Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Price of Silence

Rev. Charles Stovall presented the final meditation on this year's Good Friday Walk in Dallas, Texas. Rev. Stovall is the pastor of the Munger Place United Methodist Church, a church which recently hosted Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and the Pastors for Peace caravan.

I'm Charles Stovall, pastor of Munger Place United Methodist Church. God bless you on this walk, and we thank all of you who made the bold journey. I thank God for the Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance which has brought us to this moment, to remember on the Friday that Jesus was to die. We gather in memory of the price that Jesus paid. I simply want to say that Jesus did not have to die. Jesus did not have to die-if he had just kept silent. If he would have just shut up, he would not have had to die. If he had just "done church right," kept his sermons on love and brotherhood, kept his speeches on something light and not controversial, Jesus would not have had to die. Yet Jesus healed on the Sabbath day, knowing that that was against the rules of the day. Yet Jesus touched the leper, knowing that the leper was considered "unclean" by church and society. Yet Jesus talked to the woman by the well from Samaria, knowing that Samarians and Jews didn't communicate. Yet Jesus overturned the moneychangers' table.

If Jesus had just done church the way church was supposed to have been done, if he would have just kept his mouth shut, if he had just "gone with the flow," he would not have had to die. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't have to die. If he would have just kept his mouth shut and stuck with sermons about brotherhood and sisterhood and stayed away from sermons about the Vietnam War, he would not have had to die.

Nurses who have called out for more nurses per patient and the rights of nurses didn't have to lose their jobs-if they would have just kept silent. The Tibetan monks wouldn't be under pressure right now if they had just continued to ring their gongs and done their rituals and stayed out of politics. The Dalai Lama wouldn't be criticized right now, if he had just stuck to the things that Dalai Lamas are supposed to do.

If we could just learn to keep our mouths shut. Say nothing about the abuse of gays and lesbians. Say nothing about policies that create homelessness and hunger. Say nothing about what has us in an unjust, illegal, immoral, impractical war in Iraq.

If you just learn to be quiet-perhaps you'll get a promotion on your job. Perhaps you'll get a better appointment in your denomination. Perhaps you'll gain friends and influence more people. There's a price to pay, though, if you keep silent. The most famous words of silence are still the words that were attributed to Rev. Martin Niemoller. Many of you can quote them along with me: When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent. I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent. I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak up. I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent. I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one to speak out for me.

Jesus did not have to die. Jesus did not have to face the capital punishment of the Roman government, handed over to them by those religious leaders of his sect. But because the price of his silence, the price of his inaction would have ended in a world that has no hope, no redemption, no forgiveness, no God's spirit, he did not remain silent. What is the price of your silence and my silence? The silent walk that we take today is shouting out to the city, the state, and this country that we will not pay the price of silence, because the price of silence is the death of our values.

Continue to speak out. Continue to raise your voice and your actions, and continue to take up your cross. Jesus said that "Those who would be my disciples must take up their crosses, deny themselves, and follow me." He goes on to say that "if you do not take up your cross you cannot be my disciple."

Jesus did not have to go to the cross. He did not have to die. All he needed to do was be quiet.
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