The Elephant in the Room

“We fall down

But we get up

We fall down

But we get up

We fall down

But we get up

For a Saint is just a sinner

Who fell down

And got up”

Grace and peace to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we struggle to allow ourselves to be open, receiving freely the refreshing rain of forgiveness and grace falling down upon us, poured eternally out by God, Our Creator and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord. Amen

(pause)

This song by Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin

Is our answer to our Romans text this morning

Is our battle cry

Touching the depths of our brokenness

And bring us, as children of God, comfort

We struggle in our faith

To be footstep followers of Christ

But Sin is continues to be the elephant in the room

We hate to acknowledge

That we are sinners

As people of God

Unfortunately, we will commit sins

Against our loved ones

Friends

Against our community

So it is no wonder that we find ourselves weeping

When our sin has been brought to the light

No one wants to be labeled

Unworthy

Unrepentant

Our sins causes us to be outcast from the beloved community

Judged and punished.

Yes, everyone here could name a sin that has been hurtful

Sins that we wrestle with,

The damage that sin leaves us with

With no direction even how we can

Begin to heal from sin

Sins that do have consequences,

Sins punishable by our own man-made laws

(pause)

But what I am trying to express is that this struggle with sin

Does not have to be something we journey with alone

And so Paul’s letter here in our Romans text,

His testimony and witness reached out

To those who perhaps had not been in Christ’s presence

Or even aware of His ministry

And what Good News imbedded in Christ’s teachings

That even though they were sinners

The condemnation and finality of the law was not the end

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law

But under grace.”

So that hearing this, should have brought comfort to the people

And promises of freedom through being connected

To the cruciform life of Jesus Christ

The key into freeing oneself from sin

Was putting their trust into the hands of God, Our Creator

(pause)

We are left wondering if that simple solution

Even made sense to these ancient people

And even more so, to some of those first followers

Because the only way to master sin, this excess of desire

Was through rigorous work, self-control, self-discipline

By adhering to brutal exercise or self-inflicted punishments

(pause)

Trust God?

So simple, and even to us, we are hesitant

How can we overcome sin without some work involved?

It says clearly here in Romans

“Therefore do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies

To make you obey their passions”

(pause)

Paul’s words and teachings here surely left them and us

In a state of bewilderment

As if the battle against sins

Sins of greed and lust

Sins of gluttony and pride

Could be overcome so simply

Through trusting in God and leaning on Faith

Paul’s message to these people

Were that God’s promises were not just for God’s chosen people

But that God had revealed God’s righteousness through Jesus Christ

So Forgiveness and mercy and righteousness

Would not just come through the laws,

And in no way, was God undermining these ancient Laws, the Torah

But that now, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

God revealing God’s righteousness, created a new nation

That would be a model of righteousness

Through the power of the Holy Spirit

For all of the world

(pause)

We know that our old self was crucified with him

So that the body of sin might be destroyed,

And we might no longer be enslaved to sin.”

(pause)

The problem of sin today is convoluted

Because even as we strive to be footstep followers

Of What Christ has given to us

“Love one another as I have loved you,”

Has been replaced with

“Hate the sin, love the sinner”

(pause)

We commit a sin

When we take the Word of God

And allow to be influenced by this world, who does not know God

Or trusts God’s promises

And uses it as a weapon for condemning

Instead of using it to Transform and liberate those

That do not understand what it means, to love one another

So following Christ’s commandment, we open our doors

And our hearts to those who are LGBT

We welcome them into our churches, to follow their calling

Of being Pastors and Leaders

Instead of telling them they need to prostrate themselves

Before the Cross and repent

By humanity’s standards

(pause)

God’s Word is supposed to bring comfort and closure

To those who are suffering

But time and again

Pastoral leadership sees those who are hurting in our pews

Slumped down, weeping, hiding the signs of abuse

Who are waiting to hear a word that God knows their pain

God sees, God weeps, God is angry that someone who violate their life

And instead, unfortunately, uses God’s word as a catalyst

To send that person back into a hellish situation

And turns a blind eye

Not advocating, lifting up those that Jesus Christ commanded we help

The widow, the orphan, the abused spouse, the molested child

(pause)

Christians today are so quick to quote Scriptures

About what the Law of God says

And how the Law condemns

That they forget the Mercy and Grace that the Word of God

IS!

This is our Good News!

We cannot conquer our shortcomings, our sins

Ourselves

The Good News of Jesus Christ is so clear

Jesus Christ sacrificed of Himself

So that there might be New Life

For us

That through Christ’s death we might be made whole

And all we have to do

Is Trust God, Our Creator

Trust God, and have Faith

No matter how many times we stumble

And Fall

The Good News is that God sees our stumbling in sin

And forgives and loves us anyhow

We need to Trust God

And have Faith

When we are in the midst of being Loved by God

We then see God reflected back from one another

And Loving One another, as God has called us to do

Even wracked by our sins

We can also Forgive and empower one Another

Surely as God continues to forgive us and empower us

To be a light and hope to one another.

(Ending the sermon, bring out the butterfly box and mention briefly how Barbara Schutz used it for the Sisters Sabbath where we were to place things in the box, that would get in the way of enjoying Sabbath time. Instruct the congregation during the meditative time of intercession, that we bear the burden of sins when we come into the sacred space, and never leave them here, at the foot of the Cross, so that the risen Christ can and does eradicate this from our lives. Sin will always be present, but we do not have to bear these sins alone, and so invite them to write a sin, just a sin, that perhaps they are struggling with and place it in the box).

Thanks Be To God.

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And now, a word from our Sponsor and a week of not Sermonizing: Sabbath

Hear me out

Seminary has been my Sabbath all of these years

It’s strange to even think it in that vein

But

The Creator calls upon us to keep the Sabbath Holy

Meaning

Cradling close our connect with creation

Communing with the Divine

Keeping the Sabbath Holy

Means

Respecting the stillness of life

Treasuring the moments

That we are present

Living our who we are, counter culturally

So

If there is the call to keep this time of discernment

Of climbing into the arms of the green goddesses

of running up that hill

And making a deal with God…

Then Seminary has been my Sabbath

Diverting from the normalcy of this routine journey

Finding my steps along and off the beaten pathway

Listening to the whispers of the winds

Running up that hill

With no problems…

Sabbath is being engaged, revived

And so

Seminary has removed me from the chaos of this world

It has transformed the stresses into stardust

That lifts along with the incense that flitters up

Along with my prayers

Beyond the horizon

Even through my tears

The risen Christ awaits and remains

Waiting for me to run up that hill

Even as this pathway, this vocation, this gift of life

Causes my feet to crumble sometimes

I still run up that hill

No deals need to be made

Because the Creator welcomes me

With no problem.

 

“Questions, Numbness and Anger: My Holy Trinity for Today”

Grace and peace to you as we people of faith, struggle with the mysteries of the Triune God
And how the Creator is calling us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.

I am angry

This world has left my spirit angry.

I found myself this week asking questions

 Where is the Good News?

How can we follow Christ’s commandment

Of going and making disciples,

Baptizing them in the name of the Triune God

When we as children of God

Refuse to simply adhere

To what Christ has called for us to do?

(pause)
Perhaps you too, beloved

Have found yourself with the same frustrations

Humanity seems to be locked in the throes

Of a violent tantrum

Shutting their ears

To the Living Word

of the Creator God

(Pause)

In a Time article I read this week about the upset in the Virginia primary

Dave Brat, seems to have a twisted idea about what the Great Commissioning means

Jesus Christ commands us to “Go and Make Disciples”

Mr. Brat has reworked this to read-

Go and Make Disciples…and become Materially Wealthy
(pause)
“Capitalism is here to stay, and we need a Church Model that corresponds to that reality!”

He claims he is a Scripture reading, Jesus following Christian

But in his vision, today’s Christians are weak and passive

That we should get into the capitalistic fray and hire lobbyists

I wonder what mountain Mr. Brat recently has traveled to

To receive this “divine” word

Because according to Mr. Brat

IF we, as followers of Christ

Are seriously are about being inclusive and diverse

Jesus wants us to reach out to the capitalists

Apparently they are the missing link in our congregations

And

Jesus wants us to help out our neighbors, Mr. Brat says…

But only as a last resort.

(Pause)

“When they saw Him, they worshiped Him but some doubted.”

(pause)

Our spirits are weary and wounded

Because there are many other “Christians” just like Mr. Brat here

Who doubt the commandments that Jesus Christ has given to us

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

(pause)

                                     Jesus’s call in our Gospel lesson this morning is a missional one

A mission that was in the midst of transformation then

As it begins to turn the tide and shake the foundation of the Church, Now

Although its roots are the same

Because God’s Word has always had the power

God’s Word disturbed these ancient followers

Jesus Christ’s presence challenged who they thought they were

And what they thought they were called to do

Shattering those places,

Where they had once hidden, bowing their heads in shame

Away from the world

This is where we find the disciples and followers

Of the Risen Christ

God’s Word had been so transparent

So present

It called them from those places

Facing a world in shambles

The temple had been destroyed

Division was apparent between the traditional Jews

And those who were the followers of “The Way”

And the Roman Empire was still in charge
                                                                                                                                  Unfazed by Jesus Christ’s ministry

                                                                                                              Teachings

                                                                                 Death

  And Resurrection

Things haven’t changed, have they?

“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

Do we count ourselves too, as

Disciples committed to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ

Beyond our comfort zones?

God’s Word is still the same as it has ever been

God’s Word disturbs us from inactivity

The Risen Christ challenges us from where we have been

On the sidelines

Shattering the empty shells

Exposing the Light of God

That burns within us

Because

                                                                                            Our world is in shambles

There is division all over our global community

Of Who God is, Who truly are God’s sacred people

And Which Religion has bragging rights

And the Capitalistic, Militaristic Empire is still in charge

                                                                   Unfazed by what Christ’s presence, ministry and sacrifice

Meant to this World

(pause)

“But some doubted”

(pause)

Jesus Christ’s commandment is clear

That we are to go out into this world

Beyond our personal, safe boundaries

And share the Good News of Jesus Christ

That Christ, in everything we do
                                                                                                                                                    In our breathing,
                                                                                       In our living,
                                In our loving
                                                                                                   In our working

“Remember, I am with you always

To the end of this age!”

Christ has ascended

The Holy Spirit has descended

The Creator is everywhere

In everything we touch

So with this Eternal, Unconditional Love infused into who we are

As Disciples of the Risen Christ

                                                                 Our mission to be mission minded
                                                                                                                                                                 Is Clear

“But Some Doubted.”

Some of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ

Still Doubt

Just as there were disciples doubting before Christ’s presence that morning

How could they doubt, we ask?

Were they doubting their abilities?

“Jesus, what if they don’t listen to us?”

“What if they still don’t believe?”

“What if we forget what to say?”

“Is this even the right way?”

We have some of those same questions

We as children of God just want to cling to Jesus

Behind Jesus

Because we doubt our own abilities

“Jesus, I can’t give a testimony”

Or don’t want to face our own inequities

Of not wanting to welcome all nations

“How can I relate to them?”

OF not wanting to begin to change things

“Why do we need to have a website

Or change our worship time

Or use that hymnal?”

We want to keep them the way they have always been

“Our church has always been here.

We should be patient

People will come.”

(pause)

We are fearful of having to actually GO OUT

                                                                              AND MAKE DISCIPLES
OUTSIDE OF OUR PEWS

                                                              AND OF THE CHURCH WALLS

(pause)

So we stubbornly disregard how the Church is changing, moving and blossoming

And claim by delving into the Gospel of Jesus Christ in different

Inclusive and diverse ways

We are somehow abandoning Jesus Christ and the core of God’s Message for All of This World

BUT

(pause)

IF we READ this Scripture

“Go and therefore and make disciples

OF ALL NATIONS

Baptizing them in the name..”

Of the TRIUNE GOD

(pause)

THAT IS THE MISSION THAT CHRIST

                                                                          HAS BEEN GIVING US FOR THE AGES!

                                                                                                                      THE Church MUST TRANSFORM

                                                                                   THIS WORLD IS HURTING

WE MUST GO-

(pause)

And answer the CRY

THAT HAS BEEN POURING OUT

From the cracks in this Life

We must GO-
RAISE OUR VOICES

Against the violence of 117 shootings
And for sacredness of places everywhere for our neighbors and the strangers
To live and breathe and exist in harmony

(pause)

Against the harmful, damaging bureaucracy
And for those 50,000 veterans who have more than earned the right
For holistic and healing care

(pause)

Against the RACISM that continues to eat at the hearts of the people
And for the memory of 5,000 men, women and children who were lynched during Jim Crow

(pause)

Against Classism that separated and turns neighbor against neighbor
And For the thousands of undocumented children who are denied basic human rights

(pause)

We must GO, Singing, Sharing, Exclaiming the Good News!!

TEACHING that the LOVE OF CHRIST is for ALL CREATION

DROWNING their fears, hurts, pain, suffering

IN THE WATERS OF BAPTISM

Bringing them into the Community of God, Our Creator

As DISCIPLES

TRANSFORMING this WORLD

PROCLAIMING that this world will be WHOLE AND HEALED

IN THE BELOVED NAME

(pause)

OF THE FATHER, Our Creator who LOVES US, Period.

(pause)

AND OF THE RISEN SON, Jesus Christ our REDEEMER

(pause)

AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, Guiding us to Live in Peace.

(pause)

Thanks Be to God

Holy Spirit is FIRE, shut up in my bones…

Grace and Peace to you as we people of faith, open up of ourselves, to the power of the Holy Spirit in this place, given to us by God our Creator and from our risen Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen

 I want to share with you a story

(Stepping away from the pulpit, telling the story about when Israel my daughter was between schools, and how the education system in Chicago is less than desirable; how there was a town hall meeting about her future high school, and who the powers behind the screen were displacing the children in this current elementary school to make way for this new middle/high school, only because of the political/economic prominence of the parents of this other elementary school; How voices from both sides were being heard, and how they asked for any others who wanted to weigh on the issue. How my daughter said “Mom, you should say something” and how I did begin this carefully crafted speech but for 5 seconds I can not remember what I say but when I was present in the room once more, I had riled up the crowd to their feet, charged with calling the one corporate entity on the carpet).

The only thing I can truly say with affirmation

Is that the Holy Spirit had to be involved.

Is that strange?

Peter states in Acts that the Creator God declares

that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,”

Causing prophetic testimony

Isn’t that the same when we as people of faith

Disturbed in our spirit, perhaps by the presence of the

Holy Spirit

Proclaim with one voice

Against injustice

Against suffering

Against things that would burn the bridges of being bonded

From the presence of God

Outside our church doors

Beyond the church walls.

Isn’t that why we find ourselves

Standing with signs

Standing with others

Standing in front of those who impact our laws

Who impact how we live and love

On fire for some semblance of peace and serenity

In this world?

The Holy Spirit sets our souls on fire!

Our good friend Luther even experiences this

The Holy Spirit turning his world upside down

Sending him out

Vigorously, shamelessly sharing

That the Gospel was more life affirming

Than condemning his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ

Yet Luther’s view was that the Holy Spirit had its proper place

Deep in his theological corpus, the Holy Spirit is clothed within the preached Word

And the Sacraments

The Holy Spirit fulfills the Law

Luther said this of the Holy Spirit “as God in God’s divine nature and essence from the Holy Spirit as God has given to us.”

The Holy Spirit is a sacred gift that we find among the community of believers

And it is because of the Holy Spirit

We, as children of God find ourselves not able to contain our joy

When enflamed by the power of the Holy Spirit

We are moved to shout and share

What the Good News of Jesus Christ means for all of us.

The Holy Spirit invades our spaces

Meeting us along the journey, barefoot

Raising Her Voice to infuse and empower us

Wherever we are called to go.

(pause)

Pentecost fills our imaginations

And suddenly there came a sound

Like the rush of a violent wind,”

As if it was this massive

Overwhelming

Intensive

Presence

As if the Holy Spirit physically filled the room

Think of it as immense

As immense as a familiar dragon named Smaug

(pause)

And the cacophony chaos that followed, of sounds

And instead of a suffocating heat

That bends and wilts us to nothingness

The Holy Spirit descending as a phoenix

Blessing those gathered

In our Acts text this morning

With sacredness of restorative and reviving power

Their collective breath in that place must have been stifled

Exhaling a surprising joy like no other

It had to be like (pause, tap tambourine and sing) fire

Shut up in their bones..

Like Jerimiah

Won’t leave them alone

(pause)

This gospel song from my childhood sums up

How the Spirit gripped each and every person present

To where the Spirit wouldn’t let any of them sit down

And what was said in that moment?

Did they hear the risen Christ echoing in each other’s tongue saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”

Or perhaps they echoed words that reside and are repeated

in the Psalms:

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

“Praise the Lord

(pause, pick up tambourine and tap lightly, singing)

I’m gonna sing to the Al – mighty power comes around
Spirits got me so I can’t sit down.”

What Liberation in those words!

These brothers and sisters in Faith

Who followed the risen Christ

Who struggled with who Jesus Christ was and is

Who were witnesses to what Christ had done

Who had been touched by what Christ spoke

Were liberated in that moment

To become Transformative Witnesses

Having the strength and the freedom

To spread the Good News of Jesus Christ

Throughout the World.

(pause)

Sadly there are too many moments

When brothers and sisters in Christ

Not only do not see the reflection of our Savior

In one another

But also cannot hear the Good News proclaimed richly

In so many transformative ways

And so sometimes we as people of faith are fearful

Fearful when the Holy Spirit makes Her presence

Because that means She comes to disturb our sedentary nature

Shaking us awake to what the Creator God has called us to do

Awakening the fire

Shut up in our bones

And that is the Good News

That is what Peter shared with those ancient people in that moment

In those days, I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.”

Prophesy

Evangelize

Why are we as people of faith to acknowledge

That this is what we are called to do

As people of Faith?

How blessed we are that God, Our Creator

Continues to connect with us

Through the Holy Spirit

Prophesy and evangelize doesn’t mean

That we are attempting to put our limited

Man made wisdom

On God’s Word

Prophesy means that we are sharing the Good News

Of Jesus Christ

And that Good News of Jesus Christ for us today is

He did not leave us to abandon us

The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus Christ

As an affirmation of who He was to us

To the Entire Creation

And so

The Holy Spirit descends to LIBERATE US

Because we are called people of God

Jesus says Himself “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me

So I send you.”

The Holy Spirit descends to TRANSFORM US

Because we are called to prophesy-

Prophesy as witnesses of the chaos and mischievousness

The Holy Spirit creates-

  • Pope Francis reaching across the paths that have divided us, meeting and praying with both Israeli and Palestinian spiritual leaders
  •  Ecumenical leaders and Bishops here boldly calling upon the political leaders for basic human and civil rights for all
  • Communities gathering in sacred spaces, boldly lift their voices and their feet in praise and in prayer for those who are suffering from lack of housing, lack of water, lack of education

And the rest of the world watches, confused

Because the people of God are riled up!

Throwing Spiritual Tantrums

Being public with our witness, with our joy, with our prophesying

Our sharing the Good News is something no longer hidden

Whispered

Or to be ashamed of

The Holy Spirit, She is not Proper at all!

She is the FIRE

Shut up in our bones

Won’t leave us alone.

Thanks Be to God.

Still I Rise: A Blue Sabbath and no Sermonizing

May this Ascension Sunday find you rising to greet the horizon, where the Creator opens up arms of grace and mercy to meet our fragile Spirits.

Self care is something that we as pastoral leadership routinely preach and rarely practice.

As a Seminary intern we are all allotted two weeks of vacation to do as we wish.

Initially with myself and my tribe and trying to coordinate everything I first told my supervising Pastor I probably would not be able to take any vacation.

This gypsy is a creature of habit

Bad habits however, are shattered by the Holy Spirit who always finds comfort sitting in the trees, barefoot and laughing at me.

And so this past week I had not only the middle of the week off

But also today

No Sermonizing

Sabbath journeys should be for rest and respite, and exploring.

The presence of water, and the connection to being immersed in baptism has always been healing to my very being

Unfortunately, during my middle and high school years, I was plagued by a form of Keratoconjunctivitis

Which among other things, meant no swimming

Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise poem calls deep within my ancestral blood

Regardless of how we, as people of color and children of Africa were demeaned, broken, discarded and misused

Still, we rose in the brilliance of the morning sun

Because we are a part of Creation

No matter what obstacles, heartache, pain, suffering…

and fears

caused us to roll ourselves into a corner and remain hidden in the shadows

Still, as the trickling of the Creator God’s  eternal Love dripped over our heads in blessing

We would rise to meet God’s call that cradled deep within our recesses and the abyss in our soul.

Still, as the risen Christ rose, and the disciples were astounded

So too, did our hands in praise

and our feet to carry the news

and our hearts, because we knew that the Holy Spirit would remain by our side

Just as Christ remained not too far away from us.

A couple of years prior, while working at a camp, as camp staff we had to do a canoe tip test.

I hadn’t been in the water in years

Perhaps I was too confident

because diving into a man made pond that waters are darker than sin and spookier than night

Does get the heart pounding

But as the temperatures rose here in Austin

So did my desire to get into the blessed pool here in our apartment complex

Wading in the waters,

Remembering my baptism

And with my wonderful husband at my side

I strove to drown my fears in this precious gift from the Creator God

“Do not be afraid, I am with you…” 

I emerged, heart pounding, laughing, loving this new adventure

Thankful as I lifted my head towards the sky

Somewhere, the Creator was smiling and laughing,

Knowing I would rise.

Lape Bondye, God’s Peace.