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.