Sunday, May 8, 2016

Easter 7 C - May 8, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams, n/OHC 
Easter 7 C- Sunday, May 1, 2016
Photo credit John Beddingfield

And Jesus prayed for his disciples, and said. "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word . . . John 17:20

There is a story that has been passed from generation after generation from the mouth of seniors to the ears of juniors. It is a story that was passed down from South East Africa to the shores of the North Atlantic. It is a story that takes place somewhere in the dunes of the South.

The story begins as a people, who had been mislabeled slaves, where toiling in the hot southern sun. They were working so very hard to pick cotton. There was one young woman and beside her was her small boy, he was about maybe six or seven. The woman had such incredible dexterity that she was able to pick cotton with her right hand and caress the forehead of her child with her left hand. But eventually, exhausted by working so hard in the fields, she collapsed from the weight and the pressure of being—in the words of Dubois—“problem and property.”

Her little boy attempted to wake her very quickly, knowing that if the slave drivers were to see his mother the punishment would be swift and brutal.

The little one tried to shake his mother, and as he was trying to shake her, an old man, that the Africans called Preacher and Prophet, and the slave drivers called Old Devil walked over to the little boy. The little one looked up at the old man and said:

“Is it time?” “Is it time?”

The old man smiled and looked at the boy and said, “Yes!” “ Yes!”The old man bent down and whispered into the ear of the boys mother who was now on the ground and says these words: “ mungu, mungu!”

At that moment the woman got up with such incredible dignity. She stood as a queen and looked down at her son with loving eyes, Grasped his hand and look toward heaven.  

And suddenly they began to fly.

The slave drivers rushed over to the area where she had stopped working and seeing this act of human flight and now completely confused, annoyed and not knowing what to do!

And during the slave drivers confusion, the old man rushed around to all the other Africans and began to tell them, “mungu, mungu!”

When the people herd The Word, they all began to fly. Can you imagine?  The dispossessed flying? Can you imagine the disempowered flying? The diseased flying?

And at that moment the slave drivers grab the old man and said: Bring them back!”

The slave drivers beat the old man, and with blood coming down his cheek, he smiled at them. The slave drivers demanded, “Bring them back now!”  “Bring them back now!” Or we will beat you until there's nothing left of you! The old man replied, “I can’t.”

The slave drivers questioned, “Why so ever not?” The old man replied, “Because the word is already in them and since the word is already in them, it cannot be taken from them.”

You see, the old man had the power of a Swahili word, Mungu, a word that means God.

The word had been placed into the heart of these displaced Africans and now they had reclaimed their dignity and they were flying.

Is this not the job of the Church and the Preacher, the faithful disciple? We are not called to make people shout. We are not called to make people dance. We are not called to entertain people. We are not called to use the people to stroke our own ego!

No, we are called to make sure that the people of God fly! Fly from breakdown to break through.  Fly from hurt to healing. Fly from heartache to wholeness. We are called as a people to ensure that those who have been marginalized have a word in their spirit that allows them to fly.

And the question is: are we a part of a church, a movement, a ministry that causes people to fly? But the even more difficult question for us is who are we in the story, now in this season of our life: Are you one of the slave drivers: with a harden heart resisting being transformed and molded by the Holy Spirit? Are you the little child?  Are you one of the people who have heard the message and reclaimed your dignity? Are you the old Preacher spreading the word?

Story adapted from, The People Could Fly, by Virginia Hamilton

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