“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.
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
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.
Luther was appalled at the lack of the spirit of stewardship
From his fellow brothers in Christ
From the leadership,
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”
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
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,
Here we are
Now more than ever
We need to be BOLD
We need to speak to the systemic pain
In this broken world.
We need to RISE UP,
Not just in bold prayers
But in BOLD ACTION
And this week,
Those waves of renewal
Rumbled onto shores littered with the fragments of our existence
Pushed those waves forward towards healing
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.
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,
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,
Is Injustice everywhere”
These collective people of faith,
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
And human rights”
As someone reminded the gathered community of faith,
Was a Middle Eastern Rabbi
With no documents.
And this Church,
Proclaimed that they
Would stand as allies,
For People of African Descent
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
Stated in her report
The conversation around racial justice needs to happen
And if people had questions,
To bring them to her,
Because she is the one,
Who is dedicated to this conversation of community,
An ally to many in this Church,
Who were forced to be silent
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,
Or for answers
But what comfort is found here,
In our Gospel today?
I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
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,
Johnny Cash sang of his imperfectness
His sinful nature,
Warning the listener,
Other people of faith,
Was about being bold
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division!
It’s uncomfortable to hear Jesus
As if His plan is to cut us down
But I don’t think Jesus Christ is speaking
Of harming us,
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
Sometimes it means
We have to walk through the fire
For God’s Work,
For our purpose in this life,
To be accomplished
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
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?
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,
The body of Christ is agitated
And therefore there is division
And then there is that hurt
To do what is right,
Our spirits slink back Into that darkness,
And then we cry out,
Jesus I cannot do this, What you ask of me.
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
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!
So because of the Good News of Jesus Christ
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
Think as if you were hurting,
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
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
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.