Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pentecost 5, 2015: Our sacred work

Lectionary: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43\
Preacher: The Rev Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

In case you haven’t heard: we have a new Presiding Bishop: Michael Curry, current bishop of NC, and now, our PB-elect! In a time when our country is confronted with racism and violence like it hasn’t seen since the 1960’s, The Episcopal Church has elected our first African-American PB. I’ve been a fan of Michael
Curry for a long time, so I’m very excited about his leadership of our church at this time in our church’s life and in the life of the world.

In the midst of all the Episcopal excitement yesterday, however, I got smacked down in a Twitter discussion about the KKK protesters at the Alabama statehouse. More accurately, I should say, I had been asleep in the boat (as we discussed last week) and I was jolted awake – and, believe me, it wasn’t comfortable.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality and the call from the governor of AL governor to take down the Confederate flag, members of the KKK showed up at the AL statehouse in significant numbers to protest. While I stand by my initial Twitter statement that all Americans, even members of the KKK, have the constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, what I didn’t know was how real and present a threat the KKK is becoming again.

In the comfort of my white privilege I had dismissed them as an impotent remnant of racists who had little power to do harm anymore. I was wrong - and I thank @Nig-ella Lawson for crying out and waking me up.

The KKK is alive and active. As their own flier says, the sleeping giant has awakened, and they’re exploiting current issues and events to promote their racist agenda – issues like immigration and events like the shooting of Michael Brown by police in MO, where the KKK called for “lethal force” by their members against the threats they perceived from Ferguson protesters.

The Southern Poverty Law Center warns us “against underestimating the influence Klan values can have on so-called lone wolves.” (Source:, 11.14.14, Caitlin Dickson) Lone wolves - like Dylann Roof maybe – who spoke of white supremacy as he shot and killed nine black people in their church? And let’s not forget that in the last five days, three black churches in NC, GA and SC were “purposefully burned” (asron) and are being investigated as hate crimes. (Source:, 06.26.15, xxdr zombiexx)

I tell you all this because the world is a bit nightmarish these days – especially for black Americans – and many of us are still comfortably asleep in the boat. But the time has come for us to wake up. As Bp Curry said last month when he preached at Trinity Wall Street, Episcopalians need to get busy “participating in the Jesus movement… committing to making a practical, tangible difference… helping the world look more like God’s dream and less like our nightmare… It’s sacred work” he said.

To do that, Bp Michael Curry recommends we make these five things a priority:

1) Formation: +Michael asks, how do we form disciples? He wonders what might happen if all Episcopalians studied the teachings of Jesus every day? (First, can I mention how affirming this is of my article about formation in the Parish Notes last week? Also, a reminder that we offer MP here weekdays at 7:00 am. We also offer the Episcopalian Rosary- which has Biblical references – Tuesday through Thursday afternoons at 5 pm.
2) Evangelism: (the “E –word” +Michael suggests that we practice a kind of evangelism “that is as much listening as sharing… [evangelism that is] an invitation, a welcome” to the church where persons can discover and develop a relationship with God and one another.
3) Witnessing: +Michael says we need to “get out in the public sphere [and] be a voice for those who have no voice.” As we have seen here over the last year, that can be risky. It may draw to us hateful verbal attacks or protesters, but it truly is our sacred work.
4) Relationship: +Michael points to ecumenical relationships - all faiths participating in ways that bring about God’s dream; he also talks about relationships within the Anglican Communion where more than a little conflict has made the news. I would add that relationships within our own church, our family of faith, are equally vital and also equally conflicted.
5) +Michael says we need to create structures that serve our mission. He’s talking here about institutional structures that help the church be “vessels of the Jesus movement.” (Source: The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry on Vimeo) Doesn’t this sound like what we heard at our parish meeting with the Rev. Bill Livingston last week? How nice to be affirmed that we’re on the right track!

This also agrees with what we heard in the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul is giving his advice on stewardship and participation in ministry to new members of the church. Paul says, “it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it… For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable… I do not mean [Paul coninues] that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.”

Whatever privilege we enjoy, we are called to participate in making a tangible difference in our world by 1) sharing from the abundance our privilege affords us; and 2) receiving from the abundance of experience of those outside privilege that they have to share with us. This is how we bring about a fair balance.

We who have enough to eat are called to share food with those who are hungry – like Jesus did when he fed the 5,000 out of his compassion, not just out of duty.

We who are accepted according to societal preferences of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, educational or economic standing are called to build bridges of friendship and inclusion with those who are marginalized – modeling what Jesus did: visiting with Gentiles, dining with tax collectors, healing the woman with the issue of blood, in fact, healing the many who were unclean, insane, or judged by religious types as unworthy.

We who have financial means are called to share with those who don’t, or at least take up our responsibility to support the church’s mission and ministries so that our church can be a vessel of the Jesus movement.

Finally, we who are believers are called to share the Good News. What is our Good News? Salvation in Jesus Christ. We can use Jesus’ own words: “Do not fear; only believe” – or these words: “Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)

Beloveds, we are a people of hope – and our hope is in Jesus Christ our Savior. There is no nightmare that the dream of God isn’t already overcoming. Our salvation is already won. We are already enjoying eternal life in him, so there really is nothing to fear!

Here and there a voice will cry out and wake us up, and it will likely be uncomfortable. Our choice then is to be offended by the wake-up call and walk away justified in our indignation or to draw closer to the pain and allow the truth in it to wake us up and get us moving.

We have the opportunity to make a tangible difference this week. I invite you to participate in the picnic on the court square sponsored by CCG (Cross Cultural Gathering, the anti-racism group I mentioned last week) at 6pm this Tuesday evening. Join the conversation and let’s practice the kinds of evangelism Bp. Michael Curry calls us to – the kind that involves listening.

We are truly blessed to be able to give our thanks to God and be about our sacred work together, participating in the Jesus movement, helping to make our world look more and more like the dream of God.

All we have to do is wake up and get up – and participate in the Jesus movement.


No comments: