Twenty-fifth Week after Pentecost

Women are in the house today!

            Both in the House of Representatives and Senate in unprecedented numbers

            And in these 2 texts about widows and economic justice.

The last couple of weeks the widow of Zeraphath 

has been getting Johnny off to school 

and trying everything she can think of 

to turn around her lack-of-money issues. 

She went to her neighbor who interrupted her midsentence saying, 

“You’re so angry, it’ll be hard to get a new husband.” 

She went to a counselor who said 

he could help her work on her attitude. 

She went to the priest, who reminded her 

that the way the economic system works is that she needs to 

marry someone of means or 

wait till her son grows up—in the meantime, stop being so serious. 

She went to the magistrate, but couldn’t get a hearing because the clerks said 

she was aggressive and pushy, with a shrill voice.

Silenced

Dismissed

Silenced

Stuck in systems of propriety that don’t work for her real life

Silenced

Disempowered

Silenced.

She’s got one last supper.

She’s out grabbing the kindling and

Elijah shows up asking her for food.

            Can’t you hear her mirthful laugh?

“I have nothing baked, 

only a handful of meal in a jar, 

and a little oil in a jug;

I am now gathering a couple of sticks, 

so that I may go home and 

prepare it for myself and my son, 

that we may eat it,         and die.”

The Widow of Zeraphath was assaulted by an economic system that valued men as money earners.

            The widow of zeraphath had two options—a wage-earning husband or a grown son

                        -neither were possible—her husband was gone; her son was young

            the clock was ticking—meaning, 

the jar of meal was dwindling, 

the jug of oil draining 

and no one had married her

Options are up—an oppressive system didn’t have room for her—she was making their last supper

An oppressive system, a system of assault, a harassing system that limits options has caught other women in withering webs.

The #MeToo Movement 

exposes the prevalence 

of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

In the first 2 days, 12 million comments were posted to Facebook

In the first 3 months after this hashtag appeared, 25,000 women tweeted confirming they’d been assaulted. 

The #MeToo Movement offers a major critique of culture and the imbedded abuse of women.

In 2006, it was Tarana Burke who founded the “me too” Movement. Here’s her story of how it began:

Text Box: The ‘me too’ Movement™ started in the deepest, darkest place in my soul.
As a youth worker, dealing predominately with Black children and children of color, I had seen and heard my share of heartbreaking stories—from broken homes to abusive or neglectful parents—when I met Heaven.
During an all-girl bonding session at our youth camp, several of the girls in the room shared intimate stories about their lives. …
The next day, Heaven—who had been in the previous night’s session—asked to speak with me privately. … later in the day she caught up with me and almost begged me to listen. I reluctantly conceded, and for the next several minutes this child, Heaven, struggled to tell me about her “stepdaddy”—rather, her mother’s boyfriend—who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body. I was horrified by her words, and the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut.
I listened until I literally could not take it anymore-/which turned out to be less than 5 minutes. Then, right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and immediately directed her to another female counselor who could “help her better.”
I will never forget the look on her face.
I watched her walk away from me as she tried to recapture her secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper…me too.
– Tarana Burke
Founder, The ‘me too.’ Movement

Twenty-sixth Week after Pentecost

The so-called “Camp Fire” rages across California, 

consuming acres and lives in its searing path.

Battle-ground recounts rage through states with too-close-to call elections, 

consuming good will and trust in systems in their wake.

Hannah burned hot under the ridicule and severe provocation of her rival,

(Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah, along with her troop of healthy,     growing,      prosperous,            life-promising sons.)

consuming her well-being and happiness. 

Peninnah didn’t miss a chance to barb Hannah:

“Are you blessed yet to have a child, Hannah?” 

“I’m pregnant again, Hannah.” 

“What have you done to offend God, Hannah?” 

“I’m pregnant again, Hannah.” 

“Why do you even bother going to the House of the Lord, Hannah?”

At first Hannah was merely irritated.

Then she began to have tears overtake her as she was sweeping the house.

Then the tears forced themselves into public spaces—at the marketplace she would draw her scarf across her face and rush away from conversations she usually loved.

Then she stopped wanting to eat.

Then she stopped eating. 

But next, she stood tall. She said, “I’m going again to the house of the Lord.”

Hannah was distressed as she prayed

She was deeply distressed, but still she prayed

Eli knelt at his prayer bench and watched her swaying back and forth

She wept bitterly, but still she prayed

            Saying, “look at me, Lord

                        Remember me

                        Don’t forget me

                        Give me what I need.

Eli knelt at his prayer bench and watched her lips moving.

She swayed and prayed

Eli gathered up his robes and confronted her. “why are you here drunk?”

Hannah stood up—stood up tall and confronted Eli: “The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my soul before the LORD—speaking out of my great anxiety.” 

Eli took a step back. “I see” I think God will grant your petition.”

Hannah was soon “with child”

And she stood up again:

            This time to glorify God’s holy name:


Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. “There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”

The forest rangers were acused of mishandling the forests in CA

            Stood up, said no

            Stood up and resisted an oppressive interpretation

            Found some understanding 

            Stood up and praised the Creator of all forests and creatures.

In GA, one African American was shuffled from one place to vote to another, each telling him it was not his place. After 5 hours of being moved about the city, the polling places closed. He was told “You came too late.”

            He stood up and said “No”

            Stood up and resisted an oppressive interpretation

            Found some understanding

            Others stood up with him, saying No, this cannot be our best 

You stand up…

Christmas

Text: Isaiah 12:2-6

Red flares peppered the sky 

and the sound of gunfire rang through the halls       

at Tantur,     an ecumenical study institute 

between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. 

We’d all been drawn out of our rooms 

by the ominous booms 

and found ourselves congregating 

in the common room with a terrace that overlooked 

the hills including Beit Zait, an Israeli settlement, 

and Beit Jala, a Palestinian town. 

The flares of the firing guns lit up like foreboding red fireflies 

on the Beit Zait hillside, firing across the valley into Beit Jala. Someone flicked on CNN. 

People gaped out the windows; 

we’d come to study the conflict for the summer, 

but we hadn’t expected to get such a first hand account 

of the evening attacks. 

The phone rang; 

it was my then-fiancé, Steve. 

6,000 miles away, he had on CNN too. 

He wondered how safe I was 

as he watched the gun fire on the screen

—that showed gunfire 

from a hill labeled “Beit Jala” (Palestinian) 

onto a hill labeled “Beit Zait (Israeli).” 

Having only CNN’s optics, 

he asked if I had known that the Palestinians 

were going to fire on the Israelis tonight. 

I was confused. 

“The gunfire is coming from Beit Zait—the Israeli settlement.” I said. It was only then that my colleagues looked closer at the television 

and another pastor said, “They’ve mislabeled the hills.”

What we could see with our own eyes

—an Israeli attack on a Palestinian town, 

was accidentally    or “accidentally”   mislabeled by CNN 

so that they were reporting the opposite 

to a much wider audience.

In our text for today, Isaiah says, 

“Surely God is my salvation;     I willtrust, and will notbe afraid.”

I’d like to create a place to question Isaiah for a moment 

because I experience a lot of reasons not to trust and 

sometimes I’m reasonably afraid

Can we acknowledge what gives pause to our trust and 

what fears we really do face?

I’m gonna tell you some real things that create a lack of trust for me 

And I want to know what they are for you, too.

I grew up on a struggling farm in the farming crisis of the 80s

I learned early that you couldn’t trust people to judge you 

on “the content of your character” 

since the quality of your blue jeans 

seemed to matter so much

Now, I’m perplexed by the acceptance 

of the number of lies put out by 

the current president and those around him

—direct statements that are contradicted later 

by receipts, emails, phone calls, 

and new direct statements. 

                  And my trust is rocked by 

                           The extent to which prominent people 

advising or in the government will go 

to cover up previous lies 

about which they are directly asked.

                  It doesn’t jive with the values I grew up expecting from politicians

I really want the government to work for ethical change 

that benefits the most vulnerable. 

Yet, what I read in the news night after night 

doesn’t instill trust 

that the current leadership cares 

about truth or 

those who find themselves vulnerable. 

Fears are around us. I got to teach at a middle school yesterday 

and some things middle schoolers told me they fear are:

         People finding out          who you like         in middle school

         People thinking you’re uncool

         People making fun of you because of your beliefs

         Running out of time to study for a test

I remember being afraid of being uncool. 

Now I wish that the content of my fear could be dealt with through introspection and just growing up

But I feel afraid that climate change is as serious as University of Iowa scholar Connie Mute (not to mention scores of scientists, and evidence of rising sea levels) says it is

So, how does Isaiah have any right to come into my living room and invite me to trust and not be afraid.

The First Isaiah hears my complaints.

And does a sort of jujutsu—using my own momentum against my own fear

First Isaiah says, “I know, remember the Assyrians were at the door 

when I became recognized as a prophet. 

I didn’t trust that our leaders could stop them. 

And I certainly didn’t trust the Assyrians.”

“I know, Assyria overthrew us and deported scads of the population of the Northern Kingdom—

including Jehoiachin and the rest of the royal family. 

I was afraid.”

“I remember. 

We were left without military people, 

without political elites, 

without craftsmen; how could we thrive? 

What power did we have to change it?”

So I can’t write off Isaiah as a silver spooner who is out of touch with reality…

Still, Isaiah insists that you must trust.

Isaiah does not back down: you must not fear.

At the same time, 

Isaiah doesn’t seem to care if the world isn’t very trustworthy,

Or if there are legit fears.

Isaiah spends        not one breath       on trusting things in this world.

Isaiah spends all his lines          imploring you to trust in God.

         “for the LORD GOD is my strengthand my might”

Isaiah even suggests something 

that is quite different from orthodox western theology

—Isaiah says “God has becomemy salvation” 

…has become my salvation 

through this process 

of coming to trust in God 

as might 

and strength.

I feel like Isaiah can be my ally 

in becoming able to trust God 

in the midst of a world that teaches otherwise, 

because in Isaiah’s day 

governments were unstable and untrustworthy. 

Fear was real and acknowledged.

Alright Isaiah

I guess its ok to not trust what is not trustworthy (I suspect that is the Good),

and yet remain a person who is able to trust 

And I guess its ok to fear things that are fearful (I suspect that is the Good) 

And yet, preserve our lives as ones with good courage. 

And it is possible to call out as untrustworthy, the untrustworthy, 

when emboldened by a real relationship of trust

And it is possible to set parameters for fear—here, and not everywhere

—when relaxing into at least one true relationship of hope

A pledge to do just that is a confidence in the truly trustworthy name of the Lord.

So pluck up your courage cause we’re joining Isaiah on this one. 

  • draw waterfrom the wells of salvation.
  • Give thanksto the LORD, 
  • callon God’s name; 
  • remind yourself of God’s deeds

I’m particularly taken by streams of living justice

I will believe day in and day out in God

 who accompanies us in the confusing pits of life.

I trust this God because God showed up after our miscarriage, 

when I couldn’t get out of bed

I trust God because during some of the darkest years, 

new sisters showed up…

You, too, choose trust in God, in order to point out untrustworthy practices here

You, too, find courage in the one who will not leave you—courage enough to name real fears.

Sing praisesto the LORD, for God has done gloriously; 

Notice thegreat One in your midst      –it’s the Holy One of Israel!

Ninth Week After Pentecost

Sermon by Rev. Sarah Goettsch on July 21, 2018

There is a big difference between the word “would” and the word “wouldn’t.”

This week saw a decided low point in our nation’s history, as even some from both sides of the aisle seem to agree, as Trump at first blames the American people for the tense relationship between the US and Russia, baffling the world with his preposterous claim of “Why would Russia interfere with the 2016 election?”  and then redacting it to “I meant to use the word ‘wouldn’t’…” in other words, “Why wouldn’t Russia interfere in the election?” So, which is it–would or wouldn’t? …because the words are not interchangeable. Continue reading “Ninth Week After Pentecost”

Eighth Week after Pentecost

Sermon by Rev. Sarah Goettsch on July 14-15, 2018

From the summer of 1971 through the autumn of 1972, TV newscasts must have seemed unrelenting: millions marching to stop the Vietnam war, prisoners attacked at Attica, the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers, the Manson and Serpico and My Lai trials, guns in Munich, bombs in D.C., and British troops in Derry. Pain and hatred and misery. Where was the harmony, where was the hope? Hope and harmony were beamed into living rooms around the world in the form of TV  commercials for Coca-Cola. Continue reading “Eighth Week after Pentecost”

Seventh Week After Pentecost

Sermon by Rev. Sarah Goettsch on 7/7/18

Exactly one week ago, in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, called Maple Heights, a 12-year old boy and his lawn-cutting crew named “Mr. Reggie’s Lawn-Cutting Crew” set out to mow a yard. As Reggie neared the end of mowing, he noticed a police car pull up in the driveway. A white neighbor had called the police on him, because this young black entrepreneur had inadvertently mowed a strip of land in the backyard that belonged to her. Reggie says that, while he noticed the policeman interviewing the neighbors out of the corner of his eye, and several of his crew some as young as 9 growing nervous, he didn’t stop mowing. He says he didn’t even slow down. Continue reading “Seventh Week After Pentecost”