It Is Always Them and Us

Reflection for Proper 6, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

(click here for biblical texts)

Sin is the great human equalizer
even though some always point with alarm
at sins of others and often manage
to sin really big as they hide behind
their judgments. A great gift King David shares
with us is the largeness of his sinning—
no petty morality thief he—this impregnator
of Bathsheba, murderer of Uriah did it big
not for the first or last time in his storied life.
Nor is it only once that loyal counselor Nathan
conveys God’s displeasure—can you just see
him, smacking his head perhaps, thinking how could he
do this, when will he learn there are limits
even for kings? Even great kings basking
in God’s favor.

Luke tells of less violent but still a disrespectful
act of Pharasaic inhospitality toward the woman
who dared show love and care for Jesus invited
to his home for dinner; this woman, labeled a sinner,
is judged unworthy by the host to grace his home—
can you not see him looking down his privileged
nose at her, even as she bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears
and alabaster ointment—and Jesus assumes Nathan’s
role to show the eminent one that etiquette
counts less than ethics, that generosity begins
in simple acts of kindness—greeting all your guests
invited or not with dignity, an embrace or kiss,
water for hands dirtied in the ordinariness of life
and for dried throats, perhaps even ointment
for weary brow and aching feet, none of this shared
by he who sits as judge.

This leader is to be sure well-meaning,
conscious of what he and others see as his role
and duty to keep rules of social decorum in place—
how will the others know where to sit without a place card,
and know if there is no such marker they are not welcome.
Order matters for him, as for many, maybe even for you and me;
It is so easy to sit on our own throne of judgment
but when did you last invite a homeless person to dine
with you, or even stoop to share a dollar with the beggar
lying rudely in his rags on the street?

As for David, those despicable acts are in a class
by themselves, so surely we can judge righteously,
not being rapists or murderers ourselves—but,
and think carefully before answering, when was
the last time you marched into your bosses’ office
and told her the company’s investments in the
West Bank, resulting in Palestinians being moved
off their land against their will, were immoral, or even spoke up
to object to the telling of a racist or homophobic
or transphobic joke, or went to an abortion clinic
to stand with women having to brave the pickets
standing in judgment of their need for help,
or if you are a person who considers himself white,
when was the last time you tried to organize your neighbors,
all of whom look like you, into protesting policies
and practices that make black men as many as ten times
more likely to be arrested than you and your friends?

Sin is the great human equalizer
because it comes in so many forms
and maybe the best way to see it is to look
in the mirror, at least to start there as a reminder
that redemption begins at home, that forgiveness
is a gift that keeps on giving, mercy is rarely overdone,
kindness is always appropriate, greed is always wrong
whether it is a brutal taking or a sly shoplift, killing
is at the apex of the index, whether it is one-on-one
or we sit idly as our army kills whether we know
the cause or not, just because someone has told us
it’s them or us.

The truth, God’s truth, is that it is never
them or us, it is always them and us, just us.
The sooner we learn that, the sooner sin
will die a holy and natural death.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . It can be comforting to read scriptural accounts of the failings of others, and to feel sorry for them, or judge them, or both, but in truth what if someone were writing down our acts, or our lack of acting in response to the wrongs we see? How would our story come out? Humility is a good place to live our faith. But boldness, too—when did you last bathe a stranger with your tears?
©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

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