Luke 10: 25-37
July 10, 2016
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
We are on the road to Jericho again. It is a familiar road. We have walked down it for years, every 3 years ago at least as it comes up in the lectionary. Not to mention all the Sunday School and VBS lessons we have heard or taught. The road to Jericho is familiar and for most of us comforting. We know what we are supposed to do on the road to Jericho. We are supposed to watch the ditches for injured neighbors. We are supposed to have at hand a package of bandaids and extra money in our pockets so that we can bind wounds and provide for assistance.
We know, or at least we think we know, what to do along the road to Jericho. We are to be Good Samaritans. Even people who don’t go to church know what the term Good Samaritan means
So you would think, that after hearing this story so often we would start getting it. You would think that this story and this story alone would be enough to change the world.
It is the sum of the law and the prophets that Jesus taught. Love your neighbor as yourself.
You would think. But let me tell you what was happening when we read this story and walked the road to Jericho 3 years ago. The day before we learned that George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Do you remember George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin? 3 years ago.
Eerie, then, that three years later, and after many more deaths of black men and women have been made public, eerie that this text should come up again the week after not one but two deaths of black men at the hands of police.
But let me tell you another number: One hundred and twenty three. 123 is the # of black men who have been killed by Law Enforcement this year alone. 123. Today is only day 189 of this year.
I served for 10 years as a police chaplain for the cities of Brooklyn Park, Champlin and with the Hennepin County sheriffs on occasion. Therefore I have given police officers the benefit of the doubt because the people I worked with were people of integrity and honor. I watched while sheriffs and police officers stood without firing a shot while a man held a shotgun threatening to pull the trigger. I have seen police officers use tolerance, restraint and wisdom when confronted with a man with a weapon.
So I thought, there must be something going on I don’t understand.
But no longer. Now, I am not giving police that benefit.
I am done. I am not giving my society the benefit of the doubt any longer. I am done.
This week’s shooting near the state fair in Falcon Heights while a four year old was sitting in the back seat means I am done.
This week’s execution style shooting of a man selling CD’s on a street in Baton Rogue means I am done.
I am done pretending that the road to Jericho is safe for my brothers and sisters who do not look like me. I am done pretending that if I simply apply first aid to the victims that fall alongside the road to Jericho I will be doing my part as a Good Samaritan.
I am done pretending that the road to Jericho is just like any other road and if you have the right map and follow the right rules you can travel it safely.
I am done.
Because band-aids are not enough, To paraphrase Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce: the gaping wounds we are encountering along the road to Jericho require major surgery and complete reconstruction. It is not enough to shake our heads and bend over the victims. Pick them up and carry them to the nearest inn and leave them with a pot of money. We must stand with them through the pain of their injuries, trying to understand how they got injured in the first place. Trying to dismantle the system that created the circumstances that allowed this roadside attack. And then doing whatever we can to change the system so it doesn’t happen again and again and again. 123 times.
One of the first ways we can begin reconstruction and major surgery is to recognize our own complicity in the system. We can recognize that we have been taught to see black as dangerous. Black as something to be avoided. Black as something that is threatening. We can change our own perceptions by being aware of them. This is major surgery. I can tell you story after story about people who did this major surgery. And how their lives were transformed. This means forming relationships with people who you think are scary. Or different. Or strange. But this is what it means to walk the road to Jericho.
And there is something else about the road to Jericho that requires more than band aids and money left at an inn, the road map and the rules of the road need to be rewritten. Because the directions are obviously too cryptic. The rules are obviously not the same for everyone.
Frankly, the map is written for those with white privilege. If you doubt this, let me tell you something that Karen Light Edmonds revealed on Facebook. Her son, a biracial teen in Rochester, was staying over at a friend’s house on Thursday evening this week. Karen and her husband were uneasy. So they texted him. Their son assured them that he would not leave the house of his friends. That he would stay inside all night. Let me repeat this: he assured Karen and John that we would stay inside all night. But he also said he would come home if it made them feel better. Karen and John said ‘no’ enjoy your time with your friend.
Soon, however, their son walked through the door. He knew his parents wouldn’t feel safe while he was not at home.
A woman whose child is white responded: my child is a sleepover at a dance studio. It never even occurred to me that I should worry about his safety.
You see the map and the rules are different. If you are a person of color.
The road to Jericho has become so dangerous that even a black man who works in a cafeteria in a school in St. Paul can be shot in cold blood while a 4 year old child sits in the back seat.
This is why I am done.
I am done saying we should all just be Good Samaritans. Because the Jericho road needs something completely different right now. And it is time for me, as a white woman of privilege to say: it is not enough to read this story every three years, it is not enough to teach this story to our children, it is not enough to apply band aids. It is not enough to be Good Samaritans who do nice things once in a while.
We must be willing to be holy guides along the road to Jericho, saintly men, women and children who are following the call of Jesus:
We must line the sides of the road to Jericho with our presence and our humility and our power of privilege. Setting up a barrier of love that keeps our brothers and sisters from falling prey to the violence of hatred that lurks in the shadows.
We must be the holy guides who point out the pit falls and potholes of injustice and confront the evil that searches out those whom they would devour.
We must be the holy advocates who insist that the pit falls of injustice be filled in and removed. We must be the holy advocates who ward off the evil, resist injustice and set up a shield of protection for all our brothers and sisters. So that no one ever is harmed as they walked the road to Jericho. So that no one is ever disrespected as they travel the road to Jericho
And even more we must be the new cartographers who will rewrite the maps and rules of the road to Jericho so that all can read and understand them, according to their own language and custom and experiences. We must draw a new map with rules that apply to all.
We must be the holy builders who will do whatever it takes to rebuild and reconstruct and reinterpret the road to Jericho so that everyone can travel the road safely.
This is truly what Jesus meant when he said: Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself.