The Greatest Privilege

At Arapaho UMC in Richardson, Texas, we are in the middle of a sermon series titled, “Unmasked.” We are acknowledging various attitudes, feelings, and actions that need to be unmasked in our world right now. This past Sunday’s sermon was about Unmasking Justice, listen to Pastor Scott share about it if you’d like.

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I was struck by his first point about problems we may encounter when we unmask justice. Here’s what he says:

“The greatest privilege is the ability to “move on” from an exposed injustice.
The call of Jesus is to take a sustained look at injustice in a culture of sound bites.”

What’s he saying here? Perhaps it’s this:

Speaking out, then going back to the routine in our lives, isn’t fully unmasking justice. Why? Because unmasking justice is a long term commitment. It’s not just a “re-tweet” or “share” on social media. Injustice is something we will encounter over and over, time and again, in our lives and beyond. It’s not a one time thing.

I spoke about this recently in response to George Floyd’s death, and the response from those who were calling out the injustice of the incident. I was asked to share a short devotional as part of a series of devotionals on lamenting. I chose to reflect on the biblical story of Ruth in that devotional, which you can hear on Facebook, or you can read on here:

The story of Ruth is not just about Ruth. The story begins with a famine that forced a man and his wife, Naomi, out of Judah and into Moab (current Jordan). So they were in a strange land. Over time, they had 2 sons, and the sons married women named Orpah and Ruth (who would be Moabites, because that’s where they are living now). In a series of tragedies, Naomi’s husband dies first, then her two sons die. The women are left without husbands, which is not a good place to be.

So Naomi decides to leave the land of Moab and return to Judah. Both of her daughters-in-law are initially willing to join her, but Naomi encourages them to stay, so that they would have a better chance at finding husbands. (Yep. She said it. I’ll talk about that at a later date, this ‘women only have value if they are married’ challenge.) Naomi didn’t just say it once, she said it a few times. “Go back,” she says, “May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” (And again, let’s just acknowledge that this statement is at best, problematic, when expressing that all are children of God in their own right, not dependent on another human being. We are called to be in community, and we need each other, to be sure. But a woman’s value is not based on her marital status.)

Orpah takes Naomi’s advice, kisses her goodbye, and returns home. Ruth, on the other hand, is in this for the long haul. Here’s what she says to Naomi (1:16b-17b, NIV):

“Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”

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Naomi had become Ruth’s family. They had grown to love each other as mother and daughter. They had experienced grief together. Ruth had a choice. She could stay where she was comfortable, return home, and likely marry someone. Or she could stand by Naomi, journey to an unfamiliar place, and continue to be in relationship with her, until death.

Ruth is clear in her actions. And my brothers, sisters, and siblings, we should be, too.

I’m speaking mostly to my white siblings here: are we unmasking justice when George Floyd is killed, then retreating to the comfort of our own homes? What do we do, then, when Jacob Blake is shot and killed? Are we not also family? We, too, have a choice. We can stay where we are comfortable, return home, and wait for the next incident of injustice. Or we can stand by our siblings, in perhaps an uncomfortable place, and continue our journey together. Just like Ruth and Naomi.

What’s our action that says, “Your people will be my people, and your God my God?”

I submit that our action to unmask justice comes from our hearts and from a faith that truly believes that every person is a cherished child of God.

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It’s in gathering together, sharing a meal, and learning more about each other. It’s in the action of building community – a Beloved Community in which we can all walk without fear of each other and in which we can grow in love. It’s a community that becomes family.

Because when we build family, it’s a whole lot harder to return to our comforts when our brothers, sisters, and siblings are dying in the streets. When we build a family, privilege is no longer being comfortable. The greatest privilege is in the honor to stand with each other, until the Beloved Community is complete.

 

The Bike Ride

I’ve begun riding my bike again.

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What started out as a “let’s try it” challenge has become a bit of a necessity. We are down to one automobile at Sweeneys on the Creek, and with the church located a little more than a mile away, I’ve taken to biking there for work. It’s been nice to expand the riding to cover other short errands: grocery shopping, short deliveries. I even biked to a meeting a few miles away in a more corporate environment.

Yesterday was Friday, which is a typical self-care day for pastors. Many refer to it as their Sabbath day, and I try to do that as well.  In the biblical context, Sabbath is derived from the Hebrew shabbath, or “day of rest.” What’s important, at least to me, in the Sabbath experience, is that the self-care includes intentional time with God. In that way, I can be a better pastor, wife, mother, daughter and friend for those who need me.

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So I’ve begun riding my bike again.

And yesterday, I realized that Friday rides can be different than other days of the week.

Most days of the week, I ride the bike as a means of transportation to arrive at a destination. So I’m on a bit of a timetable. Yesterday, I had a package to mail, so I hopped on the bike and pedaled to the Post Office. The US Post Office isn’t far from the house, and the package wasn’t heavy, so I arrived there about 15 minutes into the ride. After dropping the bulky envelope in the mailbox, I maneuvered the bike to ride back home, but a quiet nudge stopped me.

In my experience, that nudge is called the Holy Spirit. Today, the Spirit asked, “What’s your hurry? It’s Friday, your Sabbath.” I looked around, and I saw many opportunities to expand my riding experience. So I pedaled on, away from the road that led to our house.

I saw young children playing outside, parents nearby, encouraging them, while watching for safety. I saw beautifully landscaped yards lined with colorful flowers, college flags flapping in the breeze with pride, and creative “WELCOME” signs that invited neighbors to sit by the fire pit on what will certainly be cooler nights soon. As I rode through the areas, I offered a quiet, “Thank you, God.”

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I rode past familiar street signs – turned onto Chadwick Drive, remembering friends who have moved to McKinney. I prayed, “Thanks for the memories, and don’t be a stranger, kids.” I gave a quick nod as I passed Teakwood Drive, thinking of the fellow co-worker who was raised on that street by a loving mother, father, and brothers.

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I slowed down and turned onto Magnolia Drive, thinking of two families. The first has moved within a stones throw of our house, and I see them often around the neighborhood. The other moved to be closer to family, after the husband and father lost his battle with cancer. I mouthed a speechless, “God be with you,” and rode away.

I stopped on the bridge and listened to what little water was moving in the creek, thinking of the farmers and ranchers who rely on that water to grow crops. Thinking what a difficult time they must have when the rain doesn’t arrive. I spent a moment in gratitude for all they do, to keep us fed, then I headed home. I had been on my ride for about an hour.

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What a gift. What a precious gift, to have time to intentionally thank God for the beauty in our world. As I pulled into our driveway, I realized that my Sabbath time had been more intentional on this day. I listened to the little voice saying, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Not every bike ride has a destination as the purpose.” And that led me to open my eyes to all of the community around us, that which I can miss if I’m only riding to a destination.

How much we miss when we pedal to one point, then return by the same route. I’m grateful for the lesson on this, my day of rest.

So I’ll be riding my bike more often. Stop me for a chat if you have time.