Prophetic, Disturbing WORDS-The Beatitudes

The new normal

That many of us face each morning,

Is a distressing reality.

And yet,

The Good News is

Within community,

Of sisters, brothers, siblings

There is sacredness

Where we can begin to craft and mold

A sense of peace.

(pause)

Words that pour from deep within,

Are examples of the hope

That we know

Can break every chain.

Social media

Is slowly evolving

Into such a place

Where many are seeing

And sowing

That spark!

(pause)

One of my colleagues,

Serving in an ELCA congregation

In Arkansas

Shared his interpretation

Of the Beatitudes,

In this way:

Blessed are the atheists, for they’re more courageous than the Christians

Blessed are the undocumented, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the refugees, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those court-martialed because they refuse to torture, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, those who do not repay their enemies or reward their friends, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, who refuse to fly drones, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for resistance to unjust rule, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”for they will inherit the earth.

 

(pause)

Perhaps,

From where you sit,

You are immersed

In these words

The hope that it translates for those

Who are routinely disregarded

Shamed

Outcast

For who they are

And how they cling to life,

It indeed speaks volumes

That God’s mercy

Is for ALL

(pause)

Or,

Your own nature just might be shook

Reaction to these words

Much like one dissenter among the comments

On Clint’s post,

Who seemed outraged

That atheists

Were deemed to be,

Blessed,

Raised up higher

Than those of us

Who have rightful claim

To our spiritual birthright

Or perhaps,

You are questioning,

Of why I am even sharing this,

And where is my own

Moral outrage?

(pause)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”

Perhaps these are the moments,

When we as people of faith,

Need to turn inward

And examine the ways

We refute Christ’s teachings,

Refuse to follow His commandments

Of welcoming,

Clothing

Feeding

Caring

Loving

The stranger

Refuse to emulate

The Christ

We confess to follow

Why are we surprised

That there are indeed

Those who are

Poor

In

Spirit

And why do we become so divisive

When they,

Who are

Poor in spirit

Atheists

Meek

Undocumented

Refugees

Are the ONES

WHO EXUDE MORE FREELY GOD’S GRACE!

(pause)

And yet,

Jesus’s own Words here,

In the Beatitudes

As He was teaching His disciples

Were seen as radical,

And

Prophetic.

By teaching His disciples,

Jesus Christ,

Was gathering up the resistance!

By daring to preach against the status quo

Jesus was indeed,

Starting a revolution!

Why is it so offensive,

To even ponder who Jesus was and is,

In this fashion?

(pause)

Prophetic words,

Almost always

Disturb the status quo,

Disrupt the order of things

Challenge the comfortable

(pause)

Their actions,

Their ministry,

These lessons are not to be so lightly treated

As a metaphor

Or something in the abstract

Or worth only for historical note,

And cannot be translated into the present day-

Because the refugees are crowding us out,

Even though

We proudly proclaim

To welcome the poor,

Tired

Huddled

Masses

Or that the undocumented

Are a threat to our livelihood

Our freedoms

While voluntarily accepting employment that,

Let’s be real,

None of us would accept the conditions

Or the wages

Of just $5/hr

With no benefits in sight.

(pause)

Jesus,

Here in our Gospel this morning,

With His Prophetic Teaching

Of the Word

Spoke to those who were present,

Who needed to hear

That the Creator indeed

Walked alongside

Encouraging God’s People

To break every chain

Speaks to us now,

Who need to be reminded

That God does stand with the oppressed

EMPOWERING US

To break those chains

(pause)

That We-

Who are poor in spirit

We

Who are sometimes labeled as weak,

Because we do follow Christ’s commandment

To love one another

Because we are working,

Towards the beloved community

Because we are not afraid,

To stand up

For refugees,

For outsiders

REGARDLESS

Of where they come from,

Or how they worship God

Because we are persecuted

For standing with,

The mentally ill

The formerly incarcerated

We

Are

Blessed!

(paused)

THAT

That is the Good News this morning.

Jesus’s words,

To those who are gathered,

And to us

Was an affirmation

Of both their humanity,

And

God’s unfailing Love!

Conditions in Jesus’s time,

For those who were regulated to

Second,

Third

Last citizenship class

Were one under an oppressive

Authoritarian

And hopeless

Many were indeed,

Poor in spirit

Angry with God for abandonment

Declaring they had no allegiance

To God,

Giving up

Resigning themselves

To a broken life

Jesus’s words,

Were

EMPOWERMENT

For

The

Powerless!

(pause)

Jesus’s Words,

Are

POWER

For us NOW!

And if we cling to this truth,

And proclaim we are Christ’s followers,

Then

Let’s

Just

Do

It!

(pause)

“and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?”

Do justice.

This is not just words on paper,

For us to THINK about theologically

THIS IS OUR MARCHING ORDERS.

Do we believe we are blessed?

YES

So then what is our responsibility?

(pause)

One of my pastoral besties is here this morning,

Tuhnia

She too,

As a Woman of Color

From her heart,

Shares how she sees the Beatitudes

In this way,

Blessed are the Muslims

Blessed are the Sanctuary churches

Blessed are the resistance

Blessed are the marginalized

Blessed are those who are putting their bodies,

And lives for justice and liberation

Blessed are our children

That they may one day know

A world without hate and violence

Thanks Be to God.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hear the Words,

Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I was ready to give up.

In this state of exhaustion

When my courage was all gone,

I decided to take my problem to God

I am here

Taking a stand

For what I believe, is right

But now I am afraid

I am at the end of my powers

I have nothing left.”

(pause)

Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“But I said,

I have labored in vain

I have spent my strength for nothing

And vanity.”

(pause)

At that moment,

I experienced the presence of the Divine

As I had never experienced God before

STAND UP for righteousness

STAND UP for truth

God will be at your side,

Forever.”

It is too light a thing

That you should be my servant

I will give you as a light to the nations

That my salvation may reach

To the end of the earth.

(pause)

Where have YOU

Heard the voice

Of the Creator God

Speaking to YOU?

When where you challenged

To be that LIGHT

In this world?

That is,

What Epiphany

Is about.

The manifestation

The revealing

Of God’s Holiness

Into our reality.

(pause)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,

Heard this voice,

Clearly at a time

When his people,

My people

Were thrust

Into a darkness

Evolved from malevolence

And humanity’s inability to live

And exude

God’s Grace and Mercy,

Given to US

Through Jesus

(pause)

Dr. King

Because of faith,

Is one of many examples

Many voices

Of what being a servant

Means,

What a Servant of God means

To continually be rooted

In this

LIGHT

Of

God!

To continually

Preach

Proclaim

Witness

About

Liberation!

(pause)

This is what Jesus Christ’s birth,

What we were waiting for

LIBERATION.

Liberation from the inequality

Of life, manifested by humanity’s greed

That these ancient sisters and brothers

In faith

Were overwhelmed

Living in the shadow

Of an Empire

Which was unforgiving

Unrelenting

(pause)

Liberation

Is what our brother John,

Proclaimed

“HERE,

Here is the Lamb of God,

Who takes away

The SIN..”

Of US, beloved!

(pause)

This is what our brother Martin

Was fighting for,

LIBERATION

From

Inequality of one’s humanity,

That they were no longer seen as

3/5ths of a human

Injustice from the lack of,

Of being denied,

Even though God, Our Creator

Through our birth,

Marked as God’s Children,

Denies no one.

(pause)

LIBERATION,

Is what the prophet

In Isaiah, too

Was striving towards for

The Children of God.

(pause)

It seems that humanity has not ever,

Learned its lesson.

Throughout our history,

Our collectively journey,

The voices of those trapped,

Whether it be because of poverty,

Or war,

Or hunger

Or illness

Have ALWAYS been crying out

For Justice

For Peace

FOR GOD TO ANSWER PRAYER

For some sign that the Creator has not abandoned them.

For their lives,

Our lives

To be seen as essential

Vital

WORTHY!

(pause)

And when the people cry out,

This is when the servants of God stand up!

John clearly lived into that role,

John proclaimed

Heralded

The coming of the WORD MADE FLESH

“After me,

Comes a man

Who ranks ahead of me

Because He was before me.”

John,

Even though he would suffer greatly,

Was rooted as a servant.

Did he wonder,

While imprisoned

Whether his living

Was in vain?

Whether was his ministry

Nothing but a failure

Since actually being submissive to God,

And following God’s commandments

Was deemed trivial

And only done on surface,

And for appearance

By elites,

Who were bent on holding to their human made power

And greed.

When Dr. King was imprisoned

In the Birmingham Jail

Did he too, wonder

Whether all of his protests

For equality

For justice

Against racism

Against violence

Towards freedom

Was in Vain?

(pause)

When we,

As children of God

As servants of the Most High God

Are not afraid,

To raise our voices

Singing

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

To lock arm in arm

Walking down streets

Over bridges

Into places of power,

Advocating for

Peace,

Striving for Hope

Demanding

That we care for,

The poor,

The disenfranchised

The widows

Elders

Unemployed

Formerly incarcerated

The forgotten,

KNOWING that sometimes

Our voices are cut off,

Our mobility ceased

Our causes drowned in seas of human greed

Do we think,

That our ministry

That our mission,

Is all in vain?

(pause)

I sound like a broken record, right

But there is BROKENNESS in this world

When humanity gets in the way,

Of God’s Grace,

And Goodness

And Love

And TRANSFORMATIVE POWER

There will always be disparity.

(pause)

But we must,

As people of faith

HEAR the GOOD NEWS

“Yet surely my cause is with the LORD,

And my reward with my GOD”

HEAR the GOOD NEWS!

The Lord lifted me out of the desolate pit

The Lord put a new song in my mouth,

A song of praise to our God”

When we PRAISE our CREATOR

When we profess and proclaim what God has done,

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit,

We infect those all around us!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is

The WAITING IS OVER!

JESUS CHRIST IS HERE,

To baptize us with the Holy Spirit-

Not just so we have the assurances,

That we will be with God ever after,

But that God indeed, does walk with US,

As we do God’s Work

Standing with US in our fight for justice

Loving US regardless

(pause)

I wanted to share a part of Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail,

That challenges us today,

But his voice, is no different from our brother John,

Or Paul

Or Martin Luther

Or Bonhoeffer

“Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But they went on with the conviction that they were a ‘colony of heaven’ and had to obey God rather than man…. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the archsupporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

Thanks Be to God.

Jesus Rocking and Disrupting…

 

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

We sacrifice for the world,

Better positions,

Better status

But in the end,

Those always fail us.

The only sacrifice,

Which sets us free,

Which gives us life,

Is the One who took up the Cross,

And Liberated all,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

(talk about how Facebook’s algorithm for remembering our memories, and our posts for the past couple of years, sometimes has a funny way of reminding us, why we are called and what we are called to. Last year, this time, the world seemed to be riveted, shamed and shocked at the plight of a Syrian family, and the little boy that washed up on the sandy shores, where he should have been playing in the sand, instead of laying there, lifeless. Suddenly, regardless of what you thought about Syria, its people, its politics, its perceived threat-this should have been a reminder that this child represented not the principalities and powers, but the people locked unfortunately in the ugliness of war and greed, held hostage by those who were more concerned with self-interests, instead of the foolishness of living not for oneself, but for all. So many innocent people, whose only concern is the self-sacrifice they do on a constant basis, such as you and I, to provide a safe space for their families to live and grow and work to sustain them, so many people, wasted, should have finally been this collective wake up call for people of faith, to demand, to question, to pressure to do something for these, our neighbors. And churches did begin to pledge to open up their doors and homes, whole communities and even cities here began to say, “we have room!” and yet there were people, who wear the banner of Christianity but their actions are a far cry and reflection of who Jesus Christ was is, and calls us to be. Compassion, yes was and is, a part of Christ, but many of us lack it because of the broad brush we have been conditioned and trained to paint people. We assume that the reason they are in the situation they are thrust is because of some sin they have committed that is unforgivable. The Palestine people because of their heritage; the Syrians because of their culture, Muslims because how they connect and what name they call God-which is the same Creator we serve, by the way; People of Mexican descent because of home grown chaos, the undocumented, because they are attempting to be sneaky and get over the government by not paying their dues, all the while, there are yet, powerful others who continue to pilfer resources that never reach the people who (word/line). Empathy, beloved and I said this before, is lacking among the faithful and the questioning.)

So,

What chain that is would around your feet,

Trips and keeps you

From following Jesus completely?

(pause)

That’s a tough question,

And our answers do not flow as easily,

And we hesitate to identify

Our burden

(pause)

I’ve experienced an exercise,

Most often in seminary settings,

Where the large crowd of participants,

(….were asked to line up and the questions were read, anything from if we had attended private school, if our parents had been able to afford to give us a car, to whether we had ever been followed in a grocery/department store based on our age, race, gender status and the list went on. At the end, when we looked around the room, there was a great divide-many who had great privilege were way in the front, and many who had none in the back. What made this exercise different, were we were asked to hold hands, and as each question was asked, if we experienced anything negative, we had to step back and anything positive step forward. As we went through the exercise, we tried to hold onto each other’s hands, but soon lost one another, leaving folks behind. That part shook people, and left some fatigued-because although some of us had privilege, we were still left behind. There was almost this-silence at who was far ahead and who was left behind. One participant stated that he experienced the guilty pleasure, of having had access to all of these things, and at the same time mindful that many people he would consider friends did not. But also he was honest that he was afraid to give up the access he had.)

So,

What are we willing to give up

Knowing that the Creator,

Regardless of how life falls,

Will still cradles us?

(pause)

Sacrificing anything,

Any perk that we have access to,

Is one of the hardest things we experience as humanity,

This is what we are told we must do in order to survive!

It’s no wonder when I am walking in downtown Chicago,

And I pass by the faces of native Chicagoans

That sometimes there is the suffering creased solidly there

That they have made some choices they did not want to,

But had to,

So that they could have access to a safe environment to live in

For themselves

For their children

In turn have access to resources both educational and environmental

So that they could be counted as essential and vital and important,

So they would not be faced with isolation and prejudice

Life is harsh enough!

But what do we sacrifice when we assimilate?

When we bend to the will of the Empire,

And in turn, the mechanisms of the Empire,

Fails and exploits humanity

(talk about during my senior year of seminary, and my participation in the Moral Monday movement. The concentration that year was on economic plight of those that Jesus bids us to invite to the table-those unemployed, those who are under housed, those who are fighting for a paltry existence and the budget issues affecting the state, to where social services were being all but cut. And so, the wedding banquet, the feast should not be cut off, and we gathered together as people of faith, and people of justice marched as one voice and one body. This particular time, participating in an act of civil disobedience both through his word and his physical presence, Bishop Miller would march with us, and pay the cost of discipleship, by being arrested. I am sure, that as the days and weeks passed, news of his arrest filtered out, there were those who would disagree with him, and who would be angry with him with what they thought was him, wasting his time.)

Are we simply satisfied,

With abstract thinking

And believing

What it means to be a good disciple?

Or are we willing

To allow the things that fester within us,

Die,

 “Whoever comes to me

and does not hate father and mother,

wife and children,

 brothers and sisters,

 yes,

and even life itself,

cannot be my disciple. 

Whoever does not carry the cross

and follow me

cannot be my disciple”

(pause)

Jesus, what?

Hate?

What about all of those commands,

Calling us to open up the Table,

To the least of these,

To those who cannot repay?

And now Jesus,

Hate?

But we must understand,

What Jesus means by this hyperbole language.

Think about when Jesus calls to others,

To follow Him,

And one man tells Jesus he will,

But first he must go and bid farewell to his family,

When Jesus calls us,

As Bonhoeffer says,

“Christ bids us come

And die.”

(pause)

Dying is frightening,

Dying means letting go,

Dying also means a new chapter,

Into the unknown

So when we let those things that have chained us,

Kept us glued to the (word/line) of this world

Experiencing FREEDOM,

Freedom to love regardless of how ridiculous it looks

Or how counter cultural it appears

Freedom to act,

Act towards justice,

Even when there is tension,

Even when you are labeled a troublemaker

Freedom to speak,

Speaking truth,

Of the accountability we should have towards one another

Of the forgiveness we should practice with one another

Freedom to stand,

Freedom to stand firmly for justice

And against (word/line)

Stand out from the shadow of the TRANSFORMED CROSS

YES

Even the CROSS WAS TRANSFORMED

THE MOMENT CHRIST GAVE UP HIS LIFE

The theology of the cross,

RADICAL REVELATION OF GOD,

That the Creator God stands with US, beloved

Through our suffering,

Our despair

Because of the abandonment of the Empire

And the brokenness of this world

As Dr. Cone states,

“God encounters US

In the human condition

As LIBERATOR

Of the poor,

The weak,”

The forgotten,

EMPOWERING THEM TO FIGHT

There’s nothing wrong with that!

We, as followers of Christ, should FIGHT

Fight because everyone should still be holding hands,

Be equal

REGARDLESS

Because of what Christ gave up,

SO COSTLY

And a price we will never pay,

NO MATTER WHAT we do in this life!

That is Good News.

So should we then,

Shed everything that keeps us from doing justice,

Practicing mercy and grace?

Shed everything that would keep us divided

Excluded

From one another,

Regardless?

(pause)

Following Christ, as His disciple

Means that we are called upon to act,

Differently,

Counter cultural

Weirdly

But

Lovingly,

Because of the Creator,

Who indeed forgives us.

(pause)

Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa of the Poor,

Offers this prayer, that could shed some light

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 

It was never between you and them anyway.

Thanks Be to God.

Transforming our broken world, doesn’t get a Sabbath

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Walking in the Living Light

Of the One who has conquered death

Is never ending

Never ceasing

Because there is always need for the Gospel

To be Proclaimed

As we pray without ceasing

And move and act and live out our call

Because we follow His footsteps,

Jesus Christ,

Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

What would it look like,

If our Sabbath time

And Serving moments

Were one in the same?

Because transforming the brokenness of this world

And our collective journeys through this life,

Seemingly does not get a moment of rest, or pause.

(share with the congregation that God’s Work Our Hands once more is coming up this year, and it falls on a day where we collectively as a nation remember the horrors of September 11th. We as Redeemer have already gotten ahead of the game by partnering with LSSI and doing our own GWOH-providing much needed supplies and backpacks for children who need to be equipped and prepared for their first day, week, months of school! How awesomely thrilled was LSSI that congregations like us participated! And as I thought to September, there was still this drive to do something for GWOH because being involved in ministry, doing for others is awesome. So your Pastor has a crazy idea-what if, what if we took pancakes over to our First Responders at the Fire/Police station here in town? Just hold that thought because, yes-we will have a pancake breakfast going on, and Rally Day, right? And we’ve already done the GWOH for this year, right?)

 

But perhaps it could be framed this way,

That carrying over a meal to those

Who put their lives on the line for those they are called to serve

Is not only own mission,

But a way to share the Good News,

That this place,

Regardless of the day or time,

That we are also here for them as well,

That we open our doors

Inviting them in

Even if all they have time to do,

Is to hear the sermon,

Pass the peace

Getting fed from the Table,

Because of the One,

Who was constantly doing for all of God’s Creation,

Jesus,

Even in the midst of Sabbath.

(pause)

Sabbath,

Can be seen as this moment of release

Release from the overwhelming and demanding presence

Of this broken world

Sabbath is a day of celebration,

Whether you are saint or sinner

Whether you are comfortable

Or you are struggling

Whether you are among the faithful

Or perhaps, lost and yearning for that faith.

Sabbath is a time to come together,

Sabbath can even be a teaching moment,

When it is both a time for rest,

And a time for actively living out the Gospel

(pause)

But there seems to be some disagreement among those gathered

In our Gospel this morning.

Have you noticed that Jesus goes against the laws quite frequently?

The status quo

Because see, there’s no Sabbath

From suffering,

From a painful

Even shameful existence.

I wonder how visible this nameless woman was

To those who kept the Sabbath

Or rather,

How important was her existence

To the community who she should have been a part of,

Instead of being kept apart,

Because somehow,

It was shameful.

(pause)

Shame, unfortunately

Has been used as a weapon

By institutions of religion

As a vehicle for control and suppression

So when this woman,

“with a spirit,

That had crippled her for 18 years”

Dares to make herself visible,

In the presence of Jesus

Jesus stops His teaching

And HEALS HER

REGARDLESS of her status,

Position

Belief!

And this moment of release from whatever gripped her,

Instead of joining in her praising God,

The leader points fingers,

Shaming her,

Shaming Jesus!

(pause)

It seems,

It was more important

That the Sabbath,

As required by the law,

Remain holy,

Free perhaps,

From the daily reminders

Of how screw up this world

And how horrible we can be to one another,

The cause and effect resting squarely on our shoulders

We have gotten away from what Sabbath means,

Because we have fallen away

From loving one another

From being in relationship with the Creator

This woman,

In our Gospel

Serves as a reminder

That there still is hopelessness

And pain,

That affects us, beloved

That affects our sisters and brothers in Christ

That she,

Like so many others

Are ignored

Because,

We just want a break

From seeing this heartache,

Can we get one day, Lord?

Especially when its insurmountable

And we have no idea how to handle it,

Or cure it.

We miss what it says,

“A woman with a spirit”

(pause)

How many times have we come across someone homeless?

Who is struggling with mental illness?

The commentaries elude to the fact,

That this woman’s ailments were due to a demonic possession-

We scoff at that now, right?

Easily modern medical science could attribute this to any muscular disease

Or osteoporosis

Bone cancer

And that she was probably suffering from dementia,

Or worse.

But this spirit?

Even now we still do not have a grasp on mental illness

And even today,

We whisper,

And blame the sufferer

With our own misconceptions of why

We avoid those who are unfortunately burdened with mental illness

Even though our society has refused to advance mental health,

That affects especially those who have served in our armed forces

Or who have swam through seas of domestic violence and abuse,

Or even,

Because life has been harsh,

And they are lost,

They have enveloped themselves into the darkness

With the help of drugs

We avoid those on the street corners,

Because we are afraid,

Because they will be begging for food

Rambling, wanting someone to hear and see them as a human being

Pleading, for release from the endless cycle of agony

And for a beginning towards healing

For someone to invite them into sacred and safe spaces

Crying, because they have no hope

They too,

Are possessed by a spirit

A spirit of emptiness

That has weighed so heavily upon their person,

That they too are gnarled,

Bent over

That whispers to them,

“No one wants you

You are not worthy

See, they shun you.”

Do we, beloved

Also hear those empty spirits,

When we are burdened by sins that we continue to carry

Until we too,

Are bent over.

(pause)

Evil,

Is not a concept

Evil,

Is a true opposition

And rebellion

Against the Creator God’s will

And purpose for us

For our lives

Evil preys upon us,

Dividing us from one another

Throwing caustic acid upon our souls,

Until we are blinded from seeing

God, Our Creator

Our Parent

That LOVE and Light in one another.

But the Good News is,

Jesus Christ,

Spoke to this woman’s shame,

And said simply

WITH A WORD

“You are set FREE

From your ailment”

Jesus,

Overcame this evil spirit within her

Pushing back the darkness

Telling this evil,

The demonic

That it has no claim upon US

PROCLAIMING

WE, BELOVED

WE,

Are set FREE

From our sins,

Our faults,

And suddenly

Just as this woman,

We can’t help it!

Every day is a day of thanksgiving!

Every day is an opportunity for service

That’s how I see it,

Because for me, beloved

This is what God has given me.

When I was on the brink of walking away

Because how shameful Christianity had been spoon fed into me

By those who did not come with a loving spirit

Who used the laws, twisting them

So that people would conform to their standards,

That people would be ashamed of who they were

Or shamed that they did not have enough faith

God whispered to them,

God whispered to me

God whispers to us,

“YOU, beloved

US, beloved

We are FREE

From our sins!”

The darkness is absolved

Every day is a new day in God’s eyes,

And so,

We can’t help ourselves, right?

I can’t!

But, as Pastor

I cannot do this important work,

Without YOU

As people of Faith,

We are called to do this ministry together!

(pause)

So,

Whose coming with me

To take breakfast of 9/11

As we do God’s Work,

With our Hands?

(pause)

Let’s share a little Sabbath joy,

With our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Thanks Be to God.

The Cosmic Understanding of Jesus

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Hope begins in the darkness

And we, beloved

Are that hope,

Because of our identity in the One

Who devastated the concept of death,

As the end,

And opened to us

Eternal Life,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

 

This particular scripture,

In Colossians

Has enlightened me,

Intrigued me

And challenged me,

As a follower of Jesus Christ.

Because my personal relationship

And understanding of Christ,

Is that Jesus is everywhere

And immersed in everything;

He came,

He Lives!

He breathed

And

He died for all

That,

Is the Radical Hospitality,

Compassion

And Good News

That needs to be professed,

Every waking minute

Along this life’s journey.

(pause)

Because Jesus Christ,

Is the Great I AM

We have the freedom

To follow Him

To sit at His Feet

To allow His Glory

His Love

To Heal us

(pause)

Because of that Freedom,

We are no longer bound

By restrictive regulations

That in order to receive salvation

And God’s Graces

We must follow A+B which will equal C

We no longer are required

To go through strict rituals

To please God

Or set out an elaborate meal

To satisfy God

Martha was in the midst of that

In our Gospel this morning,

And complained about lazy Mary

Who was being still.

And Jesus tells Martha,

She is worried about the wrong things,

Because all that Jesus wants

All God our Creator desires

Is relationship with us

Is a simple meal with us,

Breaking bread.

And this is what God wants for us,

The relationship to have with our neighbors,

Because the only thing that matters

Is our identity in and with Christ.

But sometimes this is the effect,

When you have been conditioned

Living in the shadow

Of the empire.

(pause)

(Tell the congregation about the theological battle that I found myself immersed in during my Seminary academic journey which centered around this particular text of Colossians. I was taking a course called ironically Prophetic Preaching, with two professors one of which happens to be the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III who is the pastor of Trinity UCC. This was a course taught by SCUPE, which is an small, urban seminary dedicated to theological education focused on the urban environment, especially for People of Color. The course was set over a couple of weekends and I had heard rave reviews from many of my classmates before me who had taken the course. The first weekend, and that first hour, one of the other professors started class out with devotions before we delved into the academic-and he picked this particular text. )

 

“For in Him all things were created

Things in heaven and on earth

Visible and invisible

Whether thrones or powers or rules or authorities

ALL THINGS have been created through Him

He is before all things

And in Him all things hold together

And through Him to reconcile to Himself

All things

Whether things on earth

Or things in heaven…”

Through the Cross

(pause)

Jesus comes from the Creator God

For us all.

To understand the implications of this,

Was radical

Because the professor pointed out,

What the text didn’t say

It doesn’t say that

Jesus only came for the Tribe of Israel

Or for everyone who had signed up to follow Jesus

This,

This is the cosmic understanding

Of who Jesus Christ is!

Remember throughout this sacred text,

Jesus healed everyone

Who was broken

Who was in need

He didn’t ask about their allegiance

Or how many times they had been to temple

Or whether they had followed the purity laws

Or what their bloodline was

HE JUST DID WHATEVER WAS NEEDED

Because THAT IS WHAT GOD WANTED

God wanted,

Wants

God’s Beloved Children

To be as ONE.

And that because of Jesus,

The Gospel is proclaimed

And all of Creation hears that Goof News

Creation itself is in tune with the Creator,

We as humanity,

Sometimes fail

Seeing this clearly before our faces.

(pause)

This,

This is radical Good News

And something we as people of Faith

Might struggle with

For in HIM

ALL THINGS

Were Created,

Not Christians

Not just Lutherans

BUT ALL-

And that can shake up one’s faith

“What is the point then,

Of all this

Of this work we do

What we profess

If God’s Grace

Is not exclusive?”

(pause)

(Continue stating that this is where I found myself in the midst of this theological argument between many of us who had heard about God’s radical grace, and many of us who had a different and limited understanding, who had not heard about God’s Grace but only knew of God as a strict, unforgiving ruler. Suddenly our collective identity that we had walked into that classroom, as beloved sisters and brothers in Christ was broken, broken by accusations that some of us in the room, our denominations were teaching us falsehoods, simply because we clung to Grace, and that God’s Grace was freely for all; that forgiveness was overflowing and that we were not perfect but both saint and sinners)

(pause)

 

But this,

This text,

Is GOOD NEWS both then,

And now.

Our favorite brother in Christ

Paul,

Was trying to unite everyone

In this cosmic understanding

Because of this message of Jesus Christ,

That God Loves US

Regardless,

And in turn,

We should love our neighbors

Known

And

Unknown

That these ancient people in Colossae

Should be identified

By

And Because

Of their Bond

And Baptism

And Brokenness

And Renewal

In Jesus Christ

And should Live out this Call

To Love!

That identity

Took precedence

Over what had been forced upon,

And demeaned by,

The Roman Empire

Rome,

As occupier

As ruler

Attempted to subjugate these people

Who clung to the One,

Who had the power

Who has the power

To Free ALL

By labeling them,

Based on their socio-economic

Political

Military

Status.

The emperor stated he was god

As if life came

Was created

Ebbed and flowed from his,

Human

Fragile

Hands.

(pause)

It should not be surprising to us,

That Paul had the audacity

To offer words of righteousness

And of Sedition

Because Paul was going against the Empire

Hope

Begins

In the

Darkness

In that shadow of the empire

Paul declares that Jesus Christ,

Not Caesar

Is the image

Of God

That not this mighty

And very human

Empire

Had power

But that Jesus Christ alone,

Came before anything,

That Jesus was first

Before any thrones

Or rulers

Or earthly powers

(pause)

Paul is not afraid to say,

That because of Jesus Christ,

The Son of the Living God

All things were created

That we,

As humanity,

As God’s beloved people

We,

Belong

To

God

We

Are

Not Slaves

Of any human kingdom

We

Know

And

Confess

That Redemption

That Resurrection

Is

For

All!

(pause)

In the face

Of cruelty

In the face

Of chaos

In the face

Of destruction

Despair

Disorder

That separates us

In the face

Of the empire of this world

That tries to divide us

Because of the beauty

And Uniqueness

That the Creator has given to each of us

The Good News is,

We must see one another

As the reflection of Christ

We must recognize one another

Immersed in our identity in Christ

We must love one another

Regardless of who we are

Because Christ, Our Savior

Commands us

Teaches us

And

Loves

US!

Thanks Be to God.

 

What’s in a Name? #decolonizeGod’sName

An article that was just shared on the ELCA Facebook page, highlighted a shocking event where the PCUSA dared to participate in a prayer to God….simply because they spoke the name of God as..

Allah

When did we have copyright on what God’s Name should be?

I’m not understanding why we get all worked up when we use all of the expressions for God

I am a part of this movement to #decolonizeAllTheThings, specifically around religion and especially as..

#decolonizeLutheranism

Ase,

Ameen

Peace Be Upon You

Blessed Be.

 

WIND,FIRE,NOISE….silence

The Holy Spirit

Is dismantling

The norm

Disrupting

The silence

everywhere,

And

She

The Holy Spirit,

Refuses

To Stop

(pause)

She

Has grabbed the attention

Of people of Faith

Of people of God

Of people in this world

Shaking us awake

Because,

Unfortunately

We’ve been far too removed

From what the Risen Christ

Left for us

(pause)

We’ve somehow forgotten

That Loving one another

Making disciples

Building community

Sharing our story

Is not

A one day,

One hour a week

Task.

(pause)

The Holy Spirit is intruding

And downright rude

Invading our personal space

And without Her,

Ministry,

Left up to our own devices

Would not happen.

(pause)

Without Her,

Caring for the marginalized

The impoverished

The forgotten

That work,

Would go undone.

(pause)

Without Her,

Our voices

To cry out for the hurting

To demand peace and mercy for the fallen

To plead for grace and love for the offender

Would be non-existent

(pause)

Can you remember

An experience

When the Holy Spirit

Made you feel uneasy,

Bothersome,

Stoked those fires that dwell within all of us

Fire shut up in our bones

Until we were agitated

To do,

To say

Something!

(pause)

The other day, as I was coming back into the city

We passed the same group of homeless people

Right off of the Dan Ryan expressway

Sometimes,

I do the right thing,

I dig into my pocket

I have NO clue what they will do with the money,

But that’s none of my business

Other days, (pause)

I confess I am a jerk

I pass right by them

I act like they don’t exist

I am stuck in my own worries,

Concerns

But yesterday, when we came to the stop light,

And I listened to the Holy Spirit

Because she nags

(pause)

And my husband pointed to the bag of donuts we had

We hadn’t touched

Still fresh,

And my husband asked him if he’d like a donut

And there was a brief conversation

Where we shared a laugh with him

And the Holy Spirit shook me

“NOW, do you understand?”

That conversation,

She is NOT going to let that subside

And so what else can I do?

And how can I be more intentional

(pause)

What is your perception

Of the Holy Spirit?

This image of this Advocate,

But the Advocate,

The Holy Spirit

Will teach you these things

And will remind you..”

(pause)

Is this Advocate that Jesus speaks of,

Just an advocate for us alone?

That when we fail,

When we sin

When we don’t do what we are called to do,

Because we are stubborn

Or hard-headed

Is this an Advocate so that we stay on God’s good side?

(pause)

This vision in Acts-

So often we see the depiction

Of people gathered in a room,

With little flames over their heads

Surprised that for once

Captured by the power of the Holy Spirit

They had to be attentive to one another

They were witnesses to hearing clearly,

In different ways of expressing

The Goodness of God’s Love

Through diverse tongues

Probably shocking,

Because before,

Because we, as humanity

Cling to misconceptions

Wrong, unclear information

Instead of realizing,

That the commandment of Jesus Christ

Of loving one another,

As the Creator loves us

Echoes

From every corner-

(pause)

“Hurt not others

with that which pains yourself.”

(pause)

“One should always treat others

as they themselves wish to be treated”

(pause)

“None of you has faith

until he loves for his brother

or his neighbor what he loves for himself.”

(pause)

“Respect for all life is the foundation.”

(pause)

“What is hateful to you,

do not to your fellow man.

This is the law: all the rest is commentary.”

(pause)

Sometimes,

Just as those gathered in that room

In Acts this morning,

We as people of faith gather on the inside

Hiding behind walls and windows

Worrying about why,

People on the outside,

Pass By

Worrying if,

If this place,

Our community

Our faith,

Will survive

Will there a future

Where our children

Can experience the same love

That we have

Here.

(pause)

We worry about if we are keeping up traditions

Worrying about economics

Worry about whether five years from now,

There will be a Redeemer

Worried about when Jesus will come

Worried about when Jesus will come and fix everything.

(pause)

And Suddenly,

THERE IS WIND

FIRE

NOISE

SILENCE

(pause)

Suddenly,

They can’t breathe

They’re souls are enflamed

They all cry out MERCY

In so many beautiful sounds

And suddenly,

They can’t contain themselves

AND THEY RUN OUT

PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS!! (pause)

Because SHE,

The Holy Spirit

UNLEASHES HERSELF

PUSHING THEM OFF THAT COMFORTABLE CLIFF

Into the unknown

OUT into those places

Where all they can do,

Is Testify

To Care

To Teach

To Preach

To SERVE

TO LOVE

(pause)

So,

The bad news is,

Jesus

Nor the Holy Spirit

Comes to fix anything,

So we can be comfortable

And mute

And individualized

(pause)

The Good News is,

Jesus loves us,

And send to us

The Holy Spirit

Who causes a whole nother problem

The Holy Spirit comes

To agitate us deep within

That strength,

That courage,

That compassion

So that we can’t help

BUT DO

BUT SHARE OUR TESTIMONY

Because whether we realize or not

THAT,

Our faith,

Can save a life,

Can inspire someone

Can give someone a sense of HOPE!

How is God AGITATING YOU

To be a witness?

To teach others about the Goodness of God

To be actively in getting immersed in the work we are called to do?

Do you realize,

When Gail shares her love of faith,

And love of this place

With the people she volunteers in the little thrift store

THAT,

That is the Holy Spirit in action

(pause)

When Don has absolutely no problem

Greeting and goading folks into joining Redeemer

Because of his DEEP love for this place,

And his faith-

THAT

That, is the Holy Spirit at work.

When I go,

Make a nuisance of myself

Telling folks about the wonderful people of Redeemer

How the Holy Spirit dwells here

And how we will roll up our sleeves,

We will do

THAT,

That is the Holy Spirit!

(pause)

Thanks Be to God

“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

Holy Saturday poetry (influenced by the untitled)

What does Easter mean to you?

Does it mean that we can finally rest from our labors?

That we celebrate the rising of the Son-

And Monday morning we return doing the same…

Wallowing in..

Dressing the same

Talking the same…

Because we think we saved?

Just because Jesus died,

Don’t mean we can act a fool

Or does this Easter Journey

Find our souls crying out for JOY

Find us caught up in the SPIRIT at the empty tomb

Shouting to the darkness

That its defeated

That there is HOPE

And Jesus ain’t left us

Forgotten us

Forsaken us

But what remains with us

Is HIS Commandment

To LOVE one another

Even when we can’t stand each other

Even when we have to get in one another’s faces

Calling one another out on the injustice

The bullshit

The racism

The violence

The evil

That we do

Cause we aint perfect

But that’s what the horizon where the veil remains

Beyond that-there is PEACE

Right now,

We got GRACE

Here

Tell the devil to walk the %^(^( on

Into the abyss

Because the CROSS casts a Resurrection Shadow

Basking in the LIGHT

The Blinding LIGHT

OF the

I AM

Love is a Beautiful Thing: Maundy Thursday Sermon

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Our lives seem as fleeting

But the Love we share,

The Love we give

The Love that we proclaim

Because of Jesus

Will live on

And on.

Amen.

 (pause)

This night,

This moment

Is all about new commandments

This is what Maundy in Latin means.

This is a time for penitence

For sharing a meal together as community

For compassion towards one another

But,

This act of baring our vulnerable selves

Uncovering an ordinary part of us,

Whether encased in leather or canvas

Our feet,

Which have carried us up stairs

Across store aisles

Down airport corridors

And to the Table,

Where we are Fed

(pause)

Or our hands,

Sometimes protectively covered in suede and cotton

Working on housework and homework

Digging in gardens

Receiving birthday gifts

And accepting Bread

(pause)

Our feet and hands,

To be washed

Here,

Of all places

Always leaves us squeamish, right?

See, it’s different when we do this for children

Washing little fingers covered in yogurt and in paint

Washing little toes stuck in mud and in dirt

Helping for little ones in an act of necessity and of love

But this foot washing here in the Gospel,

Is an act of service!

Is an act of love!

(pause)

How many of us can recount

Of how we have tended to who have been sick in hospitals

How we’ve sponge-washed

Brushed hair

Anything to make our loved one

Feel as human as they were able?

How many of us cared for those

Who through debilitating diseases

Regardless of age

Who could not do for themselves?

How many of us have washed their fragile bodies

Nursed them ourselves so that they could continue to breathe, to live

With dignity?

(pause)

Perhaps then, it is natural

The nervousness

The hesitancy

The embarrassment

Uncovering our feet

Extending our hands

To have gentle water caress over

Sometimes I am under the impression,

That we as children of God,

Think this last act of community

That Jesus did for those He loved,

Was only a one time occurrence

A onetime obligation

(pause)

Sometimes I also am painfully aware

That Maundy Thursday services,

Are worrisome

Almost upsetting

For our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ

Because of unworthiness that burdens,

burrows in their souls

(pause)

How besides himself was Judas surely at that moment!

Knowing that Jesus would wash his feet,

Feet that would run,

To fetch,

To lead those

Who would arrest, who would beat, who would maim Jesus.

By washing his feet, was Jesus acknowledging his sin?

And forgiving him,

As Jesus forgives us through Water and the Word?

(pause)

Sometimes I am aware,

There are those who will never approach the Table,

To be Fed,

Or the chair,

So their feet and hands can be washed

Because they feel as if we only see them

Only acknowledge them by their sins

Mary Magdalene,

A follower of Jesus,

When Jesus cast out seven demons out from her

She was a disciple,

She had to be present that night

Did Jesus dare to touch her feet,

A woman?

Feet that tirelessly followed Jesus,

Through dusty roads,

To that ominous cross

To that foreboding tomb

What did it mean for Jesus to also include her in that sacred moment?

(pause)

Peter said to him,

“You will never wash my feet.”

 Jesus answered,

“Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Jesus’s response to Peter seems harsh

Peter was not focused and listening

Not understanding, as we sometimes fail to understand

Is that this is how Jesus Christ,

The Son of God

The Messiah

Cares and loves His Own!

These disciples who were gathered,

And us, beloved

We who are gathered in this sacred space

(pause)

Nothing,

NOTHING

Can separate us from God

From Jesus Christ

From the Holy Spirit

This action

Of washing His disciples feet

Is the response to the betrayal of this broken world

A world which washed its own hands,

A sign of removing itself,

A callous sign of being done with relationships,

That those who clung to the false power of the world

Refusing to invest itself in one another

(pause)

This is Jesus response to the rejection of this world, now

Through racism, classism, discrimination or just plain hatred

How many feet have been washed and cared for,

Worn from marches, from walking,

Carrying the message of the Gospel

Into the streets

Where it’s often muted

How many hands have had to be soothed,

From passing our blankets, sharing food, sharing peace

With those who the world tosses away?

How many hands and feet were washed this week, this month:

After crawling, running from the ruins in Brussels

Running away from sacred places violated with bombs in Nigeria

Fleeing the darkness that descended on a beach in the Ivory Coast

(pause)

This,

This act of washing other’s feet

is Jesus’s overflowing,

Everlasting LOVE

Through ACTION

This is what Jesus calls us to do

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

(pause)

How do you love?

How have you shared love this week?

How have you chosen to love?

(pause)

When has it been difficult to Love,

Difficult to forgive,

Easier to remain angry,

Hurt?

(pause)

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”

The Good News of Jesus Christ is

Jesus comes and washes us,

Washes the feet that will run and proclaim

Christ has risen

Jesus comes and washes our feet,

Even when we run away

Abandon Jesus

Through this loving act of baptism,

Jesus blesses all of us even when we throw away our relationship with God

Jesus leaves us with the command

To love one another

Jesus’s act of service to us,

Through love

Doesn’t exclude anyone

Even when their sins seem so much greater than our own.

(inviting the congregation to partake in this sacred act as they are called)

Thanks Be to God