I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this to you all before, but I'm not much of a TV watcher. I watch baseball, but that's about it. Occasionally I'll watch a Netflix series, but it's rare. And I've never been a fan of adult cartoons - Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, Rick and Morty - just not my thing. So, you can imagine my surprise (and honestly my dismay) when this week my sermon research took me to the show the Simpsons.
Bart, Marge, Homer, Lisa, Maggie ... not your typical champions for Jesus. And yes, I had to google the names of the yellow-headed, peculiarly coifed characters; and yes, I know there's a whole 'Gospel According to the Simpson's' book study. But still, just not my thing. However, I digress.
There's this phrase that's bouncing around a bit in today's vernacular - maybe you've heard it, "Saying the quiet part loud."
Have you heard this phrase? I find it interesting, but before I get ahead of myself, let me explain how the Simpson's fit into all this. While examining the etymology of the phrase [yes, I know how to have a good time], I learned that Krusty the Klown, also a Simpson's character, accepted a bribe while acting as a judge for a movie festival and when asked about his surprising vote said, "Let's just say it moved me... to a bigger house! Oops, I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet."
The Simpson's has been credited with first introducing the phrase in 1995.The expression is relatively self-explanatory: sometimes people are accidentally candid, and instead of whispering a damaging truth under their breath, they proclaim it for everyone to hear. In recent years, it has been most widely applied to the political arena.
But, my job is to think theologically, and I think it also applies to the theological arena.
So first, are there quiet parts in the Bible? You know, things that aren't the main points of Jesus' ministry and God's design for the world; things that are more contextual than Spirit movements... Or is everything in the Bible a 'loud' thing, holding the same weight and importance as everything else?
think there are quiet parts in the Bible.
And unfortunately, recently many people have been saying the quiet parts loud.
And not only have they been saying them loudly, but they've been using the Bible to hurt, oppress, and politicize people.
Recently Romans 13 has been widely used in an attempt to justify recent government actions in separating families. 2 Thessalonians has also been used to justify more stringent food stamp requirements. I could go on.. But, here's the deal, these two portions of the Bible DO uphold governmental structure. They DO. However, they're being twisted out of context, because Romans 13, supposes Romans 12 which advocates for LOVE as the guiding principle for government.
It is notable, and more importantly hopeful, that when LOVE of God and neighbor is the guiding principle, mutuality can exist between government and religion for the benefit of all.
But, somehow government has become the loud part and JESUS has become the quiet part.
Somehow law has become the loud part and LOVE has become the quiet part.
Yes, this is going to be one of those sermons that riles you up. One where you may or may not agree with me. One that encourages you to think. That's ok. As Jesus followers we need to think, to pray, to act, to be passionate spirit-filled people for the sake of the world.
Which brings me to Ezekiel. A man commissioned by God to say the loud parts loud; to respond to a crisis of faith amongst God's people; to speak God's truth even when there are consequences, and even when it's unpopular; to give hope to several thousand deportees (Ezekiel was a prophet after the first Babylonian reduction of Jerusalem) ...
If ever there was a time for Ezekiel to return, it's now.
We are people in the midst of a crisis of faith, with thousands of immigrants without homes to go to; we are a church that needs to say the unpopular and hard thing, we have a responsibility to, as Luther puts it, "To call a thing what it is."
And, family separation is not necessary.
It's ugly. It's inhumane. It's shameful.
That's what this thing is.
That is the word of the Lord.
I am quite sure that everyone knows what I'm referring to, but just in case you don't know, 3000 children (the number has gone up) were separated from their families because of differences in opinion over immigration policy. And there's no real solid plan on figuring out how to fix this humanitarian crisis.
Now, typically, I would pause here and apologize. I'd tell you I'm not trying to be political. And I'm not. At least not the way that word has been used in recent years. But the Gospel is inherently political - it always has been.
In today's Gospel Jesus offends his own people. They don't want to hear what he has to say. Historically speaking, humanity doesn't like to be challenged by God. Heck, I don't like to be challenged by my own husband, let alone God.
But, over and over again in the Bible, God challenges his people and sends them to advocate for the poor, discarded, imprisoned, refugee and the sick. The disciples don't even get to take a backpack. I mean, I'd at least take a Mountain Dew. Even though I'd love Ezekiel, or preferably Jesus, to come back and take care of all this, as far as I can tell, it's not happening.
And so, it's up to us. What we, as a church, say the 'loudest' ends up revealing what is most important to us, and what is most important to us should line up with what's most important to Jesus. The loud parts of Jesus' life were always and are always showing mercy and caring for the weak and vulnerable.
And right now, some of the most vulnerable are children. Children that we will never meet. Children that aren't our own.
But they are God's own.
And we don't get to decide whether they are worthy or not.
I am not going to apologize for testifying to what I believe Jesus would proclaim at a time such as this. I cannot apologize for that, because if ever there was a time for the Church and her people to be visible and vocal it should be now.
I don't like to be controversial. I don't even like to talk that much. I don't even know what I expect a sermon to do about the state of the world, or the states of our hearts. I don't know exactly how my small voice makes a difference in this world, but...
I do know Ezekiel's determination and faith were all he had going for him and he stood up to a whole country. I do know that I have better credentials in the eyes of the government than Ezekiel did. I do know that I am a white woman, with the right papers, with enough money, and a voice...
To not use those things to help the 'least among us' is downright sinful.
Just calling a thing what it is.
And, I also know that in the eyes of Jesus I am deeply loved. And, it's also true that I am not loved more, or blessed more, or claimed more than any other human being. That's a 'loud part' that is not only comforting, but ridiculously challenging.
Now, here's where I struggle, well, I mean I struggle with all of it, but I struggle more with the how, rather than the why. I believe this is a LOUD question for us today, "How do we BE Jesus to the children of the world?" 'How' is hard. How do I, how do you, how does the church advocate and care for the poor, discarded, imprisoned, and sick?
I think because we don't know exactly how to answer it, because we feel small, or powerless, or tired, we would rather Jesus whisper that question. Or maybe not ask it at all. I think we forget that even Jesus felt powerless and unheard by his own people.
Here is the thing that actually encourages me about both our reading from Ezekiel and our reading from Mark...
The people know there's a prophet among them. They know it. Sure, they refuse to hear, but they know that God is doing something. They hear the LOUD words, they just don't like them.
I guess, I can't help but realize that all it takes, in both of these stories, is for the prophet to speak. To say something in the name of the Lord for the winds of change to start blowing...
What I want to promise you is somehow this will get us all to a 'happily ever after' ending, but the best I've got for you today is this:
Say the loud stuff loud and the quiet stuff quiet.
But before you say something, listen. Listen for God to speak, because, praise the Lord, God is still speaking among us. And if the Bible is any sign, Jesus is speaking in the voice of a quiet, small child, and He is loud and large in the cause of love.
The word of the Lord has something to say to this world... And Jesus expects us to help say it. Amen.