Monday, October 16, 2017

Can You See It? Hope is Alive and Well





The title of this message comes from my experiences in sacred theological activism and the smoke from the massive fires here in Northern California and in Southern California.  It comes seeing people who seemingly maintain their hope after a hurricane has devastated their City.  It comes from people who are in ongoing physical, and at times excruciating pain. It comes from sharing time with 7 other sacred, beautiful Black powerful transgender woman., trailblazers each of them.  In all of these events the one word which came up was “hope.” 
I.          What is Hope? Hope is rooted in our faith, and our faith in God’s love through Christ Jesus.  Hope is that confident assurance in Christ that beyond what we see, know, feel,  or experience, everything will be alight.  Hop is not centered in circumstantial evidence but in God’s unmerited favor, that is grace, as revealed through Christ Jesus.  Hope does not deny the dynamics, complications and complexities of this life, the predicaments, even the calamity at the Cross, more so, hope overcomes those situations and circumstances as a fulfillment of God’s love. Hope is an expression of humility and wisdom as we put Christ at the center of our life’s and not ourselves, our relationships, the situation, circumstance, or even tragedies.  In this sense hope is liberating, calling God to move in ways never imagined.  I have learned that the moment I say, “I hope this works out”, or “I don’t know” or I don’t have a clue, I allow the spirit God to make away I never could have conceived.  I remember trying everything I could think of before coming out.  Fasting, therapy, sexaholics anonymous, seeing the pastor, etc. and finally I said, Ok Lord, I don’t know, but I hope this works out.  I had run out of me, I had no answers.  Once I said, I hope, I was liberated allowing God to move in ways I could not conceive.  My hope was no longer in what I could do but in what God, in God’s infinite wisdom, could do, this by a divine grace. In his Epistle to the Church at Galatia the Apostle Paul writes, "For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:19-20). Paul's dedication to the Law was unquestionable. He cherished it. It was the center of his life. It was his identity. Its friends were his friends and its enemies were his enemies.
Not only did he love the Law, but the Law provided him with great rewards as well. It gave him purpose. It gave him power and prestige. It was his future path to greatness as it had made him a leader of men. It filled him with a wonderful sense of pride (Philippians 3:4-6).
But one thing it did not do; it did not make him alive unto God. The day came when Paul had to "die" to the Law. He had to part ways with its promise, rewards, prestige, power and such. It was the only way to "live unto God."
Likewise for us as well. Because of our circumstances, it probably will not be the Law that is our focus. But whatever it is that we love and trust; that we are focused upon; that is the center of our lives; we must be willing to set it aside in favor of putting Christ Jesus in its former position. We must have the same attitude as Paul did; that when compared to knowing Christ, the other things we love are but rubbish (Philippians 3:7,8). Reading the text the Apostle had run out himself.  The passage reveals a man who was liberated and now lived in Christ.  He could now run the race and fight the good fight of faith.
Hope is the anchor of our faith.   Hebrews 6:19-20 reads, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” We should ask ourselves the question, amidst a world which disheartens us daily, “Where is my Faith or Who or what is my faith in?”   We should ask these questions as a means to re-center ourselves into a living hope, the love of God.
II.        A living Hope is about the here and now.  It is about living the resurrection of Jesus Christ, moment by moment and day by day. It is about addressing the concerns and issues of our culture and society today in this present historical moment.  I experience this living hope here at FCCO and Tapestry, but I also experienced it at the Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle, a leadership program sponsored by Auburn Seminary, a 200 year old Presbyterian seminary in New York City located in the Interchurch building across the street from Union Seminary.  This was the final meeting, lasting 4 days, of a yearlong program focused on wellness and selfcare. While at Auburn I experienced  a celebration of my sacredness, even a holiness, seldom encountered beyond my communities of faith. As written in 1 Peter 1:7, I felt the genuineness of my faith. The final evening, as we gathered I experienced  Transgender Women called out to be the living hope in the Transgender community.  At this point I said, Can You See it, Hope is Alive and Well! It reminded me that there is always hope, if we choose to see it. 
A Living hope in Christ must be the primary and dominant discourse in our engagement of a world in profound need of what a living hope has to offer, this is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. There is evidence of this when I see first responders responding to a world of calamity, catastrophe and tragedy, communities of faith standing up against forces of injustice in Charlottesville, VA, or when DACA recipients protest the unjust policies of our current administration, and people living with disabilities putting their bodies on the line to protest the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.  
III.       The implications of a living Hope in Christ, are nothing less than transformational.  It is tenacious, unyielding and resilient as a hopeful people protest unjust political/religious policies without cease.  A further implication is a prophetic vision which runs counter to and eventually overcomes historic prevailing cultural, religious and political ideologies. In an article entitled, White Heritage vs the Gospel Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourner’s Magazine writes of the Charlottesville incident, The psyche of our nation has been largely disturbed by the profound ugliness championed in the “beloved and besieged” city of Charlottesville. Yet, in its midst, the gospel of Christ was boldly proclaimed. A group of clergy and faith leaders convened by Congregate Charlottesville counted the cost and willingly entered conflict with a presence of deep abiding love. What unfolded was dramatic in its opposition. As several hundred residents and those who traveled to answer the call for support packed out St. Paul Memorial Episcopal Church for an interfaith service, several hundred torch-wielding demonstrators gathered across the street on the University of Virginia campus, evoking the hovering legacy of the Ku Klux Klan. Demonstrators violently clashed with university students standing in opposition to racism, while those departing the church were told to hunker in place because the situation outside had become too volatile.  The implications of a living hope in Christ is a people awakened.
The implications of a living Hope in Christ, compel the forces of injustice to develop strategies which employ voter suppression to ensure unjust political policies which makes life evermore precarious for millions of people.  I suspect they learned from the Civil Rights Movement that a hopeful people in Christ are unstoppable and the clearest strategy is to take away or deny their hope, as a practical matter.  Yet this too has limitations as a Living Hope in Christ in everlasting and will have final word.
In closing A Living Hope in Christ the anchor of our faith. Hope is courageous grounded a great and cosmic love.  Like love it will not be denied and will accomplish its intended action.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Love has come into the world and is walking even now, "Can You See it?!!"




 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:20-21 (NRSV)

Luke 4:21, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”, reminds us that today, that is, each hour, each minute, and each moment, of the day, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is fulfilled as we urgently address the injustices heaped upon the people of God.  It is a reminder that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the nurturing of relationships grounded in love and compassion in the light of grace.  And this is how we know we love, that we fulfill the teachings and meditations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in this we should do with significant doubt yet without waiver. To doubt the veracity of our humanity is to be humble and thus receive a deeper more meaningful comprehension of the mercy imparted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in so doing, to apprehend a heart open to the movings and stirrings of a love courageous, sacrificial, and nonviolent where grace abounds.  

It important at this point, due to the fragility of discourse and conversation on social justice, to address the Cross of Christ, the crucifixion, the exemplar of love. In this sense, for me, writing as a Christian, it is the ground of being, the beginning of a sincere and authentic engagement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, for me, the Cross begs the question, “What is love without courage and sacrifice?” The force of love as a reality experienced by many such as Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others bear witness to the fact that a love formed at the foot of the Cross, must be the reality of those seeking justice. There should be no doubt that our cause is to love and to make life livable for all.
One of the many lessons learned from the Civil Rights Movement is the power of nonviolence to love and to transform culture and society. The Civil Rights Movement was a courageous, longsuffering, sacrificial love, an image of the Cross, which, in the long run, made life better for all who would choose to receive and accept that love. Through nonviolence, an expression of love, the Civil Rights Movement sought to communicate the gravity of the matter regarding racial and economic justice, inclusive of the Military Industrial Complex, addressed by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his speech, Beyond Vietnam, given at Riverside Church in New York City, NY, to a nation blinded by institutional and personal sin. Indeed, grace abounded to the Prophet King, and in this, sufficiency was found for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to breakthrough to a stiff-necked people.
Those who would choose to address complex and challenging political, social and cultural issues, do so at their social, political and at times physical peril, yet, with the intimate knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ they do so becoming a testament of hope. They are the prophetic voice of God in the struggle for a moral vision shaped and contoured by their sacred pleasure of communion with God, and out of this communion, they envision the Kindom of God. This is not because of all they do, how gifted or talented, but because of an open heart and an apprehension of the desires of God and obligations to the soul.
 “The world needs saints who have genius, just as a plague-stricken town needs doctors. Where there is need there is an obligation.   -Simone Weil
The kind of love exhibited in Jesus Christ at his Crucifixion, must be the first and primary principle of a movement called to engage in this present historical moment. It is this love, courageous, sacrificial, and nonviolent which overcomes the moral equivalence so injected in a national discourse by political novices in support of hate groups such as the Klu, Klux Klan, White Nationalist, White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi’s. The need to love is an obligation to the care of the soul and a means to give attention to a society mired in increasing homelessness, hatred and bigotry, poverty, hunger, incarceration, unemployment, and concerns of mental health considered by this writer, a black transgender woman, as productions of economic, political and racial hierarchy, representations of a colonial plantation regime. The regime, which love, as the first principle, must counter, is necessarily supported by a bad theology represented by the, Nashville Statement[1], which makes sacred inequalities, inequities and discriminations, in direct opposition to the mandate of Galatians 3:28 which, in the light of Christ, deconstructs categories of identity. It seeks to maintain the physical and spiritual bondage of the people of God and make the earth just another means of capital and production thus denying the moral vision of Jesus Christ.
The Nashville statement is an Anti-LGBTQ statement revealing once again a fixation on gender and sexuality which occupies theological stances and discourses among clergy who signed the statement which denies the enlightened and inclusive love of God in Christ Jesus and sets up an idolatry of unenlightenment which makes God’s grace and mercy subservient to the narrow confines established to support the norms of white supremacy and privilege. The Nashville Statement[2] represents religious and political forces against the holy, divine, inclusive, holistic love of God, as described in the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to his Epistle to the Corinthians in chapter 13 (The Love Chapter). 
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

To counteract the constructs of narrow theological mindsets and interpretations, i.e. bad theology, those of us who daily seek to live into the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be about the work of the father grounded in compassion.  We must spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that brown skin Palestinian Jew, to break through depressions which impact multitudes of people the world over. We do this by living a life of authenticity in the face of oppression. We do this by taking on the old demons of injustice, this would seem to be a rational and reasoned action, which so beset the longings of the many. We do this as we meditate at the foot of the Cross long before the resurrection, to attain some understanding or comprehension of the matter as presented by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the beloved son of God.

Love has come into the world and is walking even now.  Can you See!!



[1] https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement accessed September 2, 2017