Sunday, June 19, 2016

No Longer

A sermon preached on Sunday, June 19th at All Saints Church in Pasadena -- with thanks to Michael Hopkins, Anne Lamott, Michael Curry, Salam Al-Maryati, Mike Kinman, Diana Butler Bass and ... as always ... Jesus.

O God of deep compassion and abounding mercy, in whose trust is our perfect peace: Draw near to us in this time of anguish, anxiety and anger, receive the dead into your eternal care, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are wounded or in despair, turn our anger into the conviction to act, channel our passion to end our dependence on violence for our sense of security, and lead us all to greater trust in you and in your image found in the entire human family; through Jesus the Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns among us and eternally. Amen.

And here we are again – a shell shocked nation gathered for candlelight vigils, press conferences and solidarity rallies in the wake of yet another mass shooting – this time targeting the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida.

Our Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are full of earnest memes and links to statements, prayers and press releases. The collective will of the nation seems – for the moment – to be galvanized to call for the kind of systemic change that will end the scourge of gun violence that plagues our nation and bloodies our streets, our homes, our schools, our churches, our movie theaters and our nightclubs.

#WeAreOrlando is trending on Twitter and will be until it isn’t anymore … until the hashtag joins the archive of outrage that has so far inexplicably failed to rouse our nation to address the carnage with sensible gun laws.

In the vortex of the longest election season in the history of voting, the June 12th shooting in Orlando has brought into sharp relief the choice in front of us: Will we be a nation that lives in fear or a nation that overcomes fear?

If children slaughtered at their desks, college students murdered in their classrooms, and church members massacred in their Bible Study class hasn’t been enough to overcome the gun legislation impasse then what makes us think that this latest attack on an LGBT nightclub will be the tipping point?

I am daring to hope that it is.

Our friend author Diana Butler Bass wrote on Facebook this week: When I was a church history professor, I used to ask every class this question: "Think 100 years in the future. What will those people look back to our time -- to us -- and say 'How could they have been so stupid? Why couldn't they see how wrong they were?' What do we do now that will look completely immoral to them?” 

“This week,” Diana said “my top answers are gunphilia and homophobia.”

Those would be my answers, too.

And yet I am daring to hope that today – now – this moment – June 19, 2016 – will be a date history will recognize as the day we turned the corner to end the scourge of gun violence that afflicts our nation and to heal the systemic homophobia that infects our nation; as a moment we embraced our high calling to – as Michael Curry puts it –
change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends. 

June 19th is already an historic date. A date of transformation. A date of liberation.

Also known as “Juneteenth” it is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  June 19, 1865 was the date Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the enslaved were now free.

Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation become official in January 1863.

Official or not, the Emancipation Proclamation had virtually no impact on those enslaved in Texas -- because the Good News of liberation was withheld from the enslaved by those with the power to withhold it; by those refusing to accept the authority of the President who proclaimed it.

Not knowing freedom had been declared they suffered under the yoke of slavery – until June 19th when the word finally came to them that they were no longer enslaved but free. Juneteenth.

And what is the word that comes to us today – June 19, 2016 at All Saints Church?

In Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  All are one in Christ Jesus. 

Those powerful words -- those liberating words of Paul in his Letter to the Galatians -- are a kind of Emancipation Proclamation: freeing the entire human family from the artificial constructs that the world tells us divides us.

Yet just as those enslaved in Texas did not hear the word of their freedom until years after it was proclaimed, there are still those waiting to hear that Paul’s proclamation applies to them these many centuries later.

And the wake of this week’s tragedy in Orlando has exposed the harsh reality that like those who intentionally kept the news of liberation from reaching the enslaved there are those who intentionally work to keep the news of God’s inclusive love available to absolutely everybody from reaching all God’s beloved children.

It has become so predictable that you can practically set your clock by it. I’m talking about the point after a national trauma when actual Christianity gets hijacked by someone spewing the kind of hateful, harmful utterly unchristian diatribes that make Jesus - in the words of Anne Lammot - “want to drink gin straight out of a cat dish.” It is a sad and crowded history.

Jerry Falwell blamed the 9/11 attacks on “gays, abortionists and feminists.” Pat Robertson narrowed the blame for Hurricane Katrina down to “the gays.” And Terry Jones burned copies of the Quran to mark the anniversary of 9/11.

One of this week’s hijackers of actual Christianity – and there were sadly more than one -- was SacramentoPastor Roger Jimenez. In his Sunday sermon on June 12 — just hours after the Orlando massacre — he asserted “these deaths shouldn’t be mourned because if the victims were gay, then the Bible calls them sinners, and they deserved to die.”

He went on to say “If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up and put them up against a firing wall, and blow their brains out.”

And as I listened to him – in horror and outrage that my faith was being hijacked by this homophobic wolf in pastor’s clothing and being represented as “Christian” – I realized my outrage was a tiny window into what billions of Muslims feel every time they hear the horrific distortion of their faith being called “Islamic.”

Roger Jimenez is to Christianity what ISIS is to Islam ... and it is up to every single one of us to speak out against this hijacking of the core tenets of our faith by those who would distort them as weapons of mass discrimination; lob them like incendiary devices to ignite hate and division; and convince any sane person that Christianity is that last thing they want anything to do with.

It is also up to us to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters when their religion is hijacked by media pundits and political candidates who ignore the billions of faithful followers of Islam - a religion of peace, justice and compassion - and feed into the agenda of the terrorists.

Speaking at the June 13th Interfaith Vigil in Los Angeles, our friend Muslim leader Salam Al-Marayati called ISIS a “cult of death” that “does not represent me and does not represent 1.5 billion Muslims — it represents the worst of humanity, not just a distortion of the faith.”

And then – in a moment I truly did not think I would live long enough to witness – one of those moments that gives me hope we truly are at a “tipping point” –Salam went on to address the LGBTQ community saying: “We are your shield. The Muslim community stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBTQ community. We are one, we are all part of one humanity, and we will defend each other — we will work together.”


This is what a “radical” faith looks like: a radical vision of love, justice and compassion that transcends dogma and doctrine and focuses on our common humanity as children of the same God — refusing to be hijacked by those who would divide, polarize and terrorize us. It is the kind of faith that can and will change the world: if we work together.

That is the radical faith we gather here, in this sacred space, week after week, year after year, rector after rector, to embrace and to proclaim; and then to take out in the world in desperate need of love, justice and peace as an antidote to hatred, oppression and violence.

This is the radical faith into which we welcome 22 new members at our 11:15 service and it is the radical faith into which we will baptize Grete, Christian, Deborah and Nicholas today.

It is a radical faith that says we do have the power as old as the words of Isaiah
that Jesus preached in his first sermon in Nazareth:
          to proclaim good news to the poor.
to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

It is a radical faith that says we do have the power to cast out the demons that afflict us as a Body of Christ and as a Body Politic just as surely as Jesus cast out the demons we heard about in today’s Gospel.

Speaking of demons, here are some words of wisdom from our Rector-elect Mike Kinman … with a hat-tip to Christina Honchell for pointing me to them online:

We don't talk about demons much ... probably either because it's too scary or because they sound like superstition and we consider ourselves too intellectually evolved. We'd rather think of them as a literary device. Whether or not that is true, there are demonic forces out there. Demons change people, separate and isolate people, and are incredibly powerful: so powerful we feel like we are powerless against them. But we are not.

No, my friends, we are not. We are equipped and empowered with the powerful Good News that our church, our nation and our world is longing to hear. It is the Good News of the liberating love of God that is as long overdue to those enslaved by oppression and marginalization in 2016 as the Good News of the Emancipation Proclamation was overdue to those enslaved in Texas in 1865.

It is the Good News of the dream that God intends
where there is no longer Jew or Greek,
no longer slave or free,
no longer male or female,
no longer gay or straight,
no longer white, black, brown or any variation thereof,
no longer cisgender or transgender,
no longer theist or atheist,
no longer Democrat or Republican,
no longer Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan or None of the Above.

In the dream that God intends there are ALL of the above, no longer divided but united -- woven into one human family created in love by the God whose deepest desire is that we love one another as much as God loves us.

That is the dream we claim as our own -- the vision we proclaim to the world;  It is the radical faith that dares to tell us we have the power to cast out not only the demons of gunphilia and homophobia but to banish any demon that separates, isolates or enslaves us until there is no longer anything that keeps us from being
the beloved community we were created in love to be.


[Opening Prayer from Michael Hopkins' "Litany after the Orlando Massacre"]

1 comment:

JCF said...

Amen! Will be sharing.