Righteous Anger

Transforming Change; The Beginning or The End?

Grace and peace to you from God Our Creator and from His Son Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord, Amen.

Memories are pictures frozen in time. A memory is worth a thousand words and yet when you hear a memory, those words can capture the expression of emotion.

 Image

Contrary to popular belief, being a Christian does not equal a welcome invitation for us as people of God to be submissive

… to be a subservient doormat to this kingdom of the world because Jesus taught to the disciples “blessed are the meek, for they will inherent the earth.”

Contrary to popular belief, being Christian does not equal that we are not allowed to express anger, when our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ are exploited and mistreated…

that we are called to raise our voices in protest, defending those who have fallen wounded, their bodies, their faces riddled with…

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Righteous Anger

Grace and peace to you from God Our Creator and from His Son Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord, Amen.

Memories are pictures frozen in time. A memory is worth a thousand words and yet when you hear a memory, those words can capture the expression of emotion.

 Image

Contrary to popular belief, being a Christian does not equal a welcome invitation for us as people of God to be submissive

… to be a subservient doormat to this kingdom of the world because Jesus taught to the disciples “blessed are the meek, for they will inherent the earth.”

Contrary to popular belief, being Christian does not equal that we are not allowed to express anger, when our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ are exploited and mistreated…

that we are called to raise our voices in protest, defending those who have fallen wounded, their bodies, their faces riddled with violence.

Contrary to popular belief, those peoples of color have a right to righteous anger when their mothers and fathers, their daughters and sons, their wives and husbands, their elders are violated and victimized because of the oppression of an imperial dominant society who remain locked in the darkness of ignorance.

There has been confusion about this particular verse as we find Jesus teaching on this same mountain, to the disciples, to those who are seeking relief and freedom from injustice in our Gospel text this morning.

But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”

 Those who were gathered around Jesus and His disciples as He continued to pour out His Teachings were looking for relief from a sickness that plagued their oppressors, the Roman Empire. They were suffering in their low caste, subhuman status in this ancient society. They were subjected to a servitude where they laws advocated admonishing slaves, women and Jews through brute physical force, through slapping them publicly across the face, insulting their humanity and demeaning who they were as children of God, Our Creator. These forgotten were stifled and unable to cry out their outrage for fear of a tortuous death.

They came searching for righteous justice, for affirmation from their God whom they served; whom laws they followed and now this Son of God had finally come, with hope that He would fight for them, that He would put the Roman oppressors and persecutors in their humiliating place.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for He makes His Sun rise on the evil and on the good…”

 We have to imagine how these suffering ancient people received Jesus’s words of a countercultural way of thinking. This man who was seen as a Messiah, a King, A Savior of the people, this was His answer to all of the misery-to respond to the unkindness that had been dumped upon them with mercy instead of might?

How are we, in this day and age receiving these same words of Jesus Christ?

Throughout our obedience to God to follow God’s commandments we are taught to treat everyone regardless of who they are with kindness and mercy; What happens when we pass the peace, sharing God’s Love and we are met with coldness?  What happens when what is revealed to us, reflected in their eyes is the complete and utter denial of our humanity and how we are all connected before the Table.

I am sure just as I struggle and find that verse so difficult, so do you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is painful for us as people of God to realize those who take issue with whom we love,

who we consider family,

who we are as followers of Christ

that those people see us as the enemy.

The governments of both Arizona and Kansas considers those people that we may love and stand in solidarity with

those in our own community

our neighbors

our classmates

our peers

that they are seen as enemies….

and these public oppressors would rather strip them of their human rights and return to a time where people were labeled by the scientific and medical community as deviants.

The judicial system in Florida considers those people who we may love who are bound to us through ancestral blood, those such as

Our husbands and sons,

Our brothers and uncles

Our elders

those in our community who remind us of Jordan Davis

Kendrick Johnson

Emmitt Till

whose ancestry does not mirror the same,

that these people of color are seen as the enemies and

and these nameless oppressors would rather deny them their civil rights and return to a time of water hoses and vicious canines.

The dictatorship in the Ukraine considers people that perhaps we will never come across or know in our own communities…

….but whose fight for freedom and existence mirrors those who fought on these shores for recognition as citizens

for the basic right to live

 that they too are seen as the enemy and

these ruthless oppressors would rather return to a time

where the poor and suffering were seen as liabilities

that would be best far removed from the “sensitive” eyes of the well off and wealthy.

Lately as this global community collapses all around us

as common sense and a sense of fellowship dissipate into thin air…

…we are reduced to praying and hoping for the destruction of the evil in this world.

And when our prayers go unanswered, our prayers become rough and raw, angrily asking God for retaliation.

We can imagine that those ancient people own voices were painfully hoarse, crying out to God for justice…

… just as God quickly punished and disciplined God’s children when they turned away from the presence of God….

….how could God allow for these outsides, these oppressors to continue to breathe…

To live another day, continuing to wreak havoc and chaos over the lives of God’s People?

So we pull apart God’s Word here in Matthew, and we struggle to understand  what exactly is Jesus is saying to us today.

We are to turn the other cheek?

We are to just stand there and take it?

That we are to love our enemy even while they are heaving boulders and raining down agony upon our very being?

There is no love for our enemies….

we want them to experience what they have freely given us!

We want to see them annihilated!

We want them to be struck down!

We want them to feel the desolation, the hurt

we want to see the fear and sadness in their eyes

We want justice, bloody justice.

But…

My brothers and sisters in Christ….

God is not asking of us to lay down in front of their boots, their bats and their clubs…

…to allow them to destroy the sacredness of God’s Creation

We belong to God, and are submissive to no one in this life, in this world.

Jesus Christ does not teach His disciples or us to just be helpless or passive, allowing atrocities that interrupt the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, in Faith. Jesus Christ is not teaching us to turn away from the injustices that befall upon the children of God.

What Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord is teaching us is resistance; resistance to the same poisonous evil that has seemingly infiltrated life giving waters that flows throughout Creation; this same hatred that has infected those in this world who are unfortunately transformed into the oppressors that linger in the shadows.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God made the ultimate sacrifice breaking the cycle of humiliation and suffering for the people of God by dying through the torturous death on the cross, thereby empowering us even as the people of God wept for Jesus Christ…

… through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, we were given the knowledge that God, Our Healer and Deliverer overcomes any oppression, any darkness and that death is not the end.

Just as those ancient people witnessed Jesus Christ, his miracles, his healing and his resurrection, so we too are a witness to what the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ means for God’s People and God’s Creation today.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Sprit dwells within you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.”

We are sacred people of God

We stand as living sacred temples of God…

….and God has made all of God’s Creation….HOLY.

And that all of us,

No matter what our role, our journey in this world…

WE BELONG TO CHRIST….

AND CHRIST BELONGS TO GOD…

AND THAT IS…GOOD….NEWS!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that Christ calls for us to resist evil because God created us with sacredness and in Love!

Jesus Christ taught those ancient people upon the mountain, and teaches to us today..

“Do not become evil….

…Do not turn into the vileness that you are fighting to overcome.”

By allowing the darkness that creeps into our hearts and pollute the sacredness that God has molded into who we are, we allow evilness to corrupt and dominate the Goodness that is God’s mercy and grace.

But because we are empowered and authorized through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are fueled with righteousness to stand up for those who have fallen…

We are fueled with righteousness to stand as that public living witness that God has not forgotten about any of us…

That God, the Alpha and the Omega has the power to destroy all oppression and God is the only one who has the power…

…to lift the veil of darkness that surrounds those who have lost their way, and think that being an oppressor…

…is the only way to achieve power and status and security in this world.

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Image

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/29/keshia-thomas-black-teen-white-man-kkk-rally_n_4175020.html

A picture is a memory frozen in time. A picture is worth a thousand words and yet when you see these pictures, those memories capture an expression of emotions

…sometimes those pictures hold a treasure trove of what the Good News of Jesus Christ can transform within all of us.

Thanks Be To God.

The Sacredness of Salt

Grace and Peace to you from God Our Creator and from His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

At my home congregation of Zion Lutheran Church on the South Side of Chicago, celebrating baptisms in our community is a joyous event whether we are welcoming a newborn babe…

…or a weary traveler along life’s journey, who has found a permanent place to be rested and be welcomed.

But there was something curious about the rite of Baptism in the African American Lutheran hymnal, This Far by Faith that stood out from other Lutheran Churches regarding the rite of Baptism

After the candidate for baptism is baptized, my Pastor would present them with sacred symbols of their baptism, besides the candle, which symbolizes that they, that all of us are the light of the world; there was also a gift of a garment, mostly a rich and beautiful swathing of African Kente cloth and finally one which was….salt!

The salt is placed in their mouths or given to their parents (in the case of babies) and these words are said “You are the salt of the earth. Receive the salt of wisdom, that you may conduct your life with the sound judgment of a child of God.”

How ordinary that something so simple as salt is essential to our lives as people of God!

 

Salt has been a presence in the history of this Earth from preserving foods to currency to a cure all….

…but what about the sacredness in purifying and connecting us to God?

My journey into this exploration took me further, with rituals and traditions I was already aware of….

In West Africa, the Edo people use native chalk mixed with salt during the naming ceremony of a newborn babe that symbolizes happiness…..

With the Igarra people, the elder places several small amounts of elements into the baby’s mouth one of which includes Salt, meaning “No one eats salt and speaks bad of it”….

The Yorbua People in Nigeria, Benin and Togo also do the same, with salt representing wisdom and intelligence.

(pause)

How ordinary that something as simple as salt is so essential to the sacredness of our lives, something that we can not live without…

……just as the Gospel is impossible to separate from who we are as sisters and brothers in Christ, something that we can not live without.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to stress and teach His disciples then and now in our Gospel text this morning.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can saltiness be restored?”

How confusing it must have Jesus’s words been to His disciples as well as us today. How can salt lose the essential part of what salt is and what it means to a people…..

…..unless we return and are reminded of the symbols and meanings of an ancient African culture and people and realize that perhaps what Jesus is speaking and conveying to His disciples and to us, is referring to wisdom.

Salt that loses what is essential to what salt is, renders salt useless.

The disciples, who were a part of this saltiness of the Earth along with other children of God, created because God saw them and us an essential part of God’s Creation…

To add flavor through our songs, our language, our celebrations, our living and breathing to this life

To preserve what God Our Redeemer had given and gifted to God’s people…this fragile, precious Creation and everything within and throughout it

If the disciples lose what is essential, losing the wisdom and intelligence…

Losing what the Holy Spirit would pour into their very being and in us too what binds us together as sisters and brothers in Christ…

Then it renders them, and us, foolish.

It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”

Can salt lose its savor?

Scholars point out that impure salt dug from the Dead Sea could in fact, lose some of its…if not all of its saltiness.

But that seems farfetched right?

Could the disciples lose their saltiness?

Doesn’t Scripture have many examples where the disciples struggled, balked, forgot what Jesus Christ not only taught them but who He was and what joyousness and righteousness He brought into all of their lives and into our lives as well?

Jesus seems to be challenging the disciples and warning us too today,

Of being wary not to be filled with foolishness.

Foolishness in the form of not functioning as God had commanded and infused into who they were as disciples…

By not sharing the Good News that Jesus Christ was bringing to all of God’s People…

By not believing in the miracles and the teachings that Jesus shared with them…

By falling to the wayside and falling into dark ditches of ignorance, where fear dwelled.

By losing what was essential to who they were, their saltiness…

Can we, as children of God lose our saltiness?

When a child of God loses their direction, their calling to stand as a living witness to what the Good News of Jesus Christ means for all of God’s People and not just a few….

When a child of God loses their voice and refuses to speak out against injustice because she feels there is nothing that she can do or can offer…

When a child of God loses their resolve to speak out for his fellow fallen brothers and sisters who have been forgotten because he feels that this fight is futile…

When the children of God loses and throws away gifts from God, Our Healer of grace

Of mercy

Of Love

Of forgiveness

And does not share these with the entire body of Christ

THAT, my brothers and sisters….

THAT is when we are rendered foolish

THAT is when we lose our saltiness.

But…

Even in our weakness,

Even in our struggles

Even in our weeping,

The Good News is that God does not leave us helpless.

The Good News is that when we do not have what we feel are the perfect or right words to profess God’s righteousness..

We have an Advocate.

We have an Advocate in the Holy Spirit “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but the power of God.”

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that we have another Advocate in Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord!

Jesus Christ proclaims to us that He “comes not to abolish the law or the prophets, but comes to fulfill.”

Jesus Christ, the Light of the World floods our world…

Our lives….and our souls with His Eternal Light!

Jesus Christ comes to fulfill God’s Promises to us as children of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ and in Faith to never throw us out or trample us underfoot.

That through God’s Word-Jesus Christ empowers us to be a light unto all the nations..

To share and salt this Earth with the Good News of what Jesus Christ shares with all of Creation…

Because without that Good News

Without the Sacredness of God’s Salt…

Our lives would be worth nothing…

And therefore allowing the wretchedness of this world to throw us out…

And trample us underfoot.

(pause)

But because God adds this sacred salt to this stew of our lives…

…just as salt preserves the richness in our foods

So does the sacred salt which is the Gospel, preserving our lives!

…just as salt flavors and uplifts foods which satisfies our physical cravings

So does the sacred salt, which is infused in the bread, in the body of Jesus Christ which satisfies our spiritual hunger

….just as salt can heal anything from our aching throat to our weary muscles and our tired body

So does the sacred salt which is the Word immersed in the Waters of Baptism…to soothe the pain deeply embedded within our being and washes over our sins, making us whole.

…just as salt could even be used to purchased precious metals or gold in ancient times

So does the sacred salt that is in the wine, that is the blood of Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord

Through His sacrifice purchased, paid the price…

For our freedom

Bonded eternally

Marked with the sign of the Cross

To the Triune God.

How extraordinary that something so simple as salt is essential to our lives.

How extraordinary that something so freeing as The Word is essential for our lives.

How beautiful that something so stirring as our witness is essential in all of our lives.

This Salt will remain with us, and perhaps we won’t think about salt the same way again will we?

The African American blues/jazz singer Lizz Wright in her song entitled “Salt” seemed to echo this meaning…

(It must be, it must be true
You cant separate the two oh no, you cant
Its impossible to do just like the salt in the stew
Oh my, its all apart of you)

Because our voice, our song, our witness, our discipleship is paramount in this life…

Because nothing that this life can possibly do..

Can remove the sacred salt from you..

Thanks Be To God.