Rev. Letiah Fraser originally preached this sermon on the Freedom Church of the Poor’s August 30th service. Learn more about the Freedom Church and RSVP for our next online service here.
There are moments that spark a movement. Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law the priest and God called him to a movement. Those are wise words for us, so I will slow down a moment here. God may not use the vocational priests and religious institutions to shepherd the liberation that is needed. That can bring about a measure of disappointment for me and some others and yet what is also true is that God is calling the essential workers, the oppressed, the poor and dispossessed to notice the moment we are in.
The oppressive systemic structures of our society are on fire. This is not a moment to freeze, to ignore it, or to dismiss it as just a bunch of radicals or liberals causing trouble … good trouble. It is a moment to get curious and get closer as Moses did. When we come closer, we find out for ourselves why the bush is on fire in the first place. Essential workers continue to work for slave wages building the empires of the rich. People are being evicted from their homes because they have lost their jobs due to the double pandemic of poverty and COVID-19. There were almost 700 people — before the pandemic — dying a year because of lack of access to health care, national leaders are distorting the message of Good News for political gain and many religious leaders are making excuses for it. I could go on and on, but to sum it up, “this shit is not good news.”
The oppressive systemic structures of our society are on fire ... Essential workers continue to work for slave wages building the empires of the rich.
Although it is tempting, do not fall into despair. Instead, we must open our eyes and see. The structures that were built and designed to oppress us are not consuming us. Instead they are causing us to cry louder, things like, “Black Lives Matter. Justice for Breonna Taylor. Disabled lives matter. Trans lives matter. Uninsured lives matter. Unhoused lives matter. Essential workers’ lives matter.” I will pause a second so that others can add their additions to the growing list.
Social media, videos, and the slowing down of life due to the pandemic has caused us all to stop and notice. Even those who had the privilege not to notice before that the oppressive structures that have been the fabric of this capitalistic society are on fire, are now without excuse.
Moses out of curiosity comes close to the bush and God instructs him to take off his shoes, to stay a while, to see, to take in this holy moment. God has heard the cries of the expandable workers who are making bricks to keep the economy going at the expense of their lives. God has heard the cries of the poor and dispossessed who will continue to say the names of those who have been murdered by some who are a part of the sanctioned national mob, some of whom wear blue. Black bodies and lives who have not and may not receive justice. God has heard us cry, “How long, oh Lord…”
The structures of our society and Mother Nature herself are on fire. God has heard us, as God heard the cries of the Israelites and God has come to rescue us in the same way. Our hope is not in an escapist theology. Our hope is in movement. We must mobilize, organize, register, and educate people for a movement who vote with our ballots and our lives. God has heard our cries and God is rescuing us by calling us to a movement that goes to the pharaohs of our present day to say, “Let my people go.” “Somebody’s hurting us and it’s gone on far too long and we won’t be silent anymore.” God has called us to go after our own liberation. God has promised to be with us as we do, as he promised Moses when he was afraid.
Our hope is not in an escapist theology. Our hope is in movement. We must mobilize, organize, register, and educate people for a movement who vote with our ballots and our lives.
God called Moses to lead the people of Israel to a land where Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Jebusites and others lived. The presence of a diverse people who are all flourishing together is a sign of liberation. This is the land that will be flowing with milk and honey. The Israelites did not get us there … none of our ancestors have. The oppressive structures of our society are burning, and this is our scared moment to pick up the liberation baton and move.
When those who have a vested interest in upholding the oppressive systems question us — they have and they will — our response is … I AM. I am … the 140 million who are poor and dispossessed. We stand together, we stand as one, and our message is clear, “Let my people go!” Let my people go into a future where all flourish together. It is not a mystical kingdom present only in our imagination. It is the present-future we want now and forever for all people.
This seems like it would be a good place to say, “Amen,” which simply means, “May it be so.” But I think it would relay similar sentiments, if today, we said instead, “Wakanda Forever!”