Walking from Selma to Montgomery, thousands of people from all over the country. Old folks on canes and in wheelchairs, children in strollers, college students with boundless energy. Whites, Blacks, Latinos. They crossed the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where once-peaceful marchers were beaten and clubbed by men whose duty was to enforce the law, where the same marchers came back singing, ‘ain’t nobody gonna turn us around’ and marched all the way to Montgomery. This year thousands came, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and made that same five day pilgrimage to Montgomery.
They came because they had been there.
They came because they wished they had been there.
They came because they don’t want to go back there again.
They came because of HB56.
They came because they felt called to do something about a mean spirit set loose in our country. A mean spirit that wants to turn back the times, to go back to “the good old days” that weren’t so good for people without privilege. A mean spirit that once denied access to voting booths and lunch counters and water fountains, that still denies full access to justice and dignity to people with certain pigment, and that now seeks to deny access to people without papers.
And so they marched. They whispered, “We are standing on holy ground, walking in holy footsteps.” Walking in the footsteps of people who 47 years ago marched this same road to overturn the tables of injustice, like Jesus did when he overturned the tables in the Temple.
Standing on holy ground: When Moses stood on holy ground, God told him to take off his shoes. As soon as he did, God gave him his marching orders: go to Egypt, and set my people free!
Walking in holy footsteps: as soon as the disciples dropped their nets to follow Jesus, he gave them their marching orders: If you want to be my disciple, pick up the cross and follow me.
Walking in holy footsteps, standing on holy ground. Marching orders seem to follow.
You are standing on holy ground, My Beloveds, not just when you enter the sanctuary of the church but every time your foot touches the earth, because every speck of dirt that God ever created is holy.
So what about walking in holy footsteps? Remember when you were a child at the beach, running behind someone much larger than you, trying to stay in their footsteps, leaping from footstep to footstep quickly before the next wave washed the footstep away, running without looking up because their legs were so much longer than yours? Trying not to make your own footprints, trying not to miss a step, not caring where they were going, just not wanting them to end?
It’s time to look up, time to pay attention. Whose footsteps are you walking in? Consciously or not, we are all walking in someone’s. Are they the ones you really want to follow? And where are those footsteps taking you? Is it really where you want to go?
Standing on holy ground, check. Walking in holy footsteps, check. It must be time to take off your shoes, drop your nets, and get ready for your marching orders. “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.”