“Live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” writes the author of Ephesians. I can’t help but wonder if we have all forgotten that we are supposed to be living a life worthy of the love and grace we have been given. I don’t see much evidence of people striving to live in ways worthy of all that we have been given. We are lost, more so than the ancient Israelites ever were. We look back at history and don’t even recognize where and how we’ve been held in captivity. Instead, we long for what used to be good, or at least enough. The manna is dry and the quail is tough. Life used to be so much better back before all this chaos and pain. It’s as though we are in the desert with Moses and only thinking that in Egypt our bellies were full while choosing not to remember the taskmasters who left misery in their wake.
The current Administration wants to “Make America Great Again” and the church wants to recreate the attendance and activity levels of the 1950s. How can we possibly hold up only what we think of as “good” about the past and just bypass all that was awful? At no point in church history has the church lived in a way worthy of its calling. Yes, there have been individuals, those bright prophetic lights of hope, but on the whole we have hunkered down and sought to preserve our way of doing things. Our history is riddled with fear and hatred. Do we really want to go back there?
Jesus promised that hunger and thirst would end for all who followed him. The problem is that we have been poor followers. We’ve picked who we will love and who we will condemn. We routinely marginalize those who are different from us or who make us feel uncomfortable. Worse yet, we run to scripture and take a verse or two out of context and use them to justify the mistreatment of others. Where is the unity of body and spirit?
Over the last few days, I’ve read through the hundreds of names of people fatally shot by police since January of 2015. It is deeply distressing. In the area where I live, eight People of Color have been killed by police in the last three and a half years, the last one on June 23, 2018. Some of them were completely unarmed. Some were mentally ill. All were innocent of capital crimes. None of the police officers involved were charged. Hundreds of people have gathered in protest and at rallies to demand justice. At the same time, too many times church folks have complained about the inconvenience of roads shut down or disruption to community events. How have we failed to see the body broken and blood poured out right before our eyes?
In Ephesians we read the beautiful image of the church as one body, “joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” Will the day ever arrive when we are able to live this way? Will we ever be able to love as Jesus loves? White privilege and white supremacy have no business in the body of Christ. Have we forgotten that Jesus had a brown body? Have we forgotten that all the prophets and people of faith who came before Jesus, had brown bodies? How many bodies have to be broken, how much more blood needs to spill before we recognize that we are living lives very far from the lives to which we have been called?
God has told us again and again what is required of us. God has given us clear demonstrations of how we are to live. God has covered us with grace and wrapped us with fierce, steadfast love. Yet, we resist. We tell ourselves that our history was perfect and glorious and life will be wonderful if we can go back to what was. That didn’t work for the Israelites and it won’t work for us. Do we really want to go back to the 1950’s? Think of what we would not have in society and in our churches. Think of all that remained hidden behind closed doors, strings of pearls, valium, and martinis. That was a time of great fear and anxiety hidden behind rules and routine. If you are a person of color, a woman, an LGBTQ+ person, a person with mental illness, or a person with a disability there is nothing to go back to and nothing worth recreating.
We all come to the same table. We eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of blessing. Perhaps the time has come for us to lead one another out of the desert. We can stop looking back at a whitewashed history with nostalgic longing and, instead, look to the present and future. We have an opportunity to do something the church has yet to do. We can unite as one body to demand justice for those bodies still being broken. We can be the ones who proclaim love and show the power of God’s continued presence. We can hold hands with all our neighbors and move forward into a future that is defined by love and grace rather than fear and hatred. It isn’t too late. We can live lives worthy of our calling, lives that value and respect all of our neighbors, near and far. It’s time to move out of the desert and leave all false memories of Egypt behind.
RCL – Year B – Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 5, 2018
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a with Psalm 51:1-12 or
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 with Psalm 78:23-29