If I had looked at the news Sunday morning, I would have rewritten my sermon. I’ve done that before, but I was being patient. I liked it already.
I take the time in the morning, to review and reflect. I don’t look at email or listen to messages. I don’t read the news and I don’t respond. Not on Sunday mornings.
Besides, the sermon was written. It reflected all these women and their situations:
- The rape victim who watched as the Stanford swimmer who raped her received a lenient sentence.t passionate and compassionate service to the poor and homeless.
- Our deacon’s passionate and compassionate service to the poor and homeless.
- All the mothers who have lost children to gun violence and all who built the Black Lives Matter Movement. I thought of those women (and men) who stand up to honor their sons and daughters and husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and plead to be noticed.
And as I was preparing, I was thinking about the day’s speaker. Stephanie Grabow, from Moms Demand Action was coming to speak to us about the effects of gun violence and ways we can help.
All these were on my mind, swirling about as I wrote this past week, still with me on Sunday. And more came. My Mom and all the moms and grandmothers there. My wife and our children. They were all with me Sunday morning when I wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook. I was preparing for my day.
If I had, the sermon would have been different.
The deadliest mass shooting in our history occurred early Sunday morning.
The victims were LGBTQ. They were dancing, being together, expressing the ecstatic joy of being in community. They embodied a weekend celebration of living. The kind that is a kinship with the woman who finds her lost coin or the father whose prodigal son has returned.
And into this space of holy joy walks an angel of death on the hunt for slaughter.
Just a few hours later, we proclaimed a gospel which speaks so closely to this tragedy. It describes Jesus’s dinner invitation to the house of Simon, a Pharisee.
Simon is a poor and neglectful host. He’s judgmental toward the unnamed woman who has joined them. He fails to respect Jesus and who he is.
Contrast this with the woman, who not only respects Jesus but expresses her love for him in intimate and embarrassing ways.
Intellectually, their difference is significant. But viscerally, it is much more.
- The woman weeps — weeps — at Jesus’s feet. She weeps so loudly and so hard and her tears are so plentiful they soak Jesus’s feet. The sound disturbs everyone in the room.
- She reveals herself in public by letting down her hair, which is culturally inappropriate in mixed company. Then she wipes Jesus’s feet with it.
- She touches him and anoints his feet and all this in front of the other guests at this dinner party.
This is a big show. This is bold and outrageous. She is speaking out and making herself seen.
Seeing her is central to the gospel.
Not just as a contrast to the blockhead host, but to see her for who she is and what she offers.
I preached about all this. But if I had read the news, I would have gone this next step.
I would have said that she doesn’t get seen unless she makes a big show. Unless she puts herself in the middle of things. Because the Pharisee gets his way, even when he is rude and judgmental. He gets his way because of his wealth and power and standing. He gets his way, even at a dinner in which he breaks Jewish law.
She doesn’t. Ever. Not with these men.
But she gets her way with Jesus.
She gets her way in the kindom.
In the hours after the shooting, millions of people, like the woman from Luke 7, stand up. They demand to be seen, saying we can’t have another baby killed.
Millions of people embodied this woman. Begging to be seen. Begging for their message to be heard. Putting themselves into the open so you would see them. Revealing themselves to be on the side of Jesus and this woman; on the side of peace and love.
This is the gospel. This is this gospel. To stand up in the midst of adversity and proclaim the good news, the real good news as we know it. News of love and liberation from oppression. News of hope in chaos. News about what we can do to love one another.
And yesterday as millions responded to another tragedy, the worst of its kind, we have this strange dichotomy again.
So many embodied this woman as the lectionary reveals her to us. And so many, also like that host, trying to shut us up and behave respectfully. Saying that we are politicizing a tragedy.
How is saying let’s stop killing each other’s children politicizing?
How is end this violence! politicizing tragedy?
How is naming the cause of the evil – an angel of death with a legally obtained assault rifle – politicizing?
How is saying that we must bring an end to violence politicizing?
The only way these public statements politicize this tragedy is if we want such calls to be political. If we want science and evidence-based solutions to our problems to be political. If we want peace, GOD’s great Shalom to be political.
When we say politicized, we mean as pre-divided in two, like the macabre dance of political death we do. You know; the sort of dance in which we force opposition upon one another. Even when our own hopes and dreams are in line or even identical.
What politicizes is not asking our neighbors to make our neighborhoods safer.
Politicizing tragedy is saying nothing can be done.
Politicizing tragedy is doing nothing to prevent the next tragedy.
Politicizing tragedy is condemning the tens of thousands of lone wolves every year as depraved and morally sick. Yet refusing to help them or stop them.
Politicizing tragedy is encouraging the next tragedy by treating our neighbors as subhuman, depraved, and morally sick.
Politicizing tragedy is deciding before I’ve spoken that I have different intentions than the words which will come out of my mouth.
Politicizing tragedy is not listening to the wails and the weeping–ignoring their humanity.
Naming a tragedy, seeking to prevent tragedy, hoping to build a world in which the next tragedy never occurs: this is not politicizing.
Politicizing is predetermining the stances and the actors who will debate. To politicize a tragedy is to turn a discussion into a confrontation before the woman even enters the room.
This tragedy, with its 100+ LGBTQ victims, their families and coworkers, is horrible. It was also politicized long before we spoke up and said enough!
It was politicized long before this man shot and killed anyone. Long before he bought a gun and before hate drove him to act. Long before any of that.
It was politicized when the self-righteous ignored the other in their midst. When they derided her. When they didn’t show her the hospitality of the people’s custom. When they condemned her as an outsider and dismissed her pain. And then took advantage of Jesus’s presence with them.
This tragedy was politicized when the host made Jesus choose sides. And whenever the powerful make Jesus pick sides, he picks the side of the oppressed.