The Rev. Linda Taupier – June 21, 2020
This is a difficult Gospel to hear and understand. I’ve been hearing this all my life and just now, this time around, I have a clearer understanding. For me, in this time and space the Gospel goes to the heart of racial disparity in our country. I am an educated, middle class, (old) white woman of privilege. I’ve never thought of myself as the slightest bit racist. After all I have friends of color. That’s something that comes with my white privilege. I’d never thought much about having privilege. I’ve never really looked at that before.
I grew up in the City of Cambridge, outside Boston in the early 50s. The elementary school I attended was racially mixed. I don’t remember issues having to do with race. I went to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and, once again there was the same racial mixture.
In the early 60s my mother and I moved to the suburb of Arlington. I was in the middle of 5th grade. I don’t remember anyone in my school and probably not many in the entire town who didn’t look like me. I didn’t give much thought to why that was. I did wonder why they were so far ahead of me in math! I never did catch up…. Missed lessons on long-division completely. Hum, might it have something to do with inner city schools vs. white suburban schools….
We kept attending St. Peter’s. Our priest spent most Sunday’s railing against the Vietnam War which had begun in 1955 and was still taking a massive number of lives. I don’t remember him talking about race. I wonder if he felt he didn’t need to. We were all happily engaging with each other. The enemy was the war. But was it? Was that the only war we were fighting? Was it the only war we should have been fighting? He was well ahead of his time bringing, as some would say, ‘politics’ to the pulpit week after week. He talked about justice- that sounds like faith to me. Yet he focused on one issue.
During the 60s I was getting older and realizing all was not right in the world and it wasn’t just Vietnam. We didn’t have the 24-hour news cycle like we do today, and I don’t remember the black and white television being on very much (we only had 3 stations) so those of us on the East coast living in suburbia didn’t see much of what was going on. The first time I remember sitting up and taking notice of race issues was in 1965 when several of the Sisters of St. Anne where I was attending high school got on a bus to march in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As an issue this still didn’t seem overwhelming to me. It wasn’t in my backyard so, somehow, it wasn’t a problem for me.
A couple of weeks ago there was a peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter in East Longmeadow where I live. The high school students, God bless them, organized this town event. Around 400+ people came to Center Field and listened to the speakers. I don’t believe we had that many at any of our town meetings or who come out for elections. Hopefully my town is changing. I pray the change continues. We were all asked to take a knee in silence for 8 min, 46 seconds. That event, those 8 min, 46 seconds did more than anything else in waking me up to what has been swirling around me my entire life. That 8+ minutes where you could hear a pin drop with over 400 people shook me to the core. How could anyone treat another human being like that? We are all made in the same image, that of God.
In our lesson this morning from Genesis we heard Sarah telling Abraham to cast out the slave woman and her son so that the son could not claim inheritance. She wanted everything for her only son Isaac who was the 2nd born son to Abraham. Was there not enough for both? Hagar and her son Ishmael were cast aside. We might look at this and think that Sarah and Isaac won, and Hagar and Ishmael lost. God’s grace and power aren’t limited to what we can see. God, in God’s mercy and compassion takes care of every person. God created both Sarah and Hagar, Isaac, and Ishmael in God’s image.
Matthew tells us Jesus did not come to bring peace. We are told that anyone who loves anyone/anything more than him is not worthy of him. That’s harsh to our ears coming from Jesus who is our teacher and friend and tells us of God’s love for us. Not only that, Jesus tells us we are worthy of God’s love. We need to tell everyone we meet how much they are worth in God’s eyes and therefore in our eyes. This is fantastic news people. We are loved and worthy just as we are.
Jesus has been teaching the disciples the power they have. With that power comes responsibility. Life will not be easy for the disciples, nor will it be for us. Jesus shows us that when we align ourselves with God, we will be able to hold onto truth even when our ‘family’ is against us. The disciples didn’t get this overnight. Nor did I. They were with Jesus day in and day out listening to him and seeing all he could accomplish. Jesus walked among people with compassion. It’s through compassion that he acted. Compassion is an action not a feeling. Compassion forces us to challenge stereotypes and assumptions. They still didn’t understand. It took death on a cross and resurrection for them to understand. Once they fully understood they were ready to die for their faith. Our formation as Christians is a journey and, I pray I’m not alone in taking this journey and learning along the way.
I have family members and friends who disagree strongly with my vision of how the world aught to be. One person in particular is insistent that all lives matter. Yes, that’s absolutely true. AND, until Black Lives Matter all lives don’t matter. I’m rebuffed with Blue Lives Matter. Yes, absolutely and until Black Lives Matter all lives don’t matter. Jesus is pretty clear about all of this. He didn’t differentiate black and white. He was talking to Jewish and Christian people. Jesus makes no distinction between religion, race, wealth, sexuality, country of origin, or the amount of power one has. The truth Jesus tells us in the dark, the inner most part of us where we truly listen, we are to tell in the light.
The last two Wednesday evenings I’ve listened to Dr. Deborah Harmon Hines and Dr. Jillian McLeod (who many of us know better as Laurel’s mom) begin conversations about race for this community and the Diocese. I’m thankful that we have such wonderful, open people willing to lead us to the beginning of an overdue conversation. One of the things that Jillian said was it’s time to begin this conversation from the pulpit. I’m glad this sermon was nearly written when she said that.
It’s time that we truly look at racism as the original sin in this country and begin, as faithful Christians to dismantle racism one piece at a time. Will this be accomplished in my lifetime? I doubt it. But we who are white can begin to see in what ways our lives are easier because of the color of our skin. That will take work on our part because it isn’t obvious to us. That’s part of our white privilege. And it can begin with me and us in this time and place. We can be moved to the necessary work with compassion.