I want you to take a look at the front cover of your bulletin- these are the exact words that are on the Be the Church banner and they will be the focus of our worship services throughout the summer months- Live out your faith in some very specific ways-
Last week we took a look at the question “What does it mean to be church?” Being part of a church means being part of a community- you are not alone on your journey and you have a responsibility to walk with others in the community
This week our focus is on fighting for the powerless and we have two different scriptures this morning to help us look at this way of living out our faith- how can we fight for the powerless?
First off, what does it mean to fight? Does it mean actual physical confrontation? Sometimes, maybe. Does it mean standing up to someone who is abusing their position of power? Does it mean working for change in a system that keeps the power structure diametrically opposed?
Then, let’s unpack this notion of powerlessness. We have all felt powerless at one point in our lives or another. Whether we have been let go from a job, dealt with serious illness, been a victim of abuse or harassment. We feel powerless when we see a loved one suffer, when our child is going down a path that we cannot prevent.
There are most certainly people in this world that have had their power taken from them- we do not need to look very far to find instances of this. There are also people in this world who feel powerless and need some help in reclaiming their power. There are also folks who hold power and do not know that they do.
Power can be a difficult thing to wrap our brains around.
So, when we look at the two scriptures we have this morning- the story of Moses killing the Egyptian soldier and then being called on it by his fellow Hebrew slaves and the story in John about the adulterous woman and Jesus’ teaching about casting the first stone. These are not stories that typically come to us in the lectionary, but they are interesting to take a look at in the light of powerlessness
Moses who has grown up privileged as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter has learned that he is of Hebrew descent. He witnesses a fellow Hebrew being treated poorly and becomes outraged. In his anger he kills an Egyptian guard. Then, his fellow Hebrews call him on his stuff when he questions their treatment of each other.
I am curious- where do you see power/lessness in this story?
Now to be clear, we are not advocating that killing the soldier is what we are being asked to do when we are fighting for the powerless, but who do you see in this story as fighting for the powerless?
Then, in the story from John we hear “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.”
How is this an illustration of fighting for the powerless?
Clearly, these are two very different ways of fighting for the powerless- in one instance, an act of outrage has a huge impact on the course of Moses’ life. If he had not killed that soldier, he never would have fled to Midian and he may not have heard the voice coming out of the burning bush- calling him to be a prophet of God. In the scripture from John, I wonder about Jesus drawing a line in the sand- is this meant as metaphor for what he is challenging the crowd to consider.
Then, Jesus says that infamous line “let you who is without sin cast the first stone”. Jesus challenges the other Jewish leaders to take a good look inside and in doing so; he saves the woman’s life.
An important piece of these stories is that both Moses and Jesus are forcing people to look inside at their own stuff- at how they are complicit in the abuse of power. Moses was called on it by other slaves, he felt had to run away to reckon with what he had done. Jesus is calling out each person in the scene as well as you and I. Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.
It can be easy to condemn another= to judge another. But, unless we have walked in their shoes we will never truly understand their story. An important piece of fighting for the powerless is taking a good long look at our part in the situation- how are we contributing to an unbalanced power dynamic? How are we judging others? What is God calling us to in the situation?
Jesus is standing up for the powerless in a very different way than the tact that Moses took- what do these stories have to tell us about our own journey with powerlessness?
Who do we think of as powerless in this day and age?
Children people being bullied
aging folks abuse victims/survivors
homeless folks folks battling addiction
people in jail people caught in the sex trade
people seeking asylum sick people
What are some of the ways we said last week that we want to fight for the powerless? March, poor people’s campaign, show up for marginalized folks, take in refugees/asylum seekers, treat them with dignity and respect, attend vigils, stay informed and speak up, educate and vote
When we think about where all of these things intersect- where does that leave us?
It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the various situations that we have named here. Over the course of this past week in particular, so many folks that I spoke with were talking about how heavy everything feels right now- how they felt like the wind had been taken out of their sails-
While it is important to acknowledge these feelings- to say- wow- this is a really hard situation- a really difficult circumstance- it is equally if not more important to allow yourself time to rest and step back for a moment- regroup and then, find a way to get back at it.
We must never give up hope that our actions, our prayers, our loving each other has a huge impact in this world- on these situations of powerlessness- in the fight to help everyone own their power- to know their worth- to know that they are loved beyond our understanding.
May it be so.