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Proper 7C – June 19, 2022

St. Paul’s, Bellingham – Proper 7C – June 19, 2022

Luke 8:26-39 & 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

The Rev. Rachel Endicott

May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

In response to last week’s homily, I want to thank all those who engaged with me in reflecting about Wisdom, about God’s creation, and about your vision of God’s being delighted in you or us in general. I really appreciate the conversational part of preaching, the back and forth between preacher and congregation, and the fact that I sometimes get to share with you in your wrestling, aha moments, and occasionally in your disagreements with me about how we each read and understand the Scriptures.

One of the responses I had this past week was about images of delight; it was about one of our own in the Anglican communion, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, recently gone from this life to the next. And I so agree! From his writings, one gets a sense both that he believes in a God who takes delight in the world, but also that Archbishop Tutu himself took delight in others. His recent book, The Book of Joy, coauthored with the Dalai Lama and Douglas Abrams, demonstrates this page after page. And while joy and delight aren’t the same thing, there is certainly overlap.

But I want to bring Desmond Tutu to the fore today for another reason, and yes, today’s sermon is focused perhaps more on him than I usually do with non-Scriptural people. But he’s an astounding person, and even before his death, several people posed the question if we should remain bound by our practice that the person to be added to our Anglican roster of saints should have already died, that he should be added to our Anglican calendar of saints as a living light to the world.

The reason I want to bring him to the forefront of our conversation is for a very different reason that his sense of delight. Perhaps the flip side of his sense of delight. It is for his being brave.

Now in our secular world, we find ourselves sandwiched in the middle of two national holidays: Memorial Day and Independence Day, both days on which we think about and give thanks for those who showed bravery – and often died – on the battlefields in so many places we can’t name them all.

Perhaps I’ve been thinking about bravery on the battlefield because I recently read Daniel James Brown’s Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II, one of the bishop’s Lenten books for the diocese. Yes, I know that Lent is long past, but I’m still catching up on my reading! In this book, there is much made of the bravery on the battlefields in Italy, in Europe, and elsewhere shown by many of the Nisei, the second generation Japanese-Americans who fought, fought for a country that locked up their parents and families, took their possessions and businesses, and refused to serve them when they returned home.

But going back to our lessons today, we are presented with a couple of pictures of bravery that are very different from war-time bravery. Now bravery itself is defined as being courageous (so having courage) in a certain instance or as part of one’s character. This is especially true when facing danger, fear, or difficult situations. So, it’s much more than that shown in war or fighting.

In our Old Testament reading, we find Elijah in a situation that at first we might not think of as being brave. But the passage, I believe, demonstrates bravery in two ways. In the lead-up to today’s passaged, he has had a showdown with the prophets of Baal, all 450 of them. And they are overpowered after their God does not respond to their entreaties and so they are captured and killed. Standing up to 450 on pretty much your own – definitely brave.

But by the start of the part of 1st Kings we heard this morning, the situation has changed. Elijah realizes that he has antagonized powerful people and thus we find Elijah asking God that he might die because he is being chased by Ahab, acknowledging that he is in this predicament because he has indeed responded to his beliefs that the people of God have gone astray and forsaken God’s covenant, turning to other gods.

But Elijah’s seeming lack of bravery as this situation comes to bear might be misinterpreted. I propose that Elijah indeed shows bravery as he faces God. Remember now that it was common knowledge in Old Testament times that those who saw God would surely die. But we’re told that when Elijah experiences earthquake, fire and silence signaling God’s presence, he does the cautious thing of wrapping his face in his mantle, but then he “went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” He bravely comes out to meet what he must believe will be his death.

We also see bravery in the actions of the man formerly having the demons in him. In spite of people’s anger towards Jesus, he asks to follow him, to become one of his band of disciples. When Jesus’ refuses, but tells him to return to his home, he does so, following Jesus’ command to “declare how much God has done” for him, and as Luke reiterates “proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.”

And this is the kind of bravery shown by Desmond Tutu, bravery in proclaiming what God had done for him and for God’s people. Like the prophets of old, he named the places where injustice was found. And he paid for it. He was imprisoned by the police, had his passport held by the South African government, and security police even printed anti-Tutu materials. Although admired by many, he was “Hated by many white South Africans for being too radical … [and] also scorned by many black militants for being too moderate.”1 But, bravery was in the heart of one who kept on fighting for the oppressed until his final days, one who delighted in the people of God.

So, I’m wondering for us. How do we show our bravery? Like Tutu, I believe we are called to work, pray, and speak out for justice. We are to take seriously our baptismal promise to proclaim all that is good about God. And this isn’t about proselytizing. It is about sharing of the good news, about being compassionate to the suffering experienced by the people of God, and about following our calling as disciples.

Recently one of our Sacred Ground circle members saw a post shared by a woman of color about an experience of being treated differently from white shoppers at the

Lakeway Fred Meyers while out shopping for summer clothes for her kids.2 She was for the most part ignored when asking questions, but then overly scrutinized when she checked out, evaluating that what she was purchasing was the same as noted on the packaging. And some of the responses to her query “I’m new to Bellingham and wonder is this the status quo?” were – per our parishioner – appalling. “Get over yourself” was lobbed into the thread as were perhaps responses, while meant kindly, that dismissed her experiences by saying that the experiences were what everyone experiences.

But where bravery comes in is that this parishioner did indeed wade into the discussion, armed by what she’d learned in the circle. She wrote “a paragraph or two explaining institutional racism, as well as the sensitivities of traditionally oppressed people...[she] pointed out unkindness and ignorance of [B]ellingham’s history which is not a pretty one regarding race.” And she noted that she “tried to do so calmly and without any anger.” And most telling, she wrote that, “I know I may get some attacks, but I just felt I needed to speak up.”

That’s bravery.

Where might you speak up? Where may you follow in the footstep of Desmond Tutu? Where might you stand in the stead of God? Where might you be the compassionate healing mouthpiece of Jesus?


1 Steven D. Gish, Desmond Tutu: A Biography, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004, p. 111.

2 Lindsay Reid, emails, 6/1/2022.

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