Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Selma Tales: Montgomery and Selma III

On the way to Selma we went through Montgomery.  One of our pilgrims, Richard Morrisroe, the former Roman Catholic priest who was shot with Jonathan Daniels in Hayneville, took the bus microphone and as we passed the hospital, he told of his harrowing experience after the shooting.  He lay on the ground in front of the cash store at least a half an hour bleeding before anyone was allowed to tend to him. He was transported to a hospital in Montgomery in the hearse that carried Jon's body.  He lay in a corridor without care for some hours before a Roman Catholic priest was able to
The Cash Store in Hayneville, AL
find a doctor who would tend to him.  Finally, it took 11 hours of surgery to save his life. I believe that Richard was in hospital for almost 6 months after that.  He was permanently marked by this incident.  He subsequently left the priesthood, became a civil rights lawyer, married a woman of color and has two wonderful children, one who is named Jonathan and several grandchildren.

I had met Richard on several other venues celebrating the life of Jon over the years.  He is mainly a quiet, thoughtful person.  He is still a strong Catholic, and I think finds himself rather bemused by the fact that he has been a part of the life of an Episcopal saint.  Later, in NH, I would hear him say that he knew Jon 'eight days in life and fifty years in death'.  He has been a ready witness to the death of Jonathan, willing to share this pilgrimage even though it was difficult.  

We arrived in Selma at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  There is now a National Parks Historical Center on the corner across
from the famed bridge.  Many of the pilgrims walked the bridge. It was a hot day and Judy and I opted not to.  We had done that before.  For several in the group that was quite meaningful and empowering. There was not much time to linger because we had been invited to lunch at St, Paul's Episcopal Church.

St. Paul's closed its doors to the marchers 50 years ago.  The Episcopal members of the march gathered on the steps of the church and praying that the doors and hearts of the people
would be opened.  Later, through the spring semester,  Judy and Jon would attend the parish taking with them children from the projects in which they were staying.  They were treated to really crude comments from 'good' members of the parish.  There was even discussion of destroying the chalice after the Black children received communion.  Judy, Jon, the children and few other African-Americans were only allowed to sit on the back row. Over the altar in the church are the words "He is risen, He is not here." But the group could only see a portion of the phrase..."He is not here." And agreed. 

The present rector of St. Paul's hasn't been there a year, but he was so welcoming.  They prepared a lovely luncheon and then spoke of the change of heart that the parish had come to. Several of the older members reminisced, but I had a hard time staying present. I realized that the deep Southern Alabama drawl still carries the weight of racism for me.  It took all I could to listen to the veiled excuses for their behavior 50 years ago.  It was hard to stand in forgiveness, and yet I knew that was where the heart of my pilgrimage was.  This pilgrimage wasn't about Jon; it was about me, about how privilege has changed me for good or ill.  

I had to step out of the remembrances for a bit just to catch
my breath. And when I returned the rector was making a presentation to Judy in the name of Jon for helping the parish grow.  A lovely trophy was presented.  It was the first time I have seen Judy awarded anything or even acknowledged for her work in Selma.  She has so often gotten lost in the mystique of Jon that people didn't realize the work she did.  Most of the photographs of Jon that are part of his story were taken by Judy and yet she is never given credit for them.  They now are copyrighted by others.  
EDS Pilgrimage 2015

We returned to Montgomery and went to the Civil Rights monument.  It is a simple fountain in the center of the city's government complex.  Designed by Maya Lin, the architect of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, DC.  There is a constant
sheen of water that flows over the names of the Civil Rights Martyrs.  Some of the pilgrims went to one of the churches, but I sat in the evening with a young priest I had met on facebook.  We talked of ministry and the needs of the Church in the wake of the racial issues that still face us.  

The bus was quiet on the way back. Later I heard that the trip to the church was quite a spiritual time for those who went.  I was still trying to reconcile my emotions in the face of the racism that I was still feeling and working through what that kind of exclusion says about us as Church.  

Even now, some weeks after the trip, I am still trying to allow myself to touch those hidden places in myself--I do not
believe that I find racism in me but I did find a growing dissatisfaction with the kind of privilege that I represent simply because of my skin.  I know that it has offered me things that I have not deserved simply because of the color of my skin.  It sets up barriers that I have worked hard to to tear down and yet at times it seems that not enough has been removed for us to know how to trust one another.  And so in my seventies I feel that 'separate' state that continues to break my heart. And yet I cannot give lucha continua...


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Is it not the rich who oppress you?

Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? James 2

Nearly every time I read Scripture things jump out at me.  Reading the texts for tomorrow, I am caught by this phrase from the Epistle. I am not preaching so I haven't prepared the texts all week like I would if I were going to be in the pulpit.

 I have read this passage for years and probably preached on the whole passage numerous times, but for some reason I am caught by these words, this part of the whole part of the Epistle of James for so many different reasons that it feels like it swirls around in my heart.

This Epistle isn't used much in the lectionary.  Martin Luther was really opposed to this epistle because it spoke of spiritual works, works that showed forth the change of heart, the transformation of spirit that occurs when faith is operative in the Christian.  Luther was trying to
emphasize the place of faith over works which at the time was the face of Roman Catholicism.  The Catholic theology of works had devolved into a cash hound for the Vatican so that it became a mere matter of buying one's salvation.  Luther was rightly scandalized by the Church's practice of selling indulgences. However, Luther's corrective was to deny the place of works in the salvific action of faith.  Actually it wasn't Luther who was opposed to 'works'. It was those who parsed the theologians later in history. And it is the exaggeration of this idea of faith OVER works that has eroded the Christian message in the past 25 years. 

The balance of faith and works has always been a difficult barometer of faith.  It is so easy to look at what one person does to measure their faith, we think.  And yet it is so difficult for us to know the struggle of faith that goes on in the heart of
individuals in relationship to the Holy Center of their lives.  I am sure there are those who are scandalized by my outward actions when I am advocating for those who are not as strong.  How we can judge the character of others solely by their actions is a mystery to me. And yet I find that I do that just like others. It is a constant struggle for me.

But this part of the whole passage caught me.  It throws a monkey wrench into all the Protestant Work Ethic, or the Prosperity Gospel
that is being bantered about these days.  It is easy to think that the 'ME' generations have led us to the type of 'get ahead' thinking that amounts for education these days.  But it isn't a recent phenomenon.  Obviously James and his followers were dealing with the same problem. The author of the epistle is dealing with a time of dislocation and violence and yet he is exhorting his followers to peacemaking as a sign of their faith.  I have always found this epistle one that calls me to action standing firmly on the Christian principles that I have learned in the life of Jesus.

But this one little verse has stopped me. God [has] chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?  Of course, this mirrors the
Sermon on the Mount.  Of course, the Magnificat speaks of  'lifting up the poor', but do we really trust that?  If Christianity is really lived, if we are really going to embrace a kind of spirituality that proclaims the simplicity that was taught by Jesus of Nazareth, how do we treat the poor?  How do we see the poor?  Do we see them as people who have more faith than we ourselves? Or do we not even see them?

Over 45 years ago I went to Mexico to do 'missionary work'.  I thought that I had something to 'give to the poor people' in small
ranchitos.  I must admit I had a rather romantic idea of what being a missionary was.  I was going to 'take faith' to a poor people.  When I got there, I found a people who had greater faith than I  because their faith was so necessary for their basic existence.  I was 'rich' by their standards although I had been raised working class in my own
country.  But I was educated and I had a car...signs of material wealth in their eyes.  They appreciated what I brought them, teaching English, but I came to realize that they had so much more to teach me about trusting my life to God.  And I learned something
about being poor.  I learned that the work ethic I had growing up enough.  I didn't have to 'get ahead' of others just to be successful.  What I chose was not success, or perhaps my definition of success changed.  I chose to try to live as best I could living Christ's life and provide for myself minimally.  I chose to live a life of poverty--not the kind of abnegation that denies the beauty of God's life.  But I chose to step off the rat race of self-aggrandizement to know that my values were more important to live than trying to meet society's.  Somehow I was able to allow myself to be different enough not to worry about what the neighbors thought. In 1970 I made private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience--an obedience that was made to Christ, not those who felt they had the right to demand it. 

My friends have been with others who have chosen to live simply in faith assured that God was in charge.  Yes, there have been times when I have gotten into financial problems because I choose not worry about what I am saving for a rainy day.  I try to be responsible, but constantly worrying about my portfolio is not something that I do.  

Recently we had a bit of a problem with cash flow and our account
was charged with items that were supposed to be paid by others.  The person responsible for the mistake said "You should have a credit card.  This wouldn't be happening if you just had a credit card."  I told him that I do not choose to have a credit card and participate in the credit system of privilege that continues to deprive the poor and
participates in debasing people everyday.  He didn't 'get' it. (I think he's a banker.) He is a good person but cannot see that the kind of identification with the poor that this passage calls us to.  He can't see that the whole system is what abases millions around the world and conversely debases him. To choose to opt out of the system is unheard of, in his mind. He does not see it as oppression. And he doesn't realize just how he is chained to the fundamental of richness that leaves him impoverished.

All too often those who are in positions of privilege cannot see
what they are doing is oppressive.  I have often railed against 'white, straight, male privilege' and I am finding that it isn't any one race, sexual orientation, gender that oppresses. It is those who seem to have the comfort of being able to dictate how life is to be lived by others.  We are seeing it a clerk in Kentucky, in heads of universities that ignore quotas, police who live in fear so that they inflict fear on others, even people in our own churches or synagogues.  We may do it to people in the grocery line or to a waiter at the restaurant. James' words haunt: Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? 

I often forget the blessed name that was invoked over me at my baptism.  I often forget the faith of the poor that is in me and find
myself trying to 'get ahead' instead of 'paying it forward' in the name of Jesus.  

When I find myself worrying I try to unravel it, to pick it apart to see what is at the heart of it.  I often find that it is my own sense of privilege that is at the center of it.  It is then that I must call myself to repentance and return to the poverty of my choosing, the poverty that says I can depend upon God for all that I need.  It is in that poverty that I can find the richness of God's presence.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Selma Tales: Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, AL II

After meeting our fellow pilgrims on Wed. evening and some guided discussion, Thurs. morning we all went to the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham.  There was a instructional exhibit for those who had never experienced the Jim Crow laws of the South.  The majority of our group had either not grown up in the South or were too young to have been confronted with many of the
degrading expectations of people of color in the 50's and 60's. It was hard for me to remember the indignity of Jim Crow.

I remember the injustice of those laws. Riding in the back of the bus, the green or worse water fountains, the smell of bathrooms that were never cleaned marked 'colored' from the time I was small.  It wasn't until college that I learned of 'night riders', the rape of Black women that was not seen as a crime, and the lynchings.  The Institute had exhibits that brought them all back.  The recordings of
bigoted politicians and police were played that reminded me of the TV in the 60's.  But standing now in a Birmingham museum the horror of those days it all returned.  Judy and I did not walk together.  I couldn't walk with anyone.  The violence of the videos of marches, police brutality upon non-violent marching were visions I didn't want to revisit, and yet needed to.  It is so easy for white folk to close their eyes.  However, if my Black friends had had to endure it, I could
not in conscience close my eyes. There is such truth in "I am not free if my brother is oppressed." My own oppression came over me in waves, the kind of oppression that I allow when I fear those who would belittle others because of ethnicity, color, culture, sexual orientation, creed.

We also went to the 16th Street Baptist
Church, the church that was bombed in 1963 and where 4 tween girls were killed on their way to their Sunday School class.  Many went to the Jazz museum where images of how people of color coped with the oppression and how a local musician was able to lead young people of the era into creativity rather than hatred. 

While in the Institute I met the daughter of Rev. Fred
Shuttlesworth, the founder of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and a member of the NAACP, an organization that was outlawed in AL in the 50's. She was visiting the Institute while on a visit to Birmingham too.  I felt humbled by her presence.  She wanted Judy's name so that the whole story of the struggle for equality could be told. She too understood that White folk were oppressed by Jim Crow too.  Any group that has to oppress others to feel superior is already imprisoned.  And the White folk of the South were as much chained by their fear as people of color were by the law. And in many cases, still are.

When we got back on the bus, I sat with an African-American priest, younger than I, who had never lived under Jim Crow.  "How could they do that to MY people?" she cried.  I realized how much of a shock the exhibit had been for her.  I was reliving but she was experiencing it for the first time. My heart hurt for her.  It hurt for me--a White woman whose race had terrorized her people and I began to understand just how hard it is to us to talk with one another to get to any kind of healing of the racial barriers.  Between the shame and the indignation it is hard to insert reconciliation. 

This pilgrimage was not about what happened 50 years ago.  It was
about now.  It was about Ferguson, Charleston, and every other murder that we have had over the past years.  It was about Rebel flags. It was about voting rights now.  It was about scholarships and percentages
of minority admittance or employment. It was about anger and despair where minorities will always be minorities until America becomes brown or learns that cultures are designed to give us more than what they mean to separate in us.

A type of fatigue began to settle on me. I not only couldn't find internet connections in which I could blog or sent my impressions back to the parish or the diocese as I had planned.  I was overwhelmed with what hadn't happened in the past 50 years in the South.  And by the end of my first day, I knew that this trip was going to be life changing if I allowed it.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Selma Tales: Impressions following the Jonathan Daniel's 50th Anniversary Pilgrimage. I

I had planned to write an ongoing series of blog posts while on pilgrimage to mark the 50th anniversary of Jon's death in Hayneville, AL.  It just wasn't possible, primarily due to fatigue. Walking, talking with many different people and a ton of mixed feelings bombarded me for the 2 1/2 weeks that we were gone.

There were little things like a savaged tire before we even arrived in Birmingham. Then there were the larger things, such as visiting with the survivors of Jon's death who had never quite all met together to process their feelings.  It was such a combination of mixed emotions that it will take time for me to engage this 'happening' of events.  

I am both grateful for the combination of events that Judy and I participated in throughout August but I am still mystified by the grief, anger and deep sadness that still hovers around the life and death of Jon Daniels.  

Since Judy Upham, my spouse, was the companion of Jon in the spring of 1965 when they marched in Selma at the call of Dr. Martin Luther King, it was a foregone conclusion that we would mark the 50th anniversary.  But due to a fall in January we were uncertain if we would be able to.  Then we learned of a guided pilgrimage by our seminary to mark the 50th anniversary of Jon's martyrdom.  It would begin Aug.12th in
Birmingham and end with an actual walking through the events in Hayneville, AL.  Judy and I had wanted to ride on the bus with the rest of the pilgrims and initially we did; however logistics required that we drive part of the way so that when the pilgrimage was over we could drive back to Selma on Sunday to attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the parish that had initially denied entrance to the marchers in 1965.

In addition to the pilgrimage, Judy and I were invited to speak in Detroit as a way to mark the feast of Jon Daniels by a former classmate, the Rev. Ron Spann, at St. James, Grosse Pointe.  And
we were also invited to the Jonathan Daniel Day celebration Aug. 21-24 in Keene, NH, Jon's hometown.  We then flew back to Birmingham, picked up the car and drove home.  All in all, it was a true saturation in the life, death and inspiration of Jonathan Daniels.

As with all spiritual journeys, pilgrimage is sacramental.  The outward actions of movement are often the sign of something very powerful going on the soul, or whatever part of the human experience that is touched by the Holy.  This was no mere aping of what the saint had done.  This was the kind of transformative event that can be recognized as a 'mountain top experience', but without the euphoria.  It was and still is, for me, a time in my life that will continue to demand my attention and my growth in so many different areas in my life.  It touches the interior but it requires so much exterior change as well as interior change for me to find the balance that I know that God calls righteousness.

Now that I am released from the 'silence' that was demanded of me the past year by those frightened of the truth, I plan to write on the various points that touched me along the pilgrimage.  They will range from Jim Crow to hummingbirds to white privilege. I will
group them under the heading of  The Selma Tales not because they all have to do with Selma, AL but because they touch me because of Jon Daniels, Judy Upham, Ruby Sales, Richard Morrisroe, Gloria House and Jimmy Rogers, fellow pilgrims, the people of Keene, NH and some of the people of AL we met along the way.

Most of these points are as much of an attempt to process what has happened in my heart over the past month.  Like all extroverts, I need to 'discuss' what I saw or felt to make them real for me.  Some are incidents that need to be understood so I can let go of them.
Some are precious to be treasured.  Richard Morrisroe, the Catholic priest who was shot with Jonathan made a statement that sticks with me:   "I knew Jon for 9 days in life and for 50 years in death." It is true with me.  I have known him for almost 40 years in death, but I have seen his life lived out in others and that is what sainthood is about.  So I continue my pilgrimage, the same one that follows in the footsteps of Christ.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Martyrdom--what does it mean?

As I prepare to go on the Jonathan Daniels' 50th anniversary pilgrimage, I am pondering what martyrdom means.  Throughout the history of Christianity we have had those who have 'died for their faith' or whose lives have been laid down for others because of their faith.  Originally the term martus meant witness, but as the years after the death of Jesus, many who followed him were seen as those who threatened the control of the Imperium. 

Saint Stephen is noted as the first Christian martyr (Acts 7ff).  Stephen was fairly inflammatory in his preaching so it isn't surprising; however, the stoning of him did mark for the early followers of Christ's Way a powerful image of the cost of discipleship.  The 2nd century was
filled with those who were willing to lay down their lives for the faith.  The attitudes of Roman or even local rulers were that Christians were 'obnoxious' or rebellious.   Christians were pacifists and refused to serve as conscripts in the Roman army.  And they refused to worship the Roman gods which was considered treasonous.  Just how destabilizing Christians were to the Roman Pax is questionable, but Christians were targeted and harassed the way that minority cultures or movements are today.  That so many were martyred says more about the fear that permeated Roman imperial society than it did about Christian bravery.

Martyrdom is still known in Christianity.  Even today, Christians
are being targeted and killed because of their faith. Well-lived Christian lives are still frightening to those who wish to control others.  For many Christians the witness of those who have laid their lives down for others is still the 'seed of the Church". 

It makes me deeply sad that in order to do good, or preach good, or to live the goodness of life in the name of Jesus is still grounds for people to kill. The need to kill those who are different is centered in the fear of those who are 'other'. The other sadness comes from those who
USE the word Christian to control others, and therefore negate the meaning of the cross.

I do not believe that the cross is the sign that demands suffering despite Gregory I.  Nothing in the life of Christ teaches that we are to take on suffering as a way of faithful living.  It is interesting that the cross does not become a symbol of Christianity until the 3rd or 4th century once the imperial powers have taken over the Church. 

 So what does it mean to 'pick up the cross and follow after me'?  Does it mean that I am to try to emulate Christ in the way I am to die?  No!  It means that I need to be willing to live my life so freely and so lovingly that death has no power over me.  It means that if I am asked for my life to save others, I can give it. But it does not mean that I am to go seek ways of giving up my life to emulate Jesus' death.  2 Cor. 6:2-10 speaks of the kind of integrity that life in Christ means--it is a kind of living that defies the critique that often happens to those who try to follow the Way of Jesus.  For invariably, living the life of Christ mocks the status quo in societies in which there are classes, boast have/have nots societies, or those who rule over others. 

In the particular martyrdom of Jon Daniels: he was not killed

Martyrdom doesn't really make saints.  God does that.  But martyrdom makes a society question.  The death of one who is willing to sacrifice his/her life because it can be lived freely is so awe-inspiring that it attracts the worn eyes of those bored by life caught up in meaninglessness. Jon's death captured the imagination of hearts that had grown tired of those who practiced a benign faith.  It caught the attention of those in Northeast who had been blind to the plight of people in the South--
Blacks and Whites caught in an evil system.  It was a system that masked the reality of humanity with layers of religious bias, socio-economic lies, historical jingoism and convenient anti-intellectualism.  

The witness of Jon's death brought a conscientiousness to the 'powers that be' at the time that brought legal changes for our nation.  Is that what Jon and Judy Upham were doing in Selma? Or
was it just naivete? It might have been, but there is something about lives that are lived in the freedom of Christianity.  They weren't thinking about their grade points when they responded to the call of Dr. King.  They were living lives freed by their love for God that would allow them to help others know the freedoms they knew.  They were supported by institutions that allowed them to act on their faith.  And had grown up in families that engendered the kind of fairness that Jesus' life characterized.  They had responded in a manner that changed their lives. And would change the lives of others.

Jon wasn't thinking when he pushed Ruby from the path of Tom Coleman's shotgun.  He didn't have to.  His faith was so integral to his living that it was 'natural' to do it.  That is a saint!  One who doesn't even have to think about laying down his life for another.

So martyrdom is not so much about the death of a saint.  It is about the living of those who are willing to live with such abandon that they are not afraid of death, not afraid of what others think, not afraid of the cost.  They live only in sight of God's love and that is enough.  

Holy One, I do not believe that you have asked me to be a martyr, but you have invited me to live a life worthy of your calling.  Grant that through the witness of others, I can keep the freedom you have wrought in me ever before me and allow me to continue to live in ways that can help others to know the joy that living in you means.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Touching the tassels: Sermon for June 28

Mark 5:21-43

It feels good to be back in the pulpit here at St. Martins. For those who have known me to preach extemporaneously, I have finally come to that place in life when I am beginning to lose words.  So I will be working from a text so that you won’t have wait for my brain to cough up the right word.  It will make the sermon shorter!!!

I would like for us to look at the Gospel reading for today.  It is really two healing stories wrapped into one. It is easy to just choose one of the readings but Mark embeds one of these stories in the other and because of this little literary device, we are invited to look at the embedded one as the more important.

First, it is important to look at what Jesus is saying and doing in this passage.  Jesus is in an area that was religiously diverse in the northern Galilee.  It was not a majority Jewish community.   The first story is of the 12 year old daughter of the leader of the synagogue, Jarius.  The other is the story is of a Gentile woman* who has had a hemorrhage for 12 years.   Even though the story of Jarius’ daughter is a story of resurrection, because of how this story is constructed it tells me that the important part of this passage lies in the story of the Gentile woman who reaches out to touch Jesus.* I bring up the number 12 because it is a metaphoric number. And when you hear the number 12 in the New Testament it is always associated with the coming of the messiah who would gather together all the 12 tribes of Israel in the reign of God. This story is about living in the kingdom where resurrection will not be needed nor will there be a need for healing.

 Jesus came to heal—yes.  But more importantly Jesus came to renew the faith as it was practiced in Israel in the first century.  He was neither a conservative in faith nor a progressive.  He was a radical.  He wanted to get back the roots of faith in God—not just observance of the Law of Moses.  And the root was love of God and love of others.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Deut. 6:5

And what we see in these stories is not a NEW gospel, but a reclaiming of what was central to People of Israel’s relationship with God. It is my opinion that Jesus did not come to start a new religion, but to draw all into the realm of God. Not just Jews, not just Gentiles.  But all.
In first century Judaism, how one obeyed the Law labeled someone as faithful, or righteous (tzedek) in Hebrew.    Some followed the laws to the letter—every jot and tittle.  Others, and especially those farther away from Jerusalem followed the laws
‘spiritually’ or allegorically.  But the word ‘tzedek’ also means balanced and that is what Jesus taught.  Faith was a balanced relationship with the Holy One and with humanity.

The Gentile woman was a woman who had tried everything to be healed. She was shunned because she was not ‘righteous’ because a hemorrhaging woman was unclean.  Touching such a person rendered a man unclean, unable to enter the synagogue, unclean to celebrate Shabbos without a trip to the ritual baths.  So this encounter takes all the temerity of this woman to reach out to the rabbi.  She desires to be healed of her illness. She had to reach across the social customs of her society.  This is one story in which Jesus does not initiate the healing; the woman does.  She claims a faith in this man who has not even seen her.  And Jesus confirms her healing: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  He returned her life to balance, to acceptability and removed the shame that her society had heaped upon her because of her illness.
Jesus stepped into the real meaning of Mosaic Law—to the bring wholeness, to bring balance and healing despite all the rules and expectations of how one was supposed to act.  Jesus stepped over the partitions and boundaries of normal expectations so that God’s work could be seen. 

This is what I believe that Mark is trying to tell of the ministry of Jesus.  Mark is the first Gospel and the oldest and in some ways the most revealing of the person of Jesus.  And I take heart in this story of the woman with the hemorrhage.  Because I can hear so much of myself in this story that speaks of balance, of the willingness to not wait to know acceptance in God but to reach out and claim it even when we don’t look like everyone else.

The other thing about this story is that it has so much meaning for our own day.   There is a temptation to think that this is ‘girls only’ passage.  But it isn’t.  It has to do with the kind of healing of all those deep places within us that are ‘ickky’, those places we don’t want to look at.  David Lose, Lutheran pastor and teacher, refers to this ‘ickky
place’ as our deepest vulnerability.  It is that place where we try to avoid looking at ourselves and refuse to talk about, afraid that others would be horrified if they knew.  And consequently we often never become healed.  It is only when we acknowledge that deepest hurt, deepest unclean, part of ourselves that can God’s healing can be claimed. Often those places don’t have anything to do with sin, but it where we aren’t perfect.

The woman wanted healing and had spent 12 years trying to be healed.  But it is when she reaches out to Jesus that she knows the power of God in her life.  She isn’t Jewish—she isn’t one of his flock.  She steps beyond the normal boundaries of polite behavior to claim the righteousness—the tzedek, the balance that she so desperately needed.  She would not allow herself to be bound by convention.  She quit living quietly in her own hell of being an untouchable.

To know the healing of our hidden places requires a thirst to know balance and a willingness to speak the hidden so that it no longer tyrannizes us.  We have to be willing to acknowledge that we aren’t perfect and neither is anyone else.  We spend so much of our time trying to cover up our imperfections rather than live the life that God
has given us.  How much of our lives are spent in trying to cover up those ‘icky’ places in our lives.  Trust me, growing up lesbian in Tx in the 1950’s gets one in touch with the ‘icky’ of life. But unless we are uncommonly well balanced or have had a lot of therapy, I would guess that most of us are hiding something that we don’t even want to look at and won’t let God’s healing to restore us. And because of it we lose sight of the joy living in God provides. This story helps us see what it means to know the liberation that is part of the life of faith.  It is a place of comfort and courage.

But this story is not just for individuals.  Our society has many places where we as a people avoid raising up the places where we are unbalanced until things converge. And it is often in the face of tragedy that we see the consequences of our illnesses.  Over the
past year we have seen increasing instances where racism has raised its ugly head in this nation.  Fifty years ago, Judy and I both were in Selma for the marches that now they make movies about.  And later in the summer we will make the pilgrimage to commemorate the death of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, our Church’s civil rights martyr.  But here we are 50 years later and still finding people being killed or harassed simply because of the color of their skin. We find people killed in their
church. We find children harassed simply because of the color of their skin.  And I don’t care what color we are, we hear the discouraging and disgusting comments from those around us, possibly even from family members, neighbors, colleagues or other students that are designed to diminish others because they don’t belong to whatever group we belong to.  Those of us who are from minorities—however we identify, have known the exclusion and even the terror of not being able to live freely in a country that is supposedly the land of liberty and the home of the brave.

 And even though we as Church say that radical hospitality is practiced here in this diocese, we don’t ever talk about the pain that our thoughtlessness can engender.  Here at St. Martin’s I don’t believe we have had diversity training in this, the most diverse parish in our diocese.

Back in the late 80’s and 90’s I was rector of a parish about the size of St, Martin’s in the DC area.  It was one half Black and one half White.  Early in my tenure and deeply in my Southern stupidity, I made the mistake of asking the 4 persons of color on my vestry what the Black take was on a certain issue.  A six-foot two African American woman, principal of a local high school said, “Lauren, Toby is from Mobile, Alabama, I’m from the Bronx, Norman is from Jamaica and Emanuel is from Nigeria—pray tell
me which Black perspective do you want?” After I wiped the egg from my face we spent the next 10 years learning to listen to the hearts and desires of people who were so different and who had come together to be one because their faith demanded it. Diversity requires the hearts to listen to one another.  To tell of the stories of our fears and joys and to honor the stories of one another

 Here in Fort Worth we have been so caught up with the division of our Church we have not listened to the hearts or the stories of those who are different from us so that
we can hear the call that we all have, to know the healing of God’s love. And how many of us who are in the majority are willing to compromise the way that we have always done things so that the diversity of our parish can be seen and celebrated? Perhaps we need to be willing to talk frankly and in love about our love for God, and how each of us know that One God but live our relationship out a bit differently.  Episcopalians sharing faith??? What a novel thing!!!

When we aren’t willing to embrace what it means to really be one, we never know that balance, that righteousness, tzedek, that Jesus offered to the woman who touched his cloak.  We also will never truly be that nation that invites people from all over the world to our shores if we aren’t willing to recognize that longing to be healed of the boundaries that separate us.

Because I am a teacher at heart, I am going to give you some homework.  I will not be grading papers, but in the end THERE WILL BE A TEST! I would like you each to ask yourselves ‘1. what needs to be healed in my life so that I don’t expect others to be like me?’  2. ‘am I willing to reach out to Christ and allow myself to be healed of my fear?’ It is only when we as a faith community are willing to address those questions that we can claim the radical hospitality that we so desire to offer.  The God who gave Jesus the power to heal, gives us the power in faith to be healed of the fears that keep us from knowing the joy of life.  I am not suggesting that you go shout your vulnerabilities to the world.  But let yourself to reach out to the tassels on God’s garment.  And as a parish and diocese, let us reach out despite our brokenness to know the joy that God holds for us.  This is the Gospel that Jesus proclaims.  AMEN.

(*Following preaching this twice, Judy reminded me that no where in the passage is the woman identified as a Gentile. I went back to the text and she was right!  So I stand corrected about my isogesis.  Spouses are so helpful.)