Sermon for Juneteenth & Black Lives Matter

June 18, 2017 – Juneteenth/Black Lives Matter
Preaching text Matthew 9.35-10.23
Jesus was no boy scout.  

It’s not that Jesus wasn’t a good man. He just didn’t live according to the boy scout motto—be prepared. This morning we heard about Jesus seeing the crowds of people who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. It’s not that Jesus didn’t care. The gospel writer tells us that Jesus had compassion for them, and knowing he couldn’t reach all of them, Jesus sent out his disciples.  
But did Jesus send them out with their pocket knife & their pocket catechism, a bag of snacks and tricks all equipped and prepared? No. He sends the disciples out to cure, heal, cleanse, cast out evil, proclaim the arrival of God’s kingdom; Jesus sends disciples out “as is”. 
9Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.
Disciples of Jesus head into the mission field, out to the world, into life, pretty much empty handed. It’s seems like it’s taken us, the church, especially church leaders, church professionals just about 2000 years to start to actually hear what Jesus says. We want training and tools; we seek out podcasts, packages and programs. We want to be prepared. 
I am a great example. In my 30’s I accepted the call to serve at St. Paul’s, just a couple of miles west of here at 28th & Wisconsin Ave. I remember early on in my call as pastor, I was picking up some kids to take them to worship or a youth event, and as we were driving down the road they told me informed me that they were going to be moving and that their grandmother was moving with them. Great I thought, here is my chance to connect with these urban black kids, so I start telling them about how when I was10 years old my family moved. We moved from Old Zionsville (which is basically just a couple of houses and a volunteer fire house along what was called Kings Highway), we were moving from there into Macungie, actually a subdivision of new homes outside the village of Macungie (which is Lenni Lenape for “bear swamp”). My grandma was moving in with us too, into our 4 bedroom house. It was so new, that my sister and I got to pick out (choose) the carpeting for our new room. 
I was trying so hard to connect the excitement I remembered with theirs, but for some reason, the kids I was talking with weren’t all excited. They just sat there while I drove and talked, talked, It turns out they weren’t excited about this move, or all that excited about the move they made about 9 months later from that house on 28th and Clyborn, to the house on 33rd just a few blocks north of Center St., or the next a few blocks south of North on 37th street, or the move to the southside, then back again to the northside on 48th St up when that toddler ran into the street was hit and killed and then the driver who stopped and a 15yr old boy were then shot and killed.  
Eventually, I figured out how totally clueless I was. How my white middle class life had actually not prepared me at all to enter the lives of a single parent working poor family living in Milwaukee. Luckily, or shall I say more theologically correct, with the Spirit of Jesus I pretty soon accepted how unprepared so I opened my ears, my hands, and my heart. In those years I brought bible knowledge, middle class knowledge. I would love to say that I delivered that Gospel as faithfully as the mailman. But the gospel, God’s kI didn’t bring that. That happened, God’s kingdom that came when we were together. 
You know, I can’t speak for you but I didn’t learn about Juneteenth when I was in school, or in my home church. When I was young, I just assumed that when Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and the south lost the Civil War that was the end of slavery that was the end of it—you know everything was cool. All people needed to do was make the right decisions. I didn’t know that the language, the comments, and the jokes I heard growing up as a kid were part and parcel of systemic oppression of racism. That it’s not enough to remove the n-word from my vocabulary. Actually, it’s terrible to admit, but I think a lot of people, white people, are pretty unprepared for the life that so many others live. And too many of us don’t even know how un prepared we are. When we bump into a black person’s, or an latino’s, or another person’s experience we judge their life, their words, their reality only by ours. My privilege means I don’t have to worry someone even a police officer might be just so full of fear, that my sons would instill so much fear in others that they can be shot and killed with impunity. Too many of us are so far away, so disconnected from the pain, the sadness, and grief, the numbness or the terror that a verdict in the Philando Castille—just the latest case.
Now this could make some people uncomfortable, but Jesus in our gospel for today sure seems more concerned with the lives of the harassed and helpless than with the comfort of disciples. Disciples, followers of Jesus, you and me, we are sent into the world, not to just hang out with those like us, but to the harassed and the helpless. Whether that’s someone we know, someone who is sitting on these chairs every week, or a police officer that ducks in for a quick bite to eat, something to drink, a moment. Maybe it’s a young lady or a young man struggling to figure out who they are, express themselves, discover themselves, let off some steam and stress. The thing is the only way the kingdom comes to all of us lost sheep is if open ourselves, cut out our prepared spiels, and listen really listen to the people all around us.
Because we all need this kingdom, reign, vision, reality, whatever we call it. We need it. whatever you want to call it, we all lose it, we all get lost in ourselves. I think that’s why today is really important, (a mostly white congregation) recognizing Juneteenth. Because early just yesterday Saturday morning during powershift 2 single young men came to our door. They came at different times. The first was a young white guy dressed in button down shirt. He was sitting in those chairs out in our lobby talking with me sometime around 1:30. The other man was young black man with real baggy pants. Sure we greeted both, sure we offered both men water and some food. Both stayed for quite a while, both weren’t quite sure how they were getting home. We prayed with the young white guy before we said goodbye. But I didn’t pray with the young black man. Instead when he went to use our restroom, I went out to the officers to let them know that we might be looking for them to help us make sure this black man left. Sure, there are other circumstances. The white guy was there earlier in the “night” around 1:30 and the black guy was there an hour later at 2:30 when we were getting done, tired, and ready to pack it in. Instead of really listening to that young black man, you know what I was doing. I was preparing; I was preparing. Sure, I can say Black Lives Matter, but as long as I keep preparing as long as we allow ourselves as individuals, and as a church as a people, out of fear prepare ourselves, focus on us on our survival, allow tiredness and fear shape what we say and what we do, we’ll miss God’s kingdom of heaven come on earth for us. We’ll just be too busy, being good little girl and boy scouts, lost preparing for not even God knows what, when we could be listening, learning, living in God’s love, love that allows me to say, you know what—I’m no girl scout, I’m not perfectly prepared but I am often lost, but I we are forgiven and God is sending me/sending us good news—so let’s listen. Amen.


Pride is Good

June 10, 2017 Pride
preaching text Genesis 1
Pride is good. God wants us to be proud.
Yes, you heard me right. Yes, this here preacher just declared form this “pulpit” that Pride is good.
You won’t hear that from most preachers or pastors. Why?
Because pride is bad, right? It’s one of the biggies, one of the top 7. The seven deadly sins.

I know we’re not big on sins here at Village, but can we name those 7: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. While the bible is full of lists, this list doesn’t actually come from the bible. You won’t find the 7 deadly anywhere in the bible, but it does come from the church—probably just a few 300 or 400 years after Jesus. The church and others have identified/focused on pride as basically the source of all other sins. 
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying: In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.
Pride. The source of all sins. That’s what the church has taught right. Contrary to what many churches, preachers have taught that the sin Sodom and Gomorrah is homosexuality (which isn’t what’s really going on in the story). The violence the men of Sodom seek to perpetrate comes from pride and greed. The prophet Ezekiel says in 16.49: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Pride.
So if we’re the church? Shouldn’t we be against Pride? Shouldn’t we run as far away as possible from pride. But no, we here at Village have participated and gone to Pride Fest and some of us will walk/march in the Pride Parade this afternoon, and I just a few minutes ago declared that God wants us to be proud.
Is pride always a sin? What do you think?
If a parent is proud of a child, is that a sin?
Psalm 20 urges us to take pride in God, and then in the new testament. For Paul, in the the letter to the Galatians, says that we can be proud of our good works. 
Take our reading for this morning. It sure sounds like God is pretty proud of Godself in our reading for today. What was that refrain, we said over and over again?
And God saw that it was good. Good. The Hebrew there is “tov”.  

God creates the land, the earth, and it is good and God created the plants and trees and vegetation, and God saw that it is good, the moon, sun and stars in the sky and it is good; animals, sea monsters, birds, and it is good; humankind male and female, God saw creation and it is good, very tov good.
This is what Pride Fest and Pride Parades is all about. Gay pride is not about putting straight or cis people down. It is the place and space to for them to be the norm, the normative, the majority, for some to be themselves. It is instead an opportunity for the LGBT community to claim what has all too often been denied and withheld from them, that they are good— that everyone, including and especially themselves are created good.
Just one more thing before I’m done here, there’s more in our scripture passage this first story of creation—that has been used against the LGBT community. It is these words, “

7So God created humankind in his image,

in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply. 
First of all and again contrary to what some in the church have taught, both male and female share in God’s image. Some interpret and read these words as if God’s will for us is to be fruitful and multiply, as if procreation is God’s will for us. Well we as a species have certainly filled the earth. At this point we’ve overfilled it. And if procreation is so important, what about all those people who don’t or can’t have children. Are their relationships, are their lives worth less, not as God-blessed as breeders? Our answer is no. God declares creation, from the tiniest quark or atom, and smaller, to the great sea-monsters wales, octopus, and all to be good. Creation is so good God takes a “day”, God takes precious time to (rest) well actually celebrate, revel in it, enjoy us. God is proud of what God has created in us. It has been said that the rest of scripture from genesis on is our struggle to accept this for ourselves and for others. Our problem, our sin, has not been that we were simply proud, but that we were prouder of ourselves and others. Can you imagine what it, what this world would look like if everyone could see just how precious, beautiful, how fine we, how fine all God’s children are—that we are, that we start out complete—that we don’t have to do something to be declared good—that we don’t have to earn money, get good grades, win races. That the source of our pride was in our very existence. Quoting another great theologian:

Whether life’s disabilities

Left you outcast, bullied or teased

Rejoice and love yourself today

‘Cause baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight or bi

Lesbian, transgendered life

I’m on the right track, baby

I was born to survive

No matter black, white or beige

Chola or orient made

I’m on the right track, baby

I was born to be brave

I’m beautiful in my way

‘Cause God makes no mistakes

I’m on the right track, baby

I was born this way

Don’t hide yourself in regret,

Just love yourself and you’re set

I’m on the right track, baby

I was born this way, 
Read more: Lady GaGa – Born This Way Lyrics | MetroLyrics 
That just because you are is good enough. That would be so TOV, so very very good. Amen.  

Pentecost Pickles

This brief sermon was followed by a time of experiential worship”

Pentecost 2017
Pickles? Pickles in communion? There’s no pickles in communion. Ever since the middle of the 20th century, starting from Jewish delis in New York, the pickle has been served with sandwiches your turkey and swiss, your pastrami and rye, and your tunafish. Picklles on your plate, but with the plate and cup of Holy Communion? Pickles.
But that’s what I thought I heard. Pickles.
Except that’s not what the Rev. Mark Bangert said. He said “epiclesis”. Greek “epi” meaning near or at and klesis – to call to. It is the prayer that is said during communion—the prayer to come Holy Spirit.
Epiklesis and pickles. What if instead of one day to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit a couple of thousand years ago, what if our prayer were come Holy Spirit every day. What if the Holy Spirit were as present as those pickles on every lunch plate. Actually, that’s more faithful to what we encounter in scripture, what we experience in life. The Holy Spirit has been, is and will be inspiring whenever and wherever. It is the Holy Spirit that inspires musicians to write, and play, choirs and congregations to sing; It is with the Holy Spirits inspiration that artists draw and paint, and sculpt, and build. It is the Holy Spirit’s inspiring that brings us together. So today, we are not going to talk about the Holy Spirit, but we are going to practice being inspired by the Spirit. We have three different opportunities to experience the power of the Spirit. One will be with art, and we will melt crayons to create something like stained glass images of the Spirit, of the fire, and of the Wind/breath. Bill and Kyna will help lead this activity.
At this other table, we have cards, hole punch, pens, and string. This is our prayer station, that with the presence of the Holy Spirit, you working together can compose our prayers of the people.
The third option is the ancient practice of the mutual consolation of the saints. You can spend with one another in conversations of care. It can be with someone you may know well, or maybe not. claim these seats here, for anyone who would like to remain in these seats. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit that we can be genuinely present, listening, and curious about one another.  
You are free to move from one station to another as, as we say the Spirit moves you from table to table as the Spirit moves you. 
begin this sacred time with a prayer—an Epiclesis. Come Holy Spirit, we invite you, we welcome you, we beg you, come be with us as your children gathered in this place.  
Inspirit us to work together, to experience you in one another, to feel your power, your momentum, your energy, you connection within and among us. May we remember not just pickles on a plate, but your presence in this place. Amen.