Who Runs the World? Women, Widows



Women have always been at the center

Of Revolution

Even when,

They were ignored

I laughed with some realization over the weekend,

Of my Sermon title

Was inspired by Beyonce.


And yet,

Because of that song,

I am reminded,

Of the many ground breaking transformative


Happening today,

Are because of women.

Malala Yousafzai, fighting for education

and against the Taliban

She is living our her Faith

She refuses to be silent


Leymah Gbowee, fighting for equality for all women

And against the oppression of patriarchy

In many parts of Africa

She is living out her Faith

She refuses to be silent


Alica, Patrisse and Opal.

Three names you may not know

But these three queer Women of Color

Are fighting for basic human and civil rights

And against the brutality of the least of these

By forming the #BlackLivesMatter

They are living out their purpose and Faith

They refuse to be silent.

So I cannot fathom,

Why this well ordered society

Would choose to judge,




In times of strife,


And Sorrow

When they most need us.


I had never experienced the depth of pain

Or sorrow

That a woman experiences

Losing her mate

Until I walked with my mentor, Cheryl

When Papa Pete passed last year.

And Cheryl,

Perhaps like many other women who wear this mantle of widowhood

She was lucky,

Because not only was there this global grieving for Pete

There was this outpouring of care,

That surrounded and enfolded Cheryl

Even this week,

As Pete was posthumously awarded a Lifetime Service Award


The accolades, and the love continued to pour out.


Sometimes, however

Not all women,

Who become widows

Experience the same love and care


For whatever reason,

They are abandoned by the community,

As seemed to be the practice in these ancient times

In Jesus’s time


Lost much more than the love of their lives

Their partner and mate in all things,

It almost meant a death sentence for a woman

They suddenly were without status

Without protection

Without freedom

Without rights

And there was no advocate

No voice for them.

They were vulnerable

In a society

Who did not see the value,

Nor any responsibility to care for these widows


But this widow,

In our Gospel text this morning

Will not be silenced

This widow stands

As an example

To other widows

Who suffer loss

Because of injustice


“I have a baby to put in the ground,

She wasn’t my convict

She wasn’t my suspect

She was my baby

Once I put this baby in the ground

I’m ready,

This means war.”


Sandra Bland’s mother,

Has not stopped working for justice,

Wherever she goes

Calling into question

The policies

The regulations

Of those who are called to serve the people

She lives out her Faith,

She has a voice

She is a baptized beloved child of the Creator God

Will we judge her, and not listen?


“Then that little man in black there,

He says women can’t have as much rights as men

Cause Christ wasn’t a woman!

Where did your Christ come from?

Where did your Christ come from?

From God and a woman!

Man had nothing to do with Him,

With Jesus Christ


Sojourner Truth,

Even as a slave

Refused to be silent

And lived out her call,

Proclaiming the atrocities

Against her people

She lived out her Faith

She had a voice

She was a baptized beloved child of the Creator,

Even now,

Why do we criticize?

Gloss over her very deep, faith wrenching words

Why do we belittle,

Attempt to erase,

Her boldness,

And others like her

Who chose to lean on their Faith

And speak out against such atrocities?

Why do we refuse to listen

Against the cries for justice?



Are not just without husbands,

They are without community

Without privileges

Without power

One of my beloved colleagues and friends,

A Pastor of this Church,

In Baltimore

Tweeted yesterday that,

We live in a society

that makes excuses

for the unjust judge

Demonizing the widow

for seeking justice

in the first place.

This is the truth we are unfortunately living,

Right now,


Our very being,

Our rights

Our beloved selves

Are interrogated


Because regardless of our status,

We cannot be muted

In the face of the unjust

Especially unjust judges,


“neither feared God nor had respect for people”

And this woman,

This unnamed widow in our Gospel text,

Was not going to accept

The word


She was not going

To stay in a place

Where others decided she belonged

Because it made them, comfortable

Rejecting the stagnant well-ordered society

That allowed the outcasts

To be cast aside,

Once they were drained

Of their usefulness


We are not sure what she was fighting for

“Grant me justice against my opponent”

Or perhaps who she was fighting for

Or who she was standing for

But she was always a presence

In that unjust judges space,

In that courtroom

In front of his dwelling

On the street

Grant me justice against my opponent

This widow,


of story after story

of injustice that permeated her days and nights

And refused

To give up

“Did you want to see me broken,

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders fallen down like teardrops

Weakened by my soulful cries?”

And because Maya Angelou,

Refused to be silent

Spoke within her Faith

Speaks for many women who were



Spoke against the VIOLENCE

And all they had was their WORDS





But because of JESUS,



The Good News of Jesus Christ is that,

What carried this widow

To face the persecution,

Was not just her strength

But it was the presence of Jesus Christ

It was her FAITH!

It wasn’t her commitment to her community,

Or those who stood with her

It was because of the GRACE of the Creator God!

It wasn’t the organizing

Or the right words,

Because all of this flowed from her

Because God stood with her

“And will not God grant justice

to his chosen ones

who cry to him

day and night?”


And beloved,

The Good News of Jesus Christ,

Is that Christ hears our prayers,

When we are crawling,

Scraping our knees

Blinded by our tears

Afraid because this world batters us

Christ stands with us,


Or how we have struggled with swimming

In the waters of Faith

Or how the world has proclaimed us


Because of our perceived sins


Christ touches us,

Christ LOVES US!


And because we are LOVED,

Christ teaches us

The power


Prayer moves,





Even more so,

I think,

The power of prayer

From Women-

A Woman prayed for me,

Had me on her mind,

Took the time to pray for me,

I’m so glad she prayed

I’m so glad she prayed

I’m so glad she prayed

For me.

Thanks Be to God

O Lord, How Long? Lament from the Prophets


Grace and Peace to you, beloved

If we follow the One,

Who shatters death

Who picks us up from the gate

Who transforms this world,

Then we cannot afford to be

The stumbling blocks

In each other’s lives

Instead our faith should be scattered

Like a mustard seed

So that it grows in the wilderness

Spreading Love, Mercy

And Forgiveness


 Luke 3:4 proclaims

A voice of one calling in the wilderness

That voice cries out their testimony

Shares their witness

Striving to live out their faith.


But what happens,

When no one hears,

People turning their whole selves away

Our own voices registering to their hearing as strained and muffled

Refusing to acknowledge and experience

The transforming power of the Good News


Left vacant

The wilderness seemingly overwhelms us

And we are helpless to do nothing,

But emit a primal scream.


For my fellow sisters and brothers in Seminary,

The journey towards a deeper theological and spiritual understanding

Grew to be exasperating at times

Not only because of the normal burdens

Of paperwork for Candidacy

Or papers never ending

Or projects mounting

But because suddenly we were alone


From the same communities which had sent us off

To this journey of Seminary

We were shocked!

The reality of their immunity to our dancing,



About how the Gospel broke down walls,

And filled our hearts.


They did not want to hear,

The restoring promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

They did not want to be faced with the truths

Of Liberation

Of Freedom

Because that would mean,

They would be forced

To wrench themselves away

From their comfortable places

At those golden altars they had been building

In reverence to doctrines

And Dogmas


Our voices adrift

In an unforgiving,



To where


Could not hear

The cries

Of God’s people

Even now

My soul is overcome

By this new religion

And theology



Violence against the innocent-

Especially those blinded by their own demons,

That lash out against love as their loved ones try to hold on

Trapped by their shackles of mental anguish

Pointing to a system,

Which disregards the stewardship of life,

The accountability

That the Creator God commanded us to have

For one another


Violence against those in the community-

Especially those tolling hard on the front lines,

Those working towards restorative justice

And yet violence invades these sacred spaces

Blinded by a system

That refuses to acknowledge its culpability

In the destruction of the people, and their life.


Violence against those who serve,

Those who work without thanks,

Without praise

Trying to build a bridge

Trying to be ambassadors

Because the system failed,

And abandoned them,

Leaving them to bear the brunt

And navigating a broken people,

On their own


Violence against Black and Brown and Red bodies

Simply because they swallowed the propaganda

Created by a corrupt and devious system

Spoon feeding them to the idea

That these sacred bodies,

With the reflection of the ONE

Who was also a Sacred body,

That these sisters and brothers in Christ

Are somehow less than


Violence against the very gift,

We take granted

Day after day,

Of Creation itself!

Thinking it will automatically replenish

Forgetting our misuse this land

Or hoard minerals,

Blocking off water rights,

Robbing Creation selfishly of its resources

Because somehow the system

Declares us the dominant force


On most days, it feels as if

All I want to do

Is to go out into Creation

And scream myself



“How long, Lord, must I call for help,

    but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!”

    but you do not save?”



Seems to be absent


And we,

Just as the prophet in Habakkuk (Hab-bu-kuck)

Felt forsaken,



The unnamed prophet,

Is rightfully angry


Questioning God

Her prayers are not answered

Her cries are unheeded

In this prophets time,

Of 7th Century BCE

The Israelites are under the rule

Of the occupiers

The Babylonians,

The Israelites perhaps experienced a state of confusion,

And desertion

The Babylonians forced upon them,


Assimilating both culturally and spiritually

Demanding that they deny themselves,

Violating their sacred bodies,

Through economic and physical oppression

Does this sound familiar?

We as humanity sometimes do not learn the lessons,

From the mistakes of the past


And yet,

The people of God

Created that chiasm,

Separating themselves

From the presence of the Creator God


Of their selfishness,

Their actions,

Their neglect

Of those outside the gate

Clinging to laws,

That had nothing to do with Faith.


Doesn’t it appear as

Our own actions

Mirror those

Of these ancestors?

We have failed in being

Good stewards

Of one another

And so the abyss


Deeper still

We forget whose we are

And we allow ourselves to slip

Into a coma like state


“Therefore the law is paralyzed,

    and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous,

    so that justice is perverted.”

The prophet in Habakkuk, (Hab-bu-kuck)

Besides herself,

That the collective community,

Disrupted the opening and the rushing in,

Of the Holy Spirit

That instead of fighting a common enemy,

They seemed to be fighting themselves

“It would be better for you

if a millstone were hung around your neck

and you were thrown into the sea

than for you to cause one of these

little ones to stumble”

These verses which are here in Luke 17,

But not included in our Gospel this morning,

Echo the frustrations perhaps,

Of the prophet in Habakkuk, (Hab-bu-kuck)

And are magnified as a warning,

From Jesus Christ







The wicked






It’s not just as simple

That because we have lack of faith,

Or our hands are empty of faith,

Or even we do not practice what we preach,

But this unwillingness

To Forgive!

And we know as people of faith,

This is HARD



And we’re not talking something as easy

For sins committed

But that our smugness

Self-assured in our righteousness

In orthodoxy

That somehow know


So therefore,



Being in community with those,

Whose beliefs,


Or how they connect with God

Just because it differs from us,


We don’t have to accept them!

We can be dismissive

We use the doctrine of justification to alienate ourselves

To practice prejudice

And bigotry


We cling to dogma

As Truth

Instead of the Gospel,

The Good News,

Which proclaims

An uncomfortable TRUTH

That because of Jesus Christ,

Our Savior and Lord


Were created

ALL are forgiven


And yet

This is why



Children of the Creator God

Cling to Jesus Christ,

The One who gathers us in His Hands,

And breathes NEW LIFE,

EVEN into

Dry seeds,

EVEN when we are discarded by others,

Because the perception is,

Nothing good could come from us


We cling to Jesus

And cry out in that wilderness

“Increase our FAITH!”


We are trying!


What else can we do?


Do not forget us


We are willing


And this increasing of our faith,

Goes beyond having this faith,

Like a mustard seed

We must be open,

Remembering our baptism

And why we are called to a PURPOSE!

Our faith does not have to be huge,


Our work,

Our goals,

Our commitment to God,


But we have to TRUST GOD

Allowing GOD to nurture,

Direct us,

Even when we are in the midst of transforming

Watching our faith develop

Into something beautiful

And we go “God, its supposed to look like that? Okay!”


The Good News is beloved,

When we,

As children of God,

As precious seeds

Have been left out in the wilderness,

Because we have been stamped worthless,

And food for scavengers

The Good News of Jesus Christ,

Is that GOD sends the healing Waters of Rain,

Washing us,

Fueling us

Giving US LIFE

Watch us GROW!

Thanks Be to God.

The Invisible Becomes Visible-Wisdom from the Ancestors


Turn to your neighbor

And say

“Because of Jesus Christ

I am




(pause, wait for the laughter)

Now what does that mean, really?


We hear in our Scriptures

That we will always have the poor


I don’t think that Jesus,

Nor our Creator God

Wanted poverty to become

Tangled and obtrusive

Into the fabric

Of our collective lives



Its algorithms,

Which are supposed to follow some mysterious formula

To make our living easier

Is out of sync


This country boasts of its coffers

That are overflowing with wealth, riches and resources


Beyond the glitter of the spotlights

Lie destitute, famished bodies overflowing

At the gates


My children have, on our routine errands to the grocery store,

For example

Question and wonder about what happens to all of the produce,

If they can’t sell it all,

Even if its still good.

Well, not sure you are aware of this

But after seven to ten days

If the bananas you have been seeing each time you pop into the store

If they have not been touched or bought

They are forced to throw them out,

So they can get a fresh shipment,

From their warehouse


When humanity refused to peer out beyond the border,

Past the walls,

Too sedated and comfortable awash in a sea of purple

Those who had not been invited through,

This is when those who had little status,

Seeing the heartbreak, acted

In the 1970’s, for example in San Francisco

Organizations such as Food Not Bombs were formed

Rescuing good, unspoiled and healthy food from dumpsters

Cooking and providing a meal,

To the homeless and forgotten

And the response of the authorities?

Many of these volunteers were arrested


This trend continues even now

People, who have answered the call,

“Jesus, when did we see you hungry,

And feed you?”

Embolden because of the Holy Spirit pushing, encouraging, empowering them

To walk beyond the gates,


Instead of immersing themselves in apathy

And the excuses of the principalities and powers

Blaming the poor,


They share of themselves,

From their Table

Bringing meals, and comfort to those out in the streets, or parks

Or even, into the safety and the sacredness of their own spaces


One Woman of Color,

Owning her own small diner

Did just this

She invited,

She welcomed the homeless midweek,

From 6-9am,

To eat and relax and just be recognized just as another customer


Instead of businesses around her, applauding,

Opening dialogue for discussion

Pushing back the gate to begin

Many complained,

They didn’t want to see the poor


Inside the gate





Scaring away paying customers

So because of the complaints to the powerful

She was forced,

To stop

For fear of her business being shut down,

Because of rules and regulations


And it does not have to stop at just food justice issues,


Whenever we as people of faith see a need,

When we understand the responsibility of stewardship

We have for one another,

Whether we are feeding from our own coffers

Or immersed in viable solutions about housing the homeless

Building tiny homes,

Which in fact, has been proven

To save local governments monetary resources,

Instead of scattered temporary solutions that treat the poor as an infections problem,

To be eradicated.

Or encouraging children, who don’t understand why the adults in charge

Are so thoughtless and heartless

To treat another person,


When we create unique and even yes, unorthodox ways,

To create new communities, and care for one another

The rich, wealthy, powerful intrudes

As if suddenly,

Doing for others,

As God has done for us

Is taboo


There is no way,

You can not see

The poor

And just not those without money

The poor also means those,

Who have nothing,

No access to employment, to housing, to citizenship, to freedom

The ex-felon,

Who it is pressed upon,

That they must have a job,

A position

That society is NOT going to care for them,

That they must work extra hard to return back to society

Win back trust,

And maybe be welcomed just on the margins

Of the inner circle


But, see

What we do not see,

And sometimes not made aware

That their fate and success of transformation

Lies in human hands,

In the hands of companies,

Who have the power,

Of whom to hire

And more often than not

The word ex-felon guarantees

Their resume will wind up in the trash

And so the powerful

Avert their eyes

At the gate

As the poor are begging for that second chance,



The Migrant worker

Who is doing jobs that,

Let’s be honest

Many of us would refuse

Feel it beneath us

Wouldn’t be caught doing

Because we know our rights

What our citizenship entitles us to

And so instead,

These corporations

Only see them,

As a commodity to be exploited

While their gaze is fixated

On their profit margins,

And stock portfolios swelling

And so they refuse to hear the poor begging

Outside the gates

For fair wages

Just so they can live!



The outcast,

The outcast that has so much heaped upon them

On their shoulders

Because maybe

They have accumulated this massive debit

That society refuses to forgive

Because their status is not enough

Because they are not willing to work to with them

To wipe out this huge deficit

That their bodies are saddled with.

The poor are the transgendered and disabled

Or single parents on the brink of a breakdown

Or even

The poor are those trapped in the inner cities

Added that they are identified by the tinge of color

Lovingly painted on their skin,

By the One,

Who many seem to forget,

Was also an immigrant,

Of Color.


These poor are perceived to be a threat to the well ordered society

Even though

Quiet as kept

Neither the authorities

Nor the politicians

Have faithfully lived out their pledge

To work for the people

As they were elected by the people

To protect the people

So that the people


Can live a life of freedom




So instead,

Sheltered by their wealth

They step over the bodies outside of the gate


Who are begging to be seen

As an essential part of humanity



We, the rest of humanity

On the other side of the gate

Ignore the teachings in our sacred texts

Ignore the stories of our Elders

Ignore the WORD

Cherry picking

To what is acceptable,

And will not stir us out of our comfort zone

Instead of adhering

“The first shall be the last,

And the last shall be the first”

Clearly calling for us

To be responsible for



We fall,

We suffer

We are cast out

And we are dying at the gate!


And because the Creator truly cares,

God continues to send endless Prophets

To tell us


And we in turn

Refuse to listen

Until it is,

Too late


Very curious that we do not know

The name of this rich man

In our Gospel this morning,


He has the assumption

That because he had the privilege of living the good life,

Access to resources of wealth

To a fault believing that Lazarus

Is still in a position of slavery

The rich man is shocked

That he is left

In darkness


Beyond the gate,

The abyss

Removed from the light and love of God

And the security of being in the presence of the Ancestors


As our Gospel text was being discussed in various places on Facebook,

Someone debated that even as the rich man was in this chaism,

That the chaism was not big enough

That God could not traverse it

That God would close the gap

As if salvation would still be warrated

For this rich man

Who still was not understanding this lesson


And yes,

Our God

Beloved Creator


That would keep us away from God

But when we are the ones


That GAP

When we cling to selfishness


Humanity made wealth

Because we refused to HEAR the Good News

We refused to SEE JESUS






And yet,

We forget

When we were hungry



Cast aside by the very society we cling to

To keep our status,


Regardless of our faith,

Our status

Our lack of resources

Or wealth.


Jesus Christ did not step over us at the gate

Jesus Christ,

Offered His Hands

Of Healing

Offered His Words

Of Forgiveness




Money Makes the World Go Round?


Not sure about where you sit,

But for me,

This week’s Gospel

Is like a complicated riddle

Or a trick question

That Jesus just throws out there,

And no matter how much we study

Or contemplate

We would fail, miserably


And I questioned,

Just as perhaps you are

Of where the Good News is in our text this morning?

There are contradictions

What is Jesus signing onto?

What is Jesus approving?

This could be fodder for the prosperity gospel crowd

Then again,

People hear what they want to hear.


This Gospel does not lift up,

Any examples of repentance

Or Forgiveness

Just it seems,



Mammon, in the Greek

In one of my favorite musicals,


Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey sing about


Money makes the world go around.

Money, as the lyrics go,

Is the answer to all of the rejection

We experience in this life.

Hilariously, Liza sings this line-

“When you go to get a word of advice,

From the fat little pastor

He will tell you to love evermore

But when hunger comes rapping at the window,

See how love flies out the door”

The answer then,

Is that Money makes the world go around

Money also stifles


Stresses the world out,


I wonder then,

If Jesus shared this parable with the disciples

Not for their benefit

But for others.

Perhaps Jesus was planting seeds of freedom

To break the roots of the oppressive society

That had embedded itself into the hearts of those,

Who were controlled by money.

What is left out of this Gospel reading,

Is verse 14

“The Pharisees,

Who loved money,

Heard all of this…”

Knowing that,

Because of who He is,

And knowing He was under scrutiny

By those who were shaken,



By Jesus Christ

The only way to get to hard headed people, sometimes

Is pushing them into that uncomfortable zone

Where who they are

And what they cling to

Would be tested.


This parable

Smacks of self interest

Of getting what you think you deserve

Of survival

Of shrewdness

And yet,

Not even this manager in our Gospel text

Has that privilege,

Even as he was as shrewd,

As his employer,

No wonder then

Tax and debit collectors were on the same low level

As other sinners

Eschewed in moral decay

Remember that from last week,

The same Pharisees were grumbling about Jesus

Eating with tax collectors?


In this era of a Roman occupied Galilee,

The only ones who could actually get away,

With manipulating the system

Were the wealthy

They had the power, and unfortunately the law behind them

To charge exorbitant interests rates

So that they could acquire more land,

Regardless of whom it would end up displacing.

Sort of reminds us,

Even now

Of the struggle going on

At Standing Rock

In North Dakota.

Sacred lands were purchased,

Rather illegally

Hundreds of years ago

Pushing off Native peoples



And Damaging Creation,

In the name of progress


There are those who would argue

That in Genesis it states,

God created man-listen to the language

God created man,

To have lord and dominion


Over everything,

That man



And even


Ignoring what the Creator God clearly expressed

About stewardship,

Just as those who claimed they upheld Biblical convent law

Dismissing those commandments that call us to be in relationship

To care for the vulnerable,

The orphan

The immigrant

As if they were blood-related


Exodus 22 states

“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy,

do not treat it like a business deal;

charge no interest”

Charging interest on loans,

Was forbidden


We pray,

Forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors


Humanity misses the mark,

We don’t live this commandment out




Rules society

Both then

And now


Makes the world go round

And causes headaches

We are told the only way to establish ourselves

Is through monetary means

Establishing credit,

Meaning applying for credit cards

With high interest rates

Thereby granting us access to be approved

For a mortgage home loan

Securing a safe place to live

Access to resources,

As I alluded to last week

For ourselves,

And our families

Access so that our children could go to the best schools,

Which sometimes means taking out high interest loans

And when we are over our heads,

Applying for predatory pay day loans,

Just so we can get through the week,

Because the powers that be,

Do not understand what it means

To live within our means.


And that is what is facing this steward,

In our Gospel text this morning.

He’s been living beyond his mean

Through the hard work of the working poor

He’s been fattening his own wallet,

Even as his employer,

Has been overcharging


These fellow people of faith,

Denied an ample living wage

Struggling to thrive

To get a foothold in this society

Wanting to remain authentic

But every day,

Drawing closer to that golden altar dedicated to the idol



And I think this is what Jesus is stressing here-

That clinging to such an idol

Or converting to this economic “religion”

Where the theology is based on greed debt, in many forms

Individualism and selfishness

Having financial resources to live and breathe,

Is not what Jesus is against,

But as Jesus states later on in verse 15

“You are the ones,

Who justify yourselves

In the eyes of others,

But God knows your hearts.

What people value highly,

Is detestable in God’s sight.”




What are you saying?

What people value highly,

Is detestable in God’s sight.”


Valuing things






That the Creator breathed into each one of us

Is detestable

Because these things separate us

From the presence of the Creator God

It keeps us trapped

In front of that golden, humanity made altar.


He raises the poor from the dust,

and lifts the needy from the ash heap,

 to make them sit with princes,

 with the princes of his people.

He gives the barren woman a home,

making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

Hear the joyous words of the Psalmst!

Hear the Good News this morning!

Greed disguised under the mask of wealth and status

Demanding of us our very soul,

And giving us nothing in return,

This is not what God wants for us.

God gives us, pours into us

Everything we could ever need!

(end with giving a visual example about what greed would look like as a person and use the Grinch in the Christmas story-what if greed came and removed everything we held dear, so that we would have to come crawling back to that golden altar, living our lives for simply amassing more wealth, no matter whom It hurt. And what if greed was hovering , waiting to hear our cries that next morning, and instead-in the midst of the dawn, Jesus stood in our midst, and all we could do is SING, and DANCE and PRAISE THE LORD-for the ultimate DEBIT HE PAID so that we would never be alone, never want, never question, never feel unloved. And that, is something, that NOTHING HUMAN MADE CAN EVER, EVER REPLACE.)

Thanks Be to God.


I Believe I’ll Testify, While I have the Chance


“I believe I’ll testify,

While I have a chance

I believe I’ll testify,

While I have a chance

I believe I’ll testify,

While I have a chance,

For I may not have a chance,



I’m not sure why this gospel tune,

Popped into my head this week

Especially for this sermon,

But maybe I imagined,

The least of these,

Marked and identified for their sins

Running back to the outcast communities where they existed


LISTEN! I actually was invited to sit,

And eat today!

With that Rabbi whom everyone is talking about

That Rabbi, who heard and looked into my eyes

Who heard my cry

Who told me that my sins are forgiven!

Who shared bread, broke bread,

Sat with US!

“I believe I’ll testify…”

And so they were witnesses

Sharing the Good News

That regardless of how humanity

The self-righteous

Had rendered their existence, invisible

God had not


God had sent God’s Son

To share LOVE.

And maybe, just maybe,

They were able to experience a little selfish joy

Because while Jesus acknowledged them,

The Pharisees were grumbling!

(pause, share with them the story about the time when during testimony sharing at my childhood home Lutheran church, my mother had stood up to give her testimony, and if you know Mother-she is not shy about sharing the Good News and how the Gospel is proclaimed in her life. I don’t remember the specifics about what Good News she was sharing, but as my Mother was a deacon in her church, she was sitting at the front of the church, speaking. My sister Jessika and I were sitting at the rear of the church, and earlier a woman had come in right behind us. We didn’t recognize her and greeted her as a guest. So as my mother was speaking, suddenly we heard this woman start to criticize and grumble about my mother’s story! My sister and I jerked and froze, as this woman kept mumbling under her breath, so absolutely amazed that someone would be angry about hearing a testimony! When mother finished, and as the church said its amen’s, this woman walked out of the service. It was only then did we turn around to watch her retreating figure and looked at one another in utter astonishment. It also took every fiber of our being not to turn around and defend our Mother. We were in utter disbelief.)

Why do we grumble,

When we hear Good News,

A praise report?

Why do we open our mouths

To fix words of harshness

Grumbling and mumbling under our breath,

While that one which was lost,

Is sharing joy.

And instead of joining into the amen chorus

We are speculating!

That they are just perpetrating,

Because nothing is ever going to change:

They will still be out on the corner begging,

They will still be out on the corner, relapsing

They will still be out on the corner, getting arrested

That they can never get their lives right,


Although we have never been in their situation

So we clearly do not understand

How the darkness of violence, addiction, self hate,

Does indeed have the power

To render our souls, dry and decimated

Until all we can be identified as,

Is the curse we bear on our scarred bodies


If we are going to be truthful with ourselves

We are jealous, envious

Of another’s transformation,

That we felt that they weren’t worthy

Their sin was too great,

Although our apathy,

Is far worse

Than any sin that they could commit.


“This man welcomes sinners,

And eats with them.”


The Pharisees and scribes

Did not get it!

For all their intelligence and knowledge of the law

They just did not understand why,

Once again

Jesus was breaking the rules

And being that relentlessly rebellious guest.

Sitting with sinners?

Sinners had a different connotation and meaning then,

Sinners equaled an unforgiveable outcast



Defined by the LAW

Being in the company of sinners was an abomination

So excluding them from the wider community

Was sanctioned by the LAW

And so Jesus sitting down

And sharing a meal,

Spoke volumes

Because sharing a meal was not just this fast paced,

30 minute race before continuing work

Sharing a meal

Was, is and always should be

A moment of building community

Of immersed in important relationships


Jesus uses this moment of relationship building,

Even to those who are grumbling,

Who consider themselves the never lost,

To teach,

Reminding both them and us

How truly connected we are,

Beyond the status and the class we created, to divide us


“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep

And loses one of them,

Doesn’t he leave the 99,

And go after the lost sheep?”

Many of us are familiar with this parable,

Of a loving God who will not abandon us

But we,

Miss something VITAL in this story,

Lost in translation:

The shepherd leaves them

In the Greek it reads,


This means

In the desert

In desolation

Defenseless, out in the open


It is not the idealized version

Where sheep are quietly grazing in green, pristine pastures

And the shepherd is only going as far as the treeline,

To the border of some property

To gather back one lone sheep.

The shepherd abandons the flock

In an uncultivated area

For an unspecific amount of time

Fending from themselves

In order to seek

In order to rescue

This one who is lost


I wonder if we realize,

When we sit in those places of privilege and judgement

That at one point in our lives,

We were that ONE

Who had been abandoned

Pushed aside

Seen through humanity’s lens as just a waste of life,

And time


But Jesus,

Jesus recognizes us,

As children of the Creator God




And Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord





We can understand it more this way,

A quote, I came across in a commentary

“If the one is sacrificed,

In the name of the larger group,

Then each individual in that group

Has no security

That their lives mean nothing.

When the shepherd pays a high price

To find the One,

He thereby offers

The profoundest security

To the many.”

In other words,

The Good News of Jesus Christ for us

Is that Jesus is constantly




And Saving


Because God does not rest

Until all of God’s Children

Regardless of our sins

Our failings

God created us whole!

God seeks to keep us whole!

God actively extends forgiveness






And because time and again,

Jesus is going out,

Bringing home those who are lost-

And by the way,

Let’s be clear

We are going to stray, wander and lose ourselves


We are both saint and sinner!

So when Jesus goes out,

To bring our sisters and brothers in Christ, in Faith and in Love home,

While Jesus is out,

Extended the grace and forgiveness from God

We are called to be GOOD STEWARDS and GOOD SHEPHERDS!

We must welcome those home with joy!

We must join in their rejoicing

And then we are called to CARE for them!

Enfold, envelop and encourage them,

Because it is NOT EASY.

Battling the darkness and the sadness in this life IS NOT EASY


The Good News is that,

When we come home

Jesus opens His Arms,

Feeding us

From the Table of LIFE!


So then when we leave this place,

We can’t help but sing,

I believe I’ll testify!

Thanks Be to God.

Embracing My Unique Identity: Sofia Garfias-Yi

Our experiences in life, and who we are must be decolonized. There is a richness in these paths which intertwined to create another beautiful child of the Creator

We Talk. We Listen.

Picture 002Sofia Garfias-Yi, our next feature, was asked by a friend to write the following reflection on her life for the Asian Pacific American Coalition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As you might guess by her name, Sofia is both Chinese and Mexican – and in this reflection she shares what this means to her as well as how she has dealt with racial stereo-typing.  So as we both begin the new school year, as well as begin reflecting a bit on the complexity of Latinx identity, Sofia’s piece is an excellent way to begin. Read, comment, and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas
– Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”

“Oh, you’re Mexican? Why don’t you just get back over the border? Or are you too busy mowing lawns?”

11062676_199182920422135_1855919109313165322_n Me.

It was an unexpected statement for two reasons. One, it was…

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Jesus Rocking and Disrupting…



Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

We sacrifice for the world,

Better positions,

Better status

But in the end,

Those always fail us.

The only sacrifice,

Which sets us free,

Which gives us life,

Is the One who took up the Cross,

And Liberated all,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord



(talk about how Facebook’s algorithm for remembering our memories, and our posts for the past couple of years, sometimes has a funny way of reminding us, why we are called and what we are called to. Last year, this time, the world seemed to be riveted, shamed and shocked at the plight of a Syrian family, and the little boy that washed up on the sandy shores, where he should have been playing in the sand, instead of laying there, lifeless. Suddenly, regardless of what you thought about Syria, its people, its politics, its perceived threat-this should have been a reminder that this child represented not the principalities and powers, but the people locked unfortunately in the ugliness of war and greed, held hostage by those who were more concerned with self-interests, instead of the foolishness of living not for oneself, but for all. So many innocent people, whose only concern is the self-sacrifice they do on a constant basis, such as you and I, to provide a safe space for their families to live and grow and work to sustain them, so many people, wasted, should have finally been this collective wake up call for people of faith, to demand, to question, to pressure to do something for these, our neighbors. And churches did begin to pledge to open up their doors and homes, whole communities and even cities here began to say, “we have room!” and yet there were people, who wear the banner of Christianity but their actions are a far cry and reflection of who Jesus Christ was is, and calls us to be. Compassion, yes was and is, a part of Christ, but many of us lack it because of the broad brush we have been conditioned and trained to paint people. We assume that the reason they are in the situation they are thrust is because of some sin they have committed that is unforgivable. The Palestine people because of their heritage; the Syrians because of their culture, Muslims because how they connect and what name they call God-which is the same Creator we serve, by the way; People of Mexican descent because of home grown chaos, the undocumented, because they are attempting to be sneaky and get over the government by not paying their dues, all the while, there are yet, powerful others who continue to pilfer resources that never reach the people who (word/line). Empathy, beloved and I said this before, is lacking among the faithful and the questioning.)


What chain that is would around your feet,

Trips and keeps you

From following Jesus completely?


That’s a tough question,

And our answers do not flow as easily,

And we hesitate to identify

Our burden


I’ve experienced an exercise,

Most often in seminary settings,

Where the large crowd of participants,

(….were asked to line up and the questions were read, anything from if we had attended private school, if our parents had been able to afford to give us a car, to whether we had ever been followed in a grocery/department store based on our age, race, gender status and the list went on. At the end, when we looked around the room, there was a great divide-many who had great privilege were way in the front, and many who had none in the back. What made this exercise different, were we were asked to hold hands, and as each question was asked, if we experienced anything negative, we had to step back and anything positive step forward. As we went through the exercise, we tried to hold onto each other’s hands, but soon lost one another, leaving folks behind. That part shook people, and left some fatigued-because although some of us had privilege, we were still left behind. There was almost this-silence at who was far ahead and who was left behind. One participant stated that he experienced the guilty pleasure, of having had access to all of these things, and at the same time mindful that many people he would consider friends did not. But also he was honest that he was afraid to give up the access he had.)


What are we willing to give up

Knowing that the Creator,

Regardless of how life falls,

Will still cradles us?


Sacrificing anything,

Any perk that we have access to,

Is one of the hardest things we experience as humanity,

This is what we are told we must do in order to survive!

It’s no wonder when I am walking in downtown Chicago,

And I pass by the faces of native Chicagoans

That sometimes there is the suffering creased solidly there

That they have made some choices they did not want to,

But had to,

So that they could have access to a safe environment to live in

For themselves

For their children

In turn have access to resources both educational and environmental

So that they could be counted as essential and vital and important,

So they would not be faced with isolation and prejudice

Life is harsh enough!

But what do we sacrifice when we assimilate?

When we bend to the will of the Empire,

And in turn, the mechanisms of the Empire,

Fails and exploits humanity

(talk about during my senior year of seminary, and my participation in the Moral Monday movement. The concentration that year was on economic plight of those that Jesus bids us to invite to the table-those unemployed, those who are under housed, those who are fighting for a paltry existence and the budget issues affecting the state, to where social services were being all but cut. And so, the wedding banquet, the feast should not be cut off, and we gathered together as people of faith, and people of justice marched as one voice and one body. This particular time, participating in an act of civil disobedience both through his word and his physical presence, Bishop Miller would march with us, and pay the cost of discipleship, by being arrested. I am sure, that as the days and weeks passed, news of his arrest filtered out, there were those who would disagree with him, and who would be angry with him with what they thought was him, wasting his time.)

Are we simply satisfied,

With abstract thinking

And believing

What it means to be a good disciple?

Or are we willing

To allow the things that fester within us,


 “Whoever comes to me

and does not hate father and mother,

wife and children,

 brothers and sisters,


and even life itself,

cannot be my disciple. 

Whoever does not carry the cross

and follow me

cannot be my disciple”


Jesus, what?


What about all of those commands,

Calling us to open up the Table,

To the least of these,

To those who cannot repay?

And now Jesus,


But we must understand,

What Jesus means by this hyperbole language.

Think about when Jesus calls to others,

To follow Him,

And one man tells Jesus he will,

But first he must go and bid farewell to his family,

When Jesus calls us,

As Bonhoeffer says,

“Christ bids us come

And die.”


Dying is frightening,

Dying means letting go,

Dying also means a new chapter,

Into the unknown

So when we let those things that have chained us,

Kept us glued to the (word/line) of this world

Experiencing FREEDOM,

Freedom to love regardless of how ridiculous it looks

Or how counter cultural it appears

Freedom to act,

Act towards justice,

Even when there is tension,

Even when you are labeled a troublemaker

Freedom to speak,

Speaking truth,

Of the accountability we should have towards one another

Of the forgiveness we should practice with one another

Freedom to stand,

Freedom to stand firmly for justice

And against (word/line)

Stand out from the shadow of the TRANSFORMED CROSS




The theology of the cross,


That the Creator God stands with US, beloved

Through our suffering,

Our despair

Because of the abandonment of the Empire

And the brokenness of this world

As Dr. Cone states,

“God encounters US

In the human condition


Of the poor,

The weak,”

The forgotten,


There’s nothing wrong with that!

We, as followers of Christ, should FIGHT

Fight because everyone should still be holding hands,

Be equal


Because of what Christ gave up,


And a price we will never pay,

NO MATTER WHAT we do in this life!

That is Good News.

So should we then,

Shed everything that keeps us from doing justice,

Practicing mercy and grace?

Shed everything that would keep us divided


From one another,



Following Christ, as His disciple

Means that we are called upon to act,


Counter cultural




Because of the Creator,

Who indeed forgives us.


Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa of the Poor,

Offers this prayer, that could shed some light

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 

It was never between you and them anyway.

Thanks Be to God.

Special Editorial: After One Year – Rev. Dr. Linda Thomas, Blog Editor

If there is only one blog that you subscribe to, it should be this one. Dr. Linda Thomas continues to be a voice and lift up all voices!

We Talk. We Listen.

Linda Thomas at CTS eventIt has been just a little over one year since we launched “We Talk. We Listen.” And what a year it has been. We’ve had conversations about Islamophobia, two trans authors have shared their stories with us, stories of community and sexuality from Latino seminarians – and a wide host of conversations about how the call of the Gospel takes us all throughout the world, in and out of the church. So this week I’m simply going to give my observations for the year, as well as give my thanks and issue a challenge to all of our readers. We have only just begun our work. So keep reading and keep praying and keep commenting and keep on going!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor –“We Talk. We Listen.”


As “We Talk. We Listen.” crosses the threshold…

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Radical Hospitality 2.o


Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

What is our purpose,

Our call

Towards this fragmented world?

Not just being humble,

Not just walking with God,

But extending to others that same radical hospitality

Given to us, freely

Because of the One, who loves us

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.



My husband loves to tell the story of his Grandmother,

Fondly known as Big Ma.

Each holiday season,

Without fail,

Without anything in return,

She would could dinners for all of the postal workers,

Police and Firefighters

In her neighborhood on the South side of Chicago,

This was her way,

Of saying thank you,

For the service they performed, almost 24/7

For those in this neighborhood, and the whole community

And it was not just a couple of people, or maybe just the local fire house

As a child, my husband watched the stream of hundreds of people

In and out her kitchen for years!

Big Ma gave of herself, and of her resources!

These dinners were not offered at a cost

She was not a wealthy lady

She lived in a working class neighborhood

Which took care of their own

She, and many others like her

Lived out this radical hospitality

Because they had heard the Gospel,

And how the Creator God extended to them,

Without expecting anything in return

A Love without no end.


Hearing tales such as this,

We are astounded by such selflessness

We try to quantify on the how’s

And we continue to bury ourselves in,

“But there is no way we could do that today.

We don’t have the assets,

Or the time.”


We are not fully living into our purpose,

As people of faith, beloved.

What effectiveness,

Could we accomplish,

If we discarded the misconception

That ministry,

Only is possible,

When carefully scheduled?

Or endless access to resources.


The Holy Spirit was definitely gaining momentum last Sunday

Stemming from many of you

Many were excited about this idea

Of not just taking breakfast to our first responders


“Pastor, we need to get them to come here!”

This is ministry in motion,

Sharing this sacred space

By offering breakfast,

A simple, ordinary meal

Of pancakes and sausage,

Something many of us cook in our own homes

For our own families,

Extending to them,


The Police Officers

And Firefighters

Tirelessly giving of themselves as humanly possible

Feeding them out of love

Is ministry.


The kitchen

The dining room table,

Is where

Over Food,

Lives are shared

Stories flow

People are bonded

Stewardship of life happens!


In fact,

The Fire Department in town was singing our praises

So delighted that we were doing this,

“Redeemer is so generous in helping us with our food drive!”

Especially mentioning our two usual suspects

Gert and Ted



What if,


The collective community of Christ

Not only invited those

Who have status in the communities we too are present

Who in turn would sing our praises publicly?

In those avenues of influence

Attracting a little more recognition and potential members

To come and join the Christian band


What if we invited

“the poor,

The crippled

The lame

And the blind.”

As Jesus calls us to?

What if we invited

The homeless, who bring their invisible friends along

Those who identify as transgendered,

An existence that still is confusing and complex to many of us

Those who are still caught in the throes of meth addiction,

Because the drug embeds itself, attaching underneath of the skin

Those who give up to others their sacred bodies,

Because that’s only commodity they have to live.

What if we opened up this space,

Invited them to sit down with us

Heard their stories

Offered up our food to them?

Knowing that they could not

In no uncertain terms

EVER repay us

There would be no recognition

No recouping our time or money or food


Why do it then,

Especially on these…undeserving…people, right?


We’ve heard this mantra time and again,

Pushed out by society as propaganda,

Punishing them for taking the drugs or the alcohol

Although not acknowledging

That not having a healthy family system

Or accessibility to community resources towards healing

Is probably a huge factor for them

Not emerging from that hellish darkness


Punishing them for not having enough strength

To leave an abusive situation

Although not acknowledging that neither the system

Nor the laws

Are enforced to protect the vulnerable

To protect and shatter that wall of silence and shame

And that there is an absence of places of safety

And yet people picket and proclaim

They are pro-life


Punishing them for being lazy

Not getting up and finding work,

And a home

Although not acknowledging that the absence of radical hospitality

And this system of inequality imbedded in our society

To where people don’t get a living wage,

So they can get 8 hours of sleep in a clean bed

So they can look presentable when we invite them to the table…

And we,

Who stand in these greener pastures

Who are jockeying for a place of honor at the table

Are shocked when a guest,

Named Jesus,

Begins to call us out

To something deeper.


In this Gospel passage,

We as sisters and brothers in Christ,

May have been exposed to a superficial message-

If you are seen as humble

And you give up your seat

Your host will surely see you,

And reward you

With an even better one!

This is sometimes where,

The Gospel starts,

And stops

Do good,

So you can profit.

Jesus delves deeper,

Challenging those who were gathered,

Once more breaking the rules,

As He just has done,

Healing on the Sabbath,


Dispersing with proper guest etiquette.

Jesus teaches them

And reminds us

That this hospitality

Goes beyond our understanding


“When you are invited by someone

To a wedding banquet”


The wedding banquet

Where families,

Extended communities


Gathered together to celebrate

New beginnings



And yes, even a little vanity because we are human,

To be seen.

But how many of us have caught ourselves grumbling,

When we do not have a prominent or favorable seating place

When our table is all the way in the back of the banquet hall,

Especially when,

We broadcast how much we have spent

Or how many wedding gifts we have brought.


How many times,

Have we seen among churches,

On Sunday mornings

A sacred time to come together,

To worship,

To celebrate Life

And yes,

To be seen.

Especially when we hear people grumbling

When the guests or visitors sit in the front pews,

That clearly belong to so and so’s family,

Whose family founded this church

Or whose family funds this church.

Worse even,

We scrutinize who can,

Who is deserving enough

To be called to the Table,

As if we are in control.

We stand at the doors of the church,

Not to welcome,

But to criticize

Seeing if they pass our test

We want to see what they are bringing,

what they are offering

Rather than going beyond our comfort zone,

Our church doors,

Inviting those who are discarded by others,

Into a place of honor in our sacred space

We shut the doors,

In so many ways.

Rather than following Jesus’s instructions

Following Jesus’s footsteps,

We ignore what He has called us to,

And we seek those places of honor

Because in this life,

Sometimes sadly it brings us comfort,

Because it’s something we are able to hold up

Or hold onto,


The wedding banquet

The day that the kingdom of God,

And this broken Creation

Will be melded into One

Who then, will have that place of honor?

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Remember the two sons of Zebee-

“Jesus, which one of us will sit on your right and your left?”

Will we be arguing about this, even on that day of days?

About who should enter first or be seated first?

Is it by the number of days we performed charitable tasks?

Or how much we have given? Will we have receipts or spreadsheets to back this up?


“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled,

Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Good News is,

And what we have forgotten beloved,

Is that Jesus Christ,

Gave up that place of prestige,

And honor

Gave up something most precious


Offered up Himself AT THE TABLE,

So that we,

Children of God,

Would be able to be fed,



Made Whole

So that we would have LIFE

We forget that Jesus Christ,

The Son of God,

Lived out a radical hospitality

So that we might forever be connected

With the Creator God,

Because of God’s Love,

And Mercy.

But the Good News is,

Jesus becomes that guest once more-

Jesus teaches us,

Instead of discarding us,

Because we are unworthy,


Undeserving at times

But Jesus does not see us marked by our SINS.

Jesus sees us as beloved children of the Creator

Jesus has lived His life as us,

And Jesus Forgives US

And then extends that radical hospitality-


Empowers us RIGHT HERE

At the TABLE

Jesus is host,

And transforms our unworthiness,

Our emptiness

Into life sustaining mercy and grace.

(*Disclaimer* The following ending to my sermon was ad libed or rather flowed as the Holy Spirit pushed me, but the following words are my thoughts…

end with the story about being immersed in a sabbatical moment last weekend with the BFF and company, and how this homeless person was asking for money…and then asked for leftovers seeing we were carrying food. I had a couple of knee jerk reactions-Giving someone who hasn’t eaten and has no access whatsoever to good food, to give him something that I had eaten-was a horrible idea, and treating that person as if they were nothing more than an animal. My husband, seeing the meal I had purchased for him and our daughter to share, full of tacos and refried beans and rice-handed this untouched and ready meal to this nameless person. And I experienced my second knee jerk reaction-for a moment I said to myself, but I bought that for…see there exposed is our weakness. And as we walked away, I was thankful of my husband’s example of radical hospitality without a thought-and now I had to strive to exude that hospitality to others, because of the love that has been shown to me, in all of us, in so many ways. Yes, sometimes we don’t know what we are doing or if we are doing the right thing or how do we work through being uncomfortable and the knee jerk reactions because we are human. BUT the Good News is that Jesus walks with us, and opens up the Table to us, and shows us, and gives us LIFE so that we can live out our lives, not for ourselves, but for what the Creator.. So, whose with me to live out radical hospitality? (if show of hands, say awesome!)


Thanks Be to God