The video of this sermon being preached appears at the bottom of the post.
This morning’s reading from the gospel according to Luke, his account of the ministry of John the Baptist and remarkably brief telling of the baptism of Jesus, starts with a litany of governmental leaders. Luke tells us who all the powerful people are in the Roman world and in the regions that will be important in Jesus’ ministry – Judea, and Galilee, and more. He mentions by name not only the governmental leaders of the leaders of the Jewish community who work in some relationship with the governmental leaders, a relationship that will become important to remember several years later when all of these empire leaders conspire to put Jesus to death.
Luke starts with this time stamp and this recognition of the “powers and principalities,” but then very quickly pivots and in the same sentence says the word of God came not to these, but to John, the son of Zechariah, who was in the wilderness. The word of God, Luke is telling us, the words that John delivered, the ministry he was about, is for and among the people of God. John’s words that we heard, and will hear more about, are kind of harsh, right? They do not tiptoe around and make the people feel good. They do not allow the people who hear them simply to cast judgement on the evil empire or those corrupt rulers in Rome (or liars in Washington) and absolve themselves from any guilt. They confront us, and they call us to listen up and pay attention. This repentance stuff starts at home.
The blessing of Zoom worship (there are one or two) is that it is easier to capture a video of just a sermon. This morning I stepped into the virtual pulpit (sat at my kitchen table in front of my laptop) to preach about racism and white privilege and lament and protest and to imagine what the Spirit is telling us our congregation’s role is in this movement of anti-racism justice. When I edit up my manuscript I’ll put it here as well. The reading of scripture (Lamentations 1:8-22; 2:10-22) is about half the video. I just didn’t want to make any cuts. #BlackLivesMatter
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
The ruins of Corinth, by Romanus_too, shared on Flickr, used with permission via Creative Commons License
I wonder how Paul found out about Aquila and Priscilla. Were they the friends of a neighbor he used to pass on his walk down the street to the market every week back in Tarsus? Were they the Hebrew school classmates of his sister’s husband with whom he had recently connected when they ran into each other unexpectedly in Athens? Continue reading
There’s a picture circulating around social media. Whether it’s a real picture of a church sign by the roadside or one that’s been edited, I don’t know, but it sure reads true. It says, “This is the lentiest Lent that ever lented.” Continue reading
I wonder if Jesus would be the kind of person who googles himself. I mean, if this story were taking place today, of course. I mean, instead of asking his disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” I wonder if today he would have just popped open his laptop, pulled up a browser, and typed his name in the search bar to see what showed up, to see who the people say that he is.
I’m raising the white flag. I can’t write tonight. It’s late and my eyes are closing on me while I’m trying. My sentences aren’t making a whole lot of sense. I haven’t had downtime today to process a day marked by dramatic spiritual and emotional whiplash for me.
My quick thoughts before I sleep –
This started as a Facebook post, but it kept going and going. So now it’s a blog post on a blog I haven’t touched in over a year. Don’t think this means I’ll touch it again after this trip. 🙂 This sounds sort of strange, but I really don’t like writing much. Anyway…
My (not so) quick run down on my day in DC, a trip I’m on in order to go to the National Prayer Breakfast tomorrow morning as the guest of my congresswoman, Rep. Lauren Underwood:
It is impossible, and maybe even irresponsible, to read this story on this Sunday, after the conversation that has been going on nationally this week and for some months, and not take some time to acknowledge the painful reality of sexual violence and the injustices that can occur when there is an imbalance of power between two people.
In Joseph’s story the genders are likely the reverse of what we typically hear about in reports of assault, but again, the power imbalance is recognizable. A majority person with social, racial, and economic privilege, in this case an Egyptian woman, the wife of the captain of the guard, Potiphar, in our context more often a man with similar privilege, attempts to take what they believe they have ownership of or access to, the body and agency of a minority person, in this case an enslaved Israelite man, while in our context it is most often a woman or a person who is a part of a racial or sexual minority.
The situation, sadly Scripture tells us, is not new. And I wish, I so desperately wish this story, or really any story in the Bible spent a lot more time declaring what I am sure we all agree on – – This is wrong. This is sinful. This is contrary to anything God desires for humanity. Even when the story turns out good in the end, it is not because God is using assault to prove a point. And I wish, I so desperately wish I didn’t have to say that in 2018, but I do because there are people out there who will say the exact opposite – that God will put someone through a sexual assault to make them stronger, make them better able to help others, or even to punish them. But that is false, and that is the kind of dangerous faith-based talk that keeps some people from speaking up sooner.
If there is anyone in this room that has been made to think that about the violence inflicted upon them, hear me now. That is false. God’s love does not work that way. God’s love believes you. God’s love sees you. God’s love weeps with you. And God’s love desires and works for your healing and wholeness. There is nothing more sure to me than this. You are not at fault, and if you ever need a place to share your experience of what makes you able say “me too” I will listen. Me too.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) published a new version of our Book of Common Worship, an optional resource many pastors use to plan services for the life of the church. When our copies arrived in the office, my colleague, Melinda, and I ripped off the plastic and started thumbing through the 1,100+ page book checking out our favorite services and looking for new additions. The marriage liturgy has been updated to take into account the couples may be of the same sex. Several liturgies are now available in both English and Spanish. New services were added to provide guidance for special occasions like services for justice and peace, ecumenical gatherings, or dedications of new buildings. Some of the language has been updated so that it can be spoken more fluidly. Overall, I love the new book because it has maintained the core of our traditions and theology while being open to the newness of the Spirit.
As I went to put the new copy on my desk near my computer, I noticed my original Book of Common Worship. The original book was published in 1993, but I bought mine in 1999 when I started seminary. The hard cover started to rip away from the binding a couple of months ago. The ribbon bookmarks are all crinkled because someone tied them in knots when the book spent a couple of months out of my possession after I left it behind at my brother-in-law’s wedding. When I thumbed through those pages I saw the penciled in names of couples I have married, saints I have buried, youth I have confirmed, and babies I have baptized. There are juice stains on the communion pages and crumbs in the crack. The baptism pages are wrinkled from the overflowing drops of grace that have been sprinkled on the pages. I had no idea this one book was carrying so many memories of so many people who have been dear to me for the past nineteen years, three years of seminary and internships, and sixteen years of ministry.
I’ll move the old book to a shelf in the office; I won’t let go of it just yet. Who am I kidding? I probably won’t get rid of it ever. The new one will make its debut in worship in the coming weeks, something people probably never would have noticed if I hadn’t just announced it here. And throughout this summer and into the fall I’ll probably start staining the pages with grape juice, scribbling names in the margins, and dousing the pages with water from the font. I’m looking forward to that, praying new prayers and offering ancient blessings, making new memories as I worship with the people of God.
I’m not usually one who takes on New Year’s Resolutions for any number of the usual reasons related to them not lasting passed week 2. I’m giving it a shot this year, though. I used to be an avid reader but that has just fallen off for me in the last decade or so. Such an embarrassing thing to admit. Anyway, I want to get back into books, and as much or more than that I want to be more intentional about reading the works of people of color.
My resolution, therefore, is to read at least one book each month, fiction or non-fiction, for work or for pleasure, written by a person of color. My line up for the first few months:
I haven’t picked titles for the rest of the year so that I can pick up recommendations along the way. I’m going to need some more fiction, and there is a need for some LGBTQ+ voices in my list, so I’d love your input there in particular.
Happy New Year!
photo credit: El s@lmón Libros via photopin(license)