Jer 38:4-6, 8-10
Where are we in the Crowd
In both the first reading and the gospel of August 19th, I find myself feeling a little shook up and not quite sure where to put myself in the audience of speakers and listeners. Neither Jeremiah nor Jesus are messing around as they live the message that they were sent to preach. Both of them are pushing the buttons of their audiences.
A few years ago my good friend Emily Ann, rattled by the pastor’s homily chose to go up after communion and respond to the injustice she heard being spoken. She did not mince words nor did she attack anyone directly. She spoke from a place of deep conviction about a topic that was rocking the church nationally.
I happened to be sitting by my friend, when she strolled up to the lectern after communion. I can still feel the panic that ran through my body as I thought, “What is she doing? Doesn’t she know we have a procedure here, and people don’t just go up and do a verbal editorial later in the liturgy? I heard some of what she said, but a lot of it was lost in wondering how the church would respond.
After she finished the congregation had a variety of responses. A good number of the people clapped as they knew Emily Ann from being very involved in the parish, others looked stunned, and some weren’t so pleased. The pastor followed Emily Ann’s comments with the simple statement: “There are a lot of different views to this issue.”
Now I know as Emily Ann’s friend I wanted to fall through the floor immediately, pass out, or wake up from a nap to find out it was only a dream. I can look back now and be very proud of her ability to articulate in a very spontaneous way, I can acknowledge that if I ever got in touch with my own feelings around that issue I would stand up and clap in the midst of her words. However, truth be told I wasn’t there emotionally or spiritually.
I wonder what happened for the disciples of Jeremiah and Jesus when they spoke out against the injustices and luke warm nature of their hearers. Were Jesus’ disciples there clapping when he spoke about coming to bring division by his words of justice? Did they have a huge picnic after Jesus laid out the dividing lines between family members and friends? Where was Jesus when this preaching took place? We really don’t know.
So for me I can acknowledge that I don’t always do so well with justified challenges directed at those in power, especially if it feels like a surprise. Does this mean then, that I don’t have to listen to Jesus’, Emily Ann’s or Jeremiah’s challenging words? Can I turn myself away from acknowledging the challenge?
My small self says, “I can because I am not ready to be that.” However, my small self imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit says, “Hear the word of God and respond. Begin with small steps if you need, find the ways that you, too, can be a voice for the poor, the hungry, and the disenfranchised.”
May the readings from the Sunday of August 19th, call us home to the place where we are called to give witness to a God of justice for all.