I Need Help With Me
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon
Scripture: Matthew 10:24-39
Be merciful to, O Lord, for you are my God.
The author Anne Lamott tells a story about the time her son was around 5 and they were visiting friends. She writes, “All of a sudden we heard a tiny distressed voice. We turned toward the sound -- Sam had managed to get his head stuck in the slats of a chair...he said, 'I need help with me.'
When I read this short vignette a couple of week ago it really spoke to me. The phase “I need help with me” truly felt like a prayer to me. I believe some of the best prayers to God are short and to the point. This one is certainly succinct. “God, I need help with me” Amen. I probably should add the word “now” to this phase. “God, I need help with me, NOW.” Amen.
We all been great impacted by the worldwide pandemic with no real end in sight. None of us knows when we will be able to return to what we now call “normal” life. We have been forced to isolate ourselves from family and friends. We have had to stop participating in public worship in our beloved sanctuary. Many are working from home - that is if they have managed to keep a job. No casual shopping at stores, no trips to the gym, no travel, no professional sports like basketball or baseball, no movies, no eating meals in restaurants – the list of what we are missing is long and sad.
Then in the mist of this coronavirus time the world as it really is flashed before my eyes. The vision stayed there begging me to really, really see how my sisters and brothers of color have been forced to live in our country for an exceptionally long time. To say the murder of George Floyd shocked me is an understatement. I was physically ill for days with the image from the horrendous video seared on my brain. I had watched his murder at the hands of public servants who are paid to protect us. From all I’ve been witnessing in news reports – from the evidence provide by words and pictures, it’s very clear I need to rethink many of the my long held beliefs about life in our cities, our state, our entire country and the world – my bubble has been burst finally.
Today’s lesson from Matthew is a continuation of the sending forth of the disciples which we heard in last week’s reading. It is a teaching of what it takes to be a disciple of Christ in the world. One common complaint against Christianity brought up by non-believers is: why does an all-powerful, loving God allow terrible things to happen in the world? This criticism only holds up, however, if one buys into the common misunderstanding, professed by some Christians, that Christianity is a religion of sunshine, rainbows, unicorns, and puppy dogs, completely devoid of suffering and pain. Readers of Matthew’s gospel know that the in-breaking of God’s kingdom comes with much pain and suffering.
The reading begins with Jesus reminding us not to fear the oppressors of this world, but to fear God. Written against the backdrop of the oppressive Roman Empire, Matthew offers words of comfort to worshippers of God that the reign of God is being uncovered. Jesus empowers us to stand in opposition to our oppressors, proclaiming the peace and love of God, yet Jesus is not naïve enough to think that our oppressors will simply give up. This seems to be true in the current age of continuing police harassment, mass incarceration, lack of opportunity in jobs, housing and almost all aspect of daily life for people of color. And this is so true of the dealing with the issues of all the inequalities which power and white privilege continues to cause in our society. Proclaiming the Good News for all people will always make those in power uncomfortable, and sometimes that even might include people in our own families. Ultimately, this passage teaches us that following Christ and living a life of faith will not always be easy and that, sometimes, doing what is right may cause conflict or damage relationships.
There are numerous books available today to assist us white folk in educating ourselves around the issues of white privilege and injustices which people of color experience. This past week I finished reading the book White Fragility. I would like to quote the author Robin Diangelo. What she says feel so much like where I am in life today: “I have found it much more useful to think of myself as on a continuum. Racism is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that I do not see myself escaping from that continuum in my lifetime. But I can continually seek to move further along it.” I learned from reading this book that racism is a multilayer system embedded in our culture and I was socialized into the system just as my parents were. I understand I have had a blind spot on my place in this system. I will kid you not - overcoming and changing my internal dialogue on racism is extremely hard personal work and it will take much soul searching and prayer. For me engaging in conversation, especially one in which there could be conflict, in a loving and respectful way can be particularly difficult.
Yet, ultimately, we will be rewarded for doing what is right and be acknowledged before God in the promises held in verse 32 of this passage. “Therefore, whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my father who is in heaven.” To be true disciples is a journey of learning and growing in faith. Because this is exactly what Jesus expects from us. To go forth with our eyes wide open, accept responsibility for our place in the order of the world and to engage in transforming it. Remembering always to be engaged in pray: Please God, your kingdom come, your will be done.
Anyone who chooses is welcome to join me in claiming this little prayer for their own: Dear God, I need help with me, now. Amen.