Saturday, February 2, 2013

Yeas and boos; speaking truth to power

Luke 4:21-30

It’s easy, so easy, for yeas to turn into boos.
On any given day in the ballpark, the star pitcher can have trouble finding the corners of the plate, and on the same day the star fielder can have trouble watching the ball all the way into his glove. Yeas turn so quickly into boos.
On any given day, the favorite daughter candidate can put her foot in her mouth. Yeas turn so quickly into boos.
On any given day, the most popular preacher on TV can have his dark secrets exposed to the whole world. Yeas turn so quickly into boos.
On any given Sunday, the local pastor can speak her passion and discover that a third of the congregation believes she speaks heresy. Yeas turn so quickly into boos.
… As we turn to the second part of this story in Luke, the reaction in Jesus’ home synagogue quickly turns from yeas into boos. At first the folks were amazed and proud of this young man they all remembered. Isn’t he the son of Joseph the carpenter? Look how well he turned out! Wouldn’t he make a good husband for our daughters?
But then the folks began to think about what he said. They realized he was talking about upsetting the olive cart, and they didn’t like it. Perhaps Jesus could read their minds, or just their faces. Because he threw down the challenge: “You want me to heal people and cast out demons in Nazareth. But you folks are not worthy of such healings! You are like the people of Israel when Elijah and Elijah healed the foreign women and not one person in Israel. I know well that as a prophet, I am not welcome here in my home town.”
Under those circumstances, we are not surprised that the people of Nazareth try to run Jesus out of town, and off the cliff to his death. But Jesus escapes and leaves town unharmed.
The yeas turned to boos because Jesus was speaking truth to power. That means he was confronting the powerful with the truth of their sin. He was pointing out that the leadership of Nazareth was so self-focused that he would never get a chance to do much ministry there.
When we are truly Jesus’ disciples, we run the risk of turning yeas into boos. Over the 2,000 years since Jesus, lots of people have risked life and limb and reputation to be a disciple. Lots of people have spoken truth to power.
We recently celebrated Martin Luther King Day, honoring a man who was not afraid to speak truth to power. He certainly enjoyed both yeas and boos. Crowds gave yeas for his speeches.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." …
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. …
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
In this famous speech, King drives home the fact that in practice, some people are treated as equal, but not all people. Some people are judged by their character, but not all people. Some people have access to the promises of God, but not all people.
He received yeas from the people of color, and from the people who agreed that unfair practices needed to change. He received boos from people who disagreed with him. Many of the people who disagreed with him were people in power who resisted any change to the status of people of color in the US. Of course, some of the people who booed him were angry people with no political power, other than the power of a rifle.
Today, there are groups of people speaking truth to power about several issues: the 99% vs the 1%; rights for gay people; new policies for immigrants, legal and illegal; health care for more Americans; better education policies and funding; and at the top of the news lately, the right to own a gun.
Yeas against boos abound in the modern world where communication is instantaneous. Those who want to make changes to the laws are met with powerful lobbies who want to resist change. The resistance is often about keeping the most cash in the pockets of those currently in power, and about controlling who has access to power.
While none of these issues has black and black-and-white answers, it is always appropriate to seek God’s justice and love. We remember the stories about the prophets speaking truth to power, pointing out that God wants all people to have enough, and that money and ritual can’t buy God’s favor. We remember the stories in scripture when Jesus spoke with love with foreigners and other social outcasts.  He gave them lots of yeas, while his opponents confronted them and him with boos.
In our interactions with other people, we do well to give lots of yeas and few boos whether we are talking with or about people. I know from experience that sometimes giving a yea in response to a boo is helpful. I also know that sometimes it’s better to keep silent, because my yea will not have any effect on the boo.
For example; I read lots of posts on Facebook. Some people constantly posts boos about Muslims and about gun control. I have tried conversing with them and have realized that they have their opinions and they will not change. The power of their conviction is no match to my appeal to fact and reason and love. So instead of sending yeas to their boos, I pray for them to gain the wisdom to see their hatred for what it truly is. I pray yeas against their boos, and pray what I hope is God’s truth to their (in my opinion) misguided power.
It’s so easy to have strong opinions about many issues. It’s not so easy to be flexible enough to consider all the facts before forming an opinion. If we follow where Jesus’ love and justice takes us, we may find it easier to give yeas where others give boos.
This week – and always – I pray that you will seek to give more yeas than boos. I pray that you will speak the yeas of truth to the power of boos and join me in sharing God’s love and justice in the face of hatred and injustice.
Please pray with me: Lord, we are filled with judgment, with yeas and boos. Give us eyes and hearts to see as you see and to love as you love, and the courage to speak up with our yeas for those who have little power. We pray in your holy and powerful name. Amen