Shattered- Reflections 6-12-20

Texts for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
June 12, 2020  

Exodus 19:2-8a 
Psalm 100 
Romans 5:1-8 
Matthew 9:35-10:23

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples to proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. 
The disciples had seen Jesus doing that and now were sent to continue and expand his work. 

A key to that work is found in verse 36. Jesus saw the crowds who were “harassed and helpless” and had compassion. Compassion is that full body, aching heart and tight stomach feeling for another’ plight. If you pull apart the original language compassion means “to suffer with”. Jesus sends his followers – including us – to center all that we do with Christ-like compassion for the people. 

Then the gospel gets a bit hairy and demanding. Interestingly, the worst details of the mission are found in the “optional” portion of the reading. Which means that on Sundays we can stop before we get to this part. The list of instructions to the disciples sound very unappealing, frankly foolish and dangerous. The responses of the authorities include flogging and arrest which is worrisome at the very least. To top it off, Jesus says, you will be hated by all.

Through recent years and experiences, my understandings and reflections on the structural injustices in our country and world, and my personal complicity in those systems has deepened. At the same time, I have been working out the meaning of my call as deacon, which is just an administrative note for the national church, but represents a substantial shift of identity as far as I’m concerned. 

Then 2020 happened, which has shattered the façade of our society, laying bare the structural inequality, the systemic racism of: health care, the economy, our political system and elections, and our legal system. And please don’t forget George Floyd. 

All those reflections and deeper understandings were not for naught. This deacon is starting to see.

So, then what does this gospel mean for us today? Our world is way past “harassed and helpless”. Centuries-old evils prowl the streets. People have been struggling and suffering and dying. Jesus asks us to bring his compassion and presence into all that. One way to do that, if you are privileged like me, is to listen rather than offer solutions or tell people what to do. Humility as someone who has benefited from the present system is appropriate.

I found this quote in a post on Sojourners (actually, the quote found me). The author is Dante Stewart.
The struggle for justice, dignity, power, and community means that we must move from sympathy to solidarity. Sympathy feels bad about a situation. Solidarity joins in as a co-laborer to change the situation. Sympathy calls for love without risk. Solidarity calls for risk as love. Sympathy centers the comfort and timetable of those who benefit from a system of difference. Solidarity calls for a revolution of value in a system in which we build a loving and just common life together.  
Take note of “risk as love”. 
Remember, Jesus has warned us that it won’t be easy; there will be violence and hate. Systems do not change easily. They need to be dismantled. They need to be shattered.

One thing is clear however, Jesus sends us. We cannot just sit here. We need to risk. We are called to proclaim the good news – God is near - and we have been promised that the Spirit will be sent to help us speak when it’s time.


How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245