Reflecting on the lectionary reading from the gospel (Luke 9:51-62), preparing for Pride Sunday, I wondered,

  • Haven’t we all, at one time or another, put our hand to the plow and looked back or felt the need to look back?
  • Haven’t we all felt that enough is enough. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t do this anymore; I can’t fight anymore.

I HAVE. You may have too. And how do not? There is so much pain around us. So much violence. Such hatred… how does one not feel discouraged?

  • Not too long ago- many of us United Methodists came back from another General Conference, once again being reminded that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” that a self-avowed practicing homosexual has no place in the ordained life of the institution we call CHURCH! Many in those 2 weeks, including me- as an ally, felt they we could not do it anymore- enough of this abuse by the church we love.
  • We were still feeling that pain, when on June 12, we woke up to the terrible news of the massacre of 49 LatinX LGBTQI persons in Florida and we felt pain like never before and we cried and we screamed, some retreated, some rushed back into the closet and some felt like throwing in the towel and giving up the fight to be accepted, to be recognized as God’s beloved. We avoided talking about it. We pretended it wasn’t happening. It was too much to deal with.
  • This week- the Supreme Court announced a 4-4 decision in a case challenging President Obama’s plan to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and to allow them to work in the United States and to get education and to live peacefully because that possibility is not available in their own country and guess what- we have something to do with that as well, but this decision certainly did take the wind out of many people’s hopes and desires and those working hard for justice felt like giving up!!!
  • We had not quite recovered from these big heart-breaking events and then came the news that UK voted to leave the Union- one of the main causes- to tighten the borders and hinder migration.

Someone said, “The arc of the moral universe might bend towards justice, but it gets there in a very, very messy way. And after taking many steps forward, the world has now taken a giant step back.”

We indeed seem to be going backwards in history. These are HUGE events that are happening around us that are unjust, unfair and painful. These don’t even take into account all the other things that happen every day-

  • I am not even naming the many people who are deported every day,
  • I am not even talking about people who are murdered every day because of their color, race, sexual orientation and gender identity,
  • I am not even talking about the persons who are forced to go on the streets every day because our government keeps taking funding away from the services that assist them in keeping their lives together,
  • I am not even talking about the fear that the residents of Chicago with young kids, live in because they don’t even know if their children will be in school come Fall,
  • I am not talking about another clergy person of color (this one is a Korean woman) who is brought has been brought on charges and suspended, which hinders her ability to continue her candidacy as a Bishop.
  • I am not even talking about one more pastor who is brought to charges because they came out as their authentic true self or performed a same sex wedding.
  • I am not even talking about the one person here and one person there every day who experience injustices, killings and abuses that we hear of.
  • And we haven’t even talked about what November will bring for us in the United States.

These big events and the everyday pain add up for us and we feel like letting go of the plow! I feel like putting my head in the sand again and pretend like this is not happening. It certainly is not happening in my family, in my life. I feel like minding my own business. I see other people living as if everything is fine and I wonder why I can’t I live like that…I want to give up these thoughts and desire for justice… but then I am reminded that not everybody has the luxury of giving up!!!

The one who is abused, the one who is suspended, or treated as an alien or an outcast- does not have the luxury of giving up. They are the statistics we are talking about. They have no choice.  

Ethicist Sharon Welch says, “The despair of the affluent, the middle class, has a particular tone: it is a despair cushioned by privilege and grounded in privilege. It is easier to give up on long-term social change when one is comfortable in the present- when it is possible to have challenging work, excellent health care and housing, and access to the fine arts. When the good life is present or within reach, it is tempting to despair of its ever being in reach for others and resort to merely enjoying it for oneself and one’s family… Becoming so easily discouraged is the privilege of those accustomed to too much power, accustomed to having needs met without negotiation and work, accustomed to having a political and economic system that responds to their needs” (Sharon Welch, A Feminist Ethic of Risk, 15).

Embarrassed to say, I am those persons of privilege who sometimes has thought of giving up. Shame on me, for while I live with that privilege, many continue to become part of the statistics.  

And as I struggle with keeping my hand on the plow, I am reminded of a young pastor sitting at his kitchen table in the middle of a threatening night, praying to God for the gift of perseverance, felt another hand steadying his grasp on the plow.

“And it seemed at that moment,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world.” I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me alone. (Freeman, Upon This Rock, 173)

I can hear that inner voice also. I can keep my faith in God’s promises but ending here would only make this a “feel good” ending and that is not enough for TODAY. I know God brings us hope but I also know that God is not coming down to bring us hope. I need to become God’s message of hope!

  • I can’t pretend it’s not happening anymore…
  • Holding a Prayer Vigil for the persons whose lives were cut short in the Orlando Massacre and pretend like I did my part is not enough anymore… and if I think it is- then my privilege has a stronger hold on me then my zeal for justice.
    • It is time that my passive involvement transforms into action.
    • It is time to act when I see an injustice happening.
    • It is time I become a shield for the person, especially if they are LGBTQI, being abused and demeaned for naming the unfair practice of a church leader,
    • It is time we speak up when we witness the past, of a person of color, being used inappropriately to jeopardize their future as a leader in the church,
    • It is time we question the reason why a person of color is suspended today- for a complaint that was left unresolved several years ago by the leaders of the church,
    • It is time we show up to the trials of clergy who are brought to trial because they stop lying to themselves and their congregations and start to live an authentic life,
    • It is time we refuse to accept appointments to churches whose pastors are removed because they truly became pastor to all people and officiated at a same-sex wedding,
    • It is time we do not let our privilege stand in the way of our justice work,
    • It is time we become the people that are united for a cause.
    • It is time!!! The church is becoming more and more homogenous, homophobic and anti-immigrant.
    • We need all hands on the deck!!! It is time for action!!!

Thanks to the perseverance of many who put their hands on the plow and never looked back even if it cost them their lives. They have brought us this far. We cannot and will not be forced to look back, look down or give up.

We will keep our hands on the plow, we will continue to do what is right, we will keep moving ahead- forging forward with courage and determination, through fire, even as we hang on to each other and on God’s promises.

 

 

 

Rev. Alka Lyall

Rev. Alka Lyall is a life-long Methodist. She grew up in the Methodist Church in India and came to the United States in 1996 as a seminary student. She is an ordained elder in the Northern Illinois Conference and has been serving the people of God, with the people of Northern Illinois Conference, since graduating from Seminary in 2000. Alka is currently appointed to Bethany of Fox Valley UMC in Aurora IL. She has two sons and a husband without whose support she could not have done anything. Alka has always been an active and involved member of the church. She was a delegate to World Methodist Council as a youth representative from India in 1986 and later served on its Presidium. She has been a delegate to 2012 and alternate to the 2008 General Conference. Alka has chaired and served on various boards, agencies and committees in her conference. She currently chairs the Annual Conference committee of the Northern Illinois Conference and serves on the Board of Directors of Northern Illinois Conference Justice for our Neighbors. She is also active in the Northern Illinois Conference RMN task force. Alka desires to share the love of God, which welcomes all people, with all the people of God but especially with those who have been rejected, refused and forgotten by the church. Her prayer is that someday the church will open its doors to all people and to that she continues her ministry.
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