"An equal world is an enabled world."
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Saturday, March 7th: Psalm 121; Isaiah 51:4-8; Luke 7:1-10. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. The motto being shared is “An Equal World Is an Enabled World.” The more people have the opportunity to develop their abilities, the more everyone benefits. The United States has profited from this practice in myriad ways. When we once accepted the unwanted of so many other nations, people who did not have the opportunity to work or to educate themselves, to free themselves from generations of stratification, this released a tidal wave of innovation and enthusiasm, and everyone benefited. If we had been only another place for elites to gather, then the world would have been deprived of so many unexpected gifts. The American Dream didn’t only benefit the ones who came. It changed the world, and it proved that “An equal world is an enabled world.”
Everyone has heard at one time or another the beautiful poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. "The New Colossus" is a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus. She writes: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
In so many places and institutions around the world, let me emphasize on the eve of International Women’s Day, women are forbidden the opportunity to develop their abilities. Then it’s not only the women who suffer, everyone is deprived of their talents, their unexpected gifts, their perspective, their insight. Why would we expect anything else when half of the population is limited by the other half to what they are allowed to do? An unequal world is a disabled world.
Equality is a blessing in so many ways. It frees us from the tired ideas and ways of the entrenched and allows a fresh breeze to blow through and to bring with it the potential of the new. Today’s selection from Isaiah is actually what scholars refer to as “Deutero-Isaiah.” This is a prophet writing after Jerusalem’s fall and in exile. He’s writing to people who have lost their freedom and dream of it restored.
Through the prophet, God promises: “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, you people who have my teaching in your hearts; do not fear the reproach of others, and do not be dismayed when they revile you. … My deliverance will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” These are words of the God of outcasts. God promises equality restored. The liberty to be who we are is promised by God above the “reproach” of others.
Or look at Jesus, a man oppressed by Rome’s Legions, a Saviour devoted to peacefulness, and yet when the centurion, the leader of a hundred occupying soldiers, begs that Jesus heal a beloved slave, Jesus looks beyond status and position and hears the man’s sincerity and concern. Jesus looks upon people equally. This wasn’t a centurion, a Roman, an occupier; this was a person.
As we look ahead to tomorrow’s observance, may the message of “An Equal World Is an Enabled World” be reflected in the lessons of our faith. Too often religion has been used as a repressive force. This Lent let us think of the ways Jesus would have us change the world, fostering equality, and blessing all of us with the potential of what can be.
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