Sermon 08-23-20

“Embodied Movement”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Exodus 1.8-2.10

Romans 12.1-8

August 23, 2020

Our bodies were meant to move. Even those with limited mobility are able to do so with wheels or with assistance – and movement looks like many things. Our bodies were created to move – with joy, with sadness, with frustration, with welcome. There are many ways we can move our bodies, including in worship. Last week the Rogers corner was dancing away during one of the songs, and it reminded me that even though we aren’t able to sing right now, we can certainly move and dance. One of our scripture passages talks about worshiping God with our bodies, and being transformed, so today we are going to stand up and move a bit, still keeping our six feet. Only do what you’re comfortable doing – but let’s take some time to just move and worship God through movement, even if you’re just swaying back and forth!

(DANCE)

We worship God as a response – we are literally moved with gratitude. In the Romans passage Paul writes to the Romans. Some would have argued that because God gives us grace, because the law wasn’t necessary, they could sin away! Yet, Paul is telling the group that because of God’s grace, we are transformed, and do not have desire to sin, but to worship God with our hearts, our minds, and our bodies, which have all been transformed.[1] Paul is writing in the context of the Roman empire. There seems to always be an empire – always a majority that rules over another. Our governing system is different, but what are the structures of power in place now that are oppressive?[2]

In oppressive systems, not all bodies are equal. In our country all bodies have not been equal. Women’s bodies have not always been equal to men’s bodies, and it has been reflected in the fact that women have only been able to vote for 100 years, and there still isn’t equal pay. Even when white men were the only ones voting, it only included white men with property, and slowly the injustices of our country were chipped away at, but for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), there still isn’t equality. We’ll talk more about that in a little bit.

Our second scripture passage tells the story of Moses – of bodies who were not valued; not equal in society. First, we need a little background of this story. Genesis tells of Joseph, whose stories cover multiple chapters, so I can’t begin to summarize here. Yet, know that after being a survivor of human trafficking by his brothers, and being in jail, he eventually became close with the Egyptian Pharaoh and built a relationship with him. Relationships are power. When we know one another as people, as individuals, it is easier to value and harder to devalue. This relationship led to a good relationship between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Yet, the Pharaoh has changed, Joseph has died, and now that all has been forgotten, the relationship neglected.

The Egyptian king uses his power out of fear, enslaving the Israelites, and eventually killing the babies – the smallest, most vulnerable in their society.[3] The Hebrew midwives were instructed to kill their own kind. These midwives, whose job it was to bring life safely into the world were asked to then execute innocent children. They refused, and I love their response when confronted by the pharaoh: “The Hebrew women give birth so quickly we’re just not necessary!” How was the Pharaoh to respond to that? Unfortunately, he found a way, and demanded the babies be drowned in the river. To him, Israelite bodies were not of value because he was fearful of the Israelites.

The focus of the story then shifts to an individual experience in the Israelite community – of Moses. This woman, his mother, concealed him for three months – three months![4] If you have spent three minutes with a baby you know how nearly impossible this would be, between the midnight feedings and diaper changes. We read the NRSV telling of this passage, but I want to read a summarization written by Rev. Liddy Barlow, a UCC minister in Pennsylvania:

 

“At first, Jochebed hid him. When Shiphrah and Puah, the canny midwives, put the baby boy in her weary arms, what other choice did she have? His very strength was a liability, his very existence a reason for fear. And so his mama held him close. Sheltered him. Whispered his name in his ear, his hidden first Hebrew name that no one else would ever know. Repeated to him, over and over again: you are strong. You are loved. Your life matters...

“Worse, a woman of privilege. Privileged women are dangerous…As a woman of privilege, Bithiah had a choice when she heard the baby’s cries. She could have easily responded out of loyalty to the system that gave her every advantage. She could have called Egyptian 911 to come eliminate this infant threat. Alternatively, she could have responded with paternalistic benevolence, sending the boy to an Egyptian nursery where he’d never know his own people.

“But she did neither of those things. Instead, something pushed Bithiah beyond her privilege.”[5]

Conversations of privilege have been happening for a while, but have been happening more frequently since the death of George Floyd. It will be part of our conversation in our 21 day racial equity challenge. The idea is not that we will solve the problem of racism in 21 days, but that to break a habit, you must practice what you hope to change for at least 21 days. It will be a time of learning and studying and engaging and asking questions.

It isn’t the only place that we can have these discussions. Next week is the Presbyterian Week of action. The denomination is spending a week encouraging churches and individuals to address racial inequality and fight for systemic change. Our denomination is a Matthew 25 church, which hopes to sustain growth, and eradicate systemic poverty and racism. So, next week, the denomination invites churches and individuals to a week of action. One of those is participating in a march or protest, which you can do virtually or in person, distanced and masked. You can donate money to a cause. You can have these conversations and talk.

Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race, defines privilege as “an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not,” not earned by you.[6] They don’t just include race, but also ability and sexuality and class. I have privilege not only as a white person, but as a person who had access to healthcare growing up, who had the opportunity at a free education, and probably more I don’t even recognize.

Our privileges are not to make us feel guilty (though we might sometimes, and that’s uncomfortable), but to help us understand how our system keeps people down. If Moses had been raised by his mother, he probably wouldn’t have had the financial resources. Being raised as an Egyptian, he had many privileges. He certainly had his mistakes, but he also used his power and privilege to help liberate the Israelites. When we can have these conversations and recognize how others are affected by privilege or lack of it, we can begin to find ways that we can come together as God’s community and work together rather than by participating in systemic oppression without even realizing it.

God loves us all – and God created us all. God calls us to use our gifts to be united – to create a movement, so that all may be free. Amen.

 

[1]Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker, Preaching Through the Christian Year: A, (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992), 415.

[2] Eleazar S. Fernandez, “Romans” in Feasting on the Word: Year A, Vol. 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 376.

[3] Craddock, 410.

[4] Craddock, 410.

[6] Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk about Race, (New York: Seal Press, 2019), 61.