Saturday, May 25, 2013
Speaking the truth to Power and Money!
In a few more minutes from now, we will baptize Logan and Makenna Franey. Last week, we baptized four youngsters and today we will baptize two more. If I had my way, I’d baptize as many kids and adults as I could get my hands on almost every Sunday of the Christian year. It is especially appropriate to baptize folks on Pentecost as we did last week, on All Saints Sunday in November, on the great Feast Day of the Baptism of our Lord in January, on Easter Eve and on the occasion of a visit from our Bishop.
As Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church; a time when the Spirit of God fills our lives and thus the church is born, so now we come to the great feast day of Trinity Sunday.
On this day we celebrate the great mystery which is in the Name of God.
In the former instance, Moses was minding the flock of his father in law Jethro, just passing the time of day as it were, when he happened upon a mysterious sight. There before him was a burning bush and yet it was not consumed. It was on fire, yet it didn’t burn up.
“What’s this?” Moses mused.
God answered from somewhere deep within Moses’ heart. “Take your shoes off Moses. The very land on which you are standing is holy ground. I have seen the sorrow and the suffering of my people in slavery. I want you to go and tell old Pharaoh ‘Let my people go!’”.
Moses reasoned with himself; “What then shall I tell the people? Who are YOU. What is your Name. “Every god has a name. Who then are YOU?
God said; “I AM. That’s who I AM.”
Moses and God spoke together and began a dialogue which we continue up to this day. It is a dialogue of the inner heart. The "I am" who I am is always in conversation with the "I AM" of who God is. You see, it is a conversation of the inner heart. It is a conversation born out of the discovery of "Being" itself. I discover that I am. If I look deeply enough, I discover that God IS too.
Yet having established the obvious is not enough. There is something to be done about the fact that God IS and so am I. God and I both have noticed that there is suffering, oppression and injustice. And when God in my inner heart notices such a thing God wants me to do something about it. God wants me to go to Pharaoh and tell him; “Let my people go.”
But, like Moses, who wouldn’t be afraid of going to Pharaoh and telling him to release the foundation stone of his economy? Who wouldn’t be afraid of going to the power holders, and the money holders of any age and telling them, “Let my people go”? Telling the truth to power and to money is a terrifying challenge. Look what happened to Jesus when he spoke to the money holders in the Temple precincts!
When God’s people suffer from the rod of oppression, my heart will not be silent. God’s heart will not be silent. And we must then be on our way to Pharaoh. We may resist doing so out of our fear. Pharaoh will resist complying with the mandate for justice. He will not give up without a fight. Power and money will resist mightily against the call for justice.
But God will make known the way and the truth and the life, there is no possible way to make your way to God if you are the agent of suffering and injustice, and somebody must be willing to say so.
“Go down Moses; and tell old Pharaoh; ‘Let my people go!’”
That’s why God’s flames burned within the bush where Moses stood without consuming its leaves. This is why God’s flames burned over the heads of the disciples at Pentecost. This is why God’s flames of loving justice burn within our hearts today. It is to catch our attention. It is no magic trick. It is God’s heartache over the suffering of God’s people.
Does your heart not ache with God that so many suffer in the throes of warfare, poverty, unemployment, crime, natural disaster and disease? It is bad enough when we suffer from the caprice of nature. “The thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” (Hamlet 3:1) as the Bard would say cry out to our hearts and our prayers. Yet so much suffering is caused by the print human hands.
Do you not want to speak up to Pharaoh? Are you looking for a place to speak your heart or God’s heart? Then follow the money. Speak to power. That will guide you to where God wants you to go. God has seen the suffering of his people. So have you. Look at inner city Philadelphia or Reading and ask yourselves; “What’s this? What is this suffering?”
Why not just give everybody in America a good job with full benefits. Surely if we can bail out banks too big to fail, we can put our own people to work...don’t you think?
Life is a prayer obviously. We’re always speaking to our own hearts and in our own hearts and to the hearts of others. God’s heart is within and among our hearts. Calling us again and again to go to Pharaoh.
My prayer is a conversation with you much like I do every Sunday. No need to bow your heads or close your eyes when you pray, especially when we pray out loud like this, or when we are alive to God and our brothers and sisters. If I were to pray in this moment I might begin to use some of the words of Richard Rohr, a Franciscan who speaks widely in ecumenical circles; a wonderful prayer for Trinity Sunday:
“O God your name is veiled in mystery, yet we dare to call you Father, your Son was begotten before all ages, yet is born among us in time, your Holy Spirit fills the whole creation, yet is poured forth now into our hearts.” ~Richard Rohr
I like that prayer for this day. You have created us. You have redeemed us. You fill us with your gifts of the spirit and fill us with your wisdom. And now you speak to us and say; “I have noticed the suffering of my people. Go to Pharaoh and tell him; ‘Let my people go’”.
When I Baptize Logan and McKenna today, I will ask them as I ask you to seek justice and to respect the dignity of every human being. You and I must go to Pharaoh to make possible the Dream of God in which we can “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” ~Micah 6:8
This is not just a fanciful dream. It is a fire burning in the bush, and God tells us to take the shoes we’re wearing and remove them because the very ground we’re standing on is holy ground.
God wants us to see what he sees. He wants us to see the suffering of God’s people. He wants us to go to Pharaoh and tell him “Let my people go!”
On this Memorial Day weekend we remember those who have paid a dear price for our freedom and who had the courage to speak up to the power of an oppressor of another time. We have come to another time in our Nation’s history where more is to be done to bring justice to the poor and to the suffering. It will be a different kind of struggle. It will be a different kind of warfare. So much of the suffering of our people is now from a place that presents itself to us in many disguises.
Seems funny when even Congress notices that Apple and Google pay next to nothing in taxes. The British Parliament is beginning to catch on to the same phenomenon there. You and I pay our taxes. Why not them. Yet, it's all perfectly legal. We voted for our representatives. They voted for the tax code. Mmm! Something fishy is going on in our democracies.
But there is plenty of time for all that. For one thing I do know, someone will go for God and tell old Pharaoh to let my people go. Right now, lets get on with something to gladden our hearts. Lets baptize Logan and Makenna in the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen