The Invisible Becomes Visible-Wisdom from the Ancestors

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Turn to your neighbor

And say

“Because of Jesus Christ

I am

Responsible

For

You.”

(pause, wait for the laughter)

Now what does that mean, really?

(pause)

We hear in our Scriptures

That we will always have the poor

But,

I don’t think that Jesus,

Nor our Creator God

Wanted poverty to become

Tangled and obtrusive

Into the fabric

Of our collective lives

(pause)

Life,

Its algorithms,

Which are supposed to follow some mysterious formula

To make our living easier

Is out of sync

(pause)

This country boasts of its coffers

That are overflowing with wealth, riches and resources

Yet,

Beyond the glitter of the spotlights

Lie destitute, famished bodies overflowing

At the gates

(pause)

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

(pause)

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

(pause)

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,

And DO SOMETHING!

Instead of immersing themselves in apathy

And the excuses of the principalities and powers

Blaming the poor,

For

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

(pause)

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

Freely!

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

SO CLOSE TO THEM

Inside the gate

These

Vagrants,

Pungent

Unkempt

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

(pause)

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

Regardless,

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,

With

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

(pause)

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

(pause)

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,

(pause)

Or,

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!

(pause)

Or,

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.

(pause)

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

REGARDLESS

Can live a life of freedom

Liberty

And

Peace.

So instead,

Sheltered by their wealth

They step over the bodies outside of the gate

Broken.

Who are begging to be seen

As an essential part of humanity

(pause)

Meanwhile,

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

ONE ANOTHER

ESPECIALLY

We fall,

We suffer

We are cast out

And we are dying at the gate!

(pause)

And because the Creator truly cares,

God continues to send endless Prophets

To tell us

TEACH US

And we in turn

Refuse to listen

Until it is,

Too late

(pause)

Very curious that we do not know

The name of this rich man

In our Gospel this morning,

(pause)

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

Abandoned

Beyond the gate,

The abyss

Removed from the light and love of God

And the security of being in the presence of the Ancestors

(pause)

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

(pause)

And yes,

Our God

Beloved Creator

Has the POWER TO CLOSE ANY GAP

That would keep us away from God

But when we are the ones

Who CREATE THAT CHAISM

That GAP

When we cling to selfishness

Greed

Humanity made wealth

Because we refused to HEAR the Good News

We refused to SEE JESUS

Hungry,

Tired

Broken

Poor

(pause)

And yet,

We forget

When we were hungry

Tired

Broken

Cast aside by the very society we cling to

To keep our status,

Jesus Christ DID NOT IGNORE US

Regardless of our faith,

Our status

Our lack of resources

Or wealth.

(pause)

Jesus Christ did not step over us at the gate

Jesus Christ,

Offered His Hands

Of Healing

Offered His Words

Of Forgiveness

OFFERED HIS LIFE

SO THAT WE CAN LIVE!!

(pause)

Money Makes the World Go Round?

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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

(pause)

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.

(pause)

This Gospel does not lift up,

Any examples of repentance

Or Forgiveness

Just it seems,

Money.

Wealth

Mammon, in the Greek

In one of my favorite musicals,

Cabaret

Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey sing about

Money

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

Chokes

Stresses the world out,

(pause)

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,

Disturbed

Challenged

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.

(pause)

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?

(pause)

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

Displacing,

Invading

And Damaging Creation,

In the name of progress

(pause)

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

(pause)

Over everything,

That man

Deemed

Insignificant,

And even

Weak

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

(pause)

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

Interesting.

We pray,

Forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors

But,

Humanity misses the mark,

We don’t live this commandment out

Money,

Wealth,

Mammon

Rules society

Both then

And now

Money,

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.

(pause)

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

Exploiting

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

Mammon.

(pause)

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.”

(pause)

Again,

Jesus

What are you saying?

What people value highly,

Is detestable in God’s sight.”

Yes,

Valuing things

Money

Status

Greed

HIGHER THAN THE SACRED LIFE

And LOVE

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.

(pause)

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

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“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,

Anymore.”

(pause)

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

TESTIFYING!

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

(pause)

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,

(pause)

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

(pause)

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.

(pause)

“This man welcomes sinners,

And eats with them.”

(pause)

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

Undesirable

Untouchable

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

(pause)

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

(pause)

“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,

EN TE ERAYMO

This means

In the desert

In desolation

Defenseless, out in the open

(pause)

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

(pause)

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

(pause)

But Jesus,

Jesus recognizes us,

As children of the Creator God

Damaged

Hurting

Sorrowful

And Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord

LEAVES THE FLOCK

TO COME SEE ABOUT US!

(pause)

Perhaps,

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

Coming,

Searching

Finding

And Saving

EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US!!

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

Mercy

Reconciliation

Grace

And LOVE.

(pause)

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

MULTIPLE TIMES.

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

But,

The Good News is that,

When we come home

Jesus opens His Arms,

Feeding us

From the Table of LIFE!

Here!

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…

View original post 653 more words

Jesus Rocking and Disrupting…

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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

Amen.

(pause)

(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.)

So,

What chain that is would around your feet,

Trips and keeps you

From following Jesus completely?

(pause)

That’s a tough question,

And our answers do not flow as easily,

And we hesitate to identify

Our burden

(pause)

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.)

So,

What are we willing to give up

Knowing that the Creator,

Regardless of how life falls,

Will still cradles us?

(pause)

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,

Die,

 “Whoever comes to me

and does not hate father and mother,

wife and children,

 brothers and sisters,

 yes,

and even life itself,

cannot be my disciple. 

Whoever does not carry the cross

and follow me

cannot be my disciple”

(pause)

Jesus, what?

Hate?

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,

Hate?

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.”

(pause)

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

YES

Even the CROSS WAS TRANSFORMED

THE MOMENT CHRIST GAVE UP HIS LIFE

The theology of the cross,

RADICAL REVELATION OF GOD,

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

As LIBERATOR

Of the poor,

The weak,”

The forgotten,

EMPOWERING THEM TO FIGHT

There’s nothing wrong with that!

We, as followers of Christ, should FIGHT

Fight because everyone should still be holding hands,

Be equal

REGARDLESS

Because of what Christ gave up,

SO COSTLY

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

Excluded

From one another,

Regardless?

(pause)

Following Christ, as His disciple

Means that we are called upon to act,

Differently,

Counter cultural

Weirdly

But

Lovingly,

Because of the Creator,

Who indeed forgives us.

(pause)

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.”


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

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Radical Hospitality 2.o

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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.

Amen

(pause)

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.

(pause)

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.”

(pause)

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.

(pause)

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

But,

“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,

These,

The Police Officers

And Firefighters

Tirelessly giving of themselves as humanly possible

Feeding them out of love

Is ministry.

(pause)

The kitchen

The dining room table,

Is where

Over Food,

Lives are shared

Stories flow

People are bonded

Stewardship of life happens!

(pause)

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

(pause)

But

What if,

We,

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

(pause)

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

(pause)

Why do it then,

Especially on these…undeserving…people, right?

(pause)

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

(pause)

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

(pause)

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.

(pause)

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,

Now,

Dispersing with proper guest etiquette.

Jesus teaches them

And reminds us

That this hospitality

Goes beyond our understanding

Speaking

“When you are invited by someone

To a wedding banquet”

(pause)

The wedding banquet

Where families,

Extended communities

Friends

Gathered together to celebrate

New beginnings

Fellowship

Reconnect,

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.

(pause)

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,

(pause)

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?

(pause)

“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

Himself

Offered up Himself AT THE TABLE,

So that we,

Children of God,

Would be able to be fed,

Nourished

Healed

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,

Unlovable

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-

HERE

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

Caught in the Words – Rev. Tuhina Rasche

The community of faith sometimes is not just the ones you can touch, but it is those whose hearts are connected through faith and through struggle. Tuhina is one’s of those #decolonize16

We Talk. We Listen.

Picture 002The flesh is messy. It needs food, love, caresses and correction. When it doesn’t have flesh – when it can’t feel, can’t weep, can’t bleed you start to have problems. It is the, of no wonder that Jesus left us a physical reminder of our bond to him – the eucharist. From this point, then, Rev. Tuhina Rasche (ELCA) shares with us why something even so simple as a constitutional resolution for the ELCA absolutely must have flesh – accountability, solidarity, and money – if it is to accomplish it’s goal. Read, comment, and share, friends!

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


“My name is Tuhina Verma Rasche. I am the Associate Pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Oakland… and I offer myself as tribute from District C.”

13310323_1334998296516679_439464265965981285_n.jpg Rev. Tuhina Rasche speaking…

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In Search of Authenticity – Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin

This is one of the Sistas that I am fiercely proud to call as a friend. She is one of the Voices that this institutional church and the systemic broken ass system of this society needs to adhere and listen to.

We Talk. We Listen.

Linda Thomas at CTS eventCan bureaucracy provide a path toward justice? Like secular institutions, mainline Christian denominations use bureaucratic procedure to move toward change and transformation. However, unlike secular institutions, the Church is called through the Triune God to offer grace and strive for justice. With the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly recently completed, Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin gives us a snap-shot of her activities during the week-long series of meetings and votes, and how she and others continue their tireless efforts to call the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to confess, reassess, and deal with the reality that after 28 years it’s racial composition is still 96% white. Reverend Austin reminds us that God created racial diversity and calls the ELCA to redouble it’s efforts to make good on its commitment to diversity. Read and be inspired, friends – and don’t forget to comment and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology…

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Transforming our broken world, doesn’t get a Sabbath

Jesus heals

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Walking in the Living Light

Of the One who has conquered death

Is never ending

Never ceasing

Because there is always need for the Gospel

To be Proclaimed

As we pray without ceasing

And move and act and live out our call

Because we follow His footsteps,

Jesus Christ,

Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

What would it look like,

If our Sabbath time

And Serving moments

Were one in the same?

Because transforming the brokenness of this world

And our collective journeys through this life,

Seemingly does not get a moment of rest, or pause.

(share with the congregation that God’s Work Our Hands once more is coming up this year, and it falls on a day where we collectively as a nation remember the horrors of September 11th. We as Redeemer have already gotten ahead of the game by partnering with LSSI and doing our own GWOH-providing much needed supplies and backpacks for children who need to be equipped and prepared for their first day, week, months of school! How awesomely thrilled was LSSI that congregations like us participated! And as I thought to September, there was still this drive to do something for GWOH because being involved in ministry, doing for others is awesome. So your Pastor has a crazy idea-what if, what if we took pancakes over to our First Responders at the Fire/Police station here in town? Just hold that thought because, yes-we will have a pancake breakfast going on, and Rally Day, right? And we’ve already done the GWOH for this year, right?)

 

But perhaps it could be framed this way,

That carrying over a meal to those

Who put their lives on the line for those they are called to serve

Is not only own mission,

But a way to share the Good News,

That this place,

Regardless of the day or time,

That we are also here for them as well,

That we open our doors

Inviting them in

Even if all they have time to do,

Is to hear the sermon,

Pass the peace

Getting fed from the Table,

Because of the One,

Who was constantly doing for all of God’s Creation,

Jesus,

Even in the midst of Sabbath.

(pause)

Sabbath,

Can be seen as this moment of release

Release from the overwhelming and demanding presence

Of this broken world

Sabbath is a day of celebration,

Whether you are saint or sinner

Whether you are comfortable

Or you are struggling

Whether you are among the faithful

Or perhaps, lost and yearning for that faith.

Sabbath is a time to come together,

Sabbath can even be a teaching moment,

When it is both a time for rest,

And a time for actively living out the Gospel

(pause)

But there seems to be some disagreement among those gathered

In our Gospel this morning.

Have you noticed that Jesus goes against the laws quite frequently?

The status quo

Because see, there’s no Sabbath

From suffering,

From a painful

Even shameful existence.

I wonder how visible this nameless woman was

To those who kept the Sabbath

Or rather,

How important was her existence

To the community who she should have been a part of,

Instead of being kept apart,

Because somehow,

It was shameful.

(pause)

Shame, unfortunately

Has been used as a weapon

By institutions of religion

As a vehicle for control and suppression

So when this woman,

“with a spirit,

That had crippled her for 18 years”

Dares to make herself visible,

In the presence of Jesus

Jesus stops His teaching

And HEALS HER

REGARDLESS of her status,

Position

Belief!

And this moment of release from whatever gripped her,

Instead of joining in her praising God,

The leader points fingers,

Shaming her,

Shaming Jesus!

(pause)

It seems,

It was more important

That the Sabbath,

As required by the law,

Remain holy,

Free perhaps,

From the daily reminders

Of how screw up this world

And how horrible we can be to one another,

The cause and effect resting squarely on our shoulders

We have gotten away from what Sabbath means,

Because we have fallen away

From loving one another

From being in relationship with the Creator

This woman,

In our Gospel

Serves as a reminder

That there still is hopelessness

And pain,

That affects us, beloved

That affects our sisters and brothers in Christ

That she,

Like so many others

Are ignored

Because,

We just want a break

From seeing this heartache,

Can we get one day, Lord?

Especially when its insurmountable

And we have no idea how to handle it,

Or cure it.

We miss what it says,

“A woman with a spirit”

(pause)

How many times have we come across someone homeless?

Who is struggling with mental illness?

The commentaries elude to the fact,

That this woman’s ailments were due to a demonic possession-

We scoff at that now, right?

Easily modern medical science could attribute this to any muscular disease

Or osteoporosis

Bone cancer

And that she was probably suffering from dementia,

Or worse.

But this spirit?

Even now we still do not have a grasp on mental illness

And even today,

We whisper,

And blame the sufferer

With our own misconceptions of why

We avoid those who are unfortunately burdened with mental illness

Even though our society has refused to advance mental health,

That affects especially those who have served in our armed forces

Or who have swam through seas of domestic violence and abuse,

Or even,

Because life has been harsh,

And they are lost,

They have enveloped themselves into the darkness

With the help of drugs

We avoid those on the street corners,

Because we are afraid,

Because they will be begging for food

Rambling, wanting someone to hear and see them as a human being

Pleading, for release from the endless cycle of agony

And for a beginning towards healing

For someone to invite them into sacred and safe spaces

Crying, because they have no hope

They too,

Are possessed by a spirit

A spirit of emptiness

That has weighed so heavily upon their person,

That they too are gnarled,

Bent over

That whispers to them,

“No one wants you

You are not worthy

See, they shun you.”

Do we, beloved

Also hear those empty spirits,

When we are burdened by sins that we continue to carry

Until we too,

Are bent over.

(pause)

Evil,

Is not a concept

Evil,

Is a true opposition

And rebellion

Against the Creator God’s will

And purpose for us

For our lives

Evil preys upon us,

Dividing us from one another

Throwing caustic acid upon our souls,

Until we are blinded from seeing

God, Our Creator

Our Parent

That LOVE and Light in one another.

But the Good News is,

Jesus Christ,

Spoke to this woman’s shame,

And said simply

WITH A WORD

“You are set FREE

From your ailment”

Jesus,

Overcame this evil spirit within her

Pushing back the darkness

Telling this evil,

The demonic

That it has no claim upon US

PROCLAIMING

WE, BELOVED

WE,

Are set FREE

From our sins,

Our faults,

And suddenly

Just as this woman,

We can’t help it!

Every day is a day of thanksgiving!

Every day is an opportunity for service

That’s how I see it,

Because for me, beloved

This is what God has given me.

When I was on the brink of walking away

Because how shameful Christianity had been spoon fed into me

By those who did not come with a loving spirit

Who used the laws, twisting them

So that people would conform to their standards,

That people would be ashamed of who they were

Or shamed that they did not have enough faith

God whispered to them,

God whispered to me

God whispers to us,

“YOU, beloved

US, beloved

We are FREE

From our sins!”

The darkness is absolved

Every day is a new day in God’s eyes,

And so,

We can’t help ourselves, right?

I can’t!

But, as Pastor

I cannot do this important work,

Without YOU

As people of Faith,

We are called to do this ministry together!

(pause)

So,

Whose coming with me

To take breakfast of 9/11

As we do God’s Work,

With our Hands?

(pause)

Let’s share a little Sabbath joy,

With our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Thanks Be to God.