And, yet, they showed up, they spoke up, and they confronted the powers that sought to oppress with a greater power that proclaimed liberation.

Agitators and agents of change. Protestors and people of power. Radical and revolutionary. Communities sought to shame them, courts sought to encage them, and yet they kept showing up and speaking up and in doing so would change the trajectory of their own stories and open up new possibilities for the stories that had yet to be written.  

The prayer that accompanies the feast day of these women is as follows.

Kindle in our hearts a zeal for justice and on our lips a voice for freedom. Amen.

O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner and Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

And, if there is ever a time when we need to pray for vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice, it is now. It is now, when the counter-Gospel hatred of white supremacy has been condoned in the halls of power; when the streets of Charleston are still littered from the violence of last weekend; when bombs are set in a mosque in Bloomington; when statistics speak to a reality of systemic racism that cannot be denied—this is the time to pray that we will have the vision and courage that we need in order to write a new story for ourselves that will open up the possibility for all people to claim, name, and write their own story. Free from oppression, hatred and indifference.

Indifference. Today, we are called to speak to indifference. The indifference of a man who could look at a mother in pain and in need, and tell her that she is not worthy. The indifference of the man that we know and proclaim as our strength and our redeemer.

And, honestly, that scares me. To speak of Jesus’ indifference and cruelty in this moment. The woman is scared and she is desperate for her child. He is focused on his vision of the task at hand, and she does not fit into that vision.

It scares me, to speak this way—to see the man I know as beloved be like this. I don’t want to know this about him. I don't want him to be human. I don't want him to echo the brokenness of our own being.

I don’t want to see him like this.

But, once you see, you can’t unsee. And, so today I see.

I see that in this moment Jesus reflects his culture rather than his Father. That his culture was so pervasive that even he, even he, did not question withholding his blessing from somebody in need.

And, this causes me to wonder how I too might fall into the subtle trap of reflecting our culture rather than our God; of reflecting human biases, rather than divine love; of reflecting indifference, rather than compassion.

I wonder...but wondering is not enough.

I need to repent.

But, not in private where I sit alone with my guilt and my shame but in public. In this place where I say, I am fully human and I too have sinned. 

I too have sinned. 

By being quiet when I needed to be loud. 

By staying home when I needed to be in the streets. 

By not confronting the racism I’ve encountered because it wasn’t the polite thing to do. 

I’ve sinned by choosing moderation when I am called to serve an immoderate God.

Immoderate in grace, immoderate in love, immoderate in the desire to know us by being one of us—God came down from the mountain, walked out of the fire, and became one of us. And, in doing this, in doing this--our God, in Jesus, gained an insider’s knowledge of our brokenness, our hatred, our pain, our suffering, and even our indifference to the suffering of others.

And, with this, we can stand before a God who understands. Who understands that who we are right now is not all we will ever be.

Who we are, who those we call “they” are, is not all that will ever be. And, that’s the good news today--Jesus was indifferent, but chose to make a difference. Jesus was cruel, but became kind.

And, if we can proclaim Jesus’ own transformation, then we can begin to see the potential for our own.

The potential we all have to be liberators and prophets. The potential we all have to be transformed. The potential we all have, to bring healing. Jesus being subject to the prejudices of his culture does not stand as the end of this story—the ending is one of healing.

So in these coming weeks, I want us to look around for the people who show up to confront us out of our complacency and our indifference. The people who won’t take no for an answer and refuse to be ignored. The people who offer us healing. The people who need the cure we might bring. I want us to look around for the liberators and prophets of our own time.

And, when we find them, and we WILL find them, I pray that we will be transformed by them—just as our Savior was transformed by her.


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