Jesus, Martin Luther King and Sunday Gospel: Stars Aligned

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“Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well-timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.” ~MLK, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April, 1963

This Sunday, the Gospel for August 25, 2013, is from Luke 13:10-17. The leaders of the synagogue scoff at Jesus for healing a woman on the Sabbath. She has been bent over for 18 years, surely she could’ve waited until the next day to be healed. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently illustrates in his letter from jail, “wait” often translates as “never.” Those in power never want to relinquish it. Those who benefit from a system that incorporates oppression of a minority never historically accede their power. As a matter of fact, the majority is almost never quite able to understand the oppression the minority describes.

This is a dangerous gospel for a privileged majority of churchgoers to hear. Most of us would like to assume that we would buck the system and heal on the Sabbath, wherever we might see the face of one who is hurting. But how many of us would have readily sat at a lunch counter with Dr. King 50 years ago? How many of us would have french fries pushed up our noses and cold milkshakes dumped on our heads, and suffered punches that knocked us off barstools?

Maybe. That was then, what about now? Are there “unjust laws” that we should be challenging? Even breaking? Who is bent over double in our community? Who is waiting for the voice of the majority to stand with them so that they may be raised up and find healing? Is it the undocumented migrant who’s raised his family here for 34 years? The woman who is paid less than a man to do the same job? The married gay or lesbian couple that would like to hold hands as they walk down the street? Or even the lone conservative who is afraid to raise his voice for fear of condemnation? Believe it or not, my progressive friends, it’s a new minority in many liberal circles.

We don’t have to be called on to break a legal law to suffer condemnation. There’s enough social pressure in our society to keep us from “healing on the Sabbath.” But there’s plenty of healing that still needs to be done.

As our country prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement, the reading from Luke’s Gospel this Sunday echo the kind of pushback it had 50 years ago. There never seems to be a right time to make positive change for those who live half a life because they are “doubled over” in the community they live in. The majority will mostly say, “not yet, not ever, stay that way, maintain the status quo.”

Luke’s Gospel also reminds us that we are in alignment with Jesus when we are willing to take a risk, legal or social for the sake of the Good News in Christ Jesus. So the Gospel question, Christian, is what are you willing to risk this week?

Who is my sister? Who is my brother?

“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” Dt 26:5

“Take your child and flee to Egypt” Mt 2:13

“If the immigrant is not your brother/sister then God is not your father.” Bp Scalabrini c. 1887

The Bible is a story of migration. It is a story of home going and safety seeking. In the 1880′s Italian migrants climbed on top of cargo trains to leave Europe and travel to the United States in any way they could. When the Bishop of Rome was asked what responsibility the Church should take in helping the plight of many families, he unwisely declared that such migrancy was a temporary problem.

This anxious and often difficult movement of people has been a part of our story forever and likely always be. Whenever life or death have demanded it we have picked up what we could carry and made the journey for something better.