Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
October 28, 2018
“On a Roller Coaster Without a Restraint”
2nd Corinthians 4: 8-9 – NRSV
We are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.
I planned ahead this week and finished my sermon early so I could take my birthday off. After I heard the news that the MAGAbomber had been caught, I thought, I’ll need to go in a little early on Sunday and make a few changes. Then, Saturday morning Art and I went hiking at Brainard Lake. The views were absolutely glorious. A perfect day – freezing cold hurricane force winds – but absolutely glorious, snow-capped peaks and clear blue skies dancing right in front of our eyes. We got back to Denver late in the afternoon and I heard the news. Eleven people dead at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The shooter was a rampant anti-Semite and, according to some news, particularly angry about refugees. This time I knew I couldn’t make a few changes to my sermon. I knew I had to start over.
But where does one begin? I haven’t had time to process my own feelings let alone try to say something helpful or inspirational. But the truth is, I don’t even know any more what my feelings are. Am I angry? Am I sad? Am I ready to fight or ready to give up? Sometimes it’s both at the same time. God, what do you want from us?
Struggling for answers, I thought of the words of Psalm 4:
Answer us when we call to you,
our righteous God.
Give us relief from our distress;
have mercy on us and hear our prayer.
I thought of some scriptures that bring comfort, like Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear those words, it’s like a nurse has filled an IV bag full of medication for our heart. We let out a big exhale, our breathing slows, we listen…
2 You make me lie down in green pastures and lead me beside still waters;
3 You restore my soul and lead me in right paths.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
But wait. Evil is exactly what I fear. I fear the evil that stalks our country. I fear the men who think evil is a winning strategy. Who compare women and children fleeing violence in their country like they are an invading force, preparing our military as though we were facing modern day Crusaders. Who use racism and anti-Semitism and xenophobia as a rallying cry. I fear that evil. Sometimes I find myself angry and sometimes just helpless and numb.
Psalm 69 says this so beautifully:
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
3 I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
4 There are more who hate me without cause than there are the number of hairs on my head.
Can you hear the crushing despair? I understand it. I understand it as an emotion I feel in between cycles of rage. Rage to rage we fly, faster and faster, like we’re strapped into a roller coaster without a restraint. Peaks and valleys of Halloween horrors. The Psalmists often felt the same way. The one in Psalm 69 who just spoke of being weary with crying, throat parched, eyes growing dim… Listen to what they ask of God now:
24 Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
25 May their camp be a desolation;
let no one live in their tents.
27 Add guilt to their guilt;
may they have no acquittal from you.
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
And that’s only 4 of the dozens of verses in a row; pow, pow, pow. There are other psalms, too, that don’t let up. Imprecatory psalms, they are called. Psalm 109, in particular, shows absolutely no mercy and says of the wicked:
8 May his days be few;
9 May his children be orphans,
and his wife a widow.
10 May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit.
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.
12 May there be no one to do him a kindness,
nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.
13 May his posterity be cut off…
may his memory be cut off from the earth.
So, OK, maybe that’s going a little too far. But the Bible knows well our roller coaster of emotions. Why did the psalmist wish all those things? Here is the explanation for their rage:
16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted to their death.
Sometimes scripture knows exactly what to say. And sometimes it helps to just let go and ride the roller coaster and speak aloud to God some of what we probably shouldn’t tell other people. But God can take it.
And then we are drawn back to Psalm 23,
4 Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
we will fear no evil;
for you, O God, are with us;
your rod and your staff--
they comfort us.
5 You prepare a table before us
in the presence of our enemies;
you anoint our heads with oil;
our cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us
all the days of our life,
and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
And yet another House of the Lord was attacked yesterday. Another man enacting evil. But not in isolation. We have to stop calling these lone killers. We have to stop questioning their motives. We know his motive. To kill Jews. To express rage at the loss of what he perceives to be his right – along with the rest of them whose motivation is to Make America Great Again with a return to white privilege, male superiority, and Christian supremacy.
As I grieve with the members of Tree of Life, I was reminded of the six Sikhs killed while their community worshiped in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012. I remember the nine members of Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, targets of hate and violence in their House of the Lord in 2015.
Among with names like the Rev. Clementa Pinkney, you may remember Ethel Nance, one of the nine. You’ll remember her daughter, Nadine, who shockingly told the killer two days later, “I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but God forgives you, and I forgive you.” On the spot, perhaps ready or not, members of the other 8 families followed her example. We all listened, stunned. Some, however, not yet ready.
Like even a year later when Nadine’s sister, the Rev. Sharon Risher, said she still wasn’t ready to forgive. “I’m not bitter, but I can’t.” The shooter doesn’t act like he even wants to be forgiven. Risher had to leave her job, finding the demands of her employment as a hospital chaplain too emotionally draining as she still grieves her mother.
However, then there’s Rev. Anthony Thompson whose wife Myra was killed, but he said he wouldn’t let the shooter control his life. He said he began to heal the moment he spoke those words of forgiveness.
Alana Simmons, whose grandfather was among those murdered, gave up her job as a middle school music teacher to run a non-profit called the Hate Won’t Win Movement. That’s the way she copes – focusing on the potential for good. She said, “I couldn’t harbor hate in my heart and then go out and preach love.”
But Arthur Hurd, whose wife Cynthia died, said that the only thing that will bring him joy again is to be the one who pulls the switch that ends Dylann Roof’s life.
If you aren’t sure how you feel today, I don’t really either. Maybe one of the above and maybe none of the above. I know I am tired. And one more thing. And this is what I will continue to hold on to.
Park read the scripture today as this: We are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.
But that’s only part of what Paul told the Corinthians. He said:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed. New Revised Standard Version
Let me say it again in a different way:
We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed.
We are confused, but we aren’t hopeless.
9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned.
We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. Common English Bible
One more time, this time by Eugene Peterson, who died this week at the age of 85, in his translation The Message:
We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized;
we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do;
we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side;
we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. The Message
That’s what I know. That’s what holds me together on days like these. When I feel like I’m on a roller without a restraint, God is what holds me in. Holds us in. We don’t have to hold on. We have to let go.
Sometimes when things don’t feel well, we have to turn to God in faith and proclaim, “It is well with my soul” remembering the God who gives us, as Psalm 69 said, relief from our distress, who has mercy on us and hears our prayers. For ours is a healing God. And ours is a healing community. As Mary Luti said, “The truth about human beings is that we’re all broken. The larger truth is that we heal. And we heal each other. We have the power, often in the simplest acts, to help each other heal.”
Sing “It is Well with My Soul”
Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
October 21, 2018
Mark 10: 35-45 – The Message
James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.”
36 “What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”
37 “Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”
38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?”
39-40 “Sure,” they said. “Why not?”
Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”
41-45 When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”
James and John asked Jesus for the privilege of sitting at the highest places of honor in his glory, “one of us on the right, one of us on the left.” It’s seems like a pretty-obvious self-serving idea. Can you imagine anything more arrogant?
Well, I suppose I can. Asking the Supreme Court to maintain the highest places of honor for white people. Legislators in North Dakota, my home state, took away the right to vote for American Indians and the Supreme Court said, “OK.” They did this not by tricking them in some back-room deal, but by stating very clearly, this land is our land. They didn’t want to do something that’s simply “pretty obvious” but so obviously outrageous there is no doubt as to their intention. Stop Native people from voting.
One of the things many of us who have gone on our trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have learned is that the postal service doesn’t deliver mail to the homes of Native American families. Larry Swallow told us his white neighbor across the road gets home-delivered mail but he does not. Something about sovereign nation stuff, which doesn’t make sense to me. But for good reasons or not, many, maybe most, American Indians living on reservations do not have street addresses but post office box numbers. A light went off in the head of some gleeful white supremacist. To vote, require an ID with a street address! Now, it’s not that you can’t get one, but it is an impediment that will discourage and possibly delay voting in this election.
It’s another in quite an arsenal of disenfranchisement. When gerrymandering isn’t enough, limit voting by making charges of rampant fraud, even if there is no evidence. Shorten early voting or consolidate polling stations to “save money.” If that doesn’t discourage voters, slow down on processing registrations and let them sit on the desk of the Georgia Secretary of State… If all that is not enough, as they did this week, then just go out and pull elderly African American nursing home residents off buses on their way to vote. Sounds like a story Terri told last week about Fannie Lou Hamer. In 1963, a busload of African Americans trying to register to vote was pulled over because the bus was too yellow. Poll taxes, literacy tests… Can’t get away with those anymore. So, Georgia enacted “exact match” voter IDs, affecting 909,000 potential voters. Or require a street address for people who don’t have street addresses, affecting just enough votes to swing the election.
So, back to James and John. Familiar names, but I thought, now who were they again? The sons of a fisherman named Zebedee, James and John were the first two of the 12 disciples to answer yes when Jesus said, “Come, follow me;” brothers who then walked away leaving their father sitting in his boat mending nets.
But I had forgotten that their mother was Salome. You might recognize her name as one of the women who went to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus after his crucifixion. Salome also provided financial support to Jesus and the disciples as he traveled the countryside teaching – lessons that didn’t sink in too deeply for her two sons. I wonder how she felt about that.
Some scholars suggest Salome was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Somehow, I never got that before. Obviously, that would mean that Jesus, James and John were cousins, suggesting a different dynamic between them when they came bounding forward and asked Jesus to give them special places of honor. And could be why Uncle Zebedee didn’t object to being left behind to carry on the family business.
But in the middle of all that, there are two little details we can’t overlook: Salome had money to buy spices and support Jesus. And Zebedee was a fisherman who owned his own fleet of boats. This was not a peasant family. James and John were not leaving their family destitute to go off and follow Jesus. That’s not to say they were any less courageous in leaving everything behind. I can’t say they weren’t any less dedicated; after all, James was ultimately executed by Herod Agrippa, the only one of the 12 to become a martyr.
And yet, their request for special places of honor on his left and on his right in glory certainly smacks not only of ignorance but a certain entitlement, not as cousins but wealth then and now has a way of making people feel entitled. But, as Jesus kept saying, and what they kept missing, was that to follow him was not about power and glory. As Henri Nouwen describes it, a Jesus-life is one of downward mobility that substitutes power for love – over and over. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. The good news is that the last will be first, the first will be last. Of course, that’s not such good news for James and John, or any privileged and entitled.
These guys had been following Jesus now for almost a year, 24/7. This wasn’t their first lesson, day one at school, with him. And yet, as the Gospel of Mark keeps reiterating, they absorbed very little of his teachings. This was now the third time Jesus had told them what was coming. In the verses immediately before today’s passage, “They were on the road walking to Jerusalem. He told the 12, ‘The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
James and John obviously only heard the last part and came bounding up, “ooo, ooo, let us sit next to you when you rise!”
The first time Jesus told the disciples about his impending suffering and death, Peter told him to stop talking like that. Jesus responded by telling him, “Satan, get behind me.” The second time, after Jesus spoke about his suffering and death, an argument broke out among the disciples about who was the greatest. What could Jesus do but shake his head? Now, after this third time, two of them ask for a place of glory. But for what else would someone who is used to places of honor and glory ask? Only the entitled think suffering is for other people.
One of the things that really struck a nerve with the Kavanagh hearings was his absolute entitlement to being confirmed. “I worked my butt off. I went to Yale. I know a lot of important people. I like beer. A lot of people like beer. Don’t you like beer?” As Jonathon Capehart described it, “The entire spectacle was one long ‘but you promised’ tantrum of a grown man denied” that to which he felt entitled.
Lisa Miller explains entitlement as “the presumption that elites are elites because they deserve to be, a false correlation between status and good character, and an intolerance of dissent. No one who doesn’t live inside is allowed to criticize those who do, and all who do, are bound by a frat boy defense – what happens here stays here. Not unlike bishops who protect child abusing priests.” Kavanagh said of Dr. Ford, “we did not travel in the same social circles.” And that matters why?
MeToo is dangerous because it is all about depriving privileged men of that to which they feel entitled. The president said this a scary time for boys and men. “Mothers, you should be worried for your sons.” Not because they might be killed for driving while black,
But none of that is of any consequence when a white man is denied what is rightfully his: women, low taxes, and the exclusive right to vote, arguing that was the original intent of the Constitution. The so-called “originalists” being packed onto the Supreme Court today still agree that voting is properly for white, property-owning, men. Preferably Christian.
But, like the entitled James and John, white Christians often have no idea who Jesus really is. When they want to impose their version of Christianity, they are not talking about the Jesus of the Gospels. Misunderstood or simply ignored when they don’t like what he said, such as, “The first will be last. And the last will be first,” challenging the thinking of the privileged and entitled like James and John and white American Christians today, myself included.
My friend Katy from seminary said, the most common reading of this text in liberal churches is to heed it as a call to charity. To “honor” the poor, the last and the least. But not to subvert the social order. It encourages misplaced compassion, which just plays into the hands of the entitled like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan who want us to get riled up and question “entitlements,” like food for senior citizens and a place of dignity to live. It’s quite rich that the entitled want to dismantle entitlements. And do so without any whiff of hypocrisy. As though they would even care.
But as Katy said, “The challenge of today’s text for white Christian America is that it is a direct affront to the systems to which we owe our allegiance. Patriarchy, white supremacy, and the greed of capitalism don’t do well here. Jesus inverts every one of these heresies. This text should have us shaking in our boots, threatening our foundations. And if it doesn’t, if it doesn’t cause us to tremble, we aren’t hearing the gospel.” (https://liturgyoutside.net/last-first-and-the-call-to-revolution/) The first shall be last. The last shall be first.
We shouldn’t mistake the Kingdom of God for American democracy or elevate democracy as the will of God, but there are at least hints within democracy to a vision of equality among citizens and the people of God. Paul said, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for we are all one in Christ.”
It’s like a vision of every vote counted. A vision where people in nursing homes don’t have to get on a bus to go the polls but poll workers are sent to seek them out in their homes; where poll workers go under bridges to look for people and travel on long, winding reservation roads so that everyone can be found, and every voice is included. Of course, in the Kingdom of God, people don’t live under bridges nor are there any reservations, but you get the idea.
Can you imagine what this country would look like if everyone voted? I guess that would be pretty scary. And can you imagine Christians as the fiercest advocates of voter rights? Because as Henri Nouwen describes it, a Jesus-life is one of downward mobility that substitutes power for love.
But, before we totally embrace powerlessness, our call is not to become doormats. That’s another misinterpretation of this text. But out of fierce love, we first have to fight like hell to get power and control out of the hands of the privileged and entitled. Our call is not to become their patsies but to take their power so that it can be shared, given away, that then, at last, we might love one another and embrace each other as members of one body, one country, one earth.
Yes, that means we must get out there and vote until everyone can vote, but we must also recognize this is only one election and only one step in a thousand until we realize the vision of a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. As Dr. King said, “we must do more than register and vote; we shall have to create leaders who embody virtues we respect, who have moral and ethical principles we can applaud with enthusiasm.”
That is something to which we are entitled.
 Richard R. Losch, All the People in the Bible, Eerdmans Publishing, 2008, p 365
 Mark 8: 27-33
 Mark 9: 33-37
Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
October 7, 2018
“We Were Meant for Just Such a Time as This”
Esther 4: 14-17 – New Revised Standard Version
For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Last week I shared the story of Queen Vashti. Here’s a brief synopsis. King Ahasuerus held a six-month long party all around his kingdom to celebrate his vast territory and tremendous wealth. For the final week, he gathered all the men for a seven-day drinking binge. As a final act, the king instructed his beautiful wife, Queen Vashti, to parade in front of all the well-intoxicated men, wearing her crown, which according to some ancient traditions meant only her crown. But she refused causing great panic by all the men who feared that if she wasn’t punished sufficiently for her rebellion, all their wives would feel empowered to disobey their husbands too. Therefore, Queen Vashti was banished.
So, to pick a new queen, the king’s advisors suggested a beauty contest. First, gather all the most beautiful women from around the kingdom. Then, give them cosmetic treatments for an entire year – described as six months with the oil of myrrh and six months of perfumes. Lastly, each young woman would be brought before the king so that he could choose the one who pleased him the most. He chose Esther, about whom the only thing he knew was that she was beautiful. What else was there to know? But more to the point of this story, he did not know she was Jewish. As a child, Esther was an orphan who had been adopted by her uncle Mordecai. He advised her throughout the year of cosmetic treatments not to tell anyone they were Jewish.
Esther and Mordecai lived in Susa, one of the four capitals of the great Persian Empire. A hundred years before, Jews had been carried off into captivity in Babylon, the heart of Persia. 70 years later, Cyrus allowed them to return to Jerusalem, but many like Mordecai chose to stay where they were. And yet, living as a Jew at the heart of the Persian Empire was risky. King Ahasuerus, also known as King Xerxes, has been described as “the most powerful man in the world. A reckless, extravagant, and easily manipulated character.” He was surrounded by men who knew how to use flattery to get him to enact their evil schemes. Powerful, reckless, extravagant, and easily manipulated by flattery. Ahasuerus, not who you are thinking. But the worst character of them all, the most opportunistic, was a man named Haman who plotted and schemed his way up the ladder to the position of second in command in order to carry out some extraordinarily devious acts, a character that reminds me of presidential advisor Stephen Miller, but more on that later.
Haman was a petty man with an easily bruised ego. He had an irrational hatred of a certain people he labeled a “dangerous element.” One day Mordecai failed to bow to him. He used that snub to put in motion a plan to kill Mordecai and everyone associated with him. He got the king to issue a decree. Haman personally paid to have a gallows built on which Mordecai could be hanged, followed by getting rid of his people. Jews through-out the entire Persian Empire. Which, by the way, included Jerusalem, ensuring they would be wiped from the earth.
The powerful, reckless, extravagant, easily manipulated king fell right into Haman’s trap. When Mordecai found out, he went to see Queen Esther. He told her, “You’ve got to do something about this.” But what could she do? Even she couldn’t just schedule an appointment to see her husband. That’s because if he didn’t wave his golden scepter at you, you would be put to death, queen or not. But even if did wave his golden scepter, asking him to spare her people would require an explanation, which would risk revealing her identity to him, something Mordecai had always instructed her not to do. And yet, she was their only hope. He said, “Perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this.” And she agreed. “If I perish, I perish.”
But, even if you did see the king, advocating a reversal of his policy wasn’t enough. The law stated that once a decree was declared, not even the king could reverse it. The date set for the slaughter of the Jewish people was quickly approaching. Esther had to both change the kind’s mind and figure out a way to get a new decree declared before the other one went into effect. The pressure was on.
Esther dared approach the throne, using her wit to employ her beauty and charm to get his attention. She told him all she wanted was to have dinner. And, she suggested, let’s invite Haman too. Haman was thrilled. He bragged to everyone that he had been invited to a private dinner with the king and queen. So charmed by her, at that dinner the king offered to do anything she wanted. She simply asked for another dinner, again with Haman. It was at the second dinner that Esther told the story of a group of people in his kingdom who were about to be executed by his decree, something he didn’t even remember ordering.
Then Esther boldly revealed her identity to the king and told him that if his decree was carried out, she would be killed too. He was incensed. Who would want to do this to you? She pointed to their extra special dinner guest. “Him.” And then pointed out the window. In a reversal of fortune, Haman was executed on the gallows he built to hang Mordecai. Mordecai, by the way, also replaced Haman as the king’s second in command.
But just when we think, “Justice has been served!” the king issued a decree to save the Jews – by having them murder their neighbors the day before they were to be murdered. Sure, Haman and his ten sons were killed, along with 500 more. But the next day, 75,000 more innocent people. It’s a rather dreadful way to end what is otherwise a very inspiring story.
I asked Rabbi Mo about this. Why does Esther have to end with this gruesome act? He reminded me that though Esther is set in a historical time and in a particular political context, the story is satire. It’s historical farce – over the top. After all, had the men really been drinking for seven straight days? An entire year of cosmetic treatments? Death for a wife who asked to speak with her husband? A law that can’t be reversed? 75,000 people murdered? And even, the literal execution of every living Jew? Although, that one doesn’t seem quite as impossible.
Nor, as we are living through right now, does it seem impossible to imagine a powerful, reckless, extravagant, easily manipulated world leader, susceptible to flattery to carry out the evil deeds of scheming advisors who have an irrational hatred toward a certain people labeled a “dangerous element,” creating the conditions that allow for absolute cruelty and even death. Huh. How about that. Anyone who says the Bible is irrelevant doesn’t know the Bible.
Esther was famously made queen for “just such a time as this.” Just what kind of time are we living in? As Adam Serwer in The Atlantic wrote, “The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track.” You surely heard about the rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night at which a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford. That’s just his normal disgusting stuff. But did you that then the crowd started chanting “Lock her up!” Not Hillary. Dr. Ford. Deplorable.
But lost among the coverage of the supreme court, on Thursday news broke that the Trump administration lied about creating a database of children separated from their families, one of Miller’s proudest accomplishments, making it impossible to reunite all of them. On the same day the administration, once again led by Miller, announced its intention to implement his plan to revoke the temporary protected status of immigrants who have been here for as long as 20 years. Some proponents argue that “temporary means temporary.” What they won’t say out loud is that this means separation from their U.S.- born children – 192,700 children. Actions which are called ethnic cleansing in the Washington Post.
Then on Friday, Haman’s latest project, or rather, I mean, Stephen Miller’s latest project, was revealed: a blanket ban on visas for Chinese students. So, while at the same time the administration is trying to eliminate affirmative action in college admissions, deceptively claiming it discriminates against Asian-Americans, they are attempting to outright ban all students from China at US colleges and universities. Because they might spy on us; the “dangerous element” argument also used to justify Japanese internment camps. Plus, a bonus effect would be depriving income from “elite” universities who often criticize President Trump.
And then came Saturday…
For just such a week, for just such a time as this, we are a church called together by Jesus Christ to overturn injustice with acts of hospitality for 20 women every Tuesday in our fellowship hall. And acts of compassion at the Senior Support Center. And acts of solidarity on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
For just such a time as this we are a church called together by Jesus Christ to offer generosity toward organizations like the Florence Project which provides legal services for separated families. And undocumented day laborers at El Centro Humanitario. And disaster relief for victims of this administration’s neglect, or perhaps even malicious intent, against Puerto Ricans.
For just such a time as this, we teach Sunday school classes about loving our neighbors. And gather youth on Sunday evenings. And invite any group whose mission is racial justice to meet in our building for free.
For just such a time as this, when there seems to be so little to celebrate, we gather to witness the joyful baptism of children. If you missed last Sunday, one-year old Karsten reached down into the water and gleefully stirred it while I attempted to say, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ.” He was more interested in the water than the blessing.
For just such a time as this, through worship I am sustained by hearing the Word of God, not just a diet of Rachel Maddow and the Washington Post. And surrounded by people who know that these times call for resistance against biblical-level cruelty by modern-day Hamans, wondering, who is the Esther that will save us just in time this time, before realizing, Esther is every woman who is speaking up and telling her story, bravely revealing their identity in a very risky time. Women and men who won’t be silenced anymore. Dreamers who have risked their identity as undocumented. LGBTQ citizens who have come out to families or to their churches, only to be told, we don’t want you here anymore. It still happens.
This is stewardship month and sometimes when we approach this time of year to ask for pledges for the next, it can come across as somewhat of an apology. “I’m sorry we have to ask.” But I have to tell you, I’ve never been so convinced of the power of this gathered community, this gifted congregation, for exactly such a time as this. To put together our talents and our time and our money toward an endeavor of hope. To remember, God never loses hope in humanity, and neither should we. Hope can be hard, but it isn’t meant for times when it is easy. Hope is meant for just such a time as this. Hope expressed through acts of hospitality, solidarity, generosity, affirmation, support for one another, education, worship and more.
This church is not an institution deserving of your financial support. This church is a force for good in the world that invites your full participation. We were meant for just such a time as this, for exactly this kind of time. And so were you? Yes! So, Rise Up! Be bold.
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My three loves are being the Pastor of Park Hill UCC in Denver, Hiking in the Colorado Foothills and Mountains, and Travelling around the world