August 16, 2020 | Rev. Dr. Blake
"Then shall it be that I pour out my spirit on all; your sons and daughters shall be inspired [shall prophesy] your old men shall dream dreams, your young shall see visions... both men and women." (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17 [Moffatt Translation])
Such powerful words uttered, most scholars believe, during the ninth century BCE. The land had been devastated by a pandemic of locust destroying grain and vines leaving the land and people in total disarray. What had once resembled the Garden of Eden is now unthinkable wreckage. Still, the prophet Joel talks about a day to come when God will bring about newness. It is a time of inclusiveness, of women and men, young and old. The Apostle Peter quotes this passage at the birth of the Church. Clarence Jordan puts it this way: “When the time is ripe,"says God, "I will share my spirit with all humanity, And your sons and your daughters will speak the truth. Your young people will catch visions And your old people will dream new dreams. Yes indeed, when the time is ripe. I’ll share my spirit With my boys and my girls and they will speak the truth.” (Act 2:17) How long then has our Creator been pouring out a spirit upon us and filling us with dreams, visions? It is disturbing that for millennia we have rejected the equality and inclusivity articulated in the books of Joel and Acts. There is justifiable elation in the hearts of many because of the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democrat ticket. I do appreciate that she and others understand that her selection is the result of many who have gone before her, particularly women, young and old: Shirley Chisolm, Geraldine Ferraro, the young women leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Let’s hear again Amy Beach’s Dreaming with some biographical information included. Feel its pull.
The cry of how long before women are granted full rights has echoed throughout the ages. The time is ripe. Indeed, as Dr. King said: “The time is always ripe to do right.” The United States Senate paid tribute to The Iroquois Confederacy, founded by the Great Peacemaker in 1142, by stating that "The confederation of the original 13 colonies into one republic was inﬂuenced by the political system developed by the Iroquois Confederacy, as were many of the democratic principles which were incorporated into the constitution itself." Why then exclude women's rights?
Dennis Jamison in 2014 wrote an article entitled: Iroquois women enjoyed equality long before 1492. “Such an extended family-oriented society allowed women many individual and community “rights,” and women often took leadership positions within the clan or tribal organization. Iroquois women enjoyed many rights not normally permitted to women in European society. The Iroquois women participated fully in helping to maintain the economic, political, social, and spiritual well-being of their communities and clans. The women served as the keepers of their people’s culture and served as clan leaders. Tribal leadership was matrilineal, as the sister of the sachems (chiefs or leaders) chose the male successor once her brother no longer held a leadership position.” So many have died over the years in the United States to journey to where we are today. And, we still have miles to go to before we arrive.
August 18 marks the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of Amendment XIX giving women the right to vote. It was catalogued on August 26 of the same year, 1920. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” How many lives, dreams, visions never lived because of the sexism ingrained into the pattern of our structures, institutions, systems and personal lives. Olive Schreiner made a critical observation: “As the oak tree cannot grow unless, with each new ring it adds, its old bark cracks and splits, so humanity cannot develop without the rupture of its old institutions and laws; and it has been exactly because the bulk of humanity have never of necessity been able to distinguish between this healthful disruptive process and unhealthful decay, and have sought to crush and annihilate the particles causing it, that the growth of humanity has been as slow as it has. . . . In all ages, the multitude has looked upon Barabbas as a less violent and dangerous disrupter of social laws than the Christ – not this man, but Barabbas! . . .” This is a challenge to us all. While the Biden-Harris ticket is capturing the imagination of so many, it by itself cannot effect the change necessary to build the world we need. We must not leave this responsibility to them alone if they are elected. It is we who must rupture old institutions and laws. That is our duty. Audre Lorde wrote: “For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered. It is this real connection which is so feared by a patriarchal world…. Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the I to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive be and the active being.” She continues: “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbian, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change….” Last Sunday, August 9, marked six years since the slaying in Ferguson, MO of Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old unarmed Black man. Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, first woman pastor in the history of Christ The King United Church of Christ, located in the area of Brown’s murder, gave voice and leadership to expressions of pain and outrage in the local and national communities. “Bushes were burning in Ferguson long before Michael Brown was killed!” Blackmon shouted. “Bushes were burning in Baltimore before Freddie Gray died! Bushes were burning in Florida before Trayvon Martin! Bushes were burning in New York before Eric Garner was killed on the street corner! Bushes were burning…in Flint before the water was contaminated, in Charlottesville before the white supremacists marched, in Palestine before the wall! Bushes were burning in the U.S. before Donald Trump became president!” It was a burning bush where the voice of the “I am what I am, the I am what/who I shall be” declared that the ground on which Moses stood was Holy Ground. Just as everywhere we stand is Holy Ground because it was created by the God of life, the Creator of existence. And we too are called to take a stand. The burning bush was Moses’ call and order to lead the people of God out of the institutional containment of slavery toward freedom, not knowing the way to freedom, with the possibility of wandering and getting lost. Nevertheless, the command was to go forth, trusting that “the scent” (Howard Thurman) of truth and freedom would cause them to arrive at the eventual goal, community. That is essentially the meaning of the cry to defund policing institutions and systems that became louder with the additional murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sean Monterrosa, Rayshard Brooks and others. It recognizes that the United States is one of the most policed nations on the earth; and, yet, is one of the most “unsafe”, in fact, dangerous for Black lives. It is a call to empower communities economically, politically, educationally, and culturally. History has shown a positive correlation between community empowerment and safety. Olive Schreiner leaves us with this parable: “. . . a good old mother duck, who, having for years led her ducklings to the same pond, when that pond has been drained and nothing is left but baked mud, will still persist in bringing her younglings down to it, and walks about with flapping wings and anxious quack, trying to induce them to enter it. But the ducklings, with fresh young instincts, hear far off the delicious drippings from the new dam which has been built higher up to catch the water, and they smell the chickweed and the long grass that is growing up beside it; and absolutely refuse to disport themselves on the baked mud and to pretend to seek for worms where no worms are. And, they leave the ancient mother quacking beside her pond and set out to seek for new pastures – perhaps to lose themselves upon the way? Perhaps to find them? To the old mother one is inclined to say, ‘Ah good old mother duck, can you not see the world has changed? You cannot bring the water back into the dried-up pond. Perhaps it was better and pleasanter when it was there, but it has gone forever; and, would you and yours swim again, it must be in other waters.'" Yes, boys and girls will be inspired to speak the truth. The young shall have visions that hopefully will cause the old to dream new dreams.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically … No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” (Rosa Parks)