First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Wisdom Readings: Proverbs 31:25-26, Proverb s 11:16, Peter 4:10, Philippians 2: 3-4
Date: January 26, 2020
Proverbs 31: 25-26
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”
Proverbs 11: 16
“A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.”
Peter 4: 10
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in it.”
Philippians 2: 3-4
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
In case you haven’t heard, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has recently announced that she has won her fight and is now completely cancer free. Honestly, this is the best news I have heard in 2020, because it was off to a rough start with fires, earthquakes, and a few acts of war. For this occasion, I wore my RBG shirt, with the quote “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” The 86 years old Supreme Court Justice has won so many battles in her life, that it will take a lot more than a tumor to get rid of her. Cornell University on a full scholarship. A Law Degree at Harvard and Columbia, graduating first in her class. All of this while taking care of her first child and a sick husband. After trying to find a job as a lawyer, she was hired to be an assistant professor. Nominated her for the U.S. Court of Appeals by Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton for the Supreme Court, as the second women in history to serve. Throughout these years, she has been a leading figure in the fight against gender discrimination. If she wasn’t your role model before, she certainly should be now.
Not to mention that her recovery was announced in the same month as the fourth annual women’s march, it couldn’t have worked out any better. I was lucky enough to attend the Women’s march last year. I have never felt so empowered. Girls of all ages gathered in support of each other. That solidarity is when I realized that we are such a vital part of resistance, and an impossible voice to shut out.
I have grown up around strong women. I have grown up in an environment that supports strong women. Quite a few of them are sitting in the pews right now. I’ve watched them raise families, follow dreams, speak up for what they believe in, and help me become the women I am today. I feel like my voice is heard in this church, which is something that not every woman can say. And by showing girls at an early age that their opinions matter, such as we do here, they grow up with the confidence to use those opinions with power and to do good. They speak up in classrooms, in business meetings, and very importantly, in politics.
Society has tried its hardest to deny women the chance to lead big groups and speak their voice. Eventually, we’ll have a female president — but the fact that we haven’t yet is telling, especially considering how many smart and capable women are in politics these days. The President is being impeached by a strong woman. In fact, in the past few years women have had a higher voter turnout than men. I turned 18 this past year, and I am now officially registered to vote for the first time in the primaries this spring. Voting rights for women had to be fought for, so make sure that you use that right as much as possible.
Us girls have the power to change the world, and if you doubt that, here are some powerful young women changing the world today. Greta Thunberg, 16, is an active voice against climate change, and led the largest climate strike in history. Malala Yousafzai, 17, received the Nobel peace prize for her fight for equal education for everyone. Mari Copeny, AKA Little Miss Flint, 11, has been advocating for clean water in Flint Michigan since she was 8 years old. Emma Gonzalez, 19, a parkland shooting survivor, who helped start the largest youth led prevention movement against gun violence. Autumn Peltier, 13, focuses on the importance of clean water, and the indigenous communities where it is often lacking. Jazz Jennings is a transgender role model, and Deja Foxx fights for access to healthcare to those in poverty. These are only a few names I could talk about; but the list is endless. Unlike RBG, these women do not have movies to honor them just yet, but they will.
Women are vital to the resistance of tyranny, bigotry, and ignorance. The girls on this stage next to me are part of the solution. Every woman next to you is a part of the solution. We are cogs in the advocacy clock, and we will make real change. Because together, we are unstoppable, we are unable to be silenced. If you want to win, you want women on your side.
Hi, I’m Lucy Shuler-Morgan and I’m in 8th grade. Sometimes, resistance is like it is in the movies. sometimes it’s dramatic and organized and it is meant to reach millions. often times, it’s not. For example, that was certainly not the case for my confirmation class. you probably know what I’m referring to, unless you just joined the church or you have been living under a rock for the past year almost. For the people that missed it, after discussing for almost a year whether to join the church, we decided as a group to all make a statement saying that we will not join the church until the denomination’s policies about LGBTQ+ individuals is changed. We got a little attention for it.
But anyway, what I’m saying is, some forms of resistance happen almost overnight. You’re still planning what to do about the LGBTQ+ stance the organization has taken one minute, and the next minute you are being interviewed by CNN because of your speech in front of the congregation on that topic.
In my case, I was only sitting in the car with my mom on the day after we were informed about the bad news. we were both pretty down because of it, and I was sitting there with one repeating thought: What happens next? A simple thought, really. just three little words. but those words gave me such despair and anxiety that i couldn’t bear the thought of going on, almost. I felt trapped. you know, like in Minecraft when you’re stuck in an underground cave at night and you can’t get out. I mean, the parents and grandparents here might not get it, but the kids will. All around you, there are walls of blocks. they’re too high to climb, and you can’t fly out because you’re in survival mode. you can’t see anything, but through the darkness you hear the familiar hiss of a creeper. “Is that a creeper? Aw, man!” you think. It slowly starts to move towards you. If it reaches you, game over. That creeper symbolizes the hateful rules, and the judgements that my community, the LGBTQ+ community, and the supporters face so often. You could stay there and let it get to you, or you could take your pickaxe and start to mine. Dig yourself some stairs upwards and out of the cave. that’s what we as a class decided to do.
I said to my mom in the car that day, “Mom, what if we all just decided not to join the church? Do you think it would make a difference? …would you be mad at me if I did that?” Well, obviously the answer was no, she would be supportive, because otherwise I wouldn’t be here speaking right now. After that, I mentioned the idea to the other confirmands, and it surprisingly got a lot of approval. Back then we were thinking that the best-case scenario would be to get support from the congregation. little did we know…
We formed the idea very very sloppily. we planned it pretty poorly actually… me and Quinn were supposed to write the statement, and we ended up writing it at the last minute possible… it turned out great, despite. We both put our input, and we sent it off. We couldn’t possibly have guessed the amount of inspiration our words would cause. If I, a teen with social anxiety, knew that the stance we took would end up having almost a million views, I probably wouldn’t have even gone through with it. but now, seeing what hope it has brought to so many people, and seeing what our actions and words have done to help the church, I am so incredibly glad that we did this.
“But we’re just kids!” we constantly say. “You’re just kids! you can’t do anything!” This is said by so many. we are told this so often that we start to believe it ourselves. But no. we can stand up for our LGBTQ+ neighbors, because that is what is right. we can stand up and resist all of the hate, prejudice, and even the creeper. We can mine ourselves and everyone else out of the cave. You can help too. all you need to do is grab a pickaxe.
For those of you that have been to these youth services before, you might recognize me. If you do recognize me, then you probably already know what I’m going to talk about.
For me, I have always felt the most connected to God when I am outside. When I’m in nature, there is no barrier between me and God’s creation and I think that’s pretty special. I think that is part of the reason why I am so compelled to give my sermons about the environment. God has called me to work to protect it.
Talking about environmental issues can be really overwhelming and uncomfortable. Most of the people I talk to about the environment say “I want to do something, but I don’t know where or how to start.” They say, “why does it matter? I’m just one person.” It’s really easy to slip into that mindset of “my actions don’t matter. It’s not a big deal, I’m not making that much of an impact.” But I think that the goal of this whole service is to show you that your individual actions do matter, even if they are small.
Every movement, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, the LGBTQ+ rights movement have all been started and maintained by individual people. Why should the environmental movement be any different?
I think a lot of the apathy surrounding environmental protection stems from the fact that there are so many issues that we’re facing. It’s daunting, overwhelming, and scary. The easiest thing to do is to pretend that it’s not there. I do that too. Especially with homework. If I can’t see it, it’s not there then I don’t have to worry about it. But just because it’s easier to put it off and ignore it doesn’t mean that it’s not important, and we will still face the consequences.
It’s time to start resisting the apathy. The way we start taking action is to take it one step at a time. I’m sure that everyone here can think of one thing that you can change to help make a difference. Start by finding one movement you want to support, or by commiting to one habit that you are willing to change. Maybe you care about plastic pollution. Maybe it’s greenhouse gases, or protecting pollinators, or composting. All that matters IS finding something that you connect with, and that empowers you.
It’s overwhelming because there’s so much to be done, but I want you to know that you don’t have to do it all. The responsibility of literally the whole world does not fall on your shoulders alone. As it was said in the scripture, do what you can with the gifts you were given.
One of my favorite quotes is from Jane Goodall. She once said: “you cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what difference you want to make.”
Daniel G. – Resisting War
Most of you are aware, there was recently a threat of war with Iran; a threat that hasn’t gone away nearly as much as we’d like to think. This has had the international community on edge, and for good reason. A conflict between Iran and the United States could start yet another endless war in the Middle East, bringing even more bloodshed to the region. Additionally, the US has a vast nuclear arsenal—about 68 hundred nukes in total—and we have a leader who is constantly threatening to use it.
Now, nuclear war is a difficult thing to think about. A nuclear bomb of the magnitude we have today is 3,000 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. No one knows exactly what would happen if one of these bombs actually dropped, but it would certainly be devastating. It could vaporize an entire city, crumble the surrounding infrastructure, and put the region, and possibly the world into nuclear winter, dropping temperatures by ten or even twenty degrees.
It might be hard to believe, but I’m not saying this to scare you, I just want to make you aware the reality of the situation that we are facing. War is a very real problem in this country. The United States spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany combined, for a total of nearly 650 billion dollars each year. That’s insane.
And all this defense spending contributes to a feeling of American superiority, the feeling that because America has the best military ever, we must also be the best country ever. This happens in other countries as well, but it seems to be worst here in America. As American children, we were all taught that this country is the best ever, and all the other one’s suck. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Except for the owning slave’s part. And the killing Native Americans part. And all the parts about not giving women and minorities rights. But other than that, land of the free, home of the brave. Bestest country ever. So, we take this belief that we are the best and start trying to make other countries conform to it. Any country that does something we don’t like, that does something that goes against our beliefs, we must be there to set them straight, because, after all, we are the best, and therefore our ways are the best.
Then we apply this belief of American superiority to ourselves, and we internalize it. Not only do we believe that America is the best, but also that, by extension, we as Americans are the best. We value American lives over the lives of those in other countries, because our lives are our lives, and that must mean they matter more. You might be thinking right now, “Well, Daniel, maybe other people think America is the best, but I certainly don’t, I drink my kale smoothies and always bring my reusable bags to the store.” And maybe you’re right. Maybe you really are unaffected by this ideology. But even in thinking that you’re above it all, you’re still thinking that you are superior.
Now, we all fall prey to this to a certain extent, and we start thinking that because we are better than everyone else, our needs are more important than theirs, and we subconsciously become more and more selfish. So, we must remind ourselves of what we already know, that every single person has an equal importance in this world and that no one is above or below us. But just saying that won’t erase selfishness from our lives, and that’s not my goal here today. Instead, I want to focus on removing selfishness from one the most important parts of our lives, the ways we resist. This applies to all the forms of resistance we’ve talked about today, and any other form of resistance that we practice.
When we decided to resist something, we must ask ourselves one simple question: Why am I resisting this? Is it because it’ll affect my life? Is it because I want to better myself as a human being? Is it because it’ll look good on a résumé? If we’re only protesting war because we’re afraid of getting hit by a nuke, then we might be doing it for the wrong reasons. Now you might be thinking, “But charities need all the people they can get, they can’t be turning volunteers away just because they’re selfish.”
And that might be true. Maybe it doesn’t matter that the kid who goes to the protest against war in the Middle East is only going so he can add an experience to his college application. But you guys, the people sitting before me today, you are integral to these movements. Those who created the evils we are resisting, those who profit from those evils, they are doing it for selfish reasons. We have a massive national defense budget, we have a massive nuclear arsenal, all because the people in power fear for their lives and they want their beliefs reflected across the world. So, we as the people at the forefront of resisting these evils must be sure we are not doing it for selfish reasons, or else we will never triumph over them.
And once you realize that, once you start helping people simply because they need help, not because it will help you, then there will be no limit to the good you can do.