May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts, be pleasing to you, Oh God.+
Recently I was exposed to the word “Dalit”. D-A-L-I-T. I didn’t know what it meant, so I googled it. What I discovered is that a Dalit is a member of the lowest caste -- C A S T E -- in the traditional caste system in India.
What I saw was an article about how one Dalit man was beaten for the social offense of simply eating in front of a man of a higher caste. What I saw was a video of one man being beaten by several other men with what looked like broom sticks. They beat the Dalit man repeatedly and with such force that one of the sticks broke over the man’s head and shoulders, and yet they continued to beat the man.
Dalits. Or another name for them … “untouchables.”
Hearing this word, Dalit, discovering this group of oppressed people that I previously knew nothing about, made me think of all the “untouchable” people that Jesus encountered.
First to mind were those with leprosy. (Mark 1:40-45, Luke 17: 11-19)
Another was the Samaritan woman at the well. Double untouchable because she was a Samaritan and a woman. (John 4: 1-26)
The woman who had a discharge of blood for 12 years. (Matthew 9: 20-22, Mark 5: 25-34, Luke 8: 43-48)
The many people Jesus encountered who were blind. (Matthew 9: 27-31, Matthew 20: 30-34)
The man with the unclean spirit. (Mark 1:23-28).
The widow whose son who had died. (Luke 7:11-18)
The 2 demon-possessed men who came from the tombs. (Matthew 8:28-34)
The man lying on the mat who was paralyzed. (Matthew 9: 1-8)
The person who could not speak. (Matthew 9: 32-33)
The one with the shriveled hand. (Matthew 12: 10-13)
The man who was deaf and mute. (Mark 7: 31-37)
The woman crippled by a spirit for 18 years. (Luke 13: 10-17)
All of these … the very lowest members of society. Deemed unclean. Cast out. De-humanized. Literally untouchable.
And yet … Jesus ... touched ... them ... all!
Jesus saw them. He touched them. He talked to them.
Society cast them out. Declared them unclean, untouchable. But Jesus humanized each and every one of these.
During this past 12-13 months, you and I have experienced being untouchable on some level due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Many have spouses and immediate family within the same house that gave comfort and a sense of community. Many others were isolated at home by themselves. And all of us were unable to be with our church family in person. Unable to have dinner with friends. Teenagers unable to “hang out together.”
How many of us heard, or said ourselves, “Once this is over, I may never let go of the first person I finally get to hug.”
How many of us have hugged here recently, in this beautiful church community and declared, “Thank you. I needed that. I missed your hugs so much.”
Mental health professionals report a spike of depression, anxiety and other mental health crises over the past year, attributing it to the lack of touch and togetherness. It was a tough year of being unseen, untouched.
Now…imagine that experience for your whole life. Lowest caste. Unseen. Systemic laws and societal norms to keep you de-humanized …your entire life…Untouchable…
That is the experience of the Dalit peoples of India.
That is the experience for many people of color in America.
That is the experience of many Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered people of the world.
That is the experience of many disabled or differently abled persons.
Yet … Jesus touches them all.
I cannot help but to wonder … Who do I not see? Who do I hold back from, consciously or unconsciously?
And I cannot help but to wonder, who do we, the church community of St. Andrew’s Amarillo…Who do we cast aside? Who do we not welcome to our community, to our communion table, consciously or unconsciously? Who do we not reach out to beyond our church walls? Because we don’t see them, or because we deem them to be unclean, untouchable?
Scripture can guide us as we discern these questions. Our second reading this morning is one of several in the coming weeks from the First Letter of John. Scholars believe it was written by a circle of teachers at a time that the community had been shaken by schism. The overwhelming message of 1John is that as Christians, they, and us today, we are reminded of our obligation, … our obligation, to love one another. And this obligation is grounded not only in God’s command, but also in God’s nature of Love, expressed by Jesus Christ.
We too have been, and are experiencing, schism on several levels …in our city, our country, some in our own families. As a result, many here at St. Andrews are participating in book studies and small group discussions regarding populations in our community that have been held down, deemed less than; beliefs that have widened the schisms of our society. Many at St. Andrews are now preparing to read the book, CASTE, which discusses systemic discrimination. Others have already read it. I encourage us all to keep reading, keep learning, and then ACT…act upon this new knowledge and awareness. Both individually and as community.
Because, sisters and brothers, this is the 3rd Sunday after Easter, and we are Resurrection people!
People meant to live in the power of Jesus’ resurrection; we are reborn by the Holy Spirit! (BCP p.306)
We are reborn to grow & to Love… according to God’s calling for our life … individually and as a church community. Our reading this morning from 1John speaks it: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called …children of God: and that is what we are.”
YEs, we are children of God…, ALL are holy children of God… and as God’s holy children, it is our obligation to love one another, to love all God’s creation.
So, how will we live out this obligation? How will we follow the example of Jesus? Where is the Holy Spirit leading us?
St. Andrews is a community of faith that is rich in gifts. Gifts from God, the Divine.
I challenge myself and all of us… and I wonder, and I look forward to seeing how we, St. Andrews, will use our collective gifts to bless the rest of God’s creation outside of ourselves.
What will we do to bridge or close the schisms?
What will we do to see all, humanize all, respect all?
Dalit. People of color. Those differently abled. People of all sexual orientations and gender identities…
Society names them “untouchable”.
But Jesus…Jesus touches all… Therefore, so must we.