Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Losing yourself

Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-17a; Mark 8: 31-38
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
February 25, 2018


         Two of today’s lectionary scriptures are about forsaking one identity for another; about trusting God and being led to blessing through an unknown future; about taking up what is placed in front us, even when it is demanding and painful. In both of these readings I hear the suffering and the courage of those who have to leave their homes in order to save their lives; I hear the stories of undocumented immigrant families and DACA children; I hear the voices of student activists who, by their pain and their grief, have been put center stage in the debate for gun reform. And so that we might hear these scriptures anew, I have rewritten passages from Genesis and the gospel of Mark from the point of view of these students.

         First, the reading from Genesis, when God called Abram and Sarai to leave their home in Haran:

         “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

         “‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

         “‘I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.’

         “God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed.”

         When students in Florida were 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old, violence, pain and passion came upon them, and in this horrific event they heard their lives and the voices of those who were killed: “I am Justice and I have been delayed too long; I am the Future, your future; walk before me, and be authentic; be exactly who you are. And you will make a covenant between you and this nation, and your movement will become exceedingly numerous.” Then these youths stood in the places of power and decision; and they realized, they declared with conviction:

         “We did not ask for this responsibility. We had dreams about our future that didn’t include friends and teachers dying and PTSD. We went to school, we studied for our AP Gov. exam; we debated the 2nd Amendment in class, but never did we think we would be standing before legislators, even the President of the United States, and have to argue for our lives, for our elected leaders to covenant with us regarding our safety. This is our covenant: we will be the kids you read about in textbooks….because this will be the last mass shooting in the United States. No longer shall we be known only as David or Emma or Cameron or Sarah or Delaney, or Eva or Maxine or Sophia or Natalie, but our names shall be known for #NeverAgain and
#Youth4BlackLives; and we are the ancestors of a multitude of youth activists. Our voices were obscured and denounced and ignored when our skin was black and brown, when we rose up and organized after Trayvon Martin, when we came from Chicago and Ferguson; now that some of us are white and privileged students from Florida, we have your attention. Businesses and corporations are boycotting the NRA. State legislatures are taking the reins of gun reform.

         “We want this to be a covenant for all of us, and all our offspring after us throughout generations, for an everlasting covenant, that never again will we live through another mass shooting. Never again will we lose black and brown youths to gun violence.”

          And there were some who heard this and laughed. They mocked the power, the conviction of this generation and called them crisis actors and political tools, and accused them of being outspoken and articulate.

         Then these youth began to teach us that they have undergone great suffering; that they have been rejected by elders and the chief priests and the Congress, and they are sick of being killed, and rising again and again only to have it happen again and again. They said all this quite openly. And the NRA and Senator Rubio and other leaders took them aside and began to rebuke them. But turning and looking at a nation ready for gun reform, these youth rebuked our nation’s leaders and conspiracy theorists and said, “Get behind us, accusers! For you are setting your mind not on sacred things but on your own small fears.”

         These young activists called to the crowds across this nation to march and protest, to write and call and irritate representatives, to walk out and sit in and lie down, and said to them, “If any want to have safe schools and safe public space and not fear one another, let them deny themselves of their assault-style weapons and their high-capacity ammo clips and their idolatry of the 2nd amendment, and take up their cross and follow us. For those who want to save their life with a gun will lose it, and those who lose their life as they know it, who let go of their fear, for our sake and for the sake of life and love, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world—power and money and false security—and forfeit their lives, their souls? Indeed, what can anyone give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of us and of our words in this treacherous and corrupt generation, of them future generations will also be ashamed when, instead of the glory of Beloved Community, they will feast on ashes like bread and mingle tears in their drink.”

         Around the world, in war-torn Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, and Yemen, in countries that engage in human trafficking and religious persecution, and here in our own nation, we are crucifying our children on the cross we were supposed to take up. Our children are dragging us out of our homes, out of our comfort, out of what has been, to another land so that they might have future generations. These children have grown up in the shadow of 9/11, in a nation that conducts endless war, and who have witnessed 10 of the deadliest shootings since 1999. We can no longer be surprised by their prophetic witness, by their righteous anger. It’s time we lose ourselves to the ways of peace and justice before we lose our children. Amen.

"The Untouchables", Erik Ravelo
"The first image refers to pedophilia in the Vatican. Second child sexual abuse in tourism in Thailand, and the third refers to the war in Syria. The fourth image refers to the trafficking of organs on the black market, where most of the victims are children from poor countries; fifth refers to gun violence in the U.S.. And finally, the sixth image refers to obesity, blaming the big fast food companies.
The new series produced by Cuban artist Erik Ravelo was titled as "The Untouchables", are photographs of children crucified for his supposed oppressors, each for a different reason and a clear message, seeks to reaffirm the right of children to be protected and report abuse suffered by them especially in countries such as Brazil, Syria, Thailand, United States and Japan"

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