There Is No Law Against Such Things

By now we have had about 48 hours to absorb the news that Roe vs. Wade has been overturned by the Supreme Court, effectively stripping women of the right to abortion in America.  This is very, very big news, even though after the leak from the court in early May, we knew it was probably coming. 

I had a rector who used to say about deaths, “even when it’s not a surprise, it’s still a shock,” and I think that applies here too.

I’d like to share with you Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement in full.

From Bishop Curry: Quote: “While I, like many, anticipated this decision, I am deeply grieved by it. I have been ordained more than 40 years, and I have served as a pastor in poor communities; I have witnessed firsthand the negative impact this decision will have.

We as a church have tried carefully to be responsive both to the moral value of women having the right to determine their healthcare choices as well as the moral value of all life. Today’s decision institutionalizes inequality because women with access to resources will be able to exercise their moral judgment in ways that women without the same resources will not.

This is a pivotal day for our nation, and I acknowledge the pain, fear, and hurt that so many feel right now. As a church, we stand with those who will feel the effects of this decision—and in the weeks, months, and years to come.  

The Episcopal Church maintains that access to equitable health care, including reproductive health care and reproductive procedures, is ‘an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being’ (2018-D032). The church holds that ‘reproductive health procedures should be treated as all other medical procedures, and not singled out or omitted by or because of gender’ (2018-D032). The Episcopal Church sustains its ‘unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them’ (2018-D032). As stated in the 1994 Act of Convention, the church also opposes any ;executive or judicial action to abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision…or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision’ (1994-A054).   

The court’s decision eliminates federal protections for abortion and leaves the regulation of abortion to the states. The impact will be particularly acute for those who are impoverished or lack consistent access to health care services. As Episcopalians, we pray for those who may be harmed by this decision, especially for women and other people who need these reproductive services. We pray for the poor and vulnerable who may not have other options for access. We urge you to make your voice heard in the way you feel called but always to do so peacefully and with respect and love of neighbor.” (end quote)

I am guessing there are a lot of feelings in this room right now about this ruling, and a lot of feelings in this town.  The feelings in this church may be fairly united, or they may be quite diverse.  Same thing for the campus, and same thing for the county.  Abortion is such a deeply personal issue, which is part of what makes it hard to talk about. 

I don’t know where your heart is this morning, and I won’t try to guess.  I will share with you where I am, what I see in the scriptures for today, and be grateful that together we can join in prayer and offer ourselves, our fears, and our longings to God in humble faith.

As I’m sure you also know, in a further disturbing development, Justice Clarence Thomas in his opinion called for a re-examination of “the rulings that currently protect the right to buy and use contraceptives without government restriction, the right to a same-sex relationship, and the right to same-sex marriage.” 

Trinity Church has been a radiant witness to LGBTQ+ presence, welcome, and leadership in the church and in this community.  There is no doubt in my mind that this ruling and Justice Thomas’ roadmap for where the court should go next will continue to embolden the forces of homophobia across this country, and that includes Kirksville. 

That means that Trinity’s witness for justice and love is both more vital than ever and more dangerous than ever. 

I want you to know that Bishop Deon and I and your entire diocese back you to the hilt in your work in this community.  We are with you, we are supporting you, and I am asking you to tell us what you need.  Whether it’s funding, our presence here with you, supporting you in connecting with other justice communities here and across the diocese, whatever it takes.  We are praying with you, but we are doing and acting with you as well. 

In the meantime, take care of yourselves.  Be bold, be brave, and remember that you are as deserving of care and safety as those you would care for and protect.

In this swirl of uncertainty, of conflicting feelings, of pillars of law we thought enshrined certain rights for women and queer people either revoked or possibly on their way to being revoked, what do we do?  We have gathered here this morning as community, as people of faith who may feel like we’re at sea in a storm, because we have hope that God will have a word to speak to us.

And God does.  In a powerful grace of the Holy Spirit, the scriptures that were assigned for this Sunday could not more clearly minister to us in our time of need. 

On this day, in this church, in this nation, when the right to bodily autonomy for women and all people who can get pregnant have suddenly been cut off and we fear that same-sex marriage is next, we read like a clarion call from heaven the words of the Letter to the Galatians:

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The great Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann says, “The prophetic tasks of the church are to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion, grieve in a society that practices denial, and express hope in a society that lives in despair.” 

We are here to do that today, and we are called to do that tomorrow morning when we go to work or school.  Tell the truth, grieve, and express hope. 

“For freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit to a yoke of slavery.” 

It’s okay to be scared.  Bring your fear to God so that God may use it to point you toward your courage. 

It’s okay to be sad.  Bring your sadness to God so God can use your tears to water your compassion. 

It’s okay to feel despair.  Bring your despair to God so God can show you how your perseverance brought you through despair in times past.  

It’s okay to be angry.  Bring your anger to God so God may use it to awaken you to your power. 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters.” 

You were called to freedom.  Freedom is not an option, or a nice thing to have, or something someone else secures for you.  Freedom is your vocation.  Freedom is your divine ordained purpose.  Freedom is your call.

But not freedom for selfishness’ sake.  It’s the freedom to serve.  It’s the freedom to love your neighbor. 

Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit to the yoke of slavery.  We give ourselves to Jesus Christ, who promised us that his yoke was easy and his burden was light.  We trust Jesus, because we know he leads us in right pathways by love, not fear, not judgment, not tyranny.

There’s really very little I need to say when scripture says it all. 

I invite you in this time of chaos and the rise of Christo-fascism, to root yourself in scripture more firmly than ever.  Make your daily Bible reading your oasis of strength and clarity amid the swirl of conflict and struggle our communities face every day. 

And no matter what the Supreme Court thinks it can do to abridge the dignity and well-being of anyone in this country, remember the words of Galatians today: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”

There is no law against such things. 

And there never can be. 

May God be praised for it, and may God give us the strength to give ourselves in the cause of justice.