“Dreams and Visions”

“Dearly beloved

We are gathered here today

2 get through this thing called life”

These words have been repeated

More often than not

This weekend,

And may sound slightly ridiculous

Song lyrics intertwined in a sermon

Especially coming from Prince,

Not many however were tuned in

On his spirituality

His deep connection with Jesus Christ

And the Divine

was lived and professed

Throughout his music

But,

It is true right?

We gather here on Sunday morning,

Or a Thursday morning Bible Study

Or a Saturday evening taize service

To get through the muck

And the headache

Of life.

Because we want to be absorbed

In the stories

Of trials

And triumph

Which seemingly

Are almost

Like our own

(pause)

Faced with adversity

Injustice

Ridicule

Prophets, saints, disciples

Were able to express outrage

And Righteousness

Through their Faith

Because of

Dreams

(pause)

It is good to be back together with you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the place where the Holy Spirit also dwells

As we ruminate

About what the Creator is calling us into

Sometimes,

The only way God does speak to us

Connects with us,

Inspires and drives us

Is through our dreams and visions.

That’s not farfetched either,

Our imaginations,

Our daydreams

Didn’t just cease to be in childhood

That’s how humanity dreamed up

New ways,

New ideas

For our collective lives to be better, right?

Through dreams

Human beings created new inventions

Carrying us across communities

Oceans,

Carrying us upward

And outward

Through our dreams we solve riddles

Unlocking answers

To save lives,

Finding cures

Embodying freedom

Envisioning a more just world

(pause)

This past weekend,

I attended Ecumenical Advocacy Days

The experience could be summed up

As creative chaos

Swelling to the capacity

Of a Tsunami

The Holy Spirit was definitely captured in that space

The Gospel heard time and again

But this was not preaching to the choir

Because there were moments,

Whether it was Rev. Barber

Challenging us to engage prophetic cursing

“God is telling us to get out of the safety of our sanctuary

and into our streets.

Into the public square..

God needs the church to raise a voice

that is contrary to the voice of oppression”

Or Rev. Traci Blackmon

Speaking TRUTH

“Movements and movement makers are born

when they’ve reached their enough”

“Jesus wasn’t timid.

He was a radical.

If you don’t want to do anything,

don’t call yourself a Christian”

(pause)

That the Gospel made the comfortable

Uncomfortable

That in order for us to get to the New Jerusalem,

We cannot skip out on the raw pain

Of the Old Jerusalem,

Or Ramallah, Palestine

Or Chicago,

Or Miami

Or Ferguson

Or Abuja, Nigeria

Or Port ta Prince, Haiti

In order for us to be the New Jerusalem,

We must address that which separates

And divides us

Dogmas

Doctrines

Labels

Sins

(pause)

Instead, focusing our hearts in what binds us

The bread and wine,

The Body and Blood

The Table

The Cross

The Risen One

Who left us

With a vision

Of Power

In the Holy Spirit

That would speak to us

Through Dreams

(pause)

Dreams such as in Acts

Where sometimes the visions

Just don’t make any sense

Because we as humanity

Can be too literal

Because we root ourselves

In the finite

Instead of enjoying the freedom

Steeped

In the infinite

(pause)

Dreams such as in Revelations

Are the dreams where, beloved

We all want just 5 more minutes

To be submerged in

“Then I saw a new heaven,

A new earth

I saw the Holy City,

The new Jerusalem

God’s dwelling place

Among the people,

There will be no more death.”

THIS

This is what we as people of faith pray for

Wait for

Agonize over

When our world is ugly

Stinks

Is unhealthy

THIS

God WITH US

PHYSICALLY

But as Dr. King’s words remind us

“It’s alright to talk about streets flowing in milk

And honey,

But God has commanded us to be concerned

With the slums

Down here”

God has commanded us to love one another

In those places where we walk,

Drive

Live

Experience

(pause)

What is our hesitation?

What is the hesitation in

Serving,

Working

Loving others?

In confronting injustice

Acting out of love

Living our faith

Now?

What is the hesitation to be in community?

Simply because those that we encounter

Are different?

Heathens?

Gentiles?

(pause)

Sometimes God has to speak to us through dreams

Because that’s the only time we LISTEN!

It’s the only time we hear clearly,

The Good News

“The Spirit told me

To have NO HESITATION

About going with them”

NO HESITATION,

About serving there

NO HESITATION

Because Jesus Christ,

RISEN

Baptizes us with the HOLY SPIRIT

So we should have NO HESITATION

About doing the work,

The hard work

This-proclaiming the Gospel

Making disciples

Prophetically cursing out the demonic

The demonic that,

Let’s be real

Lurks within us

Each time we turn our backs

On one another

(pause)

But see,

Then that’s when the Creator speaks to us

Through Dreams,

Reminding us

“I am the Alpha and Omega

The Beginning and the End

I give water,

WITHOUT COST,”

God gives to us,

LIFE

Through His Son,

Jesus Christ,

Who because of His death,

LIFE eternal is guaranteed!

(pause)

There is a poem by Louise Driscoll,

Where she pleads for us

To Hold fast our dreams!

Close to our hearts,

That one place where doubt and fear cannot touch

Because deep within,

There the Holy Spirit remains

There we are connected to the Creator God

Speaking to us always,

Through dreams,

Because of Love.

Thanks Be to God

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Re-Naming God and Smashing Idols – Francisco Herrera, ThM/PhD student at LSTC

We Talk. We Listen.

Linda Thomas at CTS eventHave you ever heard a grown man squeal? That’s precisely what happened when I asked this week’s writer, Francisco Herrera – the blog manager for “We Talk. We Listen” – to write a piece on theological language and gender. Though he mostly writes about race and power in the church, he also has a keen interest in sexuality, gender and power and it shows. And through his humor, he leaves us all with a jolting reminder that, if we don’t open ourselves to myriad ways of talking about God, then we can very well sacrifice others on the idols of our own theological complacency. Take a peek and share!

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


My first serious object lesson in adventurous theological language happened about four years ago when I had to prepare a Bible study…

View original post 1,351 more words

Feeding His Sheep, Even the Nefarious Ones

 

<Ask a Church Member> Do you love Jesus more than these

(they will answer yes, then continue)

Jesus calls us to care for His Sheep

But what if that means tending to people

Who seemingly refuse to care for the  places,

The neighborhoods,

The communities

That they should be safe.

Time and again we watch through social media

The news

Television

Read the statistics

About the reality of real life

People cutting down one another

Through violence

Because instead of seeing the Risen Christ in one another

They only see hatred

In a haze of drugs

Of jealously

Because of labels transposed upon them,

That they were useless

Sacrificial

 (pause, then go over to another church member)

<Church Member> Do you love Jesus more than these?

(the church member will say yes)

Jesus calls us to tend His Lambs,

But what if that includes people

Whose vision of God is unlike our own?

Or even accepting Jesus like we think they should

Whose songs and prayers and chanting and submission

Makes us uncomfortable

So that we join with others

In deeming them heretical

And when they are suffering

We push them as if they are an afterthought

Casting them outside the walls

Damning them to an exiled existence

(pause, then go to a third church member)

<Church Member> Do you love Jesus more than these?

(the church member will say yes)

Jesus calls us to feed His Sheep,

But what if that means feeding people

That we have pigeonholed undeserving

Time and again, they have wedged themselves in predicaments

To where they have nothing,

And seemingly offer nothing productive

And grope at our well stocked harvest

Causing friction and tension when they come begging,

Pleading

Crying,

And we push and shove and move them away from us

So we don’t have to see their anguish

So we don’t have to be affected by their pain,

Though deep down,

We are shuddering,

Because the power of the Gospel

Is embedded in our core.

(pause)

Or even tending, feeding caring for His people

Who decline community

Instead belittling

Persecuting others.

What if,

The Creator God called upon you

For compassion  

Using you to heal

Through the power of the Holy Spirit

An enemy?

Can we confess as people of faith

That it is hard to live out Jesus’s commandment

To love one another

Because Love encompasses so many things

(pause)

Ananias,

One of God’s flock

Is perplexed in Acts

This directive to “love” Saul

By actually laying on of hands, healing him

Let’s be honest

Those that we love

We will do anything

For their health,

Try any cure

But an enemy?

Saul?

Saul who approved the stoning of Stephen

Saul who relentlessly pursued those

Who he had deemed

Traitors

Abandoning the faith and the teachings of their forefathers

Abandoning the edicts, the principles of their ancestors

Laws that encouraged division

Divisiveness

Separation

Instead of the Love

And mercy

And Grace

That God, Our Redeemer created,

Wanted for God’s People.

The Way-

What was this new Way,

That blurred all the lines of hierarchy?

Where they forgot their place,

And opened up their houses, their hearts, themselves

Disregarding endless rules of purity

Welcoming in Gentiles, tax collectors, widows

And overlooking sins

What was this Way

That saw all people equal

Welcomed

At the table?

Unnatural!

(pause)

“Lord I have heard from many about this man

How much evil he has done

And here he has authority

To bind all who invoke your name.”

Just as the Risen Son Jesus Christ asked of Thomas,

To not doubt

But believe

Believe that God’s power beyond anything we can fathom

The Creator works through unusual people

The Gospel is heard and experienced through unusual ways

These lessons,

This Gospel message is infused into our time

Testing us

The uncomfortable truth is that when these holy and sacred texts speak to us

It is never in the abstract

So we may doubt,

But we are called as people who follow the Way

That follow Jesus

To believe

(pause)

But can I confess to you this morning?

What I have found,

Embedded deeper into this call of public ministry

Is being challenged by this command of Jesus-

Feed my lambs

Tend my sheep

Love one another as I have loved you

Because

There are people that I cannot love

Or trust

Or forgive.

Remember Maundy Thursday,

When I posed the question

When has it been difficult to Love?

Or

Do we find that we are interjecting our own question

God,

When your Son gave the commandment

To Love one another

Surely there were some disclaimers

Or an addendum

Or footnotes to that?

(pause)

But we have a Good and Gracious God,

When we have denied our own connection to the One

Through our actions towards one another

When we have forgotten about the One

Who would give His life

For us-

Jesus offers us forgiveness in ways we don’t even realize-

Just as He offered to Simon Peter

Reminding us,

What we are called to do

To Feed and Tend His Flock,

Even when they are disobedient

 (pause)

When we question,

When we can not see how the Holy Spirit

Could ever penetrate a heart so darkened

That could move someone so pitiful

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that in that moment of conversion

Not from one denomination or from one faith to the “right” or “true” faith

But from darkness to light

From blindness to seeing

From hatred to love

From dominating

To submitting to the One

Who holds the power of Life, of Love, of Forgiveness

REGARDLESS of what we have done

Not only happens to the Sauls in our lives

Or the Saul within us

But also to those faithful Ananais

People such as you, and me

Who need to see the God in everyone

Even in yes,

The nefarious ones

Beloved, do you love Jesus more than these-

More than the superficial,

If you can work seeing past their failings

Tend His Sheep

Feed His Lambs

Love one another.

Thanks Be to God.

Off the Beaten Path, Away from the Norm

I’ve never been known to do anything linear

Or normal for that matter

It’s Thursday afternoon,

and I’m working on my application to Chicago Theological Seminary

for another damn degree

S.T.M

advanced

Why?

Liberation.jpg

I’m supposed to wait three years,

three years in pastoral ministry solidified

three years of being silent.

I cannot do that.

When I first came to my congregation, one of the things I expressed was this-

“Preaching and professing the Gospel as it moves within me,

fuels the way I share and teach with you”

That my reality as a Woman of Color cannot be washed away in baptismal waters

That my righteous anger and authenticity would surface,

Because what is happening to my People, my Tribe saddened and sickens me

Although I love them dearly, truly and deeply

Although I understand that my Call here was given to me by the Creator

I cannot remain silent

So I am still involved with justice and advocacy issues,

So this is not the end

So I remain perched upon the horizon,

at the waterfall

hearing those voices

the drums

the rhythm of sacredness

templo_osun_osogbo.jpg

My question is why have we totally and utterly abandoned one expression of spirituality

for one that is not even faithful to the One it claims to follow?

Why have we demonized something so natural

for the artificial? 

Why do we not realize

that the Creator speaks through both,

and all?

When will we learn we are a Sacred People

and our traditions we attempted to abandon

Are still with us

Move through us

On a Sunday Morning.

Our ancestors heard the Gospel while in chains

They knew that this One who transformed death upon the Cross

 Would not abandoned them

Not abandon us

even in this hellish exile.

So, because of my Ancestors

I am able to stand among the rains

Pursue wisdom

Answer the Call

Thankful to the Creator

Ase

Ase

Amen

Amen.

 

 

Jesus has Risen? Prove It!

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Christ has Risen!

But where is the transformation of the world?

Where is the impact of the Resurrection felt within us?

Or do we just do,

Following the Holy Spirit

That Jesus promised us, left us, breathed upon us.

Amen

(pause)

 “Let everything that has breath

Praise the Lord”

That is the refrain

Repeated joyfully over and again

In everything we do

In how we shout Alleluia!

Jesus has Risen!

There is the Good News

Death,

Darkness

Emptiness

Abandonment

Is not our fate

Shouldn’t we be singing a new song?

“Can you feel a Brand New Day”(2x)

(pause)

That song is the crescendo of the Wiz,

The Wiz, you all know the Wiz right?

(pause)

Embedded in this much loved movie

Was a social commentary about the plight of an exiled people

And the conditions that they were involuntary thrust into

And assumed that they would live in

Dorothy, who is portrayed by Diana Ross and her companions

Are almost at the end of their journey

through the rough and rude backdrop of NYC

The witch has been defeated,

And in the wake of her demise

Those laborers in her sweat shop

Through the years of toil, their very self is unrecognizable

Suddenly,

Because the witch is dead

They emerge from their despondency

Renewed

Freed

Made whole!

Filling with Light and Life,

The entire place vibrates

“Can you feel a Brand New Day?”

(pause)

Did we feel the birthing of a Brand New Day

Easter Sunday morning?

And yet, I wonder

In the midst of the overflowing presence of fellow sisters and brothers in Christ and Faith

In this sacred space

I wonder was there someone in the midst of the celebration

And praise

That held back shouting with all of us,

Just as I can imagine someone standing against the wall

In that transformed sweat shop

That didn’t believe that they were freed

Just as someone who comes through our doors ever so often

And hears about the freedom through the Cross

Just as I am sure in those days after Jesus’s Resurrection

Those ancient sisters and brothers of Faith

Had doubts about whether life as they knew it,

Was now freer

(pause)

There had to be chaos

The rhythm of life continued

Greed,

Injustice

Confusion

Death

Was still part of the makeup of their existence

That the shadow of the Roman Empire

Still darkened their footsteps

(pause)

Days after Resurrection Sunday,

Here and now

There was still violence perpetrated upon one another

Momentous greed

Incredible amount of injustice

Massive confusion

About what the core of the Gospel

Is calling us to do

And

Doubt!

Because what was the point of Jesus dying

If nothing has changed for us as people of Faith

If nothing changed at all for Creation?

(pause)

How many times have we pleaded,

Lifting up our concerns in laments before God

Looking for transformation

In our lives

In the lives of those we love

Only to see our hopes

Our prayers

Seemingly dashed at our feet

As fragile, discarded pottery

No wonder we doubt!

“Jesus has Risen?

Prove it!”

Perhaps this is why we had 147 people here on Easter Sunday

And now only half of us remain

(pause)

Humanity wants to SEE

To TOUCH

To be ASSURED

That the investment

A RISK

That they are allowing their hearts to become entangled with

Is solid

Is on the level

Because things such as

Love

Mercy

Grace

Peace

Aren’t something we can physically grasp onto

Because we are far too familiar

With the disappointment

That life brings

And yet it has been so easy to blame Thomas

In our Gospel this morning

About his doubting

About his lack of faith?

Somewhere between Good Friday,

And the moment the Risen Christ stood before him

Thomas just up and lost all of his faith?

(pause)

Or was it the human reaction of sheer and utter disillusionment

Engulfed into sadness

Of seeing the One who came to heal

To teach

To envelop ALL of US

Into the folds of the Creator’s Love

To see His life

Taken.

(pause)

Was Thomas just a realist then?

“Well,

That didn’t turn out as I thought it would

He’s uh, dead

I was hoping for another miracle

But

Yeah…”

(pause)

Did Thomas disappear in a space of grief,

Drowning his sorrows

Drowning in his tears

Trying to blot out the pain

of the ugliness and violence he had witnessed

Of Jesus on the Cross?

I would gather that we too,

Faced with our prayers not answered

For restoration

For hope

For something

Especially when our loved ones are suffering

And rudely,

Death comes and snatches their hands from ours

Life comes and purposely trips us,

Watching and laughing as we crash headfirst into the earth

And the only way we can cope

Is

“Well, Thanks God

I asked you for healing,

I asked you for protection

I knocked, I begged, I shook heaven’s door!

And I got this

I got nothing

I should have figured this would happen”

(pause)

And when our community reaches out to comfort

To reassure

To point us in the direction of the hope because of the Cross

We scoff

“What resurrection hope?

Prove it!”

“Unless I see the nail marks

And put my hand into his side,

I will not believe.”

(pause)

And then the Risen Christ comes,

In the midst of Thomas’s questing

In the midst of the disciples fears

In the midst of our moment of feeling rejected by God

And we are faced with that indeed

Life changed

What was impossible, is possible

That the Creator God kept God’s promises

That Thomas saw God working through Jesus Christ

That we see the Resurrection Glory working here and now

And Jesus, because He lived life like us

Understands our doubts

Jesus does not scold Thomas as we think

The Risen Christ calls Thomas to open up his eyes

His spirit

His very being

His faith,

Calling Thomas to come and see and witness and experience

That death has been defeated

“Reach out your hand put it in my side

Do not doubt

But believe.”

Reach out and see

That with Christ’s dying and Rising

Life has changed

Reality has changed

This is the Good News this morning, beloved

And every day,

Every second

Keep that Good News before you,

Let it sink into your prayers

Your troubles

It is easy to give up,

To doubt

And that’s okay,

Because the Good News is,

Believe in God, Our Redeemer

Believe that through Christ’s death

There is grace, mercy,

Forgiveness

Believe in yourself,

Because the Creator God believes,

And loves,

YOU

Thanks Be to God.