“Stop killing us,” she said in answer to the question of what the BlackLivesMatter movement wants. The words of this young activist have followed me through the week. They wrap themselves around the story of Jonah and the Ninevites and they sit with Zebedee in his boat with the hired hands.
While I am still contemplating this, my Facebook feed is flooded by announcements of Marcus Borgs’ death. This man was responsible for introducing a generation of seminarians (and others) to Jesus and the Bible again, for the first time. I feel sadness over his death, knowing he will not write anymore books that make me think differently about who Jesus was and is. These thoughts tangle with the others and make me want to pull something meaningful out of these texts, something real.
Jonah preached the shortest sermon in history and got the biggest results ever. He told the people of Nineveh to repent and they did. They repented. That doesn’t happen these days. Plenty of voices are calling us to change our destructive ways. Too many aren’t hearing. When thousands march to save black lives and they are dismissed as creating a nuisance, is anyone hearing the plea of “Stop killing us!”? I don’t know. Racism is easily justified by those in power. When will those of us born with white privilege stop ignoring the deeply broken justice system and take up the cry that will save lives?
Similarly, I wonder how many people would drop everything to follow Jesus if he were gathering disciples today. When I read Marcus Borg’s books, Jesus became more human for me but no less divine. Jesus invited Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow him, learn from him, change their lives. They went seemingly without hesitation; they were eager to fish for people. What’s different for us? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure how quickly I’d jump out of Zebedee’s boat.
I think of the young activist and the thousands that marched, being in the crowd demanding change. Laying down in the middle of the road to show that black lives do matter, joining in the call for justice stirred something in me. I’ve spent my career advocating for people who have no voice and I didn’t see how needful it was to add my voice to the black voices crying out for justice until recently. Why? What gets in the way of seeing injustice? And once we do see it, what prevents us from jumping out of the boat to stand with those who suffer?
With a nod to Marcus Borg I will say I don’t know. But I will say it is time for us to repent. It is time for us to stop engaging in activities that harm our neighbors and ourselves. It is time for us to leave Zebedee in his boat and follow Jesus on the road to justice. It’s time to meet Jesus again, or maybe for the first time.
RCL – Year B – Third Sunday after Epiphany – January 25, 2015
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31