Our Story today from 1 Samuel 25 about David, Abigail and Nabal is a story about Whos. David hits up Nabal for extortion food, since David didn't attack them and made sure that no one else bothered the sheep being sheered. Nabal says no to the extortion. David decides he will wipe out all of the men of Nabal's tribe. He arms his men and sets off. In the meantime, one of Nabal's men has told Abigail that David is going to kill all the men. Abigail sets out to meet David with her donkey full of the food David had demanded. She falls on her knees begging for mercy. David hears her plea and grants her request to save her people. Abigail heard the cries of her Who and set out to make those cries heard by those who threatened them. Abigail is able to save her Whos.
Who are our Whos? Who do we hear crying out for help and are we getting ready to help even if it means taking the fight to the halls of power. I thought of the story of Rachel Carson. A woman who learned to love nature and taught us to love the sea as she did. As she studied and wrote about her love of the sea and how life is connected, she noticed the trees being cut down and the rivers being to be destroyed by pollution. She wrote about Silent Spring about this destruction and the danger of doing nothing. Her book so inspired people that it help to usher in our clean air and clean water acts that have saved many many Whos.
As I was working on this all week I was struck by the story of 11 pastors being arrested in Washington DC. These pastors have been holding a daily prayer vigil to protest budget cuts that will hurt the most vulnerable. They are interested in holding our elected leaders accountable and asking them not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. I was struck by the similarity of stories.
Faith leaders arrested in Capitol Hill protest to protect nation's most vulnerable persons
These pastors are trying to say to power: hear all the people. Give a place at the table to those who are not invited. Sandra Sorenson, the director of the United Church of Christ Washington Office was one of those arrested.
When asked why she felt civil disobedience was necessary at this point in the budget debate, Sorensen said, “Those who struggle on the economic margins of our society –– children living in poverty, people living with chronic health issues, seniors, women trying to escape domestic violence in their homes –– the most vulnerable do not have a voice at the negotiation table. Our faith calls us to lift up the voices and the stories of the most vulnerable.”
“With economic disparities becoming ever greater, now is not the time to balance budgets on the backs of the most vulnerable,” Sorensen said. “We risk leaving our children to shoulder a legacy of poverty, underinvestment and diminished opportunities if we do not adequately fund programs that invest in the common good and make all of our communities strong.”
Sorenson has heard the who shout and is working to change the outcome by taking their cries to congress.
I also happened to be rereading Letters from a Birmingham Jail this week. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested for civil disobedience, he wrote a letter to moderate white clergy who would not take a side, a stand against in justice in his letter he wrote.
And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"When you hear a who cry will you too be an extremist. Will you be an extremist for love? Will you be an extremist who extends justice? Will you challenge the center of power to behave justly?