Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Holding Space: The Journey Ahead, Conversations of the Heart

The following blog post is a sermon delivered May 29, 2016 at Tapestry Ministries, Disciples of Christ.

“Holding Space: The Journey Ahead, Conversations of the Heart”
It is the heart that speaks of the journey ahead.  It is the mind that will make the way.
And this in the light of a Holy God.
Thoughts on the present state of socio-cultural affairs
I recently attended a graduation party for one of the members of First Christian Church of Oakland.  It was attended by at least 90 plus people (I know because the member had each of us count off).  It was a good experience with a welcoming attitude.   Good food, good people, a great time!!   In the midst of the food and the people someone asked the member what were their next steps. What does the future look like? Remembering my many graduations and retirement from the Navy I found that to be a question full of queries with somewhat of an uneasiness to say the least.  Yet for all of the unease of the question, the question still remains.  What does the future hold more so “What does the journey Ahead hold?”  I find that the journey ahead emerges out of a reflection on the present.  That is, as I critically reflect on the present state of affairs my heart eventually reveals to me the path up ahead, where I am called to go.
Now as a person of faith I am thankful that I don’t take this journey alone.  I am thankful that God is on the mountain top, in the plains, and in the valley with me, and with us, as each of us troubles the waters in preparation for the Kingdom of God.  That said, the times we are living through with their social, cultural and economic upheavals have caused hatred and bigotry, the defects of our beloved nation, to strike fear in the hearts of many people here at home and in the world at large.   The rise of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Google to name a few have become more and more a means to encapsulate, expose and engender these defects now manifested in the rhetoric of political candidates for President of the United States.  
It is important to understand the response of the spirit of enslavement and oppression to the spirit of hope and liberation.  To see this present circumstance as somewhat of a crescendo or culmination of two important conversations of the heart reminiscent of Matthew 4:1-11, the temptation of Jesus.  The temptation of Jesus is the comprehensive and in-depth discourse regarding human reality in its relationship with God, others and the cosmos.  The engagement between the devil and Jesus is the preeminent example of what many people encounter in daily life.  It is true that those who blame the other, who focus their frustrations on those on the margins, are bound to a narrative of enslavement and oppression, a narrative rooted in the devil's argument, as a means to power whether real or imagined.  Their hearts hardened by this narrative they have been blinded to the glory, mercy and grace of God while those who embrace hope and liberation are no longer bound to such a narrative but live in the glory and mercy of a soon coming King.
I suppose the message today is a call to conscience, a call to live out our liberation in Christ Jesus.  It is a call to be real in the face of manifest hatred, bigotry, even ignorance paraded as the Gospel knowing that the Spirit of the living God is with us.  Beloved we move as our hearts are called by God to move.  It is not our bodies that move us but our hearts in concert with the desires of God and in this there is truth.  No lie will stand; no idolatry will last except the resurrection of the Christ.  In the midst of manifest injustice perpetrated upon those of us on the margins because of race, gender, sex, creed, relationship or political persuasion through systemic oppression and brutality the reality is that life and all of creation emerges from the liberative imagination of God.  And hence the Cross, even the resurrection is seen in that light, this even by the oppressors as they more and more seek to deny or mute the Gospel of liberation and inclusion, the expressed desire of God through HB2, popularly known as the bathroom bill.
History has shown that unjust, oppressive regimes eventually fall in the face of God’s desire for a liberated people.  This has been the narrative throughout recorded history.  Whether through marching in the streets, gaining political influence, or living an authentic life in Jesus Christ eventually liberation wins out for all.  As Loretta Lynch, Attorney General of the United States said in her speech regarding the North Carolina Bathroom Bill (HB2) reminiscent of the speeches of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, you are on the right side of history.  Yes, we are on the right side of history as we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before.

A Prophetic Movement
But if I say, “I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name,” then His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I was weary of forbearing it, and I could not endure it.  For I heard the defaming of many, “Terror on every side!  Denounce him. Yes, denounce him!” All my familiar friends who watch for my fall, say, “Perhaps he will be enticed so that we can prevail against him, and we will take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me as a dread mighty One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting shame will never be forgotten. 
Jeremiah 20:9-11 (MEV)
There is a fire shut in my bones that will not let me rest.  No matter which way I turn it won’t let me rest.  This fire, this blaze will only be quenched by the joy of God’s liberation.  The spirit says there is work to be done, people to liberate, to set the captives free. 
A prophetic movement is a move which emerges from the heart.  It is an all-consuming fire and nothing and no person can or will quench its longing, its desire except that it proves its call from a Holy and Sacred God.  This is found in the Old and New Testament texts.  It is found in the life and the martyrdom of the freedom riders of the Civil Rights Movement, it is found in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.  The prophetic movement is courageous, a movement of heart and soul that will burn away the unclean things, the things unworthy of the message embodied.
I suspect that the road will not be easy.  The road will be full of vipers, vultures, small things that creep in the night.  Yet that joy which burns in our hearts will keep us, will hold us in the midst of these things as we move as God has called, as God has ordained.  We move because God has called us to move, to change, to transform our world and its situation. Like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel we move for God occupies our heart. We are consumed by the passion of God within.