Today’s Gospel sounds like a Johnny Cash tune

“If we truly believed,

In the doctrine of reformation, 

The question we need to ask ourselves, 

Do we want to be safe or reform?”

Words from Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee

To the entire community of faith,

Of the Churchwide Assembly this week.

Being Bold.

We just learned that summer camp song,

But being bold,

That, if I am not mistaken,

We cling to as Lutherans.

It’s in our DNA, right?

Bold equals Martin Luther, right?

Luther stood against the oppression

Of the Catholic Church, in his time

A Church which seemed to revel in this newfound power,

Thanks to Constantine

And somehow lost its purpose

And delved into the darkness,

Locked in their souls

Instead only in reaping the rewards

Of earthly power

Desires

Riches

Instead of being connected

Of what the Creator God requires of them, and of us

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 

(pause)

Luther was appalled at the lack of the spirit of stewardship

From his fellow brothers in Christ

From the leadership,

And then,

Luther was thrust into the fires of Pentecost

By the Holy Spirit, who loves to meddle!

The power of the Gospel

THAT is what drove him,

That fire shut up in his bones

Breaking away from the status quo

And boldly starting this revolution

In her address to the Churchwide Assembly,

Leymah issued the challenge

“We must do the work of the Reformation

And it might mean we are excommunicated

In many places”

(pause)  

Being Bold

Where would we be today,

If Luther had not been bold enough;

If Bonhoeffer had not traveled here

Immersed himself into the culture of Harlem

Spoken out against the atrocities of Hilter

If Dr. King had not taken that first step

Fighting for Civil Rights, Human Rights

If Rosa Parks had not refused to move,

Because she was simply tired of being abused

Misused

Mislabeled as 3/5th of a person

If Gandhi had not continued speaking truth to his people

If Malcolm X had not pushed the envelope towards freedom

Where would we be, beloved

If there were not those nameless, collected voices

Who push against the grain,

Shouting into the darkness of human sin,

Of greed

Of violence

Of Racism

Of oppression

Of Torture

Of SILENCE.

(pause)

And yet,

Here we are

Now more than ever

We need to be BOLD

We need to speak to the systemic pain

Heartache

Suffering

In this broken world.

(pause)

We need to RISE UP,

Not just in bold prayers

But in BOLD ACTION

And this week,

Those waves of renewal

Of resurrection

Rumbled onto shores littered with the fragments of our existence

Our Church,

Pushed those waves forward towards healing

Boldly proclaiming

Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, Because it was “an example of the “improper mixing of the power of the church  and the power of the sword” 

Acknowledging this church’s complicity in the evils of colonialism in the Americas,  which continue to harm tribal governments and individual tribal members”

That is important to me,

Because part of my extended family

Are proud and sacred Native people And I could not be a part of a Church,

That ignored their existence.

(pause)

Our Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Continued in their bold proclamation

That they would stand with refugees, immigrants and migrant workers

Approving a new strategy,

“the Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy,

Representation and Opportunities 

Responding to the needs Of the migration of children and their families around protection,

And advocacy,”

It is important to me,

Because we hear the call to care for our neighbor,

And if we claim we follow Jesus,

Then we can not erase their needs and their suffering

As Leymah reminded us,

“Injustice anywhere

Is Injustice everywhere”

(pause)

These collective people of faith,

Boldly proclaimed

Standing with our neighbors,

Especially those who are seen as outcasts,

Our Palestine sisters and brothers in Christ,

Reaffirming as ONE VOICE

That we “continue to accompany and advocate on behalf of a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine;

Advocate for protection of the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis 

Opposing all violence and actions

That deny any people their basic freedom

Dignity

And human rights”

As someone reminded the gathered community of faith,

Jesus Christ

Was a Middle Eastern Rabbi

A refugee

With no documents.

(pause)

And this Church,

Proclaimed that they

Would stand as allies,

For People of African Descent

Because, yes,

Our lives do matter.

Acknowledging for “complicity in systemic racism, chattel slavery and it’s hand in not speaking out

And against the abuses of our civil rights

For so long.”

Social media binds friendship,

And as my new sister in Christ,

Pastor Tuhina stated,

“There needs to be an intertwined system of accountability  to *ensure* a real and diverse church.” What truly spoke volumes,

Is when our Presiding Bishop

Elizabeth Eaton

Stated in her report

The conversation around racial justice needs to happen

And if people had questions,

Or concerns,

To bring them to her,

Because she is the one,

Who is dedicated to this conversation of community,

Of unity

An ally to many in this Church,

Who were forced to be silent

And assimilate

(pause)

And yet,

There was dissention,

Even in the gathered community of faith

A disagreement on how we would collectively speak boldly

To the world

And I am sure,

When confusion surfaces,

Not surprinsgly we turn to our sacred text,

For comfort

Or for answers

But what comfort is found here,

In our Gospel today?

Jesus proclaims

I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

(pause)

Johnny Cash’s lament,

God’s Going to Cut you Down,

Seemingly is embedded in this Gospel.

Surprised your Pastor likes The Man in Black?

(pause for laughter)

I have been drawn to his later work,

Because in his music His deep faith was plain,

Open.

Johnny Cash sang of his imperfectness

His sinful nature,

Warning the listener,

Other people of faith,

That Jesus,

Was about being bold

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?

 No, I tell you, but rather division!

(pause)

It’s uncomfortable to hear Jesus

Angry

As if His plan is to cut us down

But I don’t think Jesus Christ is speaking

Of harming us,

Beloved

I think Jesus is speaking to the darkness

Which is always lurking

Attempting to mask itself over our features

Jesus wants to destroy what keeps us

From a relationship with the Creator God

And so,

Sometimes it means

We have to walk through the fire

In order

For God’s Work,

For our purpose in this life,

To be accomplished

(pause)

Clearly,

In our Hebrews text

We see the trials of fire,

The acts of faith

The examples of people being BOLD

Because of their faith,

The walls of Jerico crumbled

A people found freedom beyond the boundaries

Of the Red Sea

Because of their faith,

They withstood a raging fire And cheated the certainty of death, From the jaws of a lion. But sometimes their boldness

Came at a cost.

They did not have that standard, happy ending!

For many of the faithful,

They were exiled

Ostracized

Whipped Tortured

And for some, death was an end, All because they were BOLD.

Is this what holds us back, beloved?

We are afraid of being BOLD

We are afraid of the pain and the hurt,

Standing Boldly sometimes brings?

(pause)

Johnny Cash’s lamented this

In a song filled with agony

It spoke to where we all find ourselves

When we have been bold

And followed Jesus,

When we have not been afraid to speak out,

Sometimes,

The body of Christ is agitated

And therefore there is division

And then there is that hurt

We wrestle

To do what is right,

But sometimes

Our spirits slink back Into that darkness,

And then we cry out,

Jesus I cannot do this, What you ask of me.

Sounds familiar?

(pause)

But see,

There ain’t no grave,

That can hold our bodies down

There ain’t no grave

That could hold Jesus Christ down,

THERE IS NOTHING

That can separate US

And NOTHING WE CAN DO

NO PAIN THAT WE CAN BEAR

Jesus,

Was Bold too,

BOLD ENOUGH to speak a WORD

That shattered the sins of the law

And brought us into the light,

And because of what HE DID

And what HE SUFFERED

There ain’t NOTHING

That can keep us from the Love of the Creator God!

(pause)

So because of the Good News of Jesus Christ

This Gospel,

We can be Bold!

We must be BOLD!

Are we still in that grave,

With the silence?

The silence of not speaking our testimony?

The silence of not speaking LIFE for those,

Who are the outcasts in this world

Listen here,

Think as if you were hurting,

Feeling abandoned

Because the actions, and the Gospel that you were hearing,

Because how people reacted to YOUR presence walking through Church doors

That you were at the crossroads,

Walking away from Christianity

Because it was too PAINFUL

And suddenly,

There was a breakthrough,

The Sun rose,

And the graves open

And people came forth who were no longer afraid-

TO BE BOLD

Because they heard Jesus Christ speaking to them

TO RISE

RISE!

And suddenly,

You felt loved

In the body of Christ,

In the wider Church,

Because the people of God

No longer would be silent

Would no longer be apathetic

BOLD to PROCLAIM and to ACT

Because of God’s LOVE For US.

Thanks be to God.

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