Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
What is Jesus’ condemnation of the leaders in this passage from Matthew? It is that instead of entering into the struggles and hardship of the people whom they serve, they would rather keep a safe distance. They would like to be seen as doing the good things in the community without actually doing the good thing. I read this and think of the passage from James about faith and good works: “By my works I will show you my faith” (James 2:18). I am reminded of the Creator God being in the mud of the earth molding and sculpting with God’s own hands (Genesis 3). The call is to enter into the messiness of life instead of staying back at a safe distance.
In 2020, after George Floyd was killed, social media accounts were suddenly flooded with black squares where profile pictures had been before. People did it as a way to stand in alliance with the Black community. However, that was as far as many people went. A new term was coined: “performative allyship.” (“Allyship” is a new word invented to mean “relation with a marginalized group.”) Though that blacked-out square may have given people a step into the world of racial reconciliation, it was a safe move that did not require a great deal.
Today, Jesus would be standing in the open, telling us to move from performative allyship into effective allyship. To use the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call, to move from “passive peace to active peace.” Or from Isaiah 40:4–5a: “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” It is an uncomfortable call, because it means sacrificing our comfort for stranger and neighbor. And . . . (there’s always an and) that is what is required of us (Micah 6:8).
Rebecca Sisley, pastor, Riverside Moravian Church
Riverside, New Jersey