What do you want to be when you grow up?

Aug 25

What do you want to be when you grow up?  What did you want to be?


Now why did you want to do that?  We focus on occupation, jobs, why?  Did anyone think, wise, or funny, or giving? No our answer to that question is a job.  Why?


   Money?  What does money give you?  The things you need, security? 

For some money, having money, spending money, is a status symbol. 


But, really all it boils down to is I think respect.  We want respect whether its as a teacher, a police officer, a mom or a dad, an receptionist, mechanic, a nail technician, whatever.  We want,  I’m pretty sure to be respected, to have our voice heard.


But sometimes it may be hard to know what to say, and even the most articulate, the most wise, the highest authorities may be dumbfounded.


For example, what would you say if a man with guns and ammo walked into your office, your job, the store where you shop, what if someone walked right in here?  What would you do? 


Would you say this to that man: : So just stay there calm, don’t worry about it. I’m gonna sit right here so they’ll see that you tried not to harm me, ok? Ok.  Would you say to this potential shooter or murderer?   It’s going to be alright sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you though, ok? And I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’ve just given up. And don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life


Those are just some of the words that Antoinette Tuff said to the man with 500 rounds of ammo and a gun as he stood in a school office in Georgia earlier this week.  There were a lot of other things said, and if you can get a chance to listen to that 911 call recording I encourage you to do that.  It is terrifying; it is heart warming.  Now as many of us know Mrs Tuff is not a hostage negotiator, she’s not a psychologist, but she is the school book keeper and she is Christian.  Later in the call when she, exclaims “Oh Jesus”. It isn’t some thoughtless byword, but the deepest prayer.


Mrs Tuff has gone through something that hopefully none of us will ever have to.  However,the world we live in is terribly uncertain, frightfully violent.


There is fighting between nations, between neighbors, between strangers, and within families.  It is reasonable to fear strangers, who knows what they might be thinking, who knows what weapon they will use?   Fear and uncertainty fills the hearts of the people.


I could be describing today, just as easily as I am describing the world of the prophet Jeremiah.  The people of Jerusalem, sandwiched between the great nations of Egypt and Babylon, thought political alliances and the armies and weapons  of one nation or another would keep them safe.  Within this space of fear, the people clung to the belief that their holy city Jerusalem would never be destroyed.  That they could count on God to give them success, give them wealth and prosperity, that God would always be on their side and got their back.


Is our day so very different? Nations are at each others throats. Random acts of senseless violence are on the news.  The American Way of life that worked for some people seems to be threatened.  Believing that prosperity is God’s vision for us and our way of life so many people have turned to various forms of violence to preserve a sense of security.  With guns and more guns and with laws that allow us to use those guns  shoot first.


I don’t know about you but some times I feel it’s just gotten to the point where I feel  powerless even speechless.  What do we say in and to this world?


Our bible readings this morning tell us that in terrible times, God is not silent.  God is calling up prophets, prophets like Jeremiah, who in the Bible are not so interested on telling the future, but instead telling God’s truth.  Now for most of these prophets, and especially for Jeremiah, this truth was unpleasant, it was unwelcome.  His warnings against playing one nation off another were not welcome.  His call to faithfully following God and not the power of weapons was not welcomed.  It is not a life of ease and respectability.  Jeremiah even complains that he didn’t want this job that God has given him.


But, God didn’t stop at Jeremiah.  We can believe that God was at work in Antoinette Tuff, in her church giving her a way to save lives, so that while shots were fired, not one person was in that school was killed that day, not even the man tormented by mental illness, desperate, distraught, and bent on destructive died that day.


God has been calling people like Jeremiah –prophets who don’t foretell the future, but tell the truth, God’s truth.  People, mostly but not exclusively women our grandmother and great grandmothers who fought so that on Aug, 26, 1920 the 19th Amendment to our Constitution,the one giving women the right to vote could be announced as law to our nation.


  God lifted up the voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And Congressman Lewis and others 50 years ago at the march on Washington.  And yesterday as speaker after speaker called this nation to our unfinished business of securing rights to all the people.


But as Mrs  Tuff should point out to us, you don’t need to be great orator, a certified ordained preacher, God gives us the words to say to this world.  So we end as we begin.  What do you want to be when you grow up, or rather what is God calling you to grow into being?  God is calling us to stand up straight, to be the voice for the voiceless–to work against all the violence in this world– to pray for healing, not just of a few here and there.  How are you going to let God speak through you at home, at work?


And don’t spend time thinking up excuses, God’s heard them before, from Moses to ?jeremiah an more.  But God doesn’t want us to let evil, fear, keep us down and silent. In our culture of spending money as a way to feel good, to gain respect, how are you going to call those around you to something, better,  we pray that we may never be in the same situation as Antoinette Tuff, but wherever we are God knows us, has known us from the beginning. 


And I’ll conclude with the words of artist Lupe Fiasco, who will be here in Milwaukee this weekend. You may or know him, you may not agree with all he says, but hear these words


It’s so loud inside my head

With words that I should have said!

As I drown in my regrets

I can’t take back the words I never said, never said

I can’t take back the words I never said


I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence

Fear is such a weak emotion that’s why I despise it

We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth

So scared of what you think of me, I’m scared of even telling you

Sometimes I’m like the only person I feel safe to tell it to

I’m locked inside a cell in me, I know that there’s a jail in you

Consider this your bailing out, so take a breath, inhale a few

My screams is finally getting free, my thoughts is finally yelling


No matter how old or young we are God is calling us to grow into being not just quiet and bowed down beneath the evil of this world, but to stand up, to respect ourselves, respect others and speak God’s words of life.  Lets grow up, grow up in Christ.  Amen.

Sermon from Nov. 13th,

Here’s my sermon. A sermon is an oral event, so please ignore the grammatically incorrect parts, and I do change things as I preach.

That’s not the half of it. What Nancy did a great job of telling you this morning reading our lesson isn’t the half of it. The story as told in our lectionary ends with Deborah (the judge), Deborah (the prophet), Deborah the woman telling the general to not only go out and wage war, but how to do it.
That’s a pretty gutsy lady even in this day and age. Although all sorts of other modern nations have had women heads of state (Pakistan, Great Britain, India, Iceland, Argentina) many still question the leadership of a woman. And Deborah was a judge thousands of years ago at a time and among a people allowed and encouraged men to polygamy having more than one wife. In some cultures, the majority of women were little more than property and a means to propagate, have children But getting back to the story, Deborah directs the general and his army to resist and fight the oppressor. That’s where our assigned reading ends. So, what do you think General Barak’s response is? Do you think he’s willing and eager to follow her words, to follow her instructions?
No he’s not. His response is, “Well if you go with me.” It’s his way of saying, I hope you’re right and to make sure you know what you’re talking about—you’re going with me. Now Deborah, as we should know by now, is a wise and feisty woman. She promises Barak that she’ll go with him, and she promises him another thing too. While he’ll win the battle, he won’t get the glory. That will go to a woman.
Well the teller of the stories of the book of Judges lets us know how the battle goes, and how God is with the underdog and they end up defeating the oppressing armies of soldiers and chariots. The battle goes so badly for the oppressors that the enemy general Sisera literally runs away. He is running for his life, when he sees an encampment. It looks to him that the folks there are friendly, so that’s where he heads. But as usual looks can be deceiving.
That ever happened to you? You know when you thought someone was your friend? You thought you could trust that friend, a co-worker, boyfriend, girlfriend, even a relative, or a spouse– only to discover to your dismay that you had seriously misjudged the relationship, seriously misjudged the other, and you end up getting as they say “stabbed in the back”.
Well it’s too bad, Sisera didn’t get a chance to really learn his lesson. As he runs into the camp he’s invited into one tent by a Jael. And wouldn’t you guess, she’s a she. Well Jael lets him come in, she gives him something to drink, she lets Sisera hide under her blankets. Thinking he’s safe, and probably a tad worn out too, with his defenses down, he falls asleep. And well here’s where the bible story goes once again beyond that good ol’ “G” rating. Jael grabs a tent spike and sends it right through Sisera’s skull and into the ground beneath his head.
Now you might not have thought that such exciting, action packed, and even gruesome stuff would be part or worship and nor part of the bible. You might even be wondering why this lesson was chosen for today, why some committee somewhere thought, Oh the Sunday before Christ the King, let’s toss just a portion of the story of Deborah into the lectionary. Wouldn’t that be nice.
Well, let’s be honest. There’s nothing nice about this story. It’s part of an all too familiar pattern. Within the book of Judges, the people of God repeatedly stray from God’s Way. They continually want to be like their neighbors. They think they can have it all. They want to get rich and not take care of the sick, the poor, the widows, the lost. They turned away from worshipping God and worshipped the gods and the ways of their neighbors. The refrain goes something like this, “the people again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. So, if the people want to be like all the rest, God’s gonna let them. If they want to live by their own rules; if they think violence can save them. Well let them give it a try. That’s the thing with our God. Expecting great things from us, God’s got to give us some freedom. The problem is all to often we either do nothing with it (like the problem in our gospel) or we do worse (abuse that freedom till the end result is nothing but pain, violence, and death).
A friend of mine used to say, if you can’t be a good example, at least you can be a horrible warning. Maybe that’s why this story and actually sadly to say, lots like it are in the bible and should be shared within the people of God. Just maybe we can learn from our ancestors. Just maybe we can see that we’ve gone down that road of violence before, we’ve gone down the road of common sense and easy fixes, and look what’s happened—we’ve gone down the road of everybody else is doing it. This isn’t just some quaint story about one or two particularly powerful woman. It’s about a people who don’t get it; who keep on not getting it; It’s a story for us to look honestly at, to see ourselves in all those crazy names, and to turn to another way—not the way of war or violence no matter who says it’s a good thing, no matter who says it’s the only way. Much like the original intent of celebrating Armistice Day on Nov.11th marking the end of the violence and bloodshed of World War I. This is how we should observe Veterans and Memorial Day—when some of our brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, sons and daughters sacrifice life and limb, and peace and security. These days and more are the times when we should remember and reflect on the horror and pain that we inflict upon one another. And so, we as the church do not live in the world, do not just take advantage of holiday sales, days off. We hear the stories of Deborah, of Jael, of Sisera, and Barak, of men and women today always with Jesus’ words—blessed are the peacemakers, pray for your enemies and those who persecute you, no more an eye for an eye, but your enemy, one another, yourself, your lord– love and peace– in our hearts, on your minds, in our actions, and our words, in our prayers. Amen.