Layperson Lecture #13
To quote Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 1, “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” So now it’s time for a Layperson Lecture! I’m Constance McEntee, seminary drop-out and the Idiot Before G0D. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these, but I’ve been recovering from surgery and just haven’t had the energy. This is in keeping with Ecclesiastes 3:1, though: Now is the time for this particular purpose.
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The scripture selections for Sunday, 21 June 2020, can be found at LectionaryPage.net.
Well, oh dear.
As I was not raised Jewish, I feel it’s a bit problematic to be commenting on readings from what Christians erroneously call The Old Testament and is more rightly called The Tanakh. I get that Christianity started as a sect of Judaism, but it still feels awfully close to cultural appropriation, to me. But considering the current crises in the U$A, I can see the value of talking about them.
In Genesis 21:8-21, we have the story of Sarah telling Abraham he must send Hagar “the Egyptian” away so that her son, Ishmael, will not share inheritance with Isaac. Abraham is reluctant to do this, but G0D tells him to obey his wife Sarah. G0D does say he will be sure Ishmael will have his own nation as well, but this still seems to show a lack of compassion on G0D’s part.
I live in a country, a nation borne of colonization as well as the exploitation and subjugation of various Peoples of Color. In the reading from Genesis, I see a correlation to Black Lives Matter. Ishmael and his African mother are sent away so they won’t benefit from what Hagar helped Abraham build. At least, it seems that way to me.
Psalms 86 and 69 really seem to relate to the current crises in the U$A. So many things seem so overwhelming that these cries for help feel appropriate. Likewise, the reading from Jeremiah seems fitting for all those struggling against oppression.
St Paul’s Letter to the Romans? Meh. It’s St. Paul and he and I aren’t on speaking terms.
But, then we get to the Gospel according to St. Matthew. At first, Jesus seems to say slavery is just a fact of life. But this selection includes:
“Do not think I have come to bring peace to earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”
I’ve long understood Jesus’ sword to be his message, the Gospel. Jesus was not bipartisan; he did not listen to both sides. He was very much a revolutionary who strove against the empire of his time. And in the empire that is the U$A, we must be working and fighting to force the empire to understand Black Lives Matter.
It is the goal of Christians not so much to worship Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, but to be LIKE him. To take this selection from the Gospel and put it in modern terms, we must be prepared to offend or lose loved ones in the struggle for justice. While it’s true that Mark 9:38-41 includes, “Whoever is not against us is for us,” Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 state, “Whoever is not for me is against me.”
We are well past the time of neutrality. We cannot bend the knee to Jesus saying, “You are my Lord and Savior,” while failing to take a stand for social justice. The only point in seeing “both sides” is to be aware of what those who are against justice are saying.
Friends: choose a side and do so with the guidance of the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love Overflowing. And if you will not choose a side or if you willingly choose the side which dares to say all lives matter, then may the Light-bringer hold you and keep you, now and forever.
Amen and Blessed be.