A Psalm to my Ancestors – Rev. Kwame Pitts; Pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, South Holland, IL

Pierre Bourdieu interprets and defines of habitus eludes to “a deeply buried structure that shapes peoples dispositions to act in such ways that they wind up accepting the dominance of others or of the system”. This clearly plays out especially through faith and spirituality, in that most colonized/formerly enslaved peoples in North America have taken on what is considered truth that was forcibly fed to them from white Christian slave owners to white Christian colonizers and missionaries. James Baldwin eludes to culture as “not a community basket weaving project, nor yet an act of God; being nothing more or less than the recorded and visible effects on a body of people of the vicissutes which they have been forced to deal with” and this is key to beginning the conversation of resistance.

Incorporating our organic way of celebrating and worshiping the Creator IS the beginning of liberation and resistance.

Sharing my words and thoughts, as I offered through Dr. Linda Thomas’s blog: We Talk, We Listen.

We Talk. We Listen.

ThomasLinda sittingInvariably, in the lives of virtually every Christian of African descent, there comes a time where you have to reflect upon the ways that white supremacy have made their mark on you – all the more so if you are a pastor. In our second post celebrating African Descent History month, this week’s author, Rev. Kwame Pitts (LSTC, 2015), shares some of her own powerful journey in her inimitable poetic style – and how she mines the richness and vitality of her African spiritual roots in her work as a Christian and Lutheran pastor. 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.”


“By re-recognizing a pagan understanding of our origins and the dynamics of culture, cultivation and worship and by returning to a connection with our roots and origins, we might begin to reestablish…

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Salt. Light. Disrupting.Marching. Prophetic Movement

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“Blessed are you when people revile you

and persecute you

and utter all kinds of evil against you

falsely on my account”

for you are the salt of the earth

(pause)

They,

Were the salt of the earth.

How often have we heard that common phrase invoked

As we are remembering those who have been in our lives

Elders,

Ancestors

Whose sometimes larger than life presence

Kept us in awe

And seemingly too,

The significant piece of Fabric in communities

Which couldn’t have even thrived

Without these sisters and brothers,

Who were the salt of the earth.

(pause)

Many of you never met

Our sister in Christ,

Barbara Richmond

She was homebound,

Disabled

Unable to join us here at Redeemer,

So we brought Church to her.

As I met with her family for the first time last week,

Preparing for a celebration of her life,

It was clear

The stories that were shared with me,

Because of her graciousness

Her openness

Her love,

She was indeed,

The salt of the earth

To those she had touched,

And now,

As they mourned

It was apparent

That life

Seemingly didn’t have that same zest

(pause)

George,

Doris

Omar-

Each of our siblings in Christ

In their own way

Were indeed

The salt of the earth,

Through their perseverance

In the places they were called

Through their dedication

To their families-

Through their faith,

As they served and extended God’s Peace,

In this sacred space

And yes,

I am sure if you ask anyone

Who was honored to call them

Mother

Brother

Friend,

Life seemingly

Has lost a bit of flavor

With their absence

(pause)

What does it mean to be

The salt of the earth?

It means,

Just

Doing

It.

Just being the embodiment,

Of how Jesus Christ has impacted our life

The prophetic witness

Of not being afraid,

To speak truth

Of what the Gospel calls us to

A living testament

Of how the Holy Spirit

Disturbs

Invokes

Provokes us,

To action

Action

To help those who are oppressed

To find their voice

To shine LIGHT

On the injustice

And guiding those who have been wrongly accused

To freedom.

It is a cry against the unjust empire

And always present,

Shining a LIGHT

Of Hope

(pause)

Jesus,

Continues to push against the boundaries,

In our Gospel this morning

That the status quo spelled out to the common people

Using the ancient laws,

God’s Word

For tearing down,

And exposing one’s iniquities

That because they somehow incurred God’s wrath,

Because of the sins of their ancestors

And were subjected to a life of servitude

Of slavery.

But Jesus utters words of hope

“Blessed are YOU…”

And reminds those who felt lost

They are the salt of the earth.

(pause)

Jesus

Does not hide who He is,

Nor will He shrink

From the shadows of oppression

Jesus,

Uplifts those

Whose wounds are visible,

Whose listlessness continues to fester

Shaking them from the complicity

Of just sitting on the sidelines

Of believing the lies,

That they should just conform,

That they should not challenge

Reminding them

That they are the light of the world,

And that light must be seen,

Guiding those who have been missing,

Or those whose very spirit,

Has gone dormant.

The LIGHT

Cannot

Be

Hidden

(pause)

Jesus’s words,

Empower us today, beloved

That we are the salt of the earth.

We have a purpose

A mission

We cannot allow others to dictate to us

Who we are,

And how we live out our lives,

And this call,

This goes beyond the ordinary,

Of just receiving God’s Grace,

Of coming to the Table,

And being Fed.

Let me ask you a question-

Do you know who you are?

Do you revel in your saltiness?

Or do you think

That you have nothing to offer,

That no one will miss the essence

That is you

Do you believe at how your LIGHT

Illuminates brightly

Into someone’s life

Who needs to know,

That they are not alone?

Or

Do you hesitate?

That this may not be the right time to shine,

Or not even proper for us

To stand out

To speak out

To be

OUT

THERE

VISIBLE

As

Children of the Most High!

Why should we be afraid?

(pause)

We claim

To admire

Martin Luther

And if we do that,

Then-

Martin cared not

About how his saltiness

Caught those in power

Off guard

Or that his light

Blinded those who were delving in the darkness

Of injustice.

So why don’t we follow his example?

And be bold?

(pause)

Following Jesus means,

We are going to be salty,

If being salty means that who that we are irritates

Those who are attempting to break the bonds of the beloved community

Away from the Creator God,

Well,

Guess then,

We are following what Jesus Calls us to

Following Jesus means,

We should burn brightly,

That we blind those,

Who have chosen to keep the shades drawn

And attempt to block out the LIGHT of GOD,

Then well,

We are committed then,

To refusing to hide our Light

That we are NOT ASHAMED

Of how we are Called

(pause)

Because who we are

DOES make a difference

So what if our neighbors,

Or friends,

Or family

Don’t agree with how we share the Good News,

How vocal,

How public we feel moved,

To not only walk with the

Outcast

The Samaritan woman

The leper

The refugee

The ex-felon

The homeless youth

But to publicly shine our LIGHTS

Into that darkness,

Where those who would rather

Tyrannize

Dominate

Repress

Are festering

Lurking

Plotting

For the destruction,

Of God’s Beloved people

You

And

Me.

(pause)

We have to remember,

On what we stand on

God’s WORD

We must remember,

That Baptism is more than some ritualized action

We are given a candle,

And charged

With letting our light shine.

Do you believe

In Jesus

And all of His Promises

And His Word

And His POWER?

And His Peace?

(pause)

Then go,

Be THAT disruptive,

Salty

Child

Of

God.

Thanks Be to God

Prophetic, Disturbing WORDS-The Beatitudes

Seattle city councilwoman and socialist activist Kshama Sawant raises a fist over the crowd, as more than 1,000 people gather at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, to protest President Donald Trump's order that restricts immigration to the U.S., Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Seattle. President Trump signed an executive order Friday that bans legal U.S. residents and visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. for 90 days and puts an indefinite hold on a program resettling Syrian refugees. (Genna Martin/seattlepi.com via AP)

The new normal

That many of us face each morning,

Is a distressing reality.

And yet,

The Good News is

Within community,

Of sisters, brothers, siblings

There is sacredness

Where we can begin to craft and mold

A sense of peace.

(pause)

Words that pour from deep within,

Are examples of the hope

That we know

Can break every chain.

Social media

Is slowly evolving

Into such a place

Where many are seeing

And sowing

That spark!

(pause)

One of my colleagues,

Serving in an ELCA congregation

In Arkansas

Shared his interpretation

Of the Beatitudes,

In this way:

Blessed are the atheists, for they’re more courageous than the Christians

Blessed are the undocumented, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the refugees, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those court-martialed because they refuse to torture, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, those who do not repay their enemies or reward their friends, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, who refuse to fly drones, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for resistance to unjust rule, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”for they will inherit the earth.

 

(pause)

Perhaps,

From where you sit,

You are immersed

In these words

The hope that it translates for those

Who are routinely disregarded

Shamed

Outcast

For who they are

And how they cling to life,

It indeed speaks volumes

That God’s mercy

Is for ALL

(pause)

Or,

Your own nature just might be shook

Reaction to these words

Much like one dissenter among the comments

On Clint’s post,

Who seemed outraged

That atheists

Were deemed to be,

Blessed,

Raised up higher

Than those of us

Who have rightful claim

To our spiritual birthright

Or perhaps,

You are questioning,

Of why I am even sharing this,

And where is my own

Moral outrage?

(pause)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”

Perhaps these are the moments,

When we as people of faith,

Need to turn inward

And examine the ways

We refute Christ’s teachings,

Refuse to follow His commandments

Of welcoming,

Clothing

Feeding

Caring

Loving

The stranger

Refuse to emulate

The Christ

We confess to follow

Why are we surprised

That there are indeed

Those who are

Poor

In

Spirit

And why do we become so divisive

When they,

Who are

Poor in spirit

Atheists

Meek

Undocumented

Refugees

Are the ONES

WHO EXUDE MORE FREELY GOD’S GRACE!

(pause)

And yet,

Jesus’s own Words here,

In the Beatitudes

As He was teaching His disciples

Were seen as radical,

And

Prophetic.

By teaching His disciples,

Jesus Christ,

Was gathering up the resistance!

By daring to preach against the status quo

Jesus was indeed,

Starting a revolution!

Why is it so offensive,

To even ponder who Jesus was and is,

In this fashion?

(pause)

Prophetic words,

Almost always

Disturb the status quo,

Disrupt the order of things

Challenge the comfortable

(pause)

Their actions,

Their ministry,

These lessons are not to be so lightly treated

As a metaphor

Or something in the abstract

Or worth only for historical note,

And cannot be translated into the present day-

Because the refugees are crowding us out,

Even though

We proudly proclaim

To welcome the poor,

Tired

Huddled

Masses

Or that the undocumented

Are a threat to our livelihood

Our freedoms

While voluntarily accepting employment that,

Let’s be real,

None of us would accept the conditions

Or the wages

Of just $5/hr

With no benefits in sight.

(pause)

Jesus,

Here in our Gospel this morning,

With His Prophetic Teaching

Of the Word

Spoke to those who were present,

Who needed to hear

That the Creator indeed

Walked alongside

Encouraging God’s People

To break every chain

Speaks to us now,

Who need to be reminded

That God does stand with the oppressed

EMPOWERING US

To break those chains

(pause)

That We-

Who are poor in spirit

We

Who are sometimes labeled as weak,

Because we do follow Christ’s commandment

To love one another

Because we are working,

Towards the beloved community

Because we are not afraid,

To stand up

For refugees,

For outsiders

REGARDLESS

Of where they come from,

Or how they worship God

Because we are persecuted

For standing with,

The mentally ill

The formerly incarcerated

We

Are

Blessed!

(paused)

THAT

That is the Good News this morning.

Jesus’s words,

To those who are gathered,

And to us

Was an affirmation

Of both their humanity,

And

God’s unfailing Love!

Conditions in Jesus’s time,

For those who were regulated to

Second,

Third

Last citizenship class

Were one under an oppressive

Authoritarian

And hopeless

Many were indeed,

Poor in spirit

Angry with God for abandonment

Declaring they had no allegiance

To God,

Giving up

Resigning themselves

To a broken life

Jesus’s words,

Were

EMPOWERMENT

For

The

Powerless!

(pause)

Jesus’s Words,

Are

POWER

For us NOW!

And if we cling to this truth,

And proclaim we are Christ’s followers,

Then

Let’s

Just

Do

It!

(pause)

“and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?”

Do justice.

This is not just words on paper,

For us to THINK about theologically

THIS IS OUR MARCHING ORDERS.

Do we believe we are blessed?

YES

So then what is our responsibility?

(pause)

One of my pastoral besties is here this morning,

Tuhnia

She too,

As a Woman of Color

From her heart,

Shares how she sees the Beatitudes

In this way,

Blessed are the Muslims

Blessed are the Sanctuary churches

Blessed are the resistance

Blessed are the marginalized

Blessed are those who are putting their bodies,

And lives for justice and liberation

Blessed are our children

That they may one day know

A world without hate and violence

Thanks Be to God.

Light. Darkness. Hope.Transformation

he_calling_disciples_710

(Children’s Sermon: Invite the children forward, greeting them. Then ask them if you can teach them a skit that you learned at Summer Camp, specifically LOMC. Gather them up in a line, and tell them to dance in place while singing their name or shaking a tambourine while doing the same. Then ask them, what if someone came around and laughed at them, and pointed and spoke about them rather negatively-how would they feel. Then ask them what happens when someone comes after the bully, and sees them sad and goes to them and says “YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD!” And how would that make them feel, and then they would go to the next person, and the next and so on? Ask them to process-what have we learned here: 1) That we are Children of God, and because we are immersed in God’s Light, we can’t keep it or hold it to ourselves, and therefore we have to go out and remind others, and that is living out our faith! So give the children the task of going out and reminding others that they are too, children of God!)

 

(pause)

When did you, beloved

Fully realize that YOU

Were a Child of God?

How was that cemented along your spiritual journey,

Into who you are?

The roots, many of us agree

Were planted within us,

As small children in Sunday School

Affirmed publicly as we received gifts of first Bibles

And that moment of truth,

When the Table was opened to us,

Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Was it in that moment

That we truly felt we were children of God?

I wonder,

Did the disciples experience this same unbridled joy,

Suddenly they were acknowledged as children of God,

When Jesus called to them,

Invited them to walk alongside Him

Embraced them as fellow brothers,

In this moment,

Jesus Christ

Came off of the pathways

Of these various roads of Life

Into the midst of God’s people,

Who needed to feel the presence of God,

Who needed to hear God’s Voice

(pause)

When have we come to the realization,

That we were children of God?

Has it come in those prophetic moments,

Witnessing our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ,

In Faith,

In Love

Their actions,

Unselfish

And therefore impacting our lives!

Because of what they do for us,

The truth of how much we are connected to one another,

Beyond family lineage

Or social location and context,

BUT because of our common bond

That extends from Creator God?

(pause)

Stories, are important,

They give a snapshot on how the presence of the Creator, Our Redeemer

Molds and shapes our lives,

And how each step was guided,

And the breath of how the Holy Spirit fills us,

Even when we sometimes wander off into the mists

Many of my faith experiences,

Were magnified throughout Seminary,

And one such experience that I can elude to,

The moment I felt truly,

A Child of God.

(pause)

During my second year of Seminary,

I attended a conference, if you will

Called

The Congress on Urban Ministry,

At SCUPE

Which is a small, ecumenical, urban seminary located in the heart of Chicago

This Congress or conference,

Was a gathering of churches, pastors, seminarians and the like

Concentrating on Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence;

Proclaiming that violence doesn’t just exist on our streets

But sometimes sadly,

Occupies the human heart,

In our human made systems

And immersed in our public policy-

I am sure,

In the time of the disciples,

Although the violence was not as great as perhaps we think of now,

There was violence in the human heart,

As the Roman Empire did not seek reconciliation,

Restoration

And fellowship with those they suppressed, and lorded over.

The systems set up now,

That divide and are divisive,

Are a part of the same old story,

Because your status in the ancient community,

Depended a lot on human made laws,

With no forgiveness in them,

That those ancient Elders and Rabbis

Seemingly had forgotten they were,

Children of God

(pause)

This conference was pushing for

A proclamation,

That we as Children of God

Indeed can,

Live together as a collective, cohesive humanity,

Especially as we think about today,

If we as Christ’s followers

Are dedicated to social transformation

Then it can only be accomplished through PEACE

And we must live that out!

(pause)

Quite frankly,

Up until that moment,

As I struggled in my faith journey,

EVEN in seminary,

I did know I was a Child of God,

I rarely lived this reality out!

And then,

I had the opportunity to experience this fully,

When I encountered two phenomenal Elders in their own right,

Rev. Dr. James Forbes, who had continued Dr. King’s message,

Who had refused to give up the fight from his pulpit,

And out on the streets as a public witness

And Father Michael Pflager, whose ministry and dedication of his church and community,

Continued to astound me, even today.

(pause)

Part of the public action during the Congress,

As participants we were to march from our location at a church downtown,

Towards the State of Illinois building,

Raising our voice and our presence,

For peace.

Both Dr. Forbes and Father Pflager, along a small delegation

Planned to deliver and hopefully speak to Gov. Quinn,

Our collective initiative, in conjunction with a bill

That would be soon presented to the Illinois General Assembly,

Speaking to we as a faith community and our hopes at its passing

To help combat the violence bleeding into the streets,

Promoting peace

And unifying those in many neighborhoods,

Through advocacy.

The organizers of this march asked for two participants of the conference,

To volunteer to go along with Dr. Forbes and Father Plager.

Somehow,

I found my hand in the air,

Suddenly,

I found myself joined shoulder to shoulder with others,

Who were not afraid to expose publicly their faith

And suddenly,

My soul MOVED!

(pause)

I wonder,

What stirred and moved Jesus

To begin His ministry?

As people of Faith,

How often do we ponder about HOW Jesus’s ministry began

Jesus’s ministry was not on an automatic timer;

Routinely we are amiss in remembering,

That Jesus Christ took on our nature,

Our humanness

Our emotions

Even, dare say,

Our flaws.

And right after Jesus’s experience in the wilderness

His encounter with evil,

Jesus learns of John’s plight incarcerated,

John, His disciple

His brother

His friend

John,

Because of his civil disobedience

Because of his preaching the Good News,

That Jesus Christ is come

To shatter the status quo

To interrupt the path of the wicked

John

Is made an example

And this is when Jesus,

Begins His ministry,

“Repent,

Change your minds,

For the kingdom of God

Has come near.”

(pause)

Dr. King, Jr

Started his own ministry towards nonviolence,

And peace

And civil disobedience

After Rosa Parks refused

Another day,

To have her humanity questioned

“the people who sat in darkness

    have seen a great light,

and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death

    light has dawned.”

(pause)

The question before us now,

How will we be motivated,

To immerse ourselves in ministry,

However that evolves for us,

As people of Faith.

We are wading through the difficulty

Of not recognizing the direct connection,

Between what we do

And what we believe.

And then we experience and witness someone

Who unashamedly steps into that Epiphany LIGHT

Living publicly as a Child of God,

By living out their faith unselfishly

Because of the Love

The GRACE

The FORGIVENESS

That comes through this TABLE

That seeps into us

Through God!

(pause)

Will we remember

Who we are

And what we are called to do?

God’s Call for us, beloved

Is for us to be

CHILDREN OF GOD!

(pause)

Such Good News,

That Jesus Christ has come,

Bringing the Kingdom of God,

Bringing us HOPE

And the Good News is that,

Jesus Christ stands there,

Calling to us

Never letting Go

Wrangling us in,

INVITING US to walk with HIM!!

(pause)

We are Children of God,

EMPOWERED THEN

Because of Christ’s Grace and Mercy,

To Cast our own lines out there,

To be fishers of people!

Will we wait on the shores,

Hoping for a bite?

Will we wander just a little bit out there

In the shallow end

Using ripped nets?

Or,

Are we willing

To dive deeply

Following Jesus Christ,

Towards radical transformation?

Thanks Be to God!

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

martin_king_wisdom_1

Hear the Words,

Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I was ready to give up.

In this state of exhaustion

When my courage was all gone,

I decided to take my problem to God

I am here

Taking a stand

For what I believe, is right

But now I am afraid

I am at the end of my powers

I have nothing left.”

(pause)

Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“But I said,

I have labored in vain

I have spent my strength for nothing

And vanity.”

(pause)

At that moment,

I experienced the presence of the Divine

As I had never experienced God before

STAND UP for righteousness

STAND UP for truth

God will be at your side,

Forever.”

It is too light a thing

That you should be my servant

I will give you as a light to the nations

That my salvation may reach

To the end of the earth.

(pause)

Where have YOU

Heard the voice

Of the Creator God

Speaking to YOU?

When where you challenged

To be that LIGHT

In this world?

That is,

What Epiphany

Is about.

The manifestation

The revealing

Of God’s Holiness

Into our reality.

(pause)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,

Heard this voice,

Clearly at a time

When his people,

My people

Were thrust

Into a darkness

Evolved from malevolence

And humanity’s inability to live

And exude

God’s Grace and Mercy,

Given to US

Through Jesus

(pause)

Dr. King

Because of faith,

Is one of many examples

Many voices

Of what being a servant

Means,

What a Servant of God means

To continually be rooted

In this

LIGHT

Of

God!

To continually

Preach

Proclaim

Witness

About

Liberation!

(pause)

This is what Jesus Christ’s birth,

What we were waiting for

LIBERATION.

Liberation from the inequality

Of life, manifested by humanity’s greed

That these ancient sisters and brothers

In faith

Were overwhelmed

Living in the shadow

Of an Empire

Which was unforgiving

Unrelenting

(pause)

Liberation

Is what our brother John,

Proclaimed

“HERE,

Here is the Lamb of God,

Who takes away

The SIN..”

Of US, beloved!

(pause)

This is what our brother Martin

Was fighting for,

LIBERATION

From

Inequality of one’s humanity,

That they were no longer seen as

3/5ths of a human

Injustice from the lack of,

Of being denied,

Even though God, Our Creator

Through our birth,

Marked as God’s Children,

Denies no one.

(pause)

LIBERATION,

Is what the prophet

In Isaiah, too

Was striving towards for

The Children of God.

(pause)

It seems that humanity has not ever,

Learned its lesson.

Throughout our history,

Our collectively journey,

The voices of those trapped,

Whether it be because of poverty,

Or war,

Or hunger

Or illness

Have ALWAYS been crying out

For Justice

For Peace

FOR GOD TO ANSWER PRAYER

For some sign that the Creator has not abandoned them.

For their lives,

Our lives

To be seen as essential

Vital

WORTHY!

(pause)

And when the people cry out,

This is when the servants of God stand up!

John clearly lived into that role,

John proclaimed

Heralded

The coming of the WORD MADE FLESH

“After me,

Comes a man

Who ranks ahead of me

Because He was before me.”

John,

Even though he would suffer greatly,

Was rooted as a servant.

Did he wonder,

While imprisoned

Whether his living

Was in vain?

Whether was his ministry

Nothing but a failure

Since actually being submissive to God,

And following God’s commandments

Was deemed trivial

And only done on surface,

And for appearance

By elites,

Who were bent on holding to their human made power

And greed.

When Dr. King was imprisoned

In the Birmingham Jail

Did he too, wonder

Whether all of his protests

For equality

For justice

Against racism

Against violence

Towards freedom

Was in Vain?

(pause)

When we,

As children of God

As servants of the Most High God

Are not afraid,

To raise our voices

Singing

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

To lock arm in arm

Walking down streets

Over bridges

Into places of power,

Advocating for

Peace,

Striving for Hope

Demanding

That we care for,

The poor,

The disenfranchised

The widows

Elders

Unemployed

Formerly incarcerated

The forgotten,

KNOWING that sometimes

Our voices are cut off,

Our mobility ceased

Our causes drowned in seas of human greed

Do we think,

That our ministry

That our mission,

Is all in vain?

(pause)

I sound like a broken record, right

But there is BROKENNESS in this world

When humanity gets in the way,

Of God’s Grace,

And Goodness

And Love

And TRANSFORMATIVE POWER

There will always be disparity.

(pause)

But we must,

As people of faith

HEAR the GOOD NEWS

“Yet surely my cause is with the LORD,

And my reward with my GOD”

HEAR the GOOD NEWS!

The Lord lifted me out of the desolate pit

The Lord put a new song in my mouth,

A song of praise to our God”

When we PRAISE our CREATOR

When we profess and proclaim what God has done,

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit,

We infect those all around us!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is

The WAITING IS OVER!

JESUS CHRIST IS HERE,

To baptize us with the Holy Spirit-

Not just so we have the assurances,

That we will be with God ever after,

But that God indeed, does walk with US,

As we do God’s Work

Standing with US in our fight for justice

Loving US regardless

(pause)

I wanted to share a part of Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail,

That challenges us today,

But his voice, is no different from our brother John,

Or Paul

Or Martin Luther

Or Bonhoeffer

“Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But they went on with the conviction that they were a ‘colony of heaven’ and had to obey God rather than man…. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the archsupporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

Thanks Be to God.

Saying Goodbye: Funeral Service for Doris Hale

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Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Regardless of where you are

In your faith journey,

Know that the Creator is always present

In your joys,

In your sorrows

And opens up everlasting peace,

To all of us,

As God’s Children

Amen.

(pause)

Why must

The terrible waiting

For healing

Sometimes end

With us,

Having to let go

Of our loved ones

And not have any control

Or say so;

Not knowing what will happen,

Only,

Having to rely

On our Faith,

On the promises

Made in baptism

Made here at the Table,

That God

Will never leave us,

Nor forsake us

(pause)

And yet,

We cry out to God

About the ravages of illnesses

Of diseases we still don’t have the answers to

Of endless questions,

I lift my eyes to the hills,

From where is my help to come?

Frustrations

With nights in hospitals

And days tucked away

Coping with pain

And wondering,

When God, when?

“From where is my help to come?”

(pause)

The Psalmist seems to be rooted,

Self assured

In her faith

“God will not let your foot be moved;

The Lord your God,

who keeps you will not slumber.”

But, God

If these words are truth

Why then, are my feet so raw

Of running from this broken world

Of its pitfalls

God,

You must be sleeping

Because you’ve not heard our cries

Our stumblings

As we have fallen miserably,

Into ditches,

That the brokenness of this world

Has laid out

Like traps

For us, your children.

“The Lord is your keeper;

the Lord is your shade at your right hand”

The disciples heard these ancient words,

These songs,

And because of the promises of God,

They followed this Jesus,

Because of the Psalmist proclaiming

That help can only come from God,

God, our Creator,

Of every living thing,

They followed Jesus Christ,

The Messiah!

The Son of God!

Here!

Here was the Lamb of God who had come to take away

ALL

All the sins, and the sorrows

Of this world.

Here!

The Kingdom of God was upon that horizon

That hill,

And soon

These faithful sisters and brothers,

Connected to one another because of God,

Would be free

From the oppressiveness of their lives,

In the shadow of a corrupt Empire

(pause)

And yet,

Here in our Gospel this morning,

Jesus proclaims to them,

That He must die

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

(pause)

How many times

Have we heard this Gospel,

As we gather in hospital rooms,

By bedsides

Among ourselves

Immersed in prayer,

These are the times we struggle with our faith,

Because we are troubled,

We are torn with anger

Because we can’t fight these illnesses

Which rob us,

Of time with those we love,

And rob them,

Of being to be present with us.

We cry out to God about our faithfulness,

We cry out about their faithfulness,

That alone,

God should have healed them!

We are deep in sorrow,

Because what else can we do?

Death comes and interrupts our lives,

Death hurts

Death, yes, just plain sucks.

(pause)

And yes,

Even as we weep,

There are tears of relief,

Relief because our loved one,

Our Mother,

Grandmother

Friend

Sister in Christ,

Is in no more pain.

And that’s hard to confess, right?

Because we wanted her here.

Doing all of the things she loved,

Spoiling us,

Listening to us as we shared our daily, mundane stories of our life

Being an example of living out her faith

Serving with joy, the community that loved her back

(pause)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

See,

That is Good News right here.

Because even as we grieve,

And will continue to grieve,

Doris was not only surrounded by those who loved her deeply,

In these moments when we question,

Struggle

God loves us

God weeps with us,

And because of Jesus Christ,

God opens up God’s Kingdom

To us,

In that last moment,

When our eyes are closed to this world,

And opened,

HEALED

WHOLE

ETERNALLY

To be with God!

(pause)

Doris was not alone,

And in that moment,

Her spirit was filled

Lifted

Renewed

And Loved,

Because of the promises that God gives to us

God will never forsake us

God will always forgive us

And God gave us,

Jesus Christ,

Whose body and blood reveals for us,

Forgiveness

Empowers us,

Through Love

Whose resurrection secures for us

An unbreakable BOND with our Creator

(pause)

Death,

Is not the end.

Doris now,

Continues her journey,

With all the saints

And we,

Because we know we will see her again,

We are to live our lives fully,

Love and care for one another deeply,

And walk purposefully,

With what God has given to each of us,

Just as we know she would have,

Just as Jesus Christ calls us to.

Thanks Be to God.

 

Christ is Born! Christmas Day Sermon

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“The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness did not overcome it.”

(pause)

I see the light,

Shining in the darkness

When my children were born.

As parents,

I am sure we have all felt that sense of peace

Because of their life,

And the presence of the Holy Spirit

And God’s sacred breath

Echoed in that first cry

(pause)

It is a sign too,

Yes, our lives

A sign of resistance

Resistance toward that which lurks

In the darkness

Bent on destroying God’s Creation

Destroying US

And mocking the Creator God.

Our lives are a testimony.

(pause)

I see the Light

Shining in the darkness

When we as people of faith

Joyfully come together

Extending hospitality

Sharing God’s Peace

Welcoming those who feel as if they are lost

Alone

Fearful.

Our faith is the resistance

Against this darkness

(pause)

I see the Light

Shining in the darkness

When we as people

In this place

Stand as witnesses

Declaring

The Good News

And then going out

To be one of many LIGHTS

To shout into that darkness

“In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.”

(pause)

The shepherds were witnesses to this

No longer would they be fearful,

Because of the lowness of their station,

Because of the darkness of violence

For they had indeed seen that

Transformative

HOPE!

Because the Creator God loved them too,

And sent Angels

To comfort them

(pause)

The people,

Who crowded that cave,

That room

To see this Babe

Whose Birth

Was like any other,

But whose presence

Seemed to vibrate within their very being

They were witnesses

To this

LIGHT

Because the Creator God

Loved God’s people

And sent this Babe,

In the midst of them

In the midst of the darkness

So that the darkness

No longer had any POWER!

(pause)

We, beloved

We too,

Who come into these darkened sacred spaces

Lifting our own voices in song

We, who are led here to the Table,

Because of the promises

Of

Transformative

Hope

Fed here-

Loved HERE

We don’t have to be afraid of the darkness anymore

Because of the Birth of the ONE

Whose Birth

SHATTERS

The darkness

FOREVER,

Jesus Christ,

Our Savior

(pause)

But we must be mindful,

We cannot keep this LIGHT

For ourselves

We cannot be so insular

So weary worn with

Pain

Suffering

Of this world

That we hoard the LIGHT

THE WORD

Merely for our own healing,

Our own self sustainability

Especially because of the LIGHT

Because of the WORD

WE ARE FREE

Free to worship without fear

Without restraint

To share the Good News

That Christ is BORN!

Especially when it seems nowadays,

The darkness

Seems to be winning,

Right?

There is frightening talk,

Of flexing muscles

With weapons of war

That brings no peace.

There is destructive behavior

Of attempting to extinguish others humanity

All in the name of safety

And security

Of a select few

This is how the darkness lies to our hearts

There is openly,

Unashamedly

Worshiping

At the golden calf

Of greed

Regardless of who is hurt

Or whom is left behind

This is how the darkness blinds us

(pause)

I asked the children during my children’s sermon

A couple of Sundays ago

Where in the world,

Is God’s Peace

Needed the most?

And many of you proclaimed

“EVERYWHERE”

Everywhere needs to be reminded

All things came into being through him,

and without him not one thing came into being.”

ALL THINGS

Came into LIFE

THROUGH GOD,

THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

Not through any military might

Or Human force

Not through some random explosion-

But,

What do you think,

Made that explosion,

Right?

Not even through

A cosmic accident

But,

What do you think

Made the cosmos,

Right?

ALL THINGS

Were born

Because of simply

God’s LOVE for Creation

Because of God’s LOVE!

What Good News!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is,

Jesus Christ was Born

To be the WORD

A WORD of HOPE,

PEACE

JOY

And

LOVE.

Simply put-

We celebrate the BIRTH

Of the ONE

Who will do EXTRAORDINARY THINGS

For US, beloved

So that none of us,

EVER have to fear

The darkness

Because regardless

Jesus Christ is the LIGHT

And will always BE THE LIGHT

To guide us

To comfort us

And to bring US

Into everlasting LIGHT!

(pause)

The theologian

Howard Thurman

Shares these words

From his poem

“The Work of Christmas”

When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost,

to heal the broken,

to feed the hungry,

to release the prisoner,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among the people,

to make music in the heart.

(pause)

Thanks Be to God.

The Last Place to Find Christ-Christmas Eve Service

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Grace and Peace to you, beloved

On this night of nights,

When Life itself was transformed

And God, whom we thought was hidden

Revealed Godself

In the form,

Of a babe,

Christ, the Lord

Amen.

(pause)

There are places in this world,

Where people are huddled,

Against bombed out buildings

And rubble strewn streets

Waiting for that transformative Hope

(pause)

There are people,

Huddled in the darkness,

Because it is the only place

That they can come

To lament

To pray

To comfort one another

Waiting,

Still waiting

For a glimmer of that

Transformative LIGHT

Piercing the emptiness of this world

(pause)

We are too,

Gathered in the darkness

Waiting for that transformative Birth

This night,

(pause)

That night

When Jesus Christ was born

Born where,

The people needed Him most!

Not in spectacular marble halls,

Laid in the finest linen

Surrounded by splendor,

Warmth

Prestige

And Majesty

Adored in exclusion

By a royal elite

But,

Jesus was born,

In the midst

Of the wilderness

Isolated,

Among the downtrodden

Oppressed people

Out in the indifference

Beyond city gates

Jesus Christ was born,

Where the people needed to hear

To SEE

The Good News!

(pause)

“In that region there were shepherds

living in the fields,

keeping watch over their flock by night”

(pause)

We,

As people of faith,

Have glossed over this verse,

Imagining these shepherds

Blissfully

Admiring the beauty of the moon,

The companionship and the comradery of one another,

And a seemingly peaceful night.

And yes,

There is nothing wrong,

With immersing ourselves in the familiar

Spending this night of nights,

Comforted by carols,

Hymns,

Pausing for reflection

Among the candles

Allowing the Word of God

To speak a Word to us,

Of that transformative HOPE

That is in the Bread and the Wine,

The Body and Blood,

Of Jesus Christ,

This Good News

(pause)

But for a moment,

This night

As we are waiting,

We dig deeper,

Is it interesting to know,

That being a shepherd,

Among these ancient societies

Was not a noble profession?

In fact,

Being a shepherd,

Amounted to the same as perhaps

A migrant worker is seen today:

Dead end,

Poor position

Stuck at the bottom

Gathering,

Waiting,

Still waiting

for

A sign

Of

HOPE

That

The Creator God had not forgotten them,

And that God stands with them,

Through their trials,

Tribulations

While taking jobs

That citizens despised

Jobs that they consider beneath them,

Jobs that although vital

To how the wider community moves

Jobs that have ugly labels associated with them,

Jobs that only lowlifes

Liars,

Thieves

Could muster.

These same labels were associated with the word

Shephard,

(pause)

Yet,

How curious

That those who were considered

The working poor,

Were despised

For taking these “dead-end” jobs,

Because for some reason,

The well-ordered society,

Didn’t think they

Were deserving

Of a living wage?

(pause)

Shepherds were lumped in along

With the tax collectors,

With people considered to be sinners,

Were considered to be unclean

They didn’t keep the Sabbath holy,

Although their work almost was from sunrise,

To beyond sunset

It is perplexing to say in the least

How these shepherds were treated

Even as their work,

Were essential

To this

Ancient economy

And so,

The shepherds gathered,

In the stillness

Obscured from those

Who cast judgement

Discounting their humanity

Gathering to discuss

The inequality heaped upon them by the self-righteous

A way of liberation for their lives

And suddenly,

HOPE!

The Good News doesn’t come to

The religious

The self-righteous

But to the outsider

The forgotten

The desperate

God comes to where God is needed the MOST

In the midst of their wilderness

In the midst of our wilderness

In those painful places,

Where we must admit,

As a broken people

We too, are still waiting

For HOPE

For the coming

Of the Kingdom

Of God!

(pause)

And this,

Is that Good News!

“Do not be afraid; for see—

I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”

ALL the people,

The common folk,

The Gentiles

The poor

The lepers

The migrants

The undocumented

The peoples of Aleppo

Of Palestine

Of Crimea

Of peoples living in downtrodden neighborhoods,

In Englewood

And Pilsen

And Dixmoor,

Robbins

And

Harvey

Peoples who have been waiting for HOPE

For over 5 centuries

To finally have their humanity acknowledged

Affirmed

Peoples who have been waiting,

For their lands,

Their ways

Their sacredness

To be freed

Back into their hands

(pause)

Yes,

The Good News is indeed for all

It is joy to those who suffer

And yes,

We are reminded,

That the Good News places those

Who are insistent on suppressing

Oppressing

That the Good News of Jesus Christ

Brings them into a space of uncomfortableness

If they do not heed the call,

To repent

(pause)

“to you is born this day

in the city of David a Savior,

who is the Messiah,

the Lord”

A SAVIOR!

The Good News for us, beloved

Is that Jesus Christ,

Is indeed

OUR SAVIOR

THE SAVIOR

Jesus was born,

To FREE US

From Bondage!

Bondage to Sin

Bondage from oppression

And evil

That binds us to this world

(pause)

Salvation is merely not just a ticket

To heaven,

Salvation means,

LIBERATION

Jesus Christ is

LIBERATION

Therefore even as we struggle

Daily,

Because of this night,

Our lives are forever,

FREE

So go proclaim this Good News!

Christ is BORN!

Thanks Be to God.

#BeChristinChristmas-4th Sunday of Advent

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The end of the year,

Usually is a culmination of Holy festivals

Throughout our global neighborhood

Some which we are familiar

Hanukkah

And

Kwanzaa

And some which perhaps,

We are not familiar

Winter Solstice

And

Bodhi Day,

(pause)

As followers of Christ,

Celebrating both Advent

And

Christmas,

We are called to remember what is important

In this Holy season,

We are called to keep the meaning of Christ’s Holy

And mysterious Birth

In everything that we are immersed in

(pause)

But some of our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ,

Think this only amounts to,

Complaining and protesting viciously,

About the fact that Starbucks didn’t put

“Merry Christmas”

On their red holiday cups

Or griping when many retail workers,

Say “Happy Holidays”

And that we are not more demanding,

That everyone should say

“Merry Christmas”

Regardless of who they are

(pause)

What does it mean, truly

To Keep the Christ

In Christmas?

(pause)

Perhaps

The definition needs to be confessed

And proclaimed

Is that the only way to keep Christ in Christmas,

Is by keeping CHRIST

IN US.

(pause)

Keeping Christ

In Christmas

Means,

Showing someone kindness

Through random acts,

With no reward received back.

(Tell the story, simple about how Arif and a number of his friends had piled into the doorway after school on Friday, with plans to see Rogue One. Now, the young boy, my neighbor’s son had gotten permission to go from his mother but as she was at work at 3pm in the afternoon, he didn’t know how he would be able to pay for his ticket. This is where motherhood becomes universal, as I told Jared that I would make sure, he could get a ticket to join his friends for an afternoon of fun).

What story can you relate in your journey,

Where someone showed you kindness,

Especially in this holiday season,

Where stress is always a factor

Or maybe

It was YOU

Who brought joy and hope to someone’s life

That reminder

They were not alone.

(pause)

Showing someone kindness means too,

Opening up our sacred spaces

Where we live,

Where we worship

To those who have nothing,

Especially when others in power

Immersed in greed

Decide that those on the outskirts,

The outcasts

That their humanity

Means nothing.

Are we willing

To exude Christ’s grace?

(pause)

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Means,

Embracing those on the margins-

The undocumented

The refugee

Those who are fleeing a life of terror

Of Emptiness

Of certain Death

Simply so that they can take a full breath

Simply so that they can experience laughter

And freedom

And its funny,

We, as a people in this nation

Are so enraged about the issue of the undocumented,

Right?

We see them as a threat!

They come into our communities

Crowding our space

Coming from unknown places,

That unknown factor

We don’t know anything about them

Their families

Their lineage

Their history

(pause)

Interesting,

Sounds like Joseph and Mary

(pause)

Jesus’s parents,

And we are so quick to forget this,

Jesus’s parents

Were UNDOCUMENTED

Were fleeing Herod and his wrath,

His unjust laws

His persecution of their people!

We are so quick to lift up and adore and admire

Joseph and Mary,

We set out nativity scenes

And yet,

We turn our backs upon those refugees

Which by the way,

Come from the same peoples

We persecute today,

Fleeing oppressive regimes

Fleeing situations

That they themselves cannot be responsible for

Facing soldiers

Weaponry

Bent on oppressive destruction

Intrusion in those people’s homes,

Where they are vulnerable

Fragile.

We turn our backs upon them,

And the stress

The tragedy

The burdens that they carry,

Both physically

And emotionally

(pause)

Joseph was carrying such a burden.

Besides being born into

And shouldering poverty,

And making do,

Joseph, a righteous man,

Had to deal with the fact

That his bride to be,

Was ALREADY PREGNANT!

How would he keep up appearances?

Should he adhere to the law?

Which offered no grace

No reprieve

No forgiveness

Should he remain with her,

To be shamed possibly

By his community?

(pause)

We are so quick,

To lift up Mary and Joseph,

These devoted parents

Of the One,

Whose Birth

Has the power

To

TRANSFORM

Our

Reality,

Bringing in

Ushering in

A new horizon,

A new Kingdom

A new HOPE

(pause)

But we forget,

That Mary and Joseph

Were

TEENAGERS,

And yet,

We as humanity,

As people of faith even, sometimes

We condemn our young teenage mothers

And fathers

Labeling them only with their sin,

Forgetting we are all imperfect,

Instead of embracing them with our wisdom,

Our knowledge

And being present to guide

Mentor

Advise

Advocate

So that these children that they bear,

Grow up to be healthy,

Safe

Loved.

Just as Jesus Christ’s life was sacred,

So should every child’s life be as such,

Regardless to their beginnings.

(pause)

We forget,

That when we turn away

The undocumented,

Who are fleeing violence

The refugees

Who are fleeing war

The unexperienced

Who yes, make immature choices

We are in essence,

Turning away Joseph and Mary,

Rejecting God

Because see,

Because of this Birth,

Jesus Christ was born,

So that ALL would be deemed EQUAL

Because ALL were already LOVED

By the Creator God

(pause)

Keeping the Christ in Christmas,

Means

Sharing Good News

To a weary people.

Jesus’s name means

God Saves!

The angel who came before Joseph,

Shared with him Good News

In a time where he needed to hear it

In a moment when he was uncertain

But the angel proclaimed

that Mary,

“Shall bear a son,

And you are to name Him Jesus,

For He will save His people

From their sins.”

Emmanuel,

God is with US!

(pause)

Creator God,

Did not breathe sacred and holy LIFE

Within us

For us

To Disregard,

Disavow

One another.

Just as Joseph,

Claimed something precious

That was not his own,

We should claim

Adopt

Embrace

One another

Even if we are not the same

The same Blood

Culture

Tribe

Language

It is because of Jesus Christ,

The One whose Birth we await

The One to come

(pause)

Being Christ in Christmas

Means BREATHING LIFE

Into something once thought dead

Discarded

Useless

Worthless

A ministry,

An idea

A project

A neighbor

A relationship

A FIGHT

Towards

Righteousness

Truth

And

Justice

Thanks Be to God