Charlottesville

Great words from a good friend.

Katherine Museus

Written for St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Franklin, TN + 10th Sunday after Pentecost + August 13, 2017

Reading: Matt. 14:22-33


I was not thinking about my sermon yesterday. It was already written, printed out and tucked safely inside my worship folder, ready to go for this morning. I was out on Center Hill lake, spending time with one of my best friends before she moves to Texas and enjoying the tranquility of being out on the water.

Then I got back to land. I checked my Facebook while I was waiting in line for food. The first thing I saw was a post by my friend Brandy, who has just started a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia and recently moved to Charlottesville. Her post said: “Thanks for all the checking in y’all. I’m safe (phone had just died).” and she went on to describe first-hand the scene…

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A Sermon in Response to Charlottesville Chaos – 8/13/2017

10th Sunday After Pentecost – Lectionary 19

Sunday, August 13, 2017

1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; MATTHEW 14:22-33

 

I’m angry…I don’t think it’s good to write a sermon when you’re angry…

I’m angry about what’s going on in Charlottesville…

If you don’t know, up in Charlottesville, a group of folks rallied together

Their purpose:  oppose the pending removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue

This demonstration resulted in protestors organizing

And like a fuse being lit…

it was just a matter of time until things got out of hand

Tensions rise…

People start acting irrational.  Mob mentality sets in.  US vs. THEM – VIOLENCE!

And then some fool races down a street full of people, likely a mix of demonstrators and protestors, rams into a stopped car, causing a chain reaction of accidents, and literally sends people flying into the crowd, injuring dozens, and killing one

Fights break out along racial lines

This is happening in 2017 people!!!

This isn’t Detroit, 1967…This is Charlottesville, VA, 2017!!!

WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

This is hatred…this is a demonstration of evil…

In OUR TIME, people! In OUR TIME!

I want to point fingers and I want to BLAME PEOPLE!!!…but I’m not going to today…

I’m not gonna blame the President.  I’m not gonna blame the demonstrators.  I’m not gonna blame those protesting the demonstrators.

You know who I’m gonna start with?  I’m gonna take a selfie and I’m gonna take a long, hard look at the person in that selfie and I’m gonna work on that person, first…and I invite you to do the same.  Take a selfie!  Put it on social media…  #SpiritLeadMe

Every time we ignore the invitation to get to know someone of a different race, we are part of the problem.

Every time we ignore the invitation to get to know someone of a different religion, we are part of the problem.

Every time we fail to speak out against ANY injustice: Homelessness, access to healthcare, racism, bigotry, prejudice, we are part of the problem.

#SpiritLeadMe

And do you know the saddest part of this terrifying moment?

Fear robs us of the abundant life God intends for us

Peter and the disciples are full of hope and passion, and yet full of fear

They’ve seen the abundance of God in the feeding of the 5,000…but now…out in the boat…living through a storm of their own…a literal storm…Jesus comes out walking on the water.

They are scared! Tired!  Worn!  In the midst of their fears, they recognize Jesus, and Peter wants to come and walk on water, too!

May we all be foolish enough like Peter…silly, blind faith to step out…and he did it…for a few steps…And then he starts to sink.  As Peter is sinking…he shouts, “Lord, save me!”

Matthew 14:31   31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

And I pray that white churches all across America, today, are crying out, “Lord save us!”

And Jesus reaches his hand out…

You see, Peter needed saving…he walked on a water a bit…but he still needed saving

And I can say the same for us…We will take a few steps, but we need prayer…we need Jesus now more than ever.

Folks, we all have fears…but God helps us to TRANSCEND our fears.

And you know what my fear is, right now?  That I’ve been wrong…My fear is that I have not done enough to stand up for justice for the poor, the outcast, and that I haven’t really stood with my African-American brothers and sisters

#SpiritLeadMe

But I recall…that Jesus didn’t let Peter drown…

Jesus didn’t let those disciples drown…

And Jesus ain’t gonna let us drown! No, sir!

And we are gonna seek God’s holy wisdom, right now…

We are gonna walk out on the waters…and face our fears…

 

“A litany for predominantly white spaces, against white supremacy”
Written by Revs. Elizabeth Rawlings and Jennifer Chrien

Gracious and loving God,
In the beginning, you created humanity and declared us very good
We were made in Africa, came out of Egypt.
Our beginnings, all of our beginnings, are rooted in dark skin.
We are all siblings. We are all related.
We are all your children.

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all your children.

Violence entered creation through Cain and Abel.
Born of jealousy, rooted in fear of scarcity,
Brother turned against brother
The soil soaked with blood, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are our brothers keeper.

When your people cried out in slavery,
You heard them. You did not ignore their suffering.
You raised up leaders who would speak truth to power
And lead your people into freedom.
Let us hear your voice; grant us the courage to answer your call.
Guide us towards justice and freedom for all people.

We are all siblings, we are all related, we all deserve to be free.

Through the prophets you told us the worship you want is for us
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke;
Yet we continue to serve our own interest,
To oppress our workers, to crush our siblings by the neck because we are afraid.
Because they don’t look like us, act like us, talk like us.
Yet, they are us. And we are them.

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are not free unless ALL are free

In great love you sent to us Jesus, your Son,
Born in poverty, living under the rule of a foreign empire,
Brown-skinned, dark-haired, middle-Eastern.
They called him Yeshua, your Son,
Who welcomed the unwelcome, accepted the unacceptable—
The foreigners, the radicals, the illiterate, the poor,
The agents of empire and the ones who sought to overthrow it,
The men and women who were deemed unclean because of their maladies.

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all disciples.

The faith of Christ spread from region to region, culture to culture.
You delight in the many voices, many languages, raised to you.
You teach us that in Christ, “There is no Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no male and female.”
In Christ, we are all one.
Not in spite of our differences, but in them.
Black, brown, and white; female, non-binary, and male; citizen and immigrant,
In Christ we are all one.

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all one in Christ.
(One in Christ, who calmed the seas, who walked on water, who saved Peter from drowning.)

Each week, we confess our sin to you and to one another.
We know that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.
We are captive to the sin of white supremacy,
Which values some lives more than others,
Which believes some skin tones are more perfect than others,
Which commits violence against those who are different.
We confess our complicity in this sin.
We humbly repent.
We ask for the strength to face our sin, to dismantle it, and to be made anew
We trust in your compassion and rely on your mercy
Praying that you will give us your wisdom and guide us in your way of peace,
That you will renew us as you renew all of creation
In accordance with your will.

We ask this, we pray this, as your children, all siblings, all related, all beloved children of God.

Amen

I feel like I’m starting…just barely, to understand why folks would need to sing a song that goes like this:  “Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, Lead me on to the light Take my hand precious Lord, Lead me home.”

Jesus won’t let US drown…Jesus is the abundant life!

Here at the table…at the font…we see abundance…we see hope…

God is with us in our sin…in our fears…

When the winds of life are overwhelming us, when a city like Charlottesville is under siege, when called upon, I urge you to step out in faith…to confront hatred, with love; to stand up when others are dismissed

And when you step out…and you start to sink…

Remember: Jesus will be there…and he ain’t gonna check out your skin color before he reaches his hand out to save you…

#SpiritLeadMe

Spirit Lead Me.

Spirit Lead Us!

Amen

In Case of Rapture…

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): 1 Thessalonians 5:9 God didn’t intend for us to suffer his wrath but rather to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with him. 11 So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.

O (Observation):  Many in Paul’s time wondered when Jesus was coming back.  For many of that time, who believed that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus’ return was thought to be imminent.  Like…tomorrow is Jesus’ likely time of return.   And because of this, many lived in fear.  They feared Jesus’ return, because they feared that they might be doing something “wrong” when Jesus comes back.  

So Paul reminds the people that Jesus was not about causing fear, but rather, salvation!   Jesus was about overcoming the gap in relationship between the people and God.  Death was the greatest gap between God and God’s people, and God overcame that gap by allowing Jesus to suffer and die, then be raised.   In being raised, Jesus overcame the power of sin and death.   

So, whether they are awake or asleep (that is, alive or dead) they are the Lord’s!  In other words, God is always with you.  So keep going about your work and stop worrying about your salvation being dependent upon the action you are engaging in at the exact moment Jesus comes back.   Instead, keep encouraging each other that God wishes for you to carry out your daily duties…and to do so with joy.   

A (Application):  I saw a bumper sticker once that said: “WARNING: In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.”   I’ve also seen some that say: “In case of rapture, can I have your car?”

Obviously, the second sticker is a humorous response to the first.   But the first sticker represents a whole concept that inspires fear in Christian believers.   And unfortunately, that fear creates a sub-culture within Christianity that revolves around “doing / looking good for Jesus.”   The problem with this line of thinking is that – if we’re being honest – we will falter, and thus, we will be stressed out over our eternal salvation. 

Paul reminded those in Thessalonica that Jesus’ return was a joy, not a fear!

To non-Christians, the whole rapture component looks like cleaning up the house real quick before the parents come home.  Can’t let them know we had that party!   Quick, sweep that junk under the rug.  Toss out the beer cans!   Spray the Lysol EVERYWHERE.   

Look…God is bigger than our faults and failures…and the times in Scripture when God is most disappointed with us is when we try to cover up our faults and pretend that we are faithful, when we are not.  God is angry with empty praise and empty worship.   

God can handle our faults.  God simply requires a repentant heart.    God takes care of the rest.  

So let us encourage others – Christians and non-Christians alike – to be honest with one another and to humbly seek God’s forgiveness and the wideness of God’s mercy.   

P (Prayer): Lord, give us hearts of joy, not fear.  Amen.  

An Oldy, but a Goodie!

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Psalm 95
1 Come, let’s sing out loud to the Lord!
Let’s raise a joyful shout to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let’s come before him with thanks!
Let’s shout songs of joy to him!
3 The Lord is a great God,
the great king over all other gods.
4 The earth’s depths are in his hands;
the mountain heights belong to him;
5 the sea, which he made, is his
along with the dry ground,
which his own hands formed.

O (Observation):  Very much centered on God as Creator, this psalm gives thanks and praise to God.   Coming from a background that seems fairly stable, this psalm was likely written in a time of peace for God’s people.   

Times were not always so for God’s people, but when they got the chance to simply praise God, they did.  

A (Application):  Getting away and giving thanks and praise to God are part of the Christian life.  Retreating and centering one’s life – whether that retreat be a weekend worship service, or a pilgrimage like the ELCA Youth Gathering (coming up in Houston in June 2018) or the ELCA Rostered Ministers Gathering (happening now in Atlanta) – is essential for our physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health. We need some time away to quiet our minds and separate ourselves from the demands on our time.   

Giving thanks to God is a natural thing for a Christian, even (or especially) in times of doubt or uncertainty.   Acknowledging that God watches over us and never lets us drown is of key importance to us.  

As I read this psalm, I couldn’t help but think of the times I’ve sung this psalm in retreat (read: worship).   Lots of YouTube videos of many different arrangements of this psalm exist.  

Let this be a reminder that our Lutheran liturgy is not some standalone material fabricated by folks in fancy robes.  Rather, the words are mined from the Mountain of scripture before us.  Some digging had to be done, to discover the gems that lay inside the Scruptires already.   No need to re-create.   Re-fashion into song? Yes.  But re-create?  No.  

Peace!

P (Prayer):  Lord, you are amazing and all of your creation is good.  Help us to preserve this earth and respect all you have created.   Amen.  

Meditation: Trust in the Lord


S (Scripture): Psalm 94

16 Who will stand up for me against the wicked?
Who will help me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord hadn’t helped me,
I would live instantly in total silence.
18 Whenever I feel my foot slipping,
your faithful love steadies me, Lord.
19 When my anxieties multiply,
your comforting calms me down.

O (Observation):  A steady and reliable God is mentioned in today’s psalm, a sure and true presence in times of calm and in times of trouble.  

God’s faithful love steadies the psalmist, and all of God’s people, and comforts them in times of trouble. 

A (Application): Today’s application is more of an exercise than a written devotion.   

Take a deep breat in.  Hold for 3 seconds.  Breathe out for 3 seconds.  

Repeat this several times until you’ve reached a peaceful state.   

Read the psalm text above.   Let your mind focus on a phrase or even just a word.   Repeat this phrase or word slowly, several times, in your mind.  

What is God speaking to you through this phrase/word today?   Is God addressing a difficulty in your life?  Or a joy in your life?

Give thanks to God for being present with you.  Seek God’s guidance and lift up any concerns you might have for yourself and others.  

When you are done meditating on this phrase/word, and you are done giving thanks and lifting concerns, repeat the breathing exercise above.  

Be still for 5 minutes.   Concentrate on your breathing.  Slow.   Steady.  

Now, with God’s peace, set forth into the glory known as “this day”! 

P (Prayer): Lord, we are thankful for your presence.   Give us strength and courage to trust in you.  Amen.  

How’s That Working Out For You?

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Jeremiah 2:20 Long ago I broke your yoke; I shattered your chains.
But even then you said, “I won’t serve you.”
On every high hill and under every lush tree, you have acted like a prostitute.

28 Where are the gods you have made for yourselves?
Let’s see if they will come through for you in your time of trouble.
You have as many gods, Judah, as you have towns.

3:6 During the rule of King Josiah, the Lord said to me: Have you noticed what unfaithful Israel has done? She’s gone about looking for lovers on top of every high hill and under every lush tree. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me, but she didn’t. Her disloyal sister Judah saw this. 8 She also saw that I sent unfaithful Israel away with divorce papers because of all her acts of unfaithfulness; yet disloyal sister Judah was not afraid but kept on playing the prostitute.

O (Observation): God sent prophets to the people of Judah and Israel, because they needed to hear from God regarding their actions and how they pleased or displeased God.   

In this case, Jeremiah – God’s prophet – warns God’s people that they are acting like a prostitute, giving themselves over to other gods, and dismissing the one, true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.    

God’s people invented other gods on every hill and under every tree, seeking their own will, dismissing God’s will.  

A (Application):  Dr. Phil – a day time talk show host – likes to hear people’s stories and offers suggestions for how to improve their lives.    When people explain their situation and how they are so sure of their course of action, Dr. Phil likes to ask: “So how’s that working out for you?”  Usually, the answer is that things are not going so well.  

Asking that question gives one pause – or at least it should give you pause.    Take stock of how things are so far.   Is this path working for you?   For others?  Who’s the author of this path?  You?  God / the Spirit?  

Is your path helping you to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom?  Are you growing in faith in God?  Are you welcoming others to join the path with you?  If you are not bearing fruit, perhaps you can take stock, listen for God, and see a clearer path forward.   

When you sense the Holy Spirit asking you, “How’s that working out for you?” maybe it’s time to step back into prayer and see what God has in store : )

P (Prayer):  God, remind us that you are our Savior, and will give us everything we need.   Amen.   

Walking Alongside Others


Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Jeremiah 2

11 Has a nation switched gods,
though they aren’t really gods at all?
Yet my people have exchanged their glory
for what has no value.
12 Be stunned at such a thing, you heavens;
shudder and quake, declares the Lord.
13 My people have committed two crimes:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water.
And they have dug wells, broken wells that can’t hold water.

O (Observation):  God declares to Jeremiah that God’s people have turned away from God.   They look elsewhere for their hope and salvation (dug wells), even though God saved them from slavery in Egypt.  Unfortunately for the people, these “wells they have dug” appear to be broken alternatives of hope to replace God.   

God declares that this action is worthy of making folks shake in their boots!  Scary enough that the heavens should shudder and quake!

A (Application):  How many alternative routes have we come up with for comfort, hope and salvation?   And how many are simply broken wells?  

The American Dream of building a family, a business, an independent life is one such well (or set of wells).    Yet for so many, these dreams are false dreams, a lie many people strive towards.   Or maybe out of ignorance or a lack of imagination, folks pursue this dream.  And in the wake of the pursuit of this dream lies destruction, pain, anger.   Sometimes the dream is just a well we have dug for ourselves…a broken well that holds nothing.  

So much of the American Dream has turned into a sloven pursuit for self-indulgence and comfort.   I’ve got mine.  Sorry.  You need to get your own.  

I’m not advocating that we don’t take responsibility for our own lives.  I simply would like compassion and humility to be factored into our pursuits.    Maybe invite other along the way with us.   Befriending folks, instead of dismissing them!   This is the way of Jesus.  Living a life not just for the self, but also for the other.   

Living life in a state of thankfulness for what God has given to us is a great start.   Then, let us realize that our way forward is to help others along the way.   This is a great next step. 

P (Prayer):  God, you sustain us with your grace.  Continue the work of grace in us.  Amen.