My rector called me Thursday evening with the news that his mother-in-law had died, and so he couldn’t be in church on Sunday. Could I preach?
Sure. Theoretically, I could. I didn’t know what I would say, or how I would say it. I had spent most of my time since Tuesday night fielding messages from distraught parishioners and hiding under the covers myself. Maybe we would just stare at each other in silence?
Then I started writing. And I remembered this story about my brother from when we were toddlers. For the record, I checked, and he has no memory of this happening at all. But, as a friend pointed out–for him it would have been just another day of privilege. It was only for me that the moment was significant.
Throw a tantrum, my friends.
Rev. Megan L. Castellan
November 13, 2016
Ordinary Time, Proper 28
To be clear, I didn’t choose these readings. That was the lectionary.
These are the assigned readings, for this Sunday in November. Sometimes the lectionary just does what it will, and so here we are. Contemplating the apocalypse in the middle of November.
For some of us, this lines up pretty neatly with what the world feels like right now. It feels like, for some of us, the whole world has ended, and the country we thought we knew has betrayed us and become a hateful, ugly place.
For others of us, this couldn’t be further from the truth–the election was either just another day or it was a welcome chance to usher in needed change, a chance to push back after feeling overlooked for a long time. Both happened; both are in this room.
And so, the question for us becomes how, then, should we live? The election is over, and God is still our God, and Jesus is still Jesus, so we have to figure out what to do now.
In this gospel story, Jesus and the disciples have travelled to Jerusalem, and they’re staring up at the largest building they’ve ever seen–the pride of the religious and political establishment of Israel. As they marvel over how permanent and secure it looks, Jesus comments one day, it will all fall. Cue panic.
Scholars think he says this the way he does for some boring historic reasons. Because Luke was written a specific amount of time after the Temple actually did fall; in an armed revolt against Rome that ended with Rome sacking and destroying the city. And Luke is having Jesus address the very real fears of the small Christian community that was living through the aftermath. Their world had changed, so what did they do now?
Because–look, after the temple falls, it matters less whether you think it was a good thing or a bad thing. What matters is that it happened. We know that the actual disciples were pretty divided on their opinions about the Temple–some thought the temple system was great, some thought it was corrupt. But then it fell. And they had to figure out how to be faithful in that new world. A world where things were more unpredictable than they were before, where more was up in the air. But a world that still needed faith, hope, and God’s presence. That’s where we are.
It’s a new world, and everything is newly confusing. But like I said last week, our call is still the same. We still follow Jesus. We still rely on him to guide what we do. And that commitment must be stronger than ever, even when, and especially when, it seems difficult.
Those early Christians Luke was writing to were terrified. They were being jailed. They were literally outlaws. And yet, to them Jesus says that this isn’t the end of the world. Don’t listen to those who would tell you to give into fear. It’s not time to panic; it’s time to be faithful. Now is the time to live the gospel, because now is the time that it is needed. Now, when hate and fear seem strongest. Now, more than ever.
If you have been on social media in the last few days, then you might have seen that hate crimes have skyrocketed since the election. Muslim women wearing hijab are being assaulted in the street. Hispanic children in school are being taunted by their classmates. Every Black student at the University of Pennsylvania was sent pictures of lynchings. The Klan has announced plans to march in North Carolina in victory.
Again, this is not about who you voted for on Tuesday. This not about whether the Temple was right or wrong. Right now, though, we need to agree that events like this go against every single thing Christ has taught us about how we love one another. Every single thing God calls us to in this lifetime. Every promise we made at baptism, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
And we need to agree that we, as Christians, are called to protect each other. To have one anothers’ backs.
That commitment to follow Jesus right now has to include a commitment to stand with those of our community who are scared and grieving. Who are vulnerable right now. Whoever you voted for on Tuesday, the truth remains that this election has unleashed elements of racism, sexism, intolerance and bigotry that we have not seen in a long time. Right now, the marginalized in this country are more at risk than ever, and if we want to follow Jesus, we have to stand with them. We have to listen to them. We have to side with them. There is no alternative.
We worship a God who came among us as a religious minority, as a poor, itinerant preacher, as a refugee. If we do not side with people like him, we are not following Jesus.
That’s part of who we are here at St. Paul’s. We strive to welcome and love all God’s children and that is not changing. That will get stronger. We will welcome more. We will love harder. We will be the face of God in these streets, in this city. Because God loves everyone, God cares for the least and the forgotten, and that does not change.
This week, I’ve been pondering a random story from when I was a toddler. My grandparents took my brother and I to their country club in Richmond once, when we were two or three years old to go swimming. Afterwards, we split up to get changed and have lunch–my grandmother taking me, my grandfather taking my brother. Bert took my brother to the Men’s Grill, and when I took off after him, my grandmother stopped me, to explain that girls didn’t get to go in there. That was for the boys. She tried to lead me away.
I don’t really remember the details of this story. But what I do remember is standing in the hallway, my grandmother trying to lead me away, while my baby brother figured out his sister couldn’t go where he did. And he threw an absolute fit. Arms flailing, crying, screaming loud enough to be heard several states over. He refused to be comforted. He refused to be budged. And finally, my grandfather, in disgust and frustration, relented, and never tried to take anyone to the dumb Men’s Grill again.
For the next while, my brothers and sisters, we may be called to throw some tantrums. We may be called to pitch some fits. When you see your brother, a Black man, being taunted, start yelling. When you see your sister wearing hijab being assaulted, start waving your arms. When you see your fellow children of God being denied their god-given dignity and freedom, cry until something changes, because so long as they are being denied, we are incomplete too. When you see injustice happening, cry until it stops, because the victim of injustice is always, to us, Christ himself.
That is our call right now. Not an easy one. Not even a safe one. But others have been called this way before. And we know, beyond all knowing, that the God who has called us, will not leave us now.