Much has been made of late about what happened one Sunday morning on a bridge in a town in Alabama. Commemorations have been held, speeches have been given, marches all across the country have been staged and even a major motion picture has been released. It has been big doings all around the country, all around the world. John Lewis young SNCC organizer then, US congressman now, is getting his due recognition finally as a true hero and leader in the movement. Names forgotten in history books are re-emerging in current events as we once again speak about Jimmy Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo. We say today that Bloody Sunday was turning point, a momentous occasion, one that spurred on the passage of the Voting Rights Act and made America a better place. We do not talk about the limp.
In another story, at another river, another man confronted a power greater than himself. His name was Jacob and he wrestled at the river’s edge all through the night with what he thought was a man but what he learned was God. And at the dawn it was God who asked for release and Jacob who made demands for blessing. God granted that blessing and another gift not often mentioned. In the course of the struggle God touched the hip of Jacob, and forever pulled it out of joint. For the rest of his days, Jacob, now named Israel (He who has striven with God and with men, and has prevailed) would walk with a limp, a reminder of the cost and continuing nature of struggle.
On that Sunday, Bloody Sunday, in Alabama men again struggled long, wrestling with God and man. And again did our Jacobs prevailed and would not release their opponent until they were blessed. But on our bridge stood not just one man or even a few, but many. As history would tell hence, an entire nation stood on that bridge and wrestled with itself, with its aspirations and in the end received both its blessing and its limp. Just as Jacob paid a price for victory that one day in a struggle that was ongoing, so too have we paid a price for our struggle at our river. People died in the struggle at Selma and in all the days since. Others across the days and years would lie wounded, bloody, and forever changed.
While now we as a people still walk, we are reminded again and again it is no graceful gait with which we move but a crooked cadence, given to stumbles and imbalance. Tragically we still walk this world surrounded by ignorance, want, and cruelties both petty and great. Often we fall and often we find it harder and harder to rise,
Still we do rise and even with the limp we still walk, we still struggle on, we still wrestle with the wild God and we still demand our blessing.
For it is in the struggle we find the victory, it is in the wounding we find the healing and it is in the demand we may grant sweet release.
Amen and blessed be.