Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Cry for Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas, Orlando and for Our Church

It was 10:30 pm and I was waiting to cross the street from the seminary campus to the family housing.  I had worked the closing shift in the seminary library and everyone else had headed home when the library closed at 10.  All the businesses on Main Street were closed, except for the Kroger two blocks down and across the creek that separated the safe suburb of Bexley from East Columbus with is high rates of drug deals, crime, and murder..   I was alone, waiting for the ‘walk’ signal.  Then I saw two young black men in hoodies walking up from the Kroger on the other side of the street.

I hated the feeling I got in my gut. I looked around - no one was coming to join me at the light.  I was completely alone.  I started to make a mental inventory - I had no cash, nothing of value, good.  Then I remembered I was carrying my laptop in my backpack.  What would I do without my laptop - all my notes and my papers were on it..   I hated myself for thinking such things. I’m a good person. I’m not racist, not prejudiced, I told myself.  Yet, I see two black men on the street at night and my mind immediately goes there.  I wondered if they were two white men, would I be having the same internal conversation?

This is a safe community, I reassured myself.  I let the kids walk to their friends houses all the time.   Besides, maybe they will be past the corner by the time the light changes and I cross the street.

No luck - the light changed, and I was going to have to walk right past them.  Our apartment was the closest to the corner and my husband was some, so maybe he would hear me if I screamed loud enough.  Stop it!  I told myself - you’re better than this.  

The men were close enough now that I could hear them talking - in Swahili.  I relaxed.  Just two international students from the college across the other street from the seminary. Whew!  I was safe. We smiled in greeting and went on our ways.

But I kept thinking about the encounter, ashamed of my immediate fear.  

Aw Pastor, you might want to say.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  That was a reasonable response.  You have to be concerned for your own safety.

Don’t say it.  I don’t want to be reasonable.  I don’t want to be safe.

I don’t want to be consoled.

I want to be outraged.

I want to rail against a world that says it’s ok to mock and belittle, fear and hate someone because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion their gender, their sexual orientation or ability levels.

I want to lament with God over the pain she must surely
feel as she watches her warring children.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy..

I want to lament with God as God weeps as a man is killed when being arrested for selling CD’s, a man is shot in a routine traffic stop, police officers are targeted and five lose their lives protecting an otherwise peaceful protest.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy..

I want to lament with God as God weeps over the death of a man who struggled with his sexual orientation and learned to hate himself so much that he opened fired up a gathering place of people like him. I want to lament with God over the 49 deaths he caused. My heart breaks with God's when a pastor - a pastor - can say that more should have died, because anyone with a different sexual orientation or gender identity outside of God’s love.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

I want to lament with God as God weeps over the human pain and suffering of refugees fleeing a murderous invasion of their towns, escaping with their lives to live in squalor can be ignored and discounted because those refugees who are fleeing from the same murderous group we fear just. Might. Be. harboring. One. of. Them.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

I want to lament with God as God weeps over as walls of hatred and fences of fear say that it’s all the fault of those people pouring over our borders.  If they just went back where they belong, everything would be ok.  After all, everyone knows that Latinos and Latinas are just drug dealers and users, thieves, murderers, and rapists.  

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

I want to lament with God as God weeps when all Muslims are lumped together and branded as terrorists, ignoring their pain as their religion is misused as justification for horrendous acts committed by a small group.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

I want to lament with God as God weeps over a culture is so steeped in hate and privilege that a young man baptized and raised in our house could sit through a bible study and be welcomed and prayed for and then calmly open fire on his African American hosts in hopes of starting a race war.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

I want to lament with God as God weeps when God’s children see with eyes of fear, as I saw with eyes of fear the threat in two black youth walking down the street instead of seeing the image of God in them.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

This is the malady the church suffers from.  This is what has brought us to this place where fear and hate and systemic sin have so corrupted our political process, our economy, our culture, our very ways of communicating with and relating to each other, to the point that we post our “thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy” and in less than 30 seconds our thoughts have turned to the cute kitten video we share next.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

I want to lament with God.  I don’t want to be consoled.  I have not been called to be consoled.

Here is our call:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:16-18)

We have been called to a ministry of reconciliation.

We regard now one from a human point of view.
I'm not sure that Paul had in mind his admonition to the Galatians  - neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female when he wrote these words.  But since the Orlando shootings, these words has been going through my mind like a mantra.  

Or maybe an accusation:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view

You know I never planned on actually preaching this sermon.  I wrote it for you, but I wrote it for class. This was my pain and grief and and confession after the Orlando shootings. I thought at best, I would post this sermon in my blog.  I was so sure that by the time July 31 rolled around - when this passage in Paul was scheduled to be read - we would have moved on.  But I preached this sermon for the first time in a classroom just 1 ½ miles from the place where Philando Castile was shot.

But the mantra keeps ringing in my head.  And today, July 10th, just four Sundays after Orlando, blood still flows in our nation’s streets.

The day after the Orlando shootings, one of our modern day prophets, Steven Colbert, began his monologue by saying:

“Naturally, we each ask ourselves what can you possible say in the face of this horror,” he said. “Then sadly you realize you know what to say because it’s been said too many times before.... It’s as if there’s a national script that we have learned. And I think by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time. With nothing changing. Except for the loved ones and the families of the victims for whom nothing will ever be the same.”

Nothing changes.  
Except for the families of the victims.

Except....
We don’t take direction from the national script!.  

We read from God’s script and it says”

From now on,
we regard no one from a human point of view;
even though we once knew Christ
from a human point of view,
we know him no longer in that way.
So if anyone is in Christ,
there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away;
see,
everything
has
become
new!  
All this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;

We regard no one from a human point of view.  

We read from God’s script and it says
  • Everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made
  • Everyone is made a little lower than the angels
  • Everyone is created in the image of God
  • Everyone is a beloved child of God

And we who are heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ Jesus
  • Whom God sent not to condemn this world that God so loves, but to bring life and reconciliation.
  • Must stand up and say, have to stand up and say:
From now on,
therefore,
we regard
no one
from a human point of view.

For as long as we see through human eyes,
as long as we see “other”,
as long as we are not willing to step out of our comfortable bubble and take a risk,
we cannot serve as ambassadors of Christ.

I don’t want to be consoled.  Or reasonable.  Or safe.

I want to be that new creation!  I want to be reconciled to God and an ambassador of reconciliation.

I confess my own sin, my own complicity, all the times I turned my eyes away - I invite you to pray with me:

O God my eyes are still too human - I want to see with your eyes but can't.  I long to be the new creation you have made me in Christ.
I’m not truly reconciled until I have those eyes.  Oh -  I know I am reconciled to you - but my eyes still see from a human point of view.  My eyes keep me from seeing you in the other.  My eyes keep me from seeing people you deeply love and desperately want to be reconciled with.  
Heal my broken eyes and hardness of heart.  Give me new eye, your eyes.  Soften my heart till it bleeds with your love and compassion.  Reconcile me to you and to my brothers and sisters of all colors, creeds, ethnicities, orientation.  Make me your new creation in Christ.   Amen.

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