Second Week after Pentecost

June 2, 2018

Sermon by Rev. Jan Schnell Rippentrop on June 2, 2018

Sermon Texts: Deut. 5, 2 Cor. 4, Mark 2:23-3:6

Sermon Focus: God brings enslaved and distressed people into the freedom of rest

Sermon Function: Relief in God’s care

 

It was slavery:

Up before dawn

Whips on their backs

Forming clay into forms

Baking bricks

Baking skin

Hauling mid-day loads

Across an Egyptian landscape

Afternoons of hard labor under a high sun shouldering the burden of construction materials

from quarry to work site, heaving baskets of reeds from the river into town

Pressed down

 

Like the Hebrew slaves who came out of Egypt, the people of Corinth identified with slavery.

Afflicted

Perplexed

Persecuted

Given up to death

Their persecutions were not based on their race or ethnicity,

but on their religious beliefs

that Jesus was the crucified and risen Lord.

Pressed toward public silence

 

Slavery in the US pressed people down

into silence and affliction

Shirley Griffith and Ray Freeman tell this story of American hero, Harriet Tubman:[1]

“From a very early age, Harriet knew how slaves suffered. Her parents were slaves. They belonged to Edward Brodas, a farmer in the middle Atlantic state of Maryland.

Harriet’s parents tried to protect her and their ten other children as much as they could. There was little they could do, however. Slaves were treated like animals. They could be sold at any time. Families often were separated. Slave children were not permitted to act like children. By the time Harriet was three years old, Mister Brodas ordered her to carry notes from him to other farmers. Some of these farmers lived as far as fifteen kilometers away. Harriet was punished if she stopped to rest or play.

When Harriet was six years old, the Brodas family sent her to work for another family who lived near their farm. While there, Harriet was infected with the disease measles. Even though she was sick, she was forced to place and remove animal traps in an icy river. She was sent home when she became dangerously ill. Harriet’s mother took very good care of her. The child survived. Then she was sent to work in the Brodas’s house. Her owners never gave her enough to eat. One day she was working in the kitchen. She was looking at a piece of sugar in a silver container when Missus Brodas saw her. Harriet ran away in fear. She was caught and beaten very severely. Her owners decided that Harriet never would make a good worker in the house. She was sent to the fields.”

Pressed and dehumanized by the laws of the land.

 

In Mount Pleasant, Iowa

At 11am on a Wednesday in May,

the doors to a concrete factory were blocked.

ICE raided the factory,

captured & loaded 32 men into vans

and drove them away from their work and families

—away from their homes and toward a detention center in Omaha.

The Bond Project says

“People in detention suffer isolating and inhumane conditions in detention centers, separation from family, and loss of housing and employment. Many detained immigrants choose deportation rather than face these conditions, even when they may have a case for relief.”[2]

Even though the law would say that everyone gets due process,

regardless of race, religion, or immigration status,

that’s not what’s happening.

 

Father Hernandez call out to churches for change:

“We cannot continue to experience more raids in the USA.

Families are divided

and children suffer the trauma

of not having their parents with them.”

 

 

 

This was no friendly greeting:

The first words out of their mouth were:

“Why are your disciples doing

what is unlawful    on the Sabbath?”

Sticklers for the law, the Pharisees’ spidey-senses went off      right away

when they saw Jesus’ Disciples

plucking heads of grain to eat   on a Saturday stroll.

Attacked by hunger from the inside

By rigid religious rules from the outside

The disciples were pressed by

the demands their bodies put on them

and by societal norms.

 

 

Bake           Haul            Shoulder               Heave

Afflict         Perplex        Give up                Leave

 

Sold            Grow old     Contracted            Beaten

Raided         Loaded        Fractured             No freedom

 

Ridiculed     Hunger        Pain                     Norms

This            is                not how God        forms

 

 

 

God shouts ENOUGH

 

 

 

God walks into the futile circles we are running around life

And makes an opening

God speaks into our captivities

And creates an out

God descends into the pit of anxiety, fear, deportation, and confinement

And brings another possibility into a pit where we’d lost our vision

For anything more spacious and full of hope’s life

 

Into our narrative that feels the force of the press, press, press,

God floats a new idea: REST.

 

Pause

 

Shabbat: Rest that feels like a full breath in the wake of restriction

Shabbat: rest that feels like freedom from that which has you bound

Shabbat: rest that feels like levity when pressure gathers ‘round

 

The way God has it worked out, when putting the law down in Deuteronomy, the migrant workers have the same rights as the bosses

God recalls bringing                 All Y’all       out of slavery in Egypt

Saying, “I want so much more for you.

I want Shabbat for you.”

 

“Now that Harriet was free, she did not forget the hundreds of other slaves back in Maryland. During the next ten years, she led a much expanded Underground Railroad. She freed her parents, her sister, brothers and other family members.

Harriet traveled back and forth eighteen times, helping about three-hundred slaves escape into free territory. She became an expert at hiding from slave hunters. At one time, anyone finding Harriet was promised forty-thousand dollars for catching her … The people she helped called her Moses. She had rescued them from slavery just as the biblical Moses rescued the [Hebrew People].”

 

On Thursday the Bond Project wrote:
Today was a HUGE day for the EICBP as we marked the first leg of our mass bail-out effort of the 32 workers detained after ICE agents raided the Midwest Precast Concrete Plant in Mt Pleasant on May 9th, 2018. We posted $35,000 in bond on 7 individuals and these loved ones were released from detention and reunited with their families. (EICBP Facebook page)

 

In the gospel text,

in the face of the watchful eye of the law

and the religious naysayers,

who would keep this man ill for another day,

Jesus says “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

 

God says, “I know you’re enslaved. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

You need breath?

“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

You need health?

“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

You need rest

“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

 

Rest in God.

Open your mouth

God is at hand, ready to fill you with the good.

[1] Harriet Tubman, 1820-1920. https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/harriet-tubman-1820-1913-she-fought-slavery-and-oppression-116079619/116057.html , accessed June 1, 2018.

[2] Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project, https://communitybondproject.org/ , accessed June 1, 2018.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *