A Hunger for Justice

This sermon was preached 10 March 2024 at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square.

We come here today with a prayer list full of people facing difficult struggles – painful losses, unknown futures, possibilities that we cannot fathom. Week after week, we gather around that prayer list and see the ways that we as followers of Jesus hunger for justice and care. On that list for the last several weeks has been the family and those affected by the murder of non-binary teenager Nex Benedict.  The story of their murder, prompted by transphobic state-wide bathroom bills and anti-trans educational policies filled the news in early February.  Their death is a reminder that no matter how far past the so-called “Transgender Tipping Point,” we go in representation, in visibility, in rights, non-binary, transgender and gender expansive people still hunger for justice. 

Earlier this month disabled people commemorated Disability Day of Mourning, a close relative of Trans Day of Remembrance; a day where we remember and acknowledge the disabled victims of filicide. That is, disabled people who were murdered (primarily) by their parents, but sometimes by other family members or caregivers. In 2023, there were 

seventy-seven disabled people killed that we know of, with ages ranging from just months old to nearly one hundred years. So far, in 2024, there are 4 deaths, including one of a five-year-old boy. 

As a disabled and transgender person, reading the various names and stories of the disabled victims of filicide brought me to tears. I felt them pulling me toward a hunger for justice; just as hearing about the brutal beating and murder of Nex made me hunger for a just world. A world where the WELLSPRING OF LIFE ensures all could and would be safe, and healing would be possible, hunger would not exist, and communities would have the resources they need not just for survival but for thriving.

This week’s readings speak to the realities we live in. Where people are hungry, resources are misallocated, manufacturing scarcity, fear and violence are acceptable responses to difference. Disabled people are treated as less worthy and valuable. People who are different are cast out from society, left to create their own communities of care. These texts speak to bodies and connection. Embodied liberation and oppression: the ways that we interact with each other, mediated by bodies, and the liberation or oppression we experience amidst the experience of consciousness as a body in the world. 

In the first reading, the food-insecure widow of Zarephath feeds the prophet Elijah during a famine. She chooses to share and forge a connection with a stranger in the midst of struggle and suffering of a famine. She listens to the aim of God, and the prophet is cared for during the famine. 

When I was reading for this sermon, this widow felt like family to me – and I realized that she too knew what it was like to be hungry; to be homeless, and to “have sleep for dinner.” 

And, she was not part of Elijah’s religious community – she was a Phoenecian. Even though she was part of a community, she would not have been part of the Israelite nation. The people for whose prophet she was providing food. She would have been excluded from many of their religious rituals. And yet, she knew what it was to trust in the Divine Ultimate for her sustenance – either through a handful of flour that never ran out, or engaging in hidden, illegal economies to obtain her daily bread. These combined realities of food insecurity, exclusion from religious community, and deep trust in the Divine resonate deeply with me as a trans woman and call to mind a transgender widow of Zarephath. 

This trans-widow, who perhaps had lost her spouse some years after losing her family of origin amidst a gender transition is left with a simple yet difficult choice – prepare to die, or take a risk and die anyway. Death at either end of the equation, it had to feel like death was a close companion. She has few, if any, people to lament her death in this world, and dying seems inevitable. 

In our world today, where trans life expectancy hovers in the 30’s and 40’s, where disabled people as young as 4 months old are killed by the people who brought them into the world, death feels like a constant companion to my queer, non-binary, trans and disabled body. And yet, with death feeling like my constant companion, so too is the hunger for justice that God gifts us with.

In the Gospel story, Jesus points to the primacy of bodies in his ministry. Today we hear the second mass feeding in the Gospel according to Mark: the group of four thousand people of many genders and ages. We hear that food is an essential part of human life, and providing food is an equally essential part of Jesus’ ministry. More than feeding bodies, we hear the text cry out from the four corners of the world: 

“Jesus is feeding people. 

“Jesus is feeding those people. 

“Jesus is feeding gentiles.” More directly, Jesus is feeding people he shouldn’t be feeding – people who are not part of the nation of Israel. 

Again, Later, when the time came to provide food for his closest disciples, Jesus prioritized feeding their bodies, over scolding them for not bringing any of the left overs. Food wins out over acceptable behavior or belonging or deserving.

The MOTHER OF ALL cares for humans and animals, plants and archaea (ar-key-ah), fungi and bacteria. As theologian Anna Case Winters wrote in her recent book, 

“[e]very bite contains life— from the sun, the rain, the earth, and 

even the whole history of the cosmos[…] 

[w]e taste the cosmos.” 

And so, in caring for the hungry, we are called to care for the cosmos.

At the beginning, I mentioned the story of a 5-year-old boy, his name was Karter Holloway, he could not speak, and was murdered by his father. With Nex Benedict – both beaten for the capital crimes of being different, of needing different supports, of not meeting ableist and transphobic notions of conformity, I hear our world today crying out, calling us to hunger for justice. 

 Jesus teaches us to hunger not just for food, but for the change that sets each of us and all of us free. Jesus calls for us to understand the need for liberation from the systems that keep us from living the abundant life the WOMB OF ALL intended for us. This justice and liberation can only take place in my body, in your body, in our bodies. Justice and liberation that we need to feel in our minds, our hearts, and our bellies. Jesus teaches us always to hunger for justice in our bodies. We hunger and work for justice in our bodies in many ways: 

– by canvassing for Bring Chicago Home, so there can be adequate resources for homeless people in the city of Chicago. 

– by advocating for disabled people to have autonomy over their lives. 

– by calling and demanding a ceasefire in Palestine.

– by making sure that there is justice for all these people who are different, who need different supports, who fail to live up to capitalistic notions of productivity and conformity. 

How do you satisfy your hunger for justice?

Thanks Be To God

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