SMH and OMG. Those letters stand for “shaking my head” and “Oh My God”. Even before this week, I’d wished I’d never see them again. You see there are some words, some phrases that just irk me and get on my nerves. My list includes, but is not limited too: job creators, takers, out of the box, totally, and last but not least, “man up”.
“Man up”. Ugh, really? Those two little words are used by politicians and pundits to prompt people act in a “manly way”–meaning what? Courageous, bold, taking responsibility, strong–doing what needs to get done.
Now of course, I am not saying that men do not do those things. No lots of men are brave and strong, and responsible. No doubt there are those of us who take this day, Father’s Day as a celebration of the men in our lives who have, who are – brave, responsible, honest, and compassionate and a call to fathers and all men to be brave, responsible, honest, and compassionate.
But it is not true that only men can be courageous, as if only a man can do what needs to get done, as if it takes a man to act, speak, be brave. “As if” that’s what “man up” implies and that the opposite characteristics are traits of the opposite sex.
The ancient Biblical near and middle eastern equivalent to “man up” is something we heard this morning in our first lesson, “Gird up your loins”. It occurs 5 times in the Bible, two of which are in the book of Job.
God says–Job, “gird up your loins like a man” which doesn’t make sense for us today, but in that world where men and women both wore dresses–ok robes and like tunic…….. But that type of clothing is not terribly conducive to strenuous activity like –physical labor or battle. So sometimes it would be necessary to fix their clothes so that they could do what needs to get done. There is a slide that shows at least one interpretation of what “girding up your loins” might look like. Granted, we do not think God is actually telling Job how to dress and what to wear. Instead, God is saying — Job–man up. If Job is going to have the . . . “chutzpah” to question God, Job better be prepared and ready for God to respond. God is going to question and contend with Job now, God is putting Job on the spot. But, God does not actually answer Job’s question. Instead God says: hey buddy were you there when I created the heavens and the earth? Job were you there when I calmed chaos of the waters of the seas and skies, set up the day, toss thunderbolts better than Thor?
Man up, Job. Gird up. God’s response to Job’s searching, questioning, and struggle is basically that God Job is not the center of the universe, God is God, and basically stuff happens. What you can’t get over you gotta get through. Do what you gotta do. Man up, woman up. However you want to say it. Gird up. Face life, face reality, do what’s gotta get done.
Whether we like it or not, this week, today we hear the same call for us. You may not be in the same boat as Job or the disciples. You may not personally be feeling and reeling from storm after storm–financial, sickness, despair, depression. You may not be there right now, but if you haven’t you will. We all have to gird up, because storms aren’t on the horizon. They are here and now. That’s one piece of what Pope Francis says in his ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME. We are all in the same boat, we are all interconnected the rich, the poor, man, women, animals, creation. Science and faith are connected. Science is telling us that we are accelerating change on our planet, that we are harming it, ourselves, and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people through our consumption of more and more, our economic systems built upon using. Faith tells us that this is not God’s will. Of course the Pope is directing his words to Roman Catholics, but his message is something we as people of faith need to hear as well for we too need (not just perhaps if it’s convenient, if we feel like it) we need to gird up, take responsibility, speak, and act to change our ways to change our policies. Gird up your loins, O church, because some will not like what we have to say, some will point fingers and say we are being political. Some will say we should just focus on saving souls. Gird up your loins, O church, because our God is the one who set this earth on its foundation, set the seas and the stars. God loves this earth and we are abusing it, and that is sin. Gird up, people, take responsibility and take action.
Gird up your loins, o church because the storms are all around us, and we are all in the same boat. We are in the same boat as Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, which had it’s pastor and 8 others of the/our church murdered in a vicious act of violent hate and racism. With immense sadness, we too can cry out like Job, “how long, O Lord?”, We can even ask, “why?” O God. We can pray our prayers, but we better be ready and prepared to hear God’s answer. Gird up o church, because the answer is sin. It is violence; it is racism. It is our silence. Gird up, o church because there are those who will say and try to downplay racism. But that is a storm that has been raging and brewing in our country for way too long. Gird up, O church, and be strong, be vocal to say it like it is.
This week our presiding Bishop Rev. Elizabeth Eaton sent out a pastoral letter. We need to hear our Bishop’s words:
It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore, simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this … the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a church is a stark, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism. The church was desecrated. The people of that congregation were desecrated. The aspiration voiced in the Pledge of Allegiance that we are “one nation under God” was desecrated.
Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at Mother Emanuel. The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own.
We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man. But we know that is not the whole truth. It is not an isolated event. And even if the shooter was unstable, the framework upon which he built his vision of race is not. Racism is a fact in American culture. Denial and avoidance of this fact are deadly. The Rev. Mr. Pinckney leaves a wife and children. The other eight victims leave grieving families. The family of the suspected killer and two congregations are broken. When will this end?
The nine dead in Charleston are not the first innocent victims killed by violence. Our only hope rests in the innocent One, who was violently executed on Good Friday. Emmanuel, God with us, carried our grief and sorrow – the grief and sorrow of Mother Emanuel AME church – and he was wounded for our transgressions – the deadly sin of racism.
I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage.
Kyrie Eleison. The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Gird up your loins, o church racism is real, violence we witnessed this week at Emanuel church doesn’t just come out of nowhere. it boils over from the vitriol, the comments, the micro-aggressions, the constant stereotyping, and suspicion, the falsity that only some of us, those with paler pigment are right, know what’s best, are the truer, better Americans. When we do not listen when a man says he can not breathe, when a gun an officer sits on a girl and draws a gun on unarmed boys. When we paler pigmented people can define what is normative, what is good quality. When money is taken from education to fund tax breaks for companies. Gird up your loins O church, because this sin is ours and the work is ours. We can not pretend that the boat we are in is not rocking, we can not pretend as our sisters and brothers are dying. There can not be peace and stillness for some while others are drowning and perishing.
The gospel Good News is that this isn’t the way its supposed to be. Jesus cared that day in the boat on the sea. He cares to this day too. The good news is that God wants us to do something about it; the Good news is that forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, justice is real. It is the work that Jesus came to do, that Jesus died for, it is the work that we are a part of, and it the love of God that gives us the strength to grace to pray, to speak, to act–to man up. Because of the God who made this world and us, because of Jesus who came to save it and us, because the Spirit is still at work in it and us–church gird up your loins. Church today is the day, the time is now. Church it is up to us, so man up, woman up, however you want to say it, gird up O church — Amen.