Oratio, Episode 12

Who do we believe?

Lectionary Reading:

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22

Mark 9:38-50

Reflection:

Professor Anita Hill: “The real problem is that the way that power is given out in our society pits us against each other…Testifying has helped me understand that one individual's behavior and actions make a difference. That my actions are important to people other than myself.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

The happenings of this week are heavy. For those of us in our communities who are survivors, we sit with you in this moment; we pause with you; we bear the weight with you; we ask what you need, and we do not prescribe answers or antidotes to the pain. 

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially women of color and Trans women of color, we offer a moment of space now, as violence is much less often a far off story, and instead an unjust recurring system. 

The title of this week’s reflection is: Who do we believe? A follow up question to the title is: Whose voice do we give power to?

The words of Hill, Ford, and Esther melt into one another. They are stories of inequity, a lack of justice, and a shift in power dynamics. 

Looking at the story of Esther, we see a similar sentiment and stand that we saw in 1991 with Anita Hill, and just this week, with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. We see a woman standing up for both herself and her community.

Esther was raised by her cousin Mordecai and her Jewish community. The book of Esther in the Bible begins as the King banishes the former Queen, for not showing her beauty to his guests during a party he was hosting. It is in this show of sexism and patriarchal and systemic injustice that Esther becomes Queen, after winning favor with the King and functioning within an unjust system. 

After a series of events, her cousin Mordecai offends one of the King’s trusted men, whose name is a Haman, and because of this, Haman issues a decree that will mean genocide for the Jewish people. 

In this moment, Esther has a choice. She must choose to speak for herself - and her people - and reveal her ethnicity, and risk death or harm at the hands of the King and/or Haman.

Who do we believe? Whose voice do we give power to?

Esther speaks. Anita Hill spoke. Christine Blasey Ford spoke. And the words of Jesus in Mark 9 offer hope in these acts of bravery and courage from women and people all around us. The disciples in Mark 9 and are worried about a man healing demons in Jesus’ name who isn’t with them; what does Jesus say? Stop. 

Essentially, Jesus says, you’re worried about the wrong things; you’re paying attention to the wrong things. He goes on and says that if anyone of them put a “stumbling block” in front of those who are trying to follow Jesus or get to God, it would be better if a millstone was hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 

What is Jesus’ call? The death of exclusion. The listening and opening up of minds. The vision that God’s movement of justice and truth is one that expands far beyond a select group.

Who do we believe? Whose voice do we give power to?

We stand in body and spirit with those who still feel unheard. We join with those who are speaking. We join with those who are silent. We not only #believesurvivors, we shout and repeat their stories all the louder, and join in their call for equity and justice. 

This weekend, we found out Azusa Pacific reversed their policy change; this is to say, they reinstated their ban on romanticized same-sex relationships. We mourn and grieve this step backward - theologically and communally - and we also reinstate our call forward. 

We will not stop. We will not abandon one another. When the ones we trusted leave, we will hold tighter and move forward all the more. 

Friends, we make space for this heavy week. If you find yourself with the courage and energy of Esther, we make room for your voice - angry, sad, confused, hopeful. If you find yourself without a voice, we sit with you, and make room for the silence. 

I offer this verse from Romans as an encouragement below. On Friday, after hearing the news from APU, I felt silent, used, and burdened. I did not have the energy or the words of an Esther, Anita, or Christine. I’m sure they felt the same heaviness and fear I felt. 

But a verse did come to my mind, and bring forth a Spirit in me that prayed—beyond words—in that silence and groaning in my heart, in that grief and confusion in my soul. A Spirit of truth and resilience sat with me in that moment, and I hope it meets you too. 

You are not alone. We are walking this hard, grief-filled, hopeful, challenging road, always together. 

Be well. 

Lauren

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Romans 8:26-27 

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.