Worship Reflection Sunday, April 10, 2022

 

“Stones Cry Out”

Luke 19:28-40

During our pandemic, many of you know my kids stayed home for almost as long as we had the doors closed to our building. Aedan did school online, and we undertook a project for his first-grade class at Earhart – a collection project. Aedan chose rocks and our backyard afforded us plenty of treasures, some of which I knew, and some I did not. My grandparents had moved into the house as the second owners in the 1960’s and over the years my grandmother’s careful landscaping took shape. Across the back fence line there were a number of limestone and other rocks that had been taken from the family farms. In them were fossils. I remembered them being strewn about as a child when I lived there, but over the years they were slowly buried by time. So, we hunted rocks in our own backyard, discovering multiple types of fossilized sea creatures and even a huge hunk of petrified wood that neither my brother or I had seen, but grandma had mentioned at some point. The stones had stories. Ancient ones as we researched and discovered the creatures, and family stories of finding the stones and keeping them over the years. Had we not moved back to Wichita and into my familial home, the stories of their origin would have been lost, but their contents wouldn’t have been, for surely the next owners or the ones after that would have unearthed them and discovered some of these treasures.

*******************

In Jesus’ day the fervor of religiosity was all the rage, and at times public witness was proclaimed as more important than social and societal good. Jesus railed against these distinctions, as did most religious leaders of the time – one could not separate love of God from love of neighbor, despite how much the Empire desired it.

This message, even today, is too important and cannot be silenced. Jesus tells the authorities, which may have been only a few religious leaders, that if he were silenced even the stones would cry out. Love for God and neighbor are inextricable.

We might think of these stones like the ones in my backyard, stones that told stories of what came before, but what if they could indeed cry out, telling the story that needed to be spoken – what if there are some things that simply cannot …or perhaps must not be silenced?

The story of the movement of Black Lives Matter is what comes to my mind right now, for even in the midst of a pandemic, the story that too many people know about their lives, as people with black and brown skin, is that they are dangerous individuals and that the history of policing in our country was created in order to subject them to slavery and oppression, to keep them in line in whatever new form racism underwent as our nation ended slavery.

Too many children and innocent people are being treated as criminals at traffic stops and welfare checks. Too many were being interrogated, assaulted, and violently murdered simply because their skin color made them a threat to order. The voices of history and present day began to cry out when Trayvon Martin was killed by a vigilante who was not held accountable. They have continued to cry out and demand changes in our systems that for white people have been touted as systems of safety, but for our siblings with black and brown skin – for anyone deemed as “other”, including our transgender and non-binary siblings – have been systems that wield disproportionate power, unnecessarily, and often at the expense of someone’s life.

And the stones aren’t done crying out, because so much of our country is built on a foundation of white supremacy in ways that, as white people, is difficult to comprehend because of the ways it has benefited white people and isolated their experiences as the norm.

That is the nature of oppression – it colludes with the norm now, just as it did in Jesus’ day and so as Jesus tried to speak truth to power there were those who told him to keep his voice down, to not cause too much trouble, to try to go about this with the authorities blessings instead of against them, and even just to take what was dealt because that was what was deserved. All of these things were told to Jesus throughout his ministry, just as all of these things have been uttered loudly and quietly to our black and brown siblings, in spite of the fact that they are completely unhelpful and untrue.

Speaking truth to power is dangerous, as we well know. Hearing truth spoken to power makes us, especially those of us who benefit from having power, uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean the voices crying out should be silenced. If anything, they should be amplified.

Silence is death. And if we are silent, we are perpetrators of death, not life, not love, not compassion. We might not have the words to say, because our experiences come from a place of privilege instead of oppression, but we do have the ability to amplify the voices who bravely share their experiences. We do have the ability to receive their stories, and their criticisms of the ways we have perpetuated this system of white supremacy and work to do better. We can shut up when that emotion wells up telling us that what is being said can’t possibly be true, because we meant well. We can choose to listen and choose to amplify and thus choose to love.

The Systems of oppression that we face now, may not be identical to the ones Jesus and the disciples faced, but their tactics are textbook and as old as the human condition.  So, we have to recognize our participation in them, and wonder to ourselves, will we stay in those harmful ways or will we join in the way of love, however uncomfortable and dangerous it may be? I hope today, we will join in the chorus of stones crying out, the chorus of those disciples, the chorus of the one whom we claim to follow, the chorus of love. Amen.