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



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Do not be surprised. Be Vigilant!!




May the Words of my Mouth and the Meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord and my strength and redeemer.

This was a challenging week as many people I talked with were dealing with the tragic events that happened in Charlottesville, VA and the political, social and cultural aftermath. It’s been difficult, and the words I heard often were, I am not surprised. 
Whether in conversation, listening to the radio, or just at the local CVS, those words ring in my ears, like clinging symbols. The words, “I am not surprised”, for many, like my family, represent an historical marker. They remember the years of Jim Crow, segregation, red lining, discrimination, etc., too many issues of injustice to name here.
Many people, like my mother, said, “I am not surprised” because they knew there would be a response from those who embrace white supremacy, white nationalism, Neo-Nazi’s, and the Klan, to a country which elected its first African American President twice, and a nation becoming more and more multicultural.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there has been a 755 percent increase in hate groups since 2008.
Nell Irvin Painter, the emeritus, Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton, and the author of "The History of White People", writes, in an Article in the New York Times, that there is an American tradition of call and response. The call: a challenge to the status quo of white-people-on-top; the response: outbreaks of meanness, many merely vile, embracing rhetorical weapons, many murderous, taking up physical weapons. The bloody history of lynching, with its festive mobs and souvenir post cards and body parts, bristles with personal provocations to the racial status quo.  So, although the current occupant of the White House reveals day by day, and sometimes, moment by moment, how unfit he is, he is the one most suited to answer this call. In the 19th-century, the Ku Klux Klan arose in the South as a response to black citizenship. Federal action put it down, but in the 1920s, a resurgent Klan added immigrants, Catholics and unruly women to its black targets. In the West, official massacres and the "Driving Out" of the late 1800s had already ethnically cleansed Native Americans and run off Chinese workers and business people.
Considering this uniquely American Call and Response, Progressive Social Movements such as the Abolition movement, the Suffrage and Women’s Rights Movement, the Civil Rights movement, and movements for economic justice, have historically been and still are today a means to form a more perfect union, to address the call and response, as a means to move the country forward for all people.  To help the country, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, in his “I have a Dream Speech”, to live out its promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The words of Dr. King call us to rise and not be silent in the face of the complex and at times ugly history of America. His words call us to live out the calling of Jesus Christ, and, even with the complexity and complications of issues, made visible once again in Charlottesville, to overcome the politics of fear, hatred, bigotry and racial fragility, terrorisms, which have maintained structures of racial, economic, and cultural oppression, which have consumed this nation for two and a half centuries.
The protest at Charlottesville, was a clash not only about statues and monuments to a lost cause of 156 years ago, but a clash of narratives, between those like the KKK, people of faith , including clergy, who stand for an empire of racial hierarchy,  and organizations and people which stand for social justice, including clergy and people of faith, who represent emerging structures of power, which put the empire of racial hierarchy and its various illusional interests like privilege at risk.  Those of us who stand on the side of social justice must realize, and this is important to say, that Charlottesville was the stand of the foot soldier.  While they were there and made their stand the greater risk are concerns regarding political policies of voter suppression, a reemerging discrimination based on religious preference, healthcare policies continually under attack, and, according to an article written by Alan Singer in the Huffington Post, a public education system initially created for the public good more and more at risk of becoming privatized for corporate interests put forth by political forces which seek to maintain a narrative gradually receding like empires of the past.
Simone Weil, a French philosopher, political activist and mystic who lived in the early twentieth century, amidst the horrors of WWII, writes in her book “Waiting on God”, Attention is the rarest and purest form of Generosity.” Considering Simone Weil’s words of wisdom, giving attention to this historical transitional moment in the life of America, on display last weekend in Charlottesville, we are called to open our hearts to what might be called a peculiar grace. Peculiar grace, according to Aaron Tiger, Pastor of Trinity UMC in Muldrow, OK, is the sharing of the immense grace of God through extravagant and creative means.
The underlying value of peculiar grace, according to Pastor Aaron Tiger, is the worth of the other. Every encounter with another is an opportunity to convey grace to a child of God. This radical view of persons prompts us to show radical grace to the other.  Peculiar grace is not what German pastor, martyr, prophet, and spy Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. It is not an enabling grace, so that we give people addicted to white supremacy and other illicit drugs, as described by Carol Anderson, chair of Emory’s Department of African American Studies, in an article in the Guardian entitled, “America is still hooked on White Supremacy” some type of pass, but peculiar grace stands in the truth found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it reflects the mystical dimensions of love, described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, the love chapter. In the light of peculiar grace each of us should give attention as a form of generosity to those who are fearful of change. To engage family members, friends and folks who might think differently, from a theological perspective, about race, racism, and multiculturalism, to share a different perspective rooted in love. Beloved of Christ, we’ve trod this road before, this is nothing new and we will navigate in such a way as to overcome these struggles to enter a new and everlasting hope in Christ.
The words of 1st Peter 4:12-17 say, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice, since you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” Peter is encouraging the early Christians in regard to strive in the community of faith, a reality of the human condition (1) Not to be Surprised (2) Trust in God, Be the Christ and (3) Be Vigilant and always ready amidst events ungodly and unjust.
The other day I was asked by a student, “How do we engage someone who has very different views on issues of social justice and are profoundly faithful to those views?” I said, to be clear there are people of faith who have strong opinions on very complicated and complex historical issues. What we must do in this historical moment is to be the Christ, to be the compassion, to sooth the fears of those unable to express that fear in ways helpful. To do good, worthy and Christlike acts which seek to heal the wounds of a diverse and teaming humanity. In the final analysis, it is the heart that God examines not so much the action, or inaction or theological concerns, in this the hope is found.
In closing, I am reminded of the words of Theodore Parker, A Unitarian Universalist Minister who lived from 1810 to 1860, who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The issues raised in Charlottesville would seem to be the latest example of the profound wisdom of this statement. It has been a long struggle, yet with the peculiar grace of God this nation and its people will continue to live into its founding creed that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Let us Pray