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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Meek Are Getting Ready

“The Meek Are Getting Ready”
A sermon preached for MCC – Rehoboth Beach, DE
June 30, 2013 – Proper 8C RCL (Luke 9:51-62)
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton 

Please pray with me:  Lord, take my mind and think through it, take my mouth and speak through it, take all our hearts and set them on fire with a love for your Gospel and a passion for your mission. Amen.

Jesus has his face set toward Jerusalem.

I can’t imagine it’s a pretty sight. 

Even the Samaritans, those who were numbered among the ‘anawim’ – those who were the outcast of society and those whom Jesus still called ‘beloved’ – refused to receive him.  Which really made the disciples angry.

Jesus, however, is completely focused on getting himself to Jerusalem where – because he already knows what no one else does – he will be received with great fanfare but, before the end of three days time, Jerusalem will be where he meets a horrifying, violent death on the cross.

It’s understandable, then, when we hear Jesus say things like, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Or, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Or even, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."  (Luke 9:51-62)

Pretty harsh words, right? This is no “Sweet Baby Jesus, Meek and Mild”. This is a man on a mission and his whole life and everything he’s worked for is on the line.

These words fall strangely on the ear this morning after the week we’ve just had. What a roller coaster ride it has been! The gutting of the Voting Rights Act by SCOTUS took my breath away with its gross injustice. I spent most of the day in stunned silence.

The next night, however, we got an astounding image of what leadership looks like: Rep. Wendy Davis stood up before the Texas legislature for 11 whole hours in a one-woman filibuster to oppose the assault on the reproductive rights of women.

There she was – young and blonde and trim and pretty and perky (No Barbara Milkulski, she)– standing for hours on end with no food, no water and no bathroom break. But, at the end of the day – literally at the stroke of midnight – she successfully ran the clock and scored a victory for reproductive rights.

Everybody was talking about  Rep. Davis's "pink tennis shoes." Honey, let me tell you something: those are not tennis shoes. They are Mizuno Wave Rider 16's, and they are used to pass the men in the final stages of the race.

Or, as one reviewer on Amazon Dot Com wrote: “Guaranteed to outrun patriarchy on race day,” while another added “These shoes (and a woman's body) have a way of shutting the whole thing down.”

Then, of course, came the SCOTUS ruling on DOMA and Prop 8. Can we just have a round of applause in the church for this landmark, historic event? 

Even as we celebrate – and, we takes our celebrations when we can – it is sobering for me to consider what it must be like to be LGBT AND a person of color, hearing the rulings from SCOTUS. 

So, the civil right to marry – which you’ve always had but had been denied – is now guaranteed by the constitution, but the right to vote, also a guaranteed constitutional right, is now in jeopardy because you are a ‘minority”. 

Sort of reminds me of what it felt like to have elected Barack Obama as the first African American president at the same time Prop 8 passed in CA.

It’s the weird, cruel Tango of Injustice: Two steps forward, one step back. Watch it in action this coming week as the Senate and House tango around the issue of Immigration – something, I might add, which also adversely affects Queer people.

So, I want to say something about “Sweet baby Jesus, Meek and Mild” and what we Queer people – sissies and dykes and lipstick lesbians and bears and drag queens and trans people – might hear in the words of Jesus this morning.

I’m going to tell you a story about the meek, but first, I want us to look again at that poem – Who the Meek Are Not by Mary Karr – which I selected as the second reading.

I want to focus in on the image of the meek given to us by that Franciscan nun: “Picture a great stallion at full gallop / in a meadow who – /at his master’s voice – seizes up to a stunned / but instant halt. / So with the strain of holding that great power / in check, the muscles / along the arched neck keep eddying, and only the velvet ears / prick forward, awaiting the next order.

That’s the image I have of Jesus in this morning’s gospel as He sets his face toward Jerusalem. That’s the image I have of Elijah and Elisha which we heard in the first lesson (2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14) as they wait for the chariots of fire to take Elijah up to God and Elisha to receive Elijah's mantle.

That’s the image I have of Rep. Wendy Davis, standing for 11 hours, telling the stories of those in the gallery who could not speak for themselves, waiting for the clock to run down and God to give the next marching order for justice.

That’s the image I have of so many of our Queer sisters and brothers – especially those of us who are of color – as SCOTUS struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act and then struck down DOMA and Prop 8 and we try to figure out just what that means.

Yes, we have the power of a strong stallion. And, here’s the truth of it: we always have had this power. I know it’s an overused image in our community, but we’re a little like the characters in Oz, learning that we’ve always had “a brain, a heart and da noive” to achieve what we were almost afraid to imagine. 

We’ve been fighting and struggling so hard and for so long, trying to gallop and keep pace with the moral arc of the universe as it bends, inevitably, toward justice, that we haven’t always been listening for the revelation of God.

In the events of the past week, we have heard the voice of God say, “These are my beloved children, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to them.” And, we have been stunned and brought up short. Us? Beloved of God? Really? That’s not just what our pastors say, just to make us feel better?

Yes, children. Yes, we are beloved of God. Yes, we are like Hagar, alone in the wilderness, finally understanding that God sees us. Our God is “El Roi.” God has seen us and we have caught a glimpse of the Realm of God.

Yes, we are powerful. As powerful as stallions. We are meek when we stop, dead in our tracks, and listen to what God has to say to us next.

What I’m saying to you is that what SCOTUS decided this week isn’t the end. No, it’s just the beginning. We are going to have to win this, state by state, until all of our constitutional rights to marry – and vote – are available to everyone.

So, let me end by telling you a story of what happened to me on Wednesday, the day that DOMA died and Prop 8 fell. 
Note: That story can be found by clicking this link which was posted here on Friday.  It's the story of my Hospice patient "Jane" and her wife, "Judy". "Jane" died on Wednesday, just a few hours after hearing about DOMA and Prop 8.

After a difficulty dying, "Judy" suggested that this news was precisely what Jane needed to hear in order to finally let go. 
I think that was so for us all. It's what we've all been dying to hear. To let go of all the messages that told us that we were less than. Worthless. Not equal.

We've been so done with the fighting and the struggle, it's been hard to think about doing anything else with our lives except fighting and struggling.

We can all begin to let go of all that now, and move into a new reality that brings us closer to an image of the Realm of God. To channel all that energy into working to bring our own images of 'paradise' to this side of Eden for ourselves and the rest of humankind.

As Louie Crew has said for years, "The meek are getting ready." 

So, here's the thing: The word translated as "meek" in the New Testament verse comes from an ancient Greek term meaning "well trained" or "disciplined". 

Yes, Jesus taught in the Beatitudes that the meek – the disciples – shall inherit the earth. He knew his psalms well. That one is from the 11th verse of the 37th Psalm. 

The psalmist and the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount call us to remember the promise God made to Noah that the earth will never be destroyed. 

Remember the story of Noah and the Arc which was built to carry all of God's creatures and creation - two by two - over the turbulent waters of the flood? Because of Noah's obedience and faithfulness - his meekness - God promised never to destroy the earth ever again. 

The meek - those who have faith in God's promises and keep God's commandments, God's disciples - will inherit the earth and it will be spared from future destruction.

Are we surprised to see a rainbow in that story of salvation? I don’t think so.

We are called to remember that when we, as disciples, work for God’s mission in the world, it will be turned into a new Garden of Eden...a Paradise… the New Jerusalem…. ruled by the Realm of God.

Let us now join Jesus and set our own faces toward the new Jerusalem.

Let us continue to work to bring God’s Realm here on earth, for there is still much work to be done.

The meek – God’s disciples – shall inherit the earth and become equal partners with the rest of God’s people in the ever unfolding story of our salvation.

We – the anawim, the outcasts of society whom Jesus called beloved – are equal.

How about that?                



Sextant said...

You give one hell of sermon, Elizabeth.

Two steps forward, one back. I believe that with the gay marriage. It may take a long time but I believe as you said, state by state will march to equality. However the voting issue, I think is going to be a long and hard fight.

We have a party who have discovered that by crawling in bed with every fringe concern against justice and freedom, they have the improbable task of getting a candidate past a panel of loons to win the primary and then have to speak with a forked tongue to attract the center in the general election. So if you can't win an election, rig it. Florida in 2000, 19 states in 2012, and now this ruling in 2013. A long dark haul is ahead of us.

We slowly move forward to a more perfect union, but last Tuesday was a long drop off the cliff of injustice. It is going to be a tough climb back.

David said...

"We’ve been fighting and struggling so hard and for so long, trying to gallop and keep pace with the moral arc of the universe as it bends, inevitably, toward justice, that we haven’t always been listening for the revelation of God. "

One of your very finest, dearest Elizabeth, and that's saying a lot about your body of work!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks,Sextant. I couldn't agree with you more.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, mon cher.