Title of Service: A Moral Movement that Votes
Scripture: Luke 18:1-18
Preacher/Teacher: Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Date: October 16th, 2022
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, director of the Kairos Center
I get to read one of my favorite passages from this Holy Book, Luke 18:1-8. I’m going to read from the Message Bible.
Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’
“He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’”
Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”
This passage makes me think of Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, who just celebrated what would’ve been her 105th birthday. Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, who wouldn’t concede Christianity and the Bible to those who would justify racism, segregation, mistreatment, and violence and still call themselves Christian.
Ms. Hamer, who deeply believed in the power of poor, dispossessed, and low income people to change all of society. There’s a famous quote of hers that reminds me of this persistent widow. Ms. Hamer says, “You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not gonna put it in your lap.”
There’s a lot of folk out there in our society who are praying with their feet. There are a lot of folk out in society and in our movement who are persisting and returning and returning and returning. Let us remember that this judge admits that he does not give a damn about God or other humans. He doesn’t fear God and God’s judgment when injustice reigns.
But this woman, she comes back again and again, and I have to imagine she brings her community. I imagine she organizes a moral march. She marches through that main street with signs that say “Everybody’s got a right to live.”
And you know what? That unjust judge doesn’t have a huge change of heart. It’s not that he all of a sudden realizes the error of his ways. He says, “This woman is gonna keep on coming back. She is gonna continue to persist in her fight for justice. And that might make me look bad. That might give me a black eye. That might show the world that I don’t fear God or care about anybody else around me.”
So what I love about this passage is it’s about the power of that woman. Women like Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer. People like the folks here that are sharing with us this evening, who are organizing, mobilizing, registering, educating, and engaging people for a movement. A movement that votes, protests, marches and cries out for justice.
I think it’s a really important lesson that we follow this story. We’re not waiting for those in power to save us. We don’t think that those who have the wealth in our society have the solutions. We know it’s in the hands, in the bodies, in the beings of poor and low income people.
We have the power to change society from the bottom up. We have the power to change this entire political landscape. That’s what a moral movement for justice looks like. That prays with our feet, that doesn’t wait for God to put it in our lap, but sees and joins with God in the streets, as we march and cry for justice.
Let us be inspired by this persistent widow. Let us be inspired by Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer. And let us be even more inspired by the heroes and heroines of our society who are a part of this movement leading the way to justice. Who are crying out, “We who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes. Because until everybody is free, no one is.
Thanks be to God. Amen.