A sermon by Rev. Robin Bartlett
preached on Sunday, July 1, 2018
at the First Church in Sterling, MA
There was a call for people who were coming to the border to protest immigrant children being separated from their families last week to stop yelling and screaming and waving signs. A large crowd of adults yelling and chanting in a language they don’t understand just terrifies them, they said. What they need is quiet and calm. What they need is adults who are not angry and afraid. If you’re going to come to the border, sing the kids lullabies. And so protesters learned one of the lullabies that my own daughters’ Colombian immigrant father used to sing to them when they were babies:
A la nanita nana nanita nana nanita ella. Mi niñ(a) tiene sueño, bendito sea, bendito sea. (My little child is tired, may she be blessed, may she be blessed.)
They went to the border and just calmly sang that song, into the detention camps.
These days I hear a whole lot of adults yelling. We rarely take time to quiet ourselves enough to listen for the still, small voice that reminds us who’s in charge. Lord, we are tired. May we be blessed, may we be blessed.
America sounds a little unhinged to me right now. We are more than just clumsy in our relationships with each other and with God, we are destroying our relationships with each other and with God.
We need a healing.
Distracting us from the terrorized children who still haven’t been returned to their deported parents, our fight with one another has reached a hot fever pitch. Liberals and conservatives are each accusing the other of at best, incivility, and at worst, evil. Neither has cornered the market on sainthood, though. While liberals cheered the Red Hen’s decision to refuse to serve Sarah Huckabee Sanders in it’s restaurant, chicken manure was dumped on its steps by conservative activists. “Make America great again!” the man shouted as he covered the restaurant in poop.
We need a healing. Make America Love again.
Meanwhile, there is a pronounced and rising fear of those who are different than us, particularly those who worship differently than we do. This week, there was a decision to uphold the Muslim ban by the supreme court. Our fear of the other has replaced our faith in God.
We need a healing.
Meanwhile, there was another mass shooting, this time at a newspaper. Wendi Winters, one of the beloved lay leaders in my colleague and friends’ UU congregation in Annapolis was one of five killed at the Capital Gazette. The man who killed them had a long standing grudge against the paper, a history of stalking women, and consistently re-tweeted tweets about the free press being the enemy of the people.
We need a healing.
We need a healing because fear is the true enemy of the people. The constant onslaught of moral outrage we have been perpetuating has given way to what I can only describe as catastrophe theater.
We need a healing. Here’s what healed people know: we can do hard things with great Love.
These are just some of the things healed people can do at the same time: support American troops and care about refugees and asylum seekers. Respect the flag AND those who protest unjust racial discrimination. Love our police departments AND value black lives. Support the second amendment AND want to end school shootings. Care about American children AND care about refugee children. Care about our country, and care about the world.
This country has lost its faith in our God. We have developed a scarcity mindset as if Love is a finite resource. When it comes from God, Love is infinite.
We need a healing, and God is the only source. Not politics, not government, not war, not the marketplace. Love is the only source.
I saw someone wearing a hat yesterday that said “Jesus is my Boss.”
Imagine living as though that were true! Justice would roll down like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream.
Love is the boss of us, First Church. The whole world needs a healing, and that healing can only come from Love. We are sick, but our faith can make us well.
Our scripture from the Gospel of Mark today features two Jesus healing stories wound together.
A large crowd presses in on Jesus, they clamor to get near him, clawing at him. “Save me, heal me!” they cry. A woman sneaks a grasp on his robe thinking that maybe just touching a small piece of love will heal her. Her hemorrhage stops immediately, and Jesus tells her “Your faith has made you well.”
There is a father named Jairus who falls on his knees begging Jesus to heal his daughter. “My little girl is almost dead,” he says. “Help me.” Jesus goes to Jairus’ house to see his daughter. “Your daughter is already dead,” the crowd says. “Why are you bugging Jesus with this?”But Jesus says to Jairus, “do not fear, only believe.” He takes the little girl by the hand and says “Talitha, cumi,” which means “little girl, get up.” And she rises up.
Do not fear, only believe. But don’t stop there. If your faith has made you well, get up. Healed people heal people. Healed people heal the world. So, in these troubled times, don’t just stand for a political party or a government or a flag, or a protest movement, stand for Jesus.
Van Jones says, “I don’t think an authentic stand comes from your head. I think an authentic stand comes from your heart. If your child is sick, right? Something happens in you to make a miracle. It has nothing to do with the facts. And that’s all that’s required is your child, my child, your grandchild, your child’s child’s child – they’re in peril. And if you start thinking about it, you’ll sit down. But if you feel it you’ll stand up!
That’s the amazing thing about this thing. It’s that it’s when you stand up you license other people to stand up. Now you standing up by yourself don’t make a dad-gum bit of difference in the rational world. You’re just one fool standing up. But if you’ve ever seen a standing ovation? It starts with one fool standing up. And then pretty soon the whole stadium is standing up. And it’s a different moment!”
If your faith has made you well, than get up! Talitha cumi!
The power of Love will overcome the love of power, so get up.
Do not fear, only believe. Get up!
We need to stand for Jesus, so get up.
All children are our children, so get up! Do it for Kit’s great promise, of every child’s great promise…the children are sick, get up!
Love’s the boss of us, so get up!
Hell is here on this earth, and every last person deserves to be pulled out of it, so reach out your hand and get up!
Heaven is here on this earth too, so don’t just sit there waiting for it to manifest itself, get up.
Keep getting up until all of us have gotten up! Create a standing ovation TOGETHER—fools for Love.
Get on up!
Mary Pat Bailey loves the scripture reading we heard today from the Gospels, maybe the most. She is always writing “Talitha cum” on my Facebook statuses when she likes what I have to say, which I always take to mean “you go, girl.” She wrote this reflection on the passage last January:
Rise up, my little one. Rise up!
It is the dawn,
And time for waking.
Time for walking.
Rise up! Little girl, Rise Up!
Throw off the covers.
Awake from your tomb.
Do not be afraid.
Your sisters await.
One prepares the feast.
The other welcomes the stranger.
This is not your time for sleeping.
Wake up! Greet the Dawn!
Get up, daughter! Take My Hand.
Outside they are weeping.
They ache for you.
Do not be afraid. My Beloved,
Walk in Peace. Heal their wounds.
Trust in me.
Have Faith, My child.
You need only cling to
The Fringes of My Cloak
To be restored.
I will walk with you.
Into the light, come,
It is The Time for rising!
In the Mercy of your Womb
Grows the Womb of Mercy.
It is the Dawn. We are walking.
Be fearless, beloved. Your faith will make you well.
Rev. Robin Bartlett is the Senior Pastor at the First Church in Sterling, Massachusetts. www.fcsterling.org