The Trouble With Uncovering
"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known."
June 23, 2023, Words By: Scott Dewey, Image By: unknown
Jesus was a divisive figure. In his lifetime, and certainly up to the present day, he churned up waters that previously appeared placid. This can be a troublesome thought for those of us who regard him as, to borrow a phrase from an earlier Hebrew prophet, “the Prince of Peace.”
For troublesome thoughts, look no further than this week’s lectionary passage. Or don’t look; it might mess with your conception of Jesus the peacemaker:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
My son works for a large corporation with well-known brands. A few years ago, he was shocked to discover that his co-workers had vastly different pay for exactly the same work and experience. So happens white workers (including him) had high pay and fringe benefits, and others (mostly workers of color) had a fraction of the pay and no benefits. Not only was he shocked at the circumstance, he was shocked how this could remain hidden in plain sight.
It makes my daddy heart proud that my son had a central role in the uncovering. But ohhh, the trouble. For his workplace: the internal earthquake that shook throughout a Manhattan skyscraper, and is shaking now. For my son and colleagues: the days and years of job turmoil, demotions, alarming attorney letters. The tension of secret strategy meetings on burner phones. The side-taking (some necessary, some petty), the risky confrontations, the disruptive collective actions, the media churn.
Plodding away at his job and trying to pay off school debts, my son certainly didn’t ask for trouble. He did ask for justice, and he found himself in a fight.
Jesus was not a violent disruptor. That much is abundantly clear in his life and teachings. Rather, he was a disrupter of violence—both interpersonal and structural. By no coincidence, he died by violence.
Twenty-eight years ago, in a moment that would alter my life, I walked into a quiet, peaceful room. Small windows cast shafts of dim light. My parents brought me here to see. Virtually no one knew about the attic—why would they? But I had traveled a long way, taking my parents’ word for it. Afterward I would have a very long way to go in my spirit.
In rusted cribs, tied down to the mattresses with cloth strips, were babies and toddlers—swaddled in excrement and vomit. Did I mention it was quiet? Any room full of babies is a room of noises; but not here. Why make a sound when no one will come, or a face appear? It took our breath; I was mute myself. It was horrific in its serenity.
And oh, the trouble ahead. No, we could not simply relocate the children, and we certainly could not “blow the whistle.” Not without a years-long fight that had to be waged in secret. Not without allies and enemies, not without risk to others. Notably, actual risk for the little ones already lashed to the edge of survival.
And for my own aside, not central to the plot but significant for me: none of this would happen without my own physical, psychological, and spiritual guts turned inside out. Jesus may not be a violent disruptor, but he creates disruption within. “Follow me,” he says—into the very fullest experience of humanity, to its far frontiers. Oh and on the way, necessarily, you will become undone. In one form or another, you will experience the undoing as violence.
These decades later, among survivors of that attic, I now laugh and love. (Not all lived beyond that room. The rest bear invisible and visible scars—more horrors would come in their young lives.) Around the dinner table as adults nowadays, we are quite unmuted… ha! For all our trouble, we’re awake and very, very alive.
The late American civil rights activist John Lewis often would say, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” In his 80 years, Lewis experienced every word of this week’s scripture passage and more—as each follower of Jesus somehow must, in order to “find our lives” (Matthew 10:39).
And what truest lives might we find, as the fruit of disruption? “It is possible to create, in this world, in this life, a Beloved Society, a Beloved Community, a Beloved World” (John Lewis). In this week’s challenging scripture passage and through the arc of his life, Jesus shows the way.
Discern in wisdom: What fears are sparked in you about this passage? How have you experienced the realities Jesus speaks of here, either internally or externally?
Act in love: What might be yours to help uncover? To disrupt, in order to heal?