Good morning! It is wonderful to be with you again this morning since I missed the last two Sundays for a time of vacation with my family.
We surfed and read and played and ate with friends. And being Americans, there in Mexico right now in this time was interesting. People from all over the world wanted to talk to us about the current political climate. At one point a Canadian family said, “Let’s talk about Trump!” And Jeremy said, “Let’s not!”
Bracelets sold at the beach included not just floral hammer pants, wooden snack bowls and macaroons, but beautifully and colorfully beaded bracelets with an expletive next to the name of the 45th president.
In a way he has become a global scapegoat for all that ails the planet. Denying climate change and the truth that democracy needs a free press. Denying science and racial bias. It’s him. It’s there. It’s that. It’s them. Our fingers and our complaints all aimed out there.
It is a much more difficult task to examine the ways we ourselves are participating in the construction of a world different than the one we say we want, it’s not comfortable to see how we are part of the problem. It’s harder to ask: How am I living contrary to the sacred?
That is really what the biblical word “unclean” means- contrary to the sacred, contrary to the vision of beloved community, the vision of love and healing and wholeness for all.
And that is the word used in the Gospel of Mark, we meet Jesus in a Synagogue calling a demon out of a man and the text says that it was an “unclean spirit.” So neither the ailing man or the ailment is given a name, we are just told it is a demon. And we see that Jesus doesn’t turn away from what is labeled as other.
Dr. Matt Skinner contends, The Book of “Mark wants us to know, here at the outset of Jesus’ public ministry — that Jesus’ authority will be a contested authority. Jesus’ presence, words, and deeds threaten other forces that claim authority over people’s lives. These other authorities have something to lose.”
This is at the core of Jesus’ teachings- not turning away from what is real or raw, what is hard or harrowing, what is claiming to have authority over peoples lives. Being honest about what is, he says will bring liberation. Again and again Jesus refused to turn away from what is labeled other, saying the truth, naming what he saw, challenging authority, even when he encountered powers and principalities that threatened to undo him.
Be silent! He said.
Last Saturday our family joined the Women’s March in the Plaza in downtown Sayulita in the state of Narayit Mexico. We felt the urge to join with people around the world to say with our signs and our bodies that we resist the wall building, human being banning agenda and we have our own agenda, which is intersectional love.
So we showed up to the town square and it quickly became clear than in a little city with people from all over the world, this mini-crowd was mostly well to do older white women, as if a small cruise ship from San Francisco, CA had just dropped them off for a margarita and a march. The Women’s March was designed to uplift workers and women of color, but at our little gathering an older man awkward drummed rise up while a retired teachers screamed that it was time to listen up. Some of the women seemed to know each other and they took turns trying to shout their various agendas about women’s healthcare and protecting the dreamers. Then as if a record came to a screeching halt at a mediocre a party, a twenty something man, with long dark hair, and a body length black shawl with gold embroidery walked to the center of our now large circle. “Excuse me!” He said, with perfect English in a Mexican soaked accent. “You seem like well meaning people.” This was the moment where the collective hearts begin to race because how is this going to go. He went on with something like. “If you want to fight the Trump agenda. We must talk about capitalism. We must talk about multi-national corporations. We must talk about workers. We can create change with what we buy and how we make what we make.” It felt as if he was challenging what and who truly had authority over us.
At a time when the stock market is seeing historic highs, the Dow Jones, near an all-time high. The S&P 500. The Nasdaq. The small companies that make up the Russell 2000. Big corporations, the companies that likely makeup the portfolios of many of us gathered at that Women’s March, that young man invited all of us to stop long enough to truly see and to not turn away from the truth, to note what was claiming authority over our lives, our energy, our patterns, our power.
He named the demon of unrestricted capitalism that cannot have a conscience when corporations decide the rules and the earth is not invited to the table.
The demon that lives off of non-renewable resources and suppressing wages is not gone, of course, but something powerful happened that day when the truth was named. We couldn’t deny or turn away. It’s not out there.
What might happen in our lives individually and collectively when we join Jesus in not turning away in the presence of something that is contrary to the sacred? Jesus doesn’t turn away, he doesn’t deny or ignore. He acknowledges, sees, making way for liberation.
As Gary Charles notes, “From the onset of the Gospel, Mark signals that no oppressive boundary will stand or withstand the power of Jesus. All that is demonic within and beyond the religious structures of the synagogue will not survive in the face of the demon-tossing, Spirit-possessed son of God.”
I believe that the Universe, the Divine, the Sacred “approaches the unapproachable,” and the nameless, all that is labeled other and unclean, to deconstruct oppressive boundaries and offer wholeness. God approaches the other in all of us, we must not turn away.
In an interview with comedian Sarah Silverman and Homeboy Industries founder Father Gregory Boyle, he talked about creating a world where everyone belongs and how show up for what is, including people who are radically different, in a time of dramatic othering. He said, “We are all called to dismantle the barriers that exclude. We must come to terms and be friends with your own brokenness and your own wounds. And because if you aren’t, if you are a stranger to your own wounds, then you will be tempted to despise the wounded, which I think accounts for what is happening in the country…a wholesale despising…”
This is at the core of Jesus’ teachings- not turning away from what is real or raw, what is hard or harrowing, what is despised and what has harmful authority in people’s lives. It allowed a dismantling of the barriers that excluded.
And Jesus tells us that being honest about what is will bring liberation or maybe what Father Boyle calls radical kinship. Again and again Jesus did not turn away: from acknowledging what was real, naming what he saw, challenging authority, even when he encountered forces, powers and principalities that threatened to undo him.
We can join him. We can ask where we are living contrary to the sacred? Who and what has authority over us for real? We can choose to not turn away: from acknowledging what is real, naming what we see, challenging the authority give to our own brokenness, naming our own wounds, seeing our personal demons and the demons of the world in which we live, but, here’s the thing, not turning away, and instead naming our wounds, our brokenness, our demons, the “unclean” parts of the world, seeing them as they are, is part of how were are freed from letting them lead. Let love, healing, justice and wholeness lead.
Theses forces that can separate us from one another and from our Greater Love are not suddenly gone, but perhaps they can no longer have authority over us. As if we look them in the face, in our own face, we see selfishness and greed, militarism, rampant consumerism while so many sit in need, we can name what makes for liberation and double down on the Way of Jesus and shout to all these demons, “I see you. I will not turn away, now be silent!”