When will we be Satisfied: The Satiation of Change in the Desert of Harm
Updated: May 17, 2022
A Sermon on Amos 5:21-24
For Hope United Methodist Church of Bloomington, IL
Today we partake in rituals and liturgies of old. Practices that stretch back hundreds of years. Rituals of baptism and prayer... remembrance and hope.
What I love most about these historic forms of worship, is that when we enact them we join together, not only with those in this room, but with all of the communities of humanity stretching back throughout all of history. Back before the Methodist Church... back before the Catholic Church, and even before Christ himself: way back to the very beginning. To the first time any individual ever thirsted for justice and pleaded for the balm of equity.
In these simple and ordinary acts of remembrance and prayer, we stand tall along the lines of lineage that our ancestors passed down to us. Our ancestors who marched in Selma, Ferguson and Minneapolis.
In these simple and ordinary acts of defiant joy and worship, we join our weary hands with those who came before, our ancestors whose names we will never know. Our ancestors who joyfully and defiantly danced together queer-fully in mob ran bars before they could dance together in the streets. Our ancestors who dance freely in the go-go cages of Boy's Town and The Castro to this day!
You see, it is because of this history of social defiance that we are who we are today.
Our ancestors came together not in blood but in union to demand change when change was necessary and to support the cries of the harmed when harm was felt…. Even, and possibly most importantly mostly when that harm comes from Christianity.
Father Gustavo Gutierez, a 93 year old Peruvian Catholic theologian and Dominican Priest says, “The denunciation of injustice implies the rejection of the use of Christianity to legitimize the established order.”
“The denunciation of injustice implies the rejection of the use of Christianity to legitimize the established order.”
This established order allowed for Plessy v Fergeson to be upheld, allowed for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be assassinated, George Floyd to be murdered, Mathew Sheperd to be slain, The Don’t say Gay bill to be passed, and that Texan laws banning bodily autonomy of those who have uteruses to be enacted.
It can be easy, in the world of social justice, theology, and life in general, to get caught up in the stagnant cycle of conversation. It can be debilitating. It can be disheartening. It can be jarringly still. So often we tell ourselves we must have the most perfect practices, the best citations, and the most convoluted, well tested, ivory towered thoughts before we can go out into the world to bring about change.
But let me tell you this: sometimes it’s easier to see the holes of a boat when it’s on the water. So get your asses out in your little boat called life. Do justice. Fight for mercy. Walk defiantly, all the while fixing the holes in the bow of your mind and the sides of your thoughts.
"...sometimes it's easier to see the holes of a boat when it’s on the water."
Within a revolutionary moment in Latin America during the late 1960's, a new form of theology was born. This theology was called Liberation and it sought to be a religious equalizer in a time of mass displacement.
It is a theology which speaks to the intersection of economic, social, political, religious and personal identities. Liberation was born from the deepest of margins, instilled with the energy and cries of those with nothing left to lose. It is a theology which looks at the world around, questioning the systems of power that are at play, and wonders whether or not it is necessary for those systems to even exist in the first place. It asks the question: is this a system, thought, or ideal that is in support of the least of these or does it simply benefit the growth and privilege of the richest of thee.
It is my prayer that you may be inspired to lean ever so slightly into the practice of seeking and questioning new thoughts and theologies. May you challenge and shift our views of the world. May you weed through that which you have inherited by birth and by social conditioning. May you be emboldened to question whether or not your theology is something you truly believe or if it is simply something you regurgitate on Sunday mornings as an unconscious reaction.
Because to question ourselves, to question our privilege, to question our power, our faith, and our church is a holy, holy, holy act of defiant heavenly protest.
So be invited here and now, in the safety of the community to begin to push past the walled boundaries in your minds. As we engage today’s scripture with the lens of Liberation and justice in mind, I invite you to ponder the words of Gabriel Marcel, a 19th century French philosopher and one of the earliest founders of Existentialism.
He writes, “Evil which is only stated or observed is no longer evil which is suffered: in fact, it ceases to be evil. In reality, I can only grasp it as evil in the measure in which it touches me — that is to say, the measure in which I am involved…”
"...the measure in which I am involved..."
If we as people of faith are to resist evil, injustice and oppression, and be a collective water of change, we must first be willing to get uncomfortable, to get our hands dirty, and to become inexplicably intertwined within the participatory liberation that we are called, by the Body of Christ, into.
Only then, will Glory come.
Only then will Justice roll down.
Only then will Righteous flow forth.
Only then will we ever be satisfied within this systemic desert of harm: built by the Pharaohs and sustained by the Pharisees of modern violent insight-ment.
It is when we come together as one people, as one body, as one river and as one mighty stream, that we will bring about the kin-dom of Divine Love here and now. It is when we come together that we will wash away the Hell-istic Desert, tear apart the pseudo-calming beaches of systemic oppression, and build an Eden-ic future in which all bodies, identities and people may thrive.
It is when we come together that we will wash away the Hell-istic Desert, tear a part the pseudo-calming beaches of systemic oppression, and build an Eden-ic future in which all bodies, identities and people may thrive.
Called, known, created
Freed, redeemed, liberated
The god who knit us together, named and counted even before we were known to the world: that God has called us known. We are each known not just as a singular but as a collective... a people, a community, a freed humanity.
How quickly you have forgotten our shared history
How swiftly you have reduced me to a God of apathy
The great God of Love and of justice is not now, has never been and will never be apathetic towards Their creation. God, Christ, the Spirit of mercy is everything but neutral towards oppression. They yearn for their people to come together and remember Their Love.
Neutral in the face of injustice.
Do you not know me at all?
For you perfect your religion like it’s a play, getting on your knees to pray, memorizing your sermon lines, finding flawless harmonies to enhance your worship sets
Our faith is not limited to what happens on stage on Sunday mornings. It is not limited to the pew filled sanctuaries of century old churches. Our faith is what guides us, shapes us, forms us, outside in the chaotic and unjust world. It is how we respond to acts of violence, not just against ourselves, but against all of creation. Let us never become stagnate in our worship, stale in our prayer, nor unintentional in our employment of scripture.
Yet off stage, you underpay your employees, and justify harsh inequality with your gospel of prosperity, silencing my prophets who proclaim liberation.
Because from the margins are born the prophets. It is there, beyond the lines of false subjugation, that dreams of a righteous future and hopes of an equitable tomorrow dwell. It is there if we listen, if we empower, and if we engage in acts of liberation.
Your offerings are a mockery when they have been gained through the pain and exploitation of others
May we today start to engage how our financial decisions and monetary gains are influenced by the harmful subordination of others.
Their bones cry out from the ground
The bones of the landless, the enslaved, the imprisoned, the oppressed…
The bones of my people cry out from the ground…
This ground whose cracks echo the ever-widening chasm between rich and poor
The God of the Margins speaks and moves through the lives of all people, even in, and especially in the lives of those who are enslaved, imprisoned and oppressed. It is the duty of the privileged to halt harm, to listen to the grounding echoes of justice, and to move with the heartbeat of change that beats forth from the chest of the weary.
In spasm under the weight of injustice, creation groans
The land cries out for living waters to flow
No, this drought will not be remedied through trickle-down charity
Your last remaining hope is to seek me and live
The God who brought you up out of Egypt
Seek me and Live
The God who proclaims liberty to the captives
Seek me and Live
The God who is good news for the poor
Seek me and Live
That justice may roll down like mighty waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream
Here the writers utilize the Hebrew term Misphate in place of justice. It is not a legalistic term. It is not a retribution term. It is an all encompassing term meaning an equitable act: it means an act that replaces all that has caused harm, actively causes harm, and will one day cause harm.
Society, like a river clogged by the sins of racism, homophobia, and all other otherism, becomes toxic, putrid and life destroying.
But with the mighty waters of justice... Like a river that floods the prairie plains on which we stand, the unstoppable, uncontrollable, unwavering force of equity has the ability to tear away all structures and systems that stand in its way.
Justice like a river that floods the plains, has the rejuvenating power to make fertile again the dry dry lands that no longer support growth.
Justice, like a river, will come not from above, but from you and me, we the collective body, collective liberators, the collective Hope and the collective people.
We can make justice flow like a river, if we act, if we question, if we demand and if we work together. Until that day comes, we will not be satisfied. We can not be satisfied. We MUST not be satisfied.
*Bolded text comes from a poetic reimagination of scripture by Thandi Gamedze for The Justice Conference South Africa. See here for more information