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
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 →
Last week as we began worship, I took a few minutes to speak to the horrors of the white supremacist rally and counter-demonstrations that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia that weekend. The news and the shock many people were feeling was still so very raw. I promised that while our worship was not changing in light of the events that had been taking place over the last 36 hours or so, we would be revisiting it in the weeks and months to come. We are this morning, and we have to continue to as we move forward.
At the playground once with my children, I saw a dad waiting with his son for some space to clear up on the jungle gym. The only parent in that area, while helping his son wait patiently, he also helped some other children make their way safely to the top. Even after his little boy had reached the high platform he kept helping the others, spotting them so a potential fall wouldn’t be so dangerous, giving a hand to steady them if they got a little wobbly. Another dad came jogging up when he saw his daughter getting some assistance. He thanked the first dad and apologized for not being there, but the first dad simply smiled and shrugged, “Hey, we’re all in this together!” Continue reading →
In an exchange of text messages relating to an up-coming vacation and reunion with my best friends from college, I explained to the host of our festivities that I had written and re-written our order of worship (not even mentioning the drafts of this sermon) three times already. My friend, a pediatric emergency room physician in a downtown children’s hospital on the east coast, which is to say, a woman who is no stranger to violence and tragedy, replied to me, “That is not a good commentary on life.”
I read the comments. I know they say, “Don’t read the comments,” but I read the comments, and now I feel like I need to respond. The current comments that I read were on a Facebook post under a link to a Louisville, KY news station’s report about the response of the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to a church asking for a review of Donald Trump’s membership in the PC(USA). (Spoiler alert: Although he was baptized in a Presbyterian congregation, he’s not currently a member of a PC(USA) congregation, so there is no membership to review or, as the headlines are implying, revoke.) Mulitple comments, however, didn’t even address this specific question. Instead they made declarations like “…we as a church have no business in politics.” And that’s what fired me up.
PC(USA) Stated Clerk responds to questions on Trump’s membership.”Leaders at the Presbyterian headquarters in…
The Song of Zechariah found in Luke 1:68-79, are some of the first words the priest uttered upon the birth of his son, John, the cousin of Jesus, the one we know as John the Baptist. Zechariah had been made mute by the angel Gabriel at the start of his wife’s pregnancy because of his fear and disbelief, but when the child was born and Zechariah and Elizabeth named him John as Gabriel had instructed them, his tongue was freed and filled with Holy Spirit John’s father, Zechariah, spoke this prophecy. Listen now for the words he proclaimed.
Zechariah had been silent for the entire duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Silent. He spoke not one word. He didn’t ask how she was feeling. He didn’t wonder aloud with her when the child would come. He also didn’t stick his foot in his mouth asking inappropriately about just how big her stomach would get, so maybe there were some advantages. But Zechariah had been silent the entire pregnancy, unable to speak at home or in the temple.Continue reading →
As I sometimes do when I’m preparing for Sunday, early last week I went back to read a sermon I wrote on this same text several years ago. I always do so with fear and trepidation because I never know what I will find – a memory of a difficult time or a special celebration in the life of the church, a sermon I don’t think I can top this time, or a trainwreck I’m embarrassed I ever delivered.
By the time I read my 6 year old sermon on Tuesday afternoon last week two men in their twenties had been arrested for shooting five people involved in the protests around the recent police killing of an African American man in north Minneapolis. Two more were later arrested, all four were suspected white supremacists. It was just hours before the dashboard cam video of the horrific killing of teenager Laquan McDonald in Chicago was released worldwide. Add these recent events to the recent terrifying tide of violence and centuries old systemic racism against African Americans in this country and in this week of giving thanks instead I was asking, along with throngs of others online and around the country, “How long, O Lord?” Continue reading →
“What is truth?” Pilate asks of Jesus. What is truth?
This question struck me this week as I, like so many others, have been
watching the world news unfold in the wake of the attacks in Paris, as a public debate is taking place about what the “true” Christian response is to a Syrian refugee crisis, as violence continues to break out around the globe and still it seems that light-skinned people are mourned more deeply and more publicly than dark-skinned people.. “What is truth?” I’ve wondered as protesters have been gathering in front of a Minneapolis
North Side police precinct office demanding answers to questions surrounding the death of Jamar Clark who was shot by police a week ago. Not just “what is ‘the’ truth?” but what is truth when there are so many people and perspectives and experiences involved. “What is truth?” Continue reading →