My friends, let’s begin with the Scriptures—always a good place to start! Without being redundant, the 3rd Sunday as with all the Sundays in Ordinary Time must be considered “extra” as we have spoken of in the past, as it is full of challenge for us.
Isaiah, first off, tells us that as people who tend to “walk in darkness,” from time to time, there is hope, because we have seen a “great light in Jesus!” And the challenge for each of us, as his followers is to realize that we cannot allow, bullying, name-calling, lying—basically, abuse of any kind to stand. I was pleased to even hear Chief Justice, John Roberts, in the impeachment trial going on at present, call the members of Congress back to being their “best selves,” in this regard, as the halls of Congress demand, if they expect to truly be heard by each other.
I felt the psalm response this morning needed to be sung—“You are my light and my salvation,” that we beautifully sang, “of whom should I be afraid?” Of whom indeed—when we have such a friend as Jesus. The psalmist continues—“You are the stronghold of my life!” In modern parlance, we might say, “Our God truly has our backs!” Therefore, fear is a “place” we really don’t have to go—at least not for long.
Jim Wallis, minister and creator-editor of Sojourner Magazine, in a new book, entitled, Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus, in a chapter on “fear,” reminds his readers, unlike the apostles who found themselves in a “storm at sea,” to invite Jesus into “our boats.” The Scriptures show us that it can make all the difference!
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians; we find the people squabbling over small differences, failing to keep their eyes on Jesus’ message—one of love, mercy, attempts at understanding—basically being—again, “our best selves. In our present day Church; we see the same—factions for Benedict XVI, pope emeritus fighting against those of Pope Francis. And yet, the Scriptures tell us that, “a light has shown in our darkness” and it would behoove all serious Christians to keep an eye on its glow.
Now practically speaking, someone has said that in future, and I think, it could happen now, if and when a pope retires, he (dare I say, “she?”) should discard the white cassock and go back to their pre-pope name and cardinal clothes in order to be most clear about who is in fact—the pope. I respectfully agree.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians continues by saying the same—keep your eye on the message and who you are following! Let the Spirit of our great God do her work! And in that regard, let us lift up the fact that Paul in today’s reading is taking counsel from Chloe’s household church community—a woman leader no less—let Church men take heed! We still need to shine light into that darkness—inequality.
This past week our country, as you know, celebrated Martin Luther King Jr’s holiday. I read several articles and news items with regard to this great man and one in particular, about a lawyer; Bryan Stevenson with Equal Justice Initiatives in Montgomery, Alabama especially caught my attention. I would like to share a bit of his story here as we remember the work of Martin Luther King Jr., truly a light in our midst!
- First, I was saddened to learn from Stevenson that in the State of Alabama, Robert E. Lee is honored on the same day as the King Holiday. In a new book and now a major motion picture—both entitled, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson has this to say, “ The Southern landscape is littered with iconography of the Confederacy—we actually celebrate the architects and defenders of slavery…this has to change if we are to get past this and to a healthier place.”
- He goes on to document how the precedent has been set around our world and that we as a nation could learn from the example of others in order to get past racism. In Johannesburg, South Africa, there is a museum and monuments that talk about the wrongfulness of apartheid. In Berlin—you can’t go two blocks without seeing markers and stones placed next to the homes of Jewish families that were abducted during the Holocaust.
- But in this country Stevenson continues, we don’t have institutions that are dedicated and focused toward making a new generation of Americans appreciate the wrongfulness of what we did when we allowed lynching to prevail and persist. Yet, our Scriptures tell us that, “A light has shown in our darkness!”
- Stevenson has worked for over 30 years with others against wrongful convictions, over incarcerations and excessive punishment of blacks. And it was because of the lack of institutions to address this wrongfulness that Stevenson and his organization opened the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
Both are dedicated to the legacy of slavery, lynching, segregation and mass incarceration of blacks in the United States.
- For Stevenson, the above are a way to address the past and change the future—we need, he says, to create institutions in this country that clearly say, “Never again!” The museum tells the shameful truth about lynchings and of how when they stopped, they were basically, “moved indoors” through mass incarcerations and the death penalty for many blacks with a high rate of innocence among them!
As part of our trip last fall; we traveled through Montgomery and got there on the only day of the week when the museum was closed, but in walking around the block perimeter of the building, reading what we could about the site, realizing that it was built upon the spot of an actual “slave market,” the experience was quite soul-stretching. Truly, we as a nation must shine a light upon such darkness!
Additionally, for this reason, when the leadership of our great country spews hatred for those who come to our borders who are different than those of us known as “white,” it should cause us to worry and vow to make changes.
Friends, our God calls us to be our best selves—always—to continue to shine a light into the dark places as Isaiah, Jesus and Paul spoke of in today’s readings—to see in fact when there is inequality, hatred, dishonesty, lack of mercy, justice, and do our part to better the situation . We are capable as humans of so much good, but equally of so much bad—let us choose the good! Amen? Amen!