VIEWS: 12 PAGES: 3 POSTED ON: 6/23/2010
Bread and Roses Mark 7: 24-30 September 6, 2009 Rev. Nancy Salisbury A movie came out some years ago called “Mr. Mom”. In this movie there were a mother and father and two young children. The father lost his job at the same time that his wife was offered a job. She became an advertising executive while he became a stay-at-home Dad. Pretty soon she started to flourish in her new job. She enjoyed the professional respect and financial success. As he had lost those very things, he started to go downhill. He thought it would be easy to stay at home and care for his two year old while his daughter was in school. The house became a disaster area. He was sitting around drinking beer in the afternoon, staring mindlessly at soap operas on TV. He became isolated and depressed. He was irritable, resented his wife’s success and lost all self-respect. You could also say that he had everything – health, a loving family, a home and enough money to support them. But, he missed being the breadwinner. He missed having a job that allowed him to take his family for granted. Then something happened in the story that got him to wake up. He started to take his responsibilities seriously. He cleaned up the house. He cleaned up himself. Those actions helped him regain his self-respect. He realized that his work was important. He brought his own unique style to his parenting and housework, what we might even call grace. He had the very same things as before – health, a home and family. But it wasn’t until he woke up and saw how important it was that he was transformed. Then he approached his lot in life with style and even a little chutzpah. You know what style is. Style is the way Fred Astaire danced and Katherine Hepburn acted. Style is the difference between and good singer and a great singer. Style, with a little bit of chutzpah, is what that woman had in today’s scripture reading. Let me put in context. Jesus had stirred things up too much in Jerusalem, so he left town for a while. He went to a Gentile village where he thought he could lay low. But, there was a woman in that town whose daughter was very sick. She heard that this healer had come to town so she hurries right over. She finds the house where Jesus is staying, walks right in and falls at his feet. She begs Jesus to heal her daughter. 2 It was very uncommon to have a Gentile woman approach a Jewish man and speak to him. It just wasn’t done. So I would imagine that Jesus recognized her boldness on behalf of her daughter. I suspect he was testing her, as he said those awful words to her. “It isn’t right to throw the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus’ primary mission was to the Jews. Here was this Gentile woman begging him for help. So she speaks right back to him. “Sir, even the dogs eat the children’s leftovers.” Jesus likes that answer a lot and tells her to go home. Because of that answer her daughter is made well. Like I said, style and a little chutzpah. I noticed in the news this week that state employees are protesting their furlough days and cut in pay. As we approach Labor Day, they are using a theme called “bread and roses”, a story I had already planned to tell you today. Then you can decide for yourself if you think the stories are comparable. Bread and roses is about an incident that happened in Lawrence, Massachusetts in the year 1912. Lawrence was the center of the woolen industry. Twenty thousand workers walked out of the mills in a spontaneous protest of a cut in pay. Workers had been making $8.76 a week for a fifty- six hour work week. The state passed a law making fifty-four hours a week the maximum for women and those under eighteen. The companies reduced the hours, but refused to compensate wages for the thirty-one cents per week lost by each worker. This huge walk-out affected the whole New England textile industry. It was front page news throughout the country. Thousands of workers joined together, striking for ten weeks. After the ten weeks were over they had won important concessions that benefited 250, 000 workers all over New England. During one of the parades a young woman had carried a sign that said, “We want bread and roses, too.” It inspired James Oppenheim to write his poem. I wish I had the style and chutzpah to sing it for you, as it was set to music, but that’s not one of my gifts. So I ask your indulgence as I read you his poem. As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day a million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts grey, are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses for the people hear us singing, bread and roses, bread and roses. 3 As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men, for they are women’s children and we mother them again. Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes, hearts starve, as well as bodies. Give us bread, but give us roses. As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead go crying through our singing, their ancient cry for bread. Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew, yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses, too. As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days. The rising of the women means the rising of the race. No more drudge and idler, ten that toil while one reposes, but a sharing of life’s glories, bread and roses, bread and roses. In the original story in Lawrence in 1912, thousands of people put everything on the line to correct an injustice. They were bold enough to stand up to the wealthy factory owners and we are their beneficiaries. As Labor Day is tomorrow it’s not a bad time to remember the story of bread and roses. As I said, you can decide for yourself if you think the state workers have a case, because now you know the story. And remember the story of the woman who had enough style and chutzpah to speak up to Jesus. Remember how much Jesus seemed to like that sort of thing. So as we come to share at Jesus’ table, all are welcome to receive these gifts, originally intended to keep our chutzpah strong. Amen.
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