Sunday, August 20
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28
that my heavenly Father has not planted
will be uprooted.”
-Matthew 15: 13
I feel compelled to write today, because of this weekend’s events in Charlottesville. I am sitting in a comfortable chair, after a nice meal, “away” on vacation... feeling somewhat guilty because I didn’t go to Charlottesville to help.
People from our sister church in Charlottesville, Sojourners United Church of Christ, took part in activities designed to gather folks to make a positive statement for their city, BUT NOT in the streets seeking confrontations with the haters from out of town.
One member of Nancy B’s extended family was up above the scene of the hit-and-run car attack, taking photos for a news organization: he is traumatized by the violence and carnage he witnessed.
And two State Police officers died while serving to provide safety for the public there.
And one young woman from Ruckersville died there, standing up for love over hate. Numerous other Charlottesville folks are hurting, healing from wounds they suffered on the streets.
Some White people continue to insist that everything would be all right if everyone across the South would just leave the statues of Johnny Reb and General Lee and General Jackson alone,
People of color understand all too well the statement of “history” embodied in the Confederate statues: the White first-class citizens in the Twentieth Century placed the statues as highly visible signs that the War Between the States had left colored people as second-class citizens— and the power, the very real threat of force, was in the hands of the White descendants of the Confederacy. “Keep to your place in society and don’t try to change the balance of power,” the statues say to the Colored people.
I don’t believe in coincidences: this week’s Scripture lessons speak of God reaching out to everyone in the universe with love and mercy.
† Psalm 67 is a prayer that God will “Let all the peoples praise You” (verses 3 and 5)
† The prophet Isaiah (chapter 56) tells his fellow Israelites returning from captivity in Babylon that God wants all people to unite in fellowship and worship together. Isaiah proclaimed that God accepts and affirms people who are different in terms of culture, ancestry, and even unusual sexuality.
Isaiah’s prophecy here goes against other voices in the Bible, such as Deuteronomy 23:1-8 and Nehemiah: those texts call for God’s chosen people the Israelites to keep themselves apart from people who are different by race and in other ways.
But when I read Isaiah 56, verse 7 jumps out at me: God says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” As you may remember, that is what Jesus said when he cleared the commercial interests out of the Jerusalem Temple (Mark 11:17). All peoples.
† In our gospel lesson from Matthew 15, Jesus makes the point that human evil is not a matter of cultural differences such as religious customs, but rather of our hearts being in the wrong place. After he made that point, Jesus immediately got himself into a situation where he had to live what he taught. Although he insisted that “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he accepted and affirmed the personhood and the faith of a woman from one of those foreign nations that were sometimes condemned in certain Scriptures of the Old Testament (15:28).
In fact, the overwhelming message of the Jesus movement is that God loves all people and calls us to love them all, too.
† In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he argues forcefully that Jews and non-Jews must get along for God’s sake. God’s mercy is for all people (11: 29 – 32).
I am proud of our faithful sisters and brothers from Sojourners and other Charlottesville churches who held fast to the Way of Jesus. I hope to become more like them. Will you join me ?