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

One Nation, Underwood

S (Scripture): Proverbs 29

25 The fear of others lays a snare, but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.
26 Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.
27 The unjust are an abomination to the righteous, but the upright are an abomination to the wicked.

O (Observation): Peace and security comes from the Lord, not from any earthly ruler or authority.   Trusting in God brings one justice and hope.  

And who is an abomination?   Depends on the viewpoint.   The unjust acquire wealth and status in ways that make the righteous jealous – though it shouldn’t.  The upright are an abomination to the wicked, because the upright are genuine and receive eternal favor without working lies or deceit.  

A (Application): The freakiest line from the latest House of Cards series is the title of this blog post.  President Francis Underwood pontificates on the future…and he says, “One nation.  Underwood.”  How creepy.  

How often does the “bad guy” win?   How do we allow this?   We do allow it, by the way, either because we stick our heads in the sand or because we are complicit with the system.  

…until we lift our heads…until we are no longer complicit…

We reach a true freedom when we begin to believe in and trust the Lord.   We can walk upright (repenting as we go) fearing no ruler.  We will do no battle.   Instead, our upright nature will drive the wicked ones crazy.   

Our trust will be in the Lord, and as we trust the Lord, we will see that our spirit is not captured.   Our will is set free in order that we live upright lives in the midst of an unjust world.  

Francis Underwood rules through wicked means.   Will you?  Or will you let genuine love for your neighbor guide your ways and your will?

P (Prayer):  Lord, lift up our heads to you!  Amen.  

Doubt and Worry is Okay


S (Scripture): Psalm 56
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me; all day long foes oppress me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many fight against me.
O Most High, 3 when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?

O (Observation): Trusting in the Lord is a hallmark of our faith.  When the Israelites were downtrodden and disoriented, they trusted in God for comfort and guidance.   

A psalm like this is borne out of a people who have known strife.   And yet, in the midst of their troubles, they rely on their faith in the Lord to carry them through the day. 

A (Application):  We have a hard time dealing with the struggles of the world around us.  Sometimes it’s a thing that happened to us directly: sickness, worry, fear.  Sometimes the thing happens to a loved one: death, disease, moving away.

In all cases, we can wonder and doubt along with the author of today’s psalm.  And we do not have to fear that our worries or doubts will cause God to push us away.  In fact, God blesses the broken and contrite heart.  

So fears, worries, doubts…these do not mean our faith is weak.  Indeed, our weaknesses are exactly where God plans to meet us.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, meet us in out weaknesses today.  Amen. 

Ableism – God Sneaking Up on Me Again


S (Scripture): Acts 21:26 Then Paul took the men the next day, and after he had purified himself along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice of the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them. 27 When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia who had seen him in the temple area stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary! Furthermore he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!” 29 (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him previously, and they assumed Paul had brought him into the inner temple courts.) 30 The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple courts, and immediately the doors were shut.

O (Observation): Accusations and threats.  The people of God see Paul and know that he has taught about the errors the people of God have made.  Paul wishes to welcome Gentiles into God’s Kingdom, and yet God’s own people see this as a threat, not a joy.  

The Gospel has become “adhering to the Law,” rather than being in awe of God’s grace as God attempts to expand the people’s understanding of grace and mercy.  

A (Application):  When will we learn?   At what point do we stop and check our prejudices?   

Why do people dislike it when we label something as a prejudice?  

I guess I’m not disturbed by the fact that we have prejudices (for we see dimly this side of Jesus’ return).   I’m more disturbed by our lack of acknowledging our prejudices – especially when they are pointed out to us!

I’ve recently listened to a podcast by The Liturgists on the topic of “Ableism.”   Ableism is the acknowledgement of discrimination against those with disabilities (physical and intellectual).   Granted, my time with this subject is somewhat limited, but I have worked with folks who have disabilities: People bound to wheelchairs from birth, blind people, folks with Down syndrome and those on the autism spectrum.

In each case, I found that I had to confront my preconceived notions of their “inferiority” as compared to my “superiority.”   I hear from my friends who are close to those with disabilities about how much joy their disabled children and family members bring into their lives. And in many cases, the changes and the frustrations that they have (and still do) encounter can be draining for them.  It’s a mixed bag, but in the end, many of my friends in these situations say that while their physical and emotional stamina can be drained, their hearts are full. 

We react harshly in situations that befuddle us.  We don’t like to venture into world’s that are not of our own making or understanding.  But what I’ve learned from friends close to those who are disabled is that God is working in and through them everyday.  That those with disabilities are just as much children of God as those without disabilities.  That we are called to love all of our neighbors. 

Those who trapped Paul and caused an uproar did so because Paul threatened their way of life and their traditions.  Paul was a threat, because the people of the Church were missing the point that God’s grace made them all clean, not their adherence to the Law.  So, too, do we miss the point when we look down on or feel sorry for those with disabilities.  

Instead of feeling sorry for them, perhaps we can treat them as normal folks.  Perhaps we can do our best to talk with the parents or family members of those with disabilities to see how they are doing.  To see if they need some rest, or simply someone to talk to or befriend them.  In this way, the Gospel is lived out: reaching out to our neighbor, with grace and mercy.  

Let’s think less about changing abilities and more about changing the world.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, open my eyes to the beauty of your creation.  Amen. 

Get Curious, Not Defensive


S (Scripture): 2 Kings 18:28 The chief adviser (to the king of Assyria) then stood there (before God’s people in Judah) and called out loudly in the Judahite dialect, “Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you, for he is not able to rescue you from my hand! 30 Don’t let Hezekiah talk you into trusting in the Lord when he says, “The Lord will certainly rescue us; this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.”
…35 Who among all the gods of the lands has rescued their lands from my power? So how can the Lord rescue Jerusalem from my power?’”

O (Observation):  The kings of Israel and Judah were in cycles of doing good in the sight of the Lord and doing evil in the sight of the Lord.  Neighboring nations continually threatened to invade and take over the lush lands inhabited by God’s people.  

Here, the Assyrians are taking on Judah and its king, King Hezekiah.   The adviser to the king of Assyria is trying to cause Judah’s people to doubt the level of protection that their God can provide.   He is planting seeds of doubt, recalling other victories of the Assyrians.  

A (Application):   Facebook is my main source of doubt.  Cynicism is on a sharp increase of late, and it destroys the joy of social media.   I don’t like unfriending people and so I just end up scrolling through to read the next post down…from someone less cynical…or a post of a funny kid picture or a picture of someone’s pet.  

With folks being so divisive, I can start to see how we don’t feel like much hope exists.   The Enemy finds ways to cause us to say and do things that divide, rather than build up. (How do I know?  Because I’ve said things intentionally divisive, and I repent of those times in which I was too harsh.)

So, what builds up?  Perhaps curiosity, rather than defensiveness.  When someone writes a cynical post, I’ve started to get curious, rather than defensive.   That posture takes a lot of energy, though, I will admit.   If you don’t have the energy to keep that posture, perhaps you should keep scrolling…until you do have the energy.   Don’t let the cries of the Enemy win.  God wins.   God has won, already.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us wisdom to know when to move on and when to get curious.  Amen. 

We are to Fear and Love God

S (Scripture): 2 Kings 19:21 This is what the Lord says about King Sennacherib of Assyria:

27 “I know where you live, and everything you do.

28 Because you rage against me, and the uproar you create has reached my ears;
I will put my hook in your nose, and my bridle between your lips, and I will lead you back the way you came.”

O (Observation):   Under a threat, God doesn’t back down from an enemy.   God doesn’t take mocking too lightly.   And God tends to back up God’s own words with swift action.  

Apparently, God’s got this one under control and is not holding anything back.   God’s people have been far from perfect to this point, but all of that is pushed aside for the moment, as God defends God’s own honor.  

A (Application):  As we are getting more and more riled up over politics and news of terror attacks, My sense is that the Enemy still looks for ways to break us apart.  And the Enemy is essentially shaking its fist at God.  And my hope is that God acts directly as God did with Sennacherib.  

God will not be mocked.   God will take care of God’s honor.  We can do what we can to defend our God, but let us not feel like God can’t take over God’s own honor from time to time.  We can assist, as would an apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, or shepherd…but God’s honor will always be defended by God. 

As we read in Luther’s Small Catechism, in the explanation for each of the Commandments, each answer begins with the phrase, “We are to fear and love God, so that…”  This foundational sentiment helps us to clarify our place in the Kingdom, and helps us to display a healthy respect for our God.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to play our role in living out your will, so that we can all love you and live in reverent awe of you.  Amen.  

Making It Through Today


S (Scripture): Psalm 123

1 I look up toward you, the one enthroned in heaven.

2 Look, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female servant look to the hand of her mistress, so my eyes will look to the Lord, our God, until he shows us favor.

3 Show us favor, O Lord, show us favor!  For we have had our fill of humiliation, and then some.

4 We have had our fill of the taunts of the self-assured, of the contempt of the proud.

AND

John 13:34 [Jesus says,] “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

O (Observation):  The psalmist utters a frustrated, yet faith-filled sigh to God above.   This psalm could very well have been composed while the Israelites were in Babylonian captivity – pulled from their homeland and sent to live in foreign territory. He is frustrated, yet not without hope. 

In the John text, Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet and is preparing them for a lifetime of challenges, and he won’t be around to help them in person.  So, he teaches them they hallmark of a disciple: love one another.  Not just those who part of “the Christian team.”  Rather, love ALL people.  This will show the world that love comes to rescue, not power or might.  


A (Application):  I’m really drained.  I know people are venting frustrations, but I can barely look at my FaceBook feed right now.  I have over 1,000 friends on FB, and my “friends” are all over the political spectrum.   

I see articles that take small things and make overarching generalizations as a response.  We spin stories and stats to our desires.    We cry “foul” because people are hurting each other or destroying property.  People are outraged for Trump being voted president.  People are outraged at the protests.   

I’ve pointed out some things that frustrate me about Trump followers committing horrific acts in response to their candidate being voted into office.   I’ve also posted about people committing acts of violence towards those who have voted for Trump.  All of it is inexcusable. 

What a crazy couple of days.  And all of the frustrations and angst are valid indeed.  We cannot invalidate the frustrations and fears, joys and praises that these last few days have stirred in the people of our nation.  

And as I read these texts today, I didn’t feel compelled to condemn anyone.   I’m moving past that.  Rather, I felt that the psalmist and I connected in a deep way.  I felt a kinship in the frustration, and sensed that God will see us through this, even though things are topsy-turvy for now.   

As far as how to move forward?  That’s where the Gospel text comes into play today.   Eventually (or now, if you can muster it) we are called to show love for one another.  As we show love for one another, we will pause.  We will listen and validate one another’s thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams and fears and worries.  Deepening our connections will be the key for how to move forward.   This is what will bring us together.  

Let us continue to sit across the table from one another.  And if we must, we will peaceably protest as we strive for peace and justice in all the earth. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, guide us into all peace.  Amen.