Racism

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.

But then a fool became Pharaoh. The ethical standards that Joseph taught were abandoned. The nation began to betray its allies. Economic systems were put in place that gave wealth to a few elites and impoverished the common citizen. Hebrews became slaves.

For: 
August 23, 2020
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Genesis 41:46-47
Pentecost 12
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

What have I learned in fifty years? There can be no unity without Justice — that is the free and fair access to housing, jobs, and equal protection under the law. There can be no unity without integration — we need to learn to live and worship with people who are different from us. There can be no unity without awareness.

For: 
August 16, 2020
Psalm 133
Pentecostt 11
When some Midianite traders passed by, the brothers drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him for twenty pieces of silver.

I have come to believe that God is the God of change, history, and progressively expanding ethics. God nudges us forward. The moral code of one generation is meant to be superseded by the next.

For: 
August 9, 2020
Genesis 37
Pentecost 10
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them

When the law and order police state headed by Pontius Pilate put Jesus on the cross, his disciples knew that they would share his fate if they walked with those who protested. Because, in a system of systemic racism and inequity, those in high places have an investment in keeping the system just the way it is. If you tell them that the system is unjust, they will crucify you. 

For: 
June 14, 2020
Matthew 9:35-10:23
Matthew 5:3-12
Pentecost 2
Black Lives Matter
"[Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them." - Luke 15:2

A young married couple find their money disappearing and their credit cards running amok, until they draw up a budget and measure where it’s all going to. So much in life doesn’t count unless you count it carefully.

For: 
September 15, 2019
Luke 15:1-10
Pentecost 14
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” -Matthew 19:19

Today we see “good” church-going people supporting systems that lead to human bondage. Often, undocumented immigrants are held as slaves, that is not permitted to decide their own future or leave a certain location, or paid for their labor, whether it be at a farm, a chicken processing plant, as landscapers or maids, or in a sex trafficking ring. Slavery still shapes our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. Until recently, the banking and real-estate system of our country prevented people of color from owning certain homes, thus denying these families the opportunity to build equity. Segregation is a denial of freedom and unloving.

For: 
September 8, 2019
Philemon 1
Matthew 19:19
Pentecost 13
Week after Labor Day
No prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.

In Luke 4, Jesus goes over the wall between us and those we consider foreign or different. He does this in two ways: First, by physically placing himself where he encounters the foreigner. Second, Jesus used the scriptures to show that all of the great people of the Old Testament went over the wall and lived with foreigners. Jesus' own stories, which have become our scriptures, always showed foreigners in a good light.

For: 
February 3, 2019
Luke 4:21-30
Epiphany 4

Most of us have experienced about 1% of Exodus 1:8. We go to work and the person who supervises us changes. Suddenly we have a new boss who doesn’t know how loyal, trustworthy, and super we’ve been. They patronize us. They fail us. They give the good tasks to their friends and don’t give us the review that we need to be promoted. A bad boss is a pain. Some of you have lost a good neighbor and had the house next door bought by people who live like animals. A bad neighbor is a hassle. A bad king or pharaoh or president, however, is a humanitarian disaster. Think of the Hindenburg Zeppelin — “Oh, the humanity!”

Read Exodus 1:8, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”

This is how a tragedy begins. Someone has your fate in their hands who doesn’t know you. It can be a new boss, a new neighbor, a new king. They remove the kindness you had come to expect from life. If they are your boss, there may be financial consequences. If they are your neighbor, you might lose sleep, step in dog poo as you get your morning paper, and begin to be concerned for your children’s safety. None of this compares to the problems that arise when the person who rules your land has forgotten the principles of Shalom.

Shalom is the peace, healing, and prosperity that God wishes to bring to every person on this planet. Shalom, often simply translated as peace, appears throughout the Bible. It is often paired with Justice, which is God’s commitment that every person be treated fairly. Human laws can be good or bad, but the divine purpose of human authority is to insure that every person is treated fairly, that no people group or race is disparaged, and that no one is denied life or liberty without due process.

For: 
August 27, 2017
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Pentecost 16

I don’t make this stuff up! The Common Lectionary - a decades old scripture chooser used by many pastors to keep them preaching the whole gospel - has four scriptures and a Psalm for August 20th; every one of these speak of God’s commitment to provide justice and mercy for all people. In Genesis 45, we read of a man who was once a slave and a prisoner becoming the hope and savior of people who once did him wrong. In Psalm 67, we read of how God judges all the people of the world with equity; his love is for every nation. In Romans 11, Paul explains that when God extends his grace to outsiders or a foreign people, he doesn’t diminish he love for those who knew him first. This is the same talk that parents give to their first born when they are expecting or planning to adopt another child. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has to address the Pharisees, whom he says are blind guides. What is the nature of their blindness? Not theology. But a commitment to racism, classism, and the practice of segregation.

If I were to preach in this post-Charlottesville week, I would find my text in Isaiah 56:1-8. I would use the whole text, and point out that like the Eunuchs of old, many who are single, divorced, transgendered, or gay, find themselves shunned today by our “family” oriented church. God says that he will give to such people special honor in his church (verse 5).

For: 
August 20, 2017
Isaiah 56:1-8
Matthew 15:10-28
Pentecost 15

Martin Buber said, “The world is not an obstacle on the way to God, it is the way.” I am a person who hates interruptions. Telephone solicitors are the worst. Then a friend of mine was out of work. After a year, the only job he could find was in a call center. I encouraged him to take it. “It’s a stepping stone to something better. You need to get back in the process of working everyday.” Sure the job wasn’t his goal. But, it was the next step on the flow of life for this person. Often obstacles and interruptions get demonized, when really they are part of the journey. Often the people who distract us from our task get abused. How hard would it be for us to be compassionate? To see the world, not as an obstacle, but as the way to God?

 

For: 
March 14, 2017
John 4:5-42
Lent 3

This past week was Martin Luther King Day. I think it is important that we remember him, not just as a leader of a minority group in our society, but as an example of how to respond to oppression. Sometimes oppression is systemic, like the racism is that still infects America. Sometimes oppression is personal, as when we are passed over at work because of our gender or age, or when a family member uses cruel manipulation to keep us in our place.The Gospel teaches us to love our neighbor and that no one truly loves God who isn’t in a right relationship with others. Yet Psalm 27 talks about the other side of our religion. There are times when you go it alone. I think of a family member who is struggling with a messy divorce and has a broken relationship with one of his teenage daughters. Perhaps distance, illness, or death has separated you from a loved one. Perhaps you are feeling oppressed. What does this Psalm 27 say to you now?

 

For in the day of trouble

For: 
January 22, 2017
Psalm 27
Epiphany 3

Next week, my wife and I will be attending a wedding for a distant relative. The reception is in a five star restaurant and I am not allowed to wear my jeans. As is the custom, the bride and her wedding planner are spending long hours planning the seating chart. Determining who sits with who and how far they are from the happy couple is an intricate art, full of inviolate rules and their exceptions. Imagine the chaos, if the couple decided to practice the Gospel lesson (which I hope they hear this Sunday), “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:7-14). 

 

For: 
August 28, 2016
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Pentecost 17

In Genesis 2:20, Adam was given the task of naming all of the creatures, and so it is said, science was birthed. In almost any subject, advanced study requires learning the precise names of things. Potters learn a vast number of words to describe the hue, texture, and luster of various glazes. If they say, “its only words,” they will condemn themselves to an incredible amount of wasted time and fruitless experiments before creating anything of beauty. How much more so, the art of living, even an ordinary life, in the midst of a complex society.

First let me say that this cartoon gets it wrong. True: bagpipes are hideous when badly played and serve such a narrow range of music that they are the butt of many jokes. Yet when I try to imagine the music that will be played in hell, my closest reference point is to ask, what kind of music was played by the Nazi party during their conquest of the German people? It is unlikely that Satan has the same musical tastes as Hitler, but I think their utilization of music will be similar.

 

Some churches have confederate flags in disguise. U-umc had a memorial chime set in its belfry that played four times a day at two notches above what the neighbors could tolerate. Trustees explained this inconsiderate behavior by saying, “But it’s our tradition. We have members in the nursing home two miles away who helped pay for those chimes.” Sacrifice by past generations doesn’t give you a right to be insensitive.

 

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