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Safety Pins: What Would Jesus Think

Our pastor, Carla Pratt Keyes, offered the following thoughts – along with safety pins – during worship on November 13. We are grateful to have her text here on our blog, as requested by some who heard it in worship – and to share with other interested folks.

You were given a safety pin as you came into worship today. Some of you know: why a safety pin. In fact, some of you came here already wearing safety pins. If you’re tapped in to social media, there’s a good chance you’ve seen that the safety pin has become a symbol of safe spaces for people who’re afraid. We hope this congregation will be a safe place for people who’re afraid.

In recent days, folks in the United States have started wearing safety pins on a sweater or collar, as some people did in Britain after Brexit. After the UK voted to leave the European Union, police reported a spike in hate crimes directed against immigrants and ethnic and religious minorities, and folks started to wear these little pins as a gesture of silent reassurance that anyone who was being abused would not stand alone.

The pin also served to remind the person wearing it of the promise they’d made not to stand idly by while somebody else was being harassed, threatened or hurt.

Here in the United States, in recent days, reports of hateful harassment and intimidation have erupted. And all kinds of people are feeling threatened: African-Americans, Immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, women, disabled people. The safety pin is meant to say to these people: you are not alone.

Jesus was a storyteller, and so often his stories employed the stuff of daily life to tell us about God: seeds planted, trees providing shelter, sheep lost and found, bread broken and shared, wine poured out. I think he would have been all over the safety pin.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he might have said to people who were feeling troubled. “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.” “My love is a safe place for you to live in,” Christ says. “Abide in my love. And trust that in God’s house there is plenty of room. I am here to make sure there is a good and safe place for you.” That safe place with Christ is one thing to remember if you choose to wear this pin.

To people who already feel safe, I expect Jesus would say what he said to his disciples, that day Jesus bought a child before them and said: “whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me.” Children were so vulnerable in those days – not particularly treasured, and not pampered like they are in privileged communities today. Children were marginalized and at risk. “Whoever welcomes one such marginalized person in my name, welcomes me,” Jesus says.

What does it mean for us to welcome the marginalized? How do we work to make a safe place for our world’s vulnerable people? What do we learn about our own safety, as we seek to provide them safety? And are we willing to put ourselves and our livelihoods at risk to stand with people who feel threatened? Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like children,” – until you share their pain on the margins – “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Consider the safety pin, how, before it’s secure, it can wound you. For what are we willing to suffer, even to bleed? I think Jesus might ask us that in The Parable of the Safety Pin.

Consider how, once a safety pin is fastened, it holds things together. In Jesus Christ, all things hold together, the Bible says. In Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male and female, no longer “able” and disabled, no longer African American or Hispanic or European, no longer rich and poor or red and blue, for all are one. All are held together in Christ.

Consider the safety pin. And hold it, maybe, as we pray.

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