Luke 13: 10 – 17 – Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
Many of us know the famous song from the Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome.” We shall overcome…someday. We’ll walk hand in hand…someday. The truth shall make us free…someday. Yes, we shall overcome…someday. My question this morning is, “When is someday?” The death of Ahmaud Arbery was heart wrenching. The death of Breonna Taylor was soul wrenching. Witnessing the death of George Floyd has literally taken the breath right out of us. When is someday? How many bodies must be broken, lives lost, mothers wailing in anguish? When is someday? Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome…someday. But when is someday? Is someday nothing more than a distant dreaming dangling before us? When will that day come? When will we no longer live under the viral agent of racism? When is someday?
Tracy Blackmon, an African-American pastor and the Executive Minister of Justice for the United Church of Christ says this: “We are done. We are done with the needless killings of our children. We are done bearing the burdens of others greed. We are done with the marginalization of being in a country that we helped to build. We are done. We are done modulating our voices and tempering our expressions, compromising both our humanity and our divinity. We are done.”
I wonder if the woman in today’s scripture passage is done. Severely bent over for 18 years; it’s been a long time since she could even look up. Her gaze is confined to that which is beneath her. This unnamed woman shows up in the temple. I would like to think she is there because she is done. Weighed down would take its toll on anyone. Being bent over impacts every aspect of her life. Yet, in spite of the assumptions that others make she still shows up. In spite of those who blame her condition on her, she still shows up. In spite of those who have no empathy for what it must be like, she still shows up. She doesn’t come to the temple to be healed for she is not sick. She is burdened. This woman has suffered through no fault of her own. The Bible says there is a spirit that wears her down. There are many in our country who know about the spirit of injustice, the spirit of indifference that weigh them down.
The infected and the affected both bare a cost. Some are held down and others are propped up, both are limited in their ability to fully be free. This woman’s condition is a metaphor of the weight of oppression, a reminder of the impact of human indifference and the power of communities to heal. Jesus provides a remedy. Jesus sees her. Jesus sees her. Something happens in our midst when we take the time to see one another. When Jesus sees her, he stops teaching. He stops teaching to fully tend to what he sees. I wonder what might happen if we stopped business as usual to see the needs of one another.
How far did Jesus have to bend down to make eye contact with this woman? In what ways did he have to contort himself and risk his own comfort to see her. Seeing can be uncomfortable, and yet Jesus sees her. He treats her needs as holy.
As she moves from the margins to the center where she belongs, she is free. Jesus centers her and reclaims her. Luke gives her no name, but Jesus calls her the “daughter of Abraham.” In other words, he says, “You are family and you are free.” As her body straightens and she is able to look up, the community of faith is free to look up as well. When we center the marginalized, we are free too.
We are at a critical moment in history right now. Our nation has been weighed down and bent over for the past 400 years. Weighed down by a fundamental flaw in its soul. America’s original sin of racism. At this time, we have the power to build a movement from these moments. For years, we have been singing, “We Shall Overcome…someday,” but when is someday? Could someday finally be today?
Are we finally able to see? To see our own inherent racism, prejudice and bias. Are we finally able to see the systemic racism in our society? Are we finally able to see the injustice that weighs down black and brown skinned persons? My prayer at the beginning of this year is that we would be granted 2020 vision during this 2020 year – it feels like this prayer is being answered for I believe that we are starting to see.
We sing, “We Shall Overcome…someday.” Are we beginning to see someday, today? In my lifetime, I have never seen more white people involved in the deep and growing movement to address systemic racism and structural injustice on many fronts. In our own country, protests are going strong. Police departments are being reformed. Monuments celebrating confederates are being removed in many cities. The street in front of the White House is renamed “Black Lives Matter.” Globally, protests, rallies and memorials are taking place. In Amsterdam, an estimated 10,000 people filled Dam square shouting “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace.” In Germany, a mural dedicated to George Floyd was spray-painted on a stretch of wall in Berlin that once divided the city during the Cold War. In Athens, Greece, protesters collectively held up a sign that read “I can’t breathe.” Cities in Europe, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand are all demanding justice. And let’s not forget, this is in the midst of a global pandemic. Imagine, imagine how many more would be taking to the streets if we were not in the midst of a pandemic?
We shall overcome…someday. When is someday? May we be a part of the movement, the revolution, the spiritual revival, the moral imagination that is building someday — today! Amen.
**Resources used for today’s sermon:
Sermon by Otis Moss, “When Is Someday?” Preached at the Festival of Homiletics 2020
Sermon by Tracy Blackmon, “Re-centering Jesus” Preached at the Festival of Homiletics 2020