Acknowledging ‘White Privilege’

privilege and racismThe words ‘white privilege’ have been bandied around by pundits, the media and in general conversation, and while many of us accept that it exists, we are not sure what it means. The best definition of ‘white privilege’ that I have found came from a class in women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts:

a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country.

The biggest problem with white privilege is the invisibility it maintains to those who benefit from it most. The inability to recognize that many of the advantages whites hold are a direct result of the disadvantages of other people, contributes to the unwillingness of white people, even those who are not overtly racist, to recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting from white supremacy.

White privilege is about not having to worry about being followed in a department store while shopping. It’s about thinking that your clothes, manner of speech, and behavior in general, are racially neutral, when, in fact, they are white. It’s seeing your image on television daily and knowing that you’re being represented. It’s people assuming that you lead a constructive life free from crime and off welfare. It’s about not having to assume your daily interactions with people have racial overtones.

White privilege is having the freedom and luxury to fight racism one day and ignore it the next. White privilege exists on an individual, cultural, and institutional level”.[1]

To quote African -American author, James Baldwin, “Being white means never having to think about it.

Many of us at Saint John’s benefit every day from our ‘white privilege’. We don’t even acknowledge that we have it, and indeed, enjoy a life that people of color can only dream of, but do not often attain. Life’s path is smoothed for us; the entire world is set up to give us every advantage, allow us to come out on the top. Moreover, we don’t want to talk about the fact that we are privileged, or even think that our privilege directly affects the lives of millions of people of color. We do not have to worry about whether our children will return safely as they walk home from school, or if they are driving, will they be stopped for the most minor of offenses and jailed. I have an African-American friend who does not drive in Bexley because the police consider ‘driving while black’ a reason to stop him. We don’t have that worry. And even if we are stopped by the police, we don’t fear that we will be assaulted or shot. We don’t have to teach our sons how to avoid harassment when they are doing nothing wrong. People don’t cross to the other side when we walk down the street, or hold tight to their purses when we pass by.

Racism is about much more than our feelings toward one another, or about differences that we can fix with talk of tolerance or color blindness. The story of race is an ideology of difference that shapes our understanding of ourselves, the world we inhabit, and the communities in which we live. Racial thinking assigns value to human beings who are grouped within artificial categories. We do not need to embrace contrived notions of racial differences, in the name of inclusion, but to examine to the depth of our hearts how we really feel about people of color. Tolerance is not acceptable; we must search until we can truly look at any other person as equal to ourselves. By minimalizing another person, we are dehumanizing not only them but ourselves.

In light of the murders and shootings of people of all colors in the past few months and most recently, we, may be appalled or anguished, but may not see these events are directly related to the long-standing racism in our nation stemming from slavery. Progress for people of color has been slow, and halting; cultural attitudes and habits have changed at a glacial pace. We think we have made progress, but we have become so used to the ‘racial divide’ in our nation, that in many cases, we do not even realize it is there! The sad and shocking thing is, these killings will continue. Too much of white America doesn’t see the problem. Many subconsciously believe that the shooting victim(s) “deserved it”!

None of this means the situation can’t change. However, until the white people in America can see clearly this injustice occurring, and realize the freedoms and values that we as Americans believe in are not available to everyone, it will continue. Until it tugs at our own sense of fairness and justice, a lot of white people in America will remain unmoved to act. Denying the impact of white privilege on this country’s judicial system creates more injustice, more inflamed rhetoric, more grief, more rage. . . and more deaths!

I saw a sign held by protester at a rally that said: ‘White Silence is Violence’.

Truly, if you do not listen to others who are not like you, keep silent when disparaging words are spoken, don’t hold people accountable for their discriminatory conduct, you are just as complicit in racism as those who hold a gun or burn a cross or lynch a man.

White people are in a position of power in this country because of a long-standing power structure that they control. In the opinion of many, much of the political unrest that we are now experiencing stems from the fact that we fear we are losing that control. Are we brave enough to use our ‘white privilege’ to correct that system or power structure? Are we, as white people, willing to do what it takes to stop the systemic murder of young black men, the institutionalized school-to-prison pipeline, the deep, bleeding wound that is racism in America. It is a hard pill to swallow that, in many ways, white people are the source of the problem and only we can change it! People of color may yell, scream, cry, plead or demand justice, but until we are willing to get really uncomfortable with our own participation in a racist society, nothing will change.

Don’t delude yourself that you do not have the power. You may say ‘I’m not racist — I have black friends! I’m a good person!” You may not be rich and you may truly struggle with daily aspects of your life. You probably are a good person, and you may have black friends. BUT, you still benefit from institutionalized racism.

Andrew Rosenthal, a writer for The New York Times, stated:

“The point of the “Black Lives Matter” movement is not that the lives of African Americans matter more than those of White Americans, but that they matter equally, and that historically they have been treated as if they do not.[2]

Speak with people of color, listen, to learn — or perhaps more appropriately, unlearn the racism that has been instilled in us by our country. . . and our churches.

It’s time for white people in America — especially the white American church — to start putting action behind our prayerful social media memes. The unfortunate reality is that America has a really big race problem, and it is white people must take the leadership to fix it. We, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, should be leading the charge, not arguing about the semantics of whose lives’ matter’.

I call on ALL congregations, but especially white congregations, to unite in protest, to refuse to stand in silence, to speak out against racial injustice, to examine our individual lives and attitudes until we understand our participation in racism, and wipe it from our lives!

We must build a society where we no longer see people of color bloodied and broken. . . or dead, due to racial violence.

We must ensure that our children do not take on the racial attitudes and habits that we were so subtly taught.

Join me in acknowledging, understanding and shedding the mantle of our ‘white privilege’.
 
 
[1]      The Social Construction of Whiteness and Women, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

[2]      Andrew Rosenthal, “The Real Story of Race and Police Killings“, The New York Times; September 4, 2015

 
Written for the Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 18 July 2016

“Fake News” and Real Citizenship

We are all aware that our national public life has become a chaotic swirl of arguments and controversy, fed by Tweets, incessantly repeated ‘soundbytes’, 24-hour news channels, and social media. What’s more, we are now cautioned to beware of ‘fake news’.

In Wikipedia, we find ‘fake news’ defined as:

“… a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.”

In the middle of the din of information – and mis-information – it is difficult to separate fact from opinion, truth from lies, and reality from concocted propaganda.

On top of all this, we are learning that forces seeking to weaken the United States government and sow discord in our national life are using demographic studies and profiles to target us with propaganda and lies meant to mislead people about the integrity and motives of our leaders and agencies in government, religion, academia, and charities.

This sort of ‘fake news’ and unsupported  opinion, not based on fact or reality can have real-life consequences. We are seeing shootings, riots, and other violent and hostile actions that are caused by some angry or disturbed people responding to that ‘fake news’. Those so inclined then latch onto this information and promulgate it to thousands of other people of the same ilk, further fueling the anger and propaganda.

The more exaggerated or inflammatory the headlines are, the more likely they are ‘fake news’. Headlines or social media subjects are meant to get the reader’s attention, but they’re also supposed to accurately reflect what the story is about. Now headlines use exaggerated language to intentionally mislead or are blatantly untrue.

How Do We Determine What Is Real?

  1. It is not only the responsibility of the platforms to determine the existence of fake news and issue a retraction or take the offenders down (as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have recently learned), but we as subscribers also have a responsibility to monitor what we pass on as ‘real’. It is disheartening that we can no longer trust all we read, but as responsible citizens, we must be more vigilant than ever about checking facts and not passing along lies and propaganda. How can we do this? The most recognized authority for getting at the truth is:

The International Fact-Checking Network (http://www.poynter.org/category/fact-checking/) is the recognized authority for fact checking. Every statement checked goes through a rigorous process for verification of validity.

Other sources for fact-checking are:

Snopes (www.snopes.com) or

Hoax-Slayer (www.hoax-slayer.net)

FactCheck (www.factcheck.org).

USE THEM!

  1. Another safeguard is to pay attention to the domain name and the URL; many websites can be ‘ghosted’, looking like a legitimate source. If the URL has an entry after the “.com”, the website is suspect, particularly if it contains inflammatory information.
  1. On Facebook, check the ‘About Us’ section; it should be straightforward without melodramatic or incendiary claims. Check the language usage; often the fake news sites use broken English, have misspellings, or poor syntax.
  1. Legitimate news sources will contain quotes attributed to experts in their fields; if an item attacks a person and contains text with no quotes, but rather attributes to ‘an informed source’, these are suspect. If an unfamiliar name is cited, Google the person; often that person does not exist.

There are several satirical websites that are ‘real lies’, but the sites will always state that they are satirical. Some of these include The Onion, Babylon Bee, Burrard Street Journal. A list of the top 50 satirical websites can be found at https:/blog.feedspot.com/satire_blogs.

  1. We must also guide our teenagers and children in deciphering truth from fiction on social media. Parents, grandparents and families should take time to explain the concepts of ‘fake news’ to children. If something is incendiary with pictures, younger children will be inclined to believe it. And fake news can cause unnecessary fear in children (thinking September 23, 2017 is the end of the world, for instance).

Each of us has a responsibility to stop the proliferation of this ‘fake news’. For the companies operating the sites, it is a fine line between restricting the ‘fake news’ sites and still allowing freedom of speech for its users. We can help in this effort by checking anything that we share with others. If you see someone in your circle who is passing along ‘fake news’, let them know and ask that they take the entry down. This may not be comfortable, and some may ‘unfriend’ you, but everyone has to correct ‘fake news’.

It is now more important than ever that we stand up for, and honor the First Amendment of the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;”

Within this Amendment lies the keys to much of our freedom as a people. Yet, also, herein lies the danger if forces are free to promulgate lies in the name of ‘free speech’, we must all be ever vigilant in finding those lies and correcting them!

Two-thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by people who believed ‘fake news’, gossip and lies, and were afraid to stand up for the truth. Lies travel faster now, and can be sown more quickly. But the urgent need for each person to stand for honesty and integrity in the face of lies is as great now as ever.

Remember, passing along one ‘fake news’ entry may reach millions of people with one click of the button.

Be responsible!
 
 
(Graphic provided by The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 13 October 2017

We Are ALL Invited!

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. ” But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14)

We just heard about a king who held a wedding reception for his son where none of the invited guests showed up.

Can you imagine that? Would you ever skip a wedding reception if invited by your king?

And if you remember, there were some pretty lame excuses why people couldn’t be bothered to attend!

So the king, having found out who TRULY were his friends, sent his servants out to invite anyone they found in the street. These people invited were commoners, slaves, servants and merchants. They were honest and hardworking people, but also, according to the Scripture, bad people, criminals and thieves. Anyone who happened to be on the street was invited to come to this sumptuous feast.

Now, this parable from Jesus is not really about a wedding feast, but a story about the salvation that is available if you follow Jesus. The king represents God, who asks each and every one of us to come into his Kingdom. . . no matter what our station in life, what we have done in the past. The Kingdom of Heaven is not limited to only the ‘good’ people or the Jewish people.

Heaven is open to all of us.

But there are some conditions for entry to the Kingdom of Heaven. The scripture says that there was one man who did not have a wedding robe. But this doesn’t refer to a piece of clothing – that just doesn’t make sense since the king’s servants went out onto the street and hauled in everyone they could find. Obviously, no one was dressed for the wedding.

This ‘robe’ is the ROBE OF SALVATION, which we all get when we give our lives to Jesus. . . when all our sins are forgiven and we are clean and spotless.

In Isaiah 6:10, we are told that when accept Christ, we are

clothed me with the garments of salvation, and He has wrapped with a robe of righteousness.

It is God who clothes us. Nothing that we do can possibly be enough to earn us salvation or righteousness. Only God can cleanse us from iniquity and cause us to be truly blameless, or righteous.

But we have a choice – we can choose to accept Christ and wear the ‘wedding robe’ or we can choose not to. It is solely up to each one of us.

The last line of the scripture (Matthew 22:14) says:

For many are called, but few are chosen.

We all receive the invitation, but not everyone will be chosen. Are you going to be one of the ‘chosen’ ones or will you be thrown into darkness?

It is your choice. . .  what are you going to choose?

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, open our eyes and hearts to the wonders of your salvation through Jesus Christ. Please help us to see that we can throw off the rags of our current life and put on shiny white robe through your salvation. May we live our lives on the path to your Kingdom. Amen.

 
 
Delivered to In the Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 15 October 2017

Moving toward the Promised Land: The Reforming Catholic Confession

About 500 years ago, as the legend goes, a small-town German Franciscan friar named Martin Luther nailed his ’95 Theses’ on the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral. This action was the most obvious of many events during the 17th century that marked the rejection of the many of the tenets and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, and led to the Protestant Reformation.

Luther believed that Scripture alone was the sole authority (Sola Scriptura) for doctrine, and that Christ’s death fully satisfied the penalty of sin. The Protestant mantra became: justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. This was a sharp divergence from the Roman Catholic doctrine that salvation came from works and faith (Sola Fide).

Luther had no intention of leaving the church he hoped to reform, but his theological fury led to his inevitable excommunication as a heretic and the splintering of Christendom. As a result, with the help of Philip Melanchthon, Luther precepts became known as the Lutheran religion. From this Reformation Movement what developed was the church known today as ‘protestant’.

Now, 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, one of the most common charges against the Reformers is that they divided the Church. What’s more, once the division came, inevitably division after division followed, with fragmentation, splintering and dissension; there are now approximately 33,000 different protestant denominations in the world.

On September 10, 2017, over 250 prominent scholars, pastors, and church leaders drawn from every continent and spanning most Protestant theological traditions and Communions (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Free Church, Nazarene, Pentecostal, etc.), released a theological statement affirming the essentials of the Reformation. Its Protestant authors contend that in this 500th anniversary year, the document must be a “catholic” statement in the best sense of the word.

This Reforming Catholic Confession (A “Mere Protestant” Statement of Faith to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation) is a document which outlines the main theological commitments held by a large majority of Protestant Christians since the Reformation. The purpose of such a statement is to “demonstrate the remarkable commonality that exists throughout the world among Protestants on the core elements of Christianity”, claims Jerry Walls, an author and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University.[1]

The Reforming Catholic Confession contains 12 articles that outline shared beliefs in such basic Christian tenets as “The Triune God,” “The Atoning Work of Christ,” “The Gospel,” and “The Church”.

The beliefs are followed by 25 “why we say what we say” explanations that capture key cornerstones and dimensions of the Christian faith. The final section of the Confession states the resolve of the authors to honor the distinctions among the variety of Protestant traditions, but to aim for even greater unity in the Body of Christ.

It is much like the creation of the Nicene Creed, developed in 325 CE, as a statement of faith that could be professed by all the faithful. It is a negotiated statement among the leaders of the various factions of the church at that time, and is still used by a majority of Roman Catholic and liturgical churches.

As in 325 CE, no single group of participants gets everything they wanted to express in the document, but they nevertheless arrive at a mutually agreed upon declaration. “The question is not ‘Does this statement say everything you would want it to say, but ‘Can you agree with us thus far?'” Walls said.

It is called a “catholic” confession, to reclaim the word (little ‘c’) “catholic”, meaning the church universal. The document is an attempt to recover the speaking of truth in love between divisions of the church, Too much dissension and negative rhetoric between members of the Protestant churches has come down through the ages. This is an attempt, much like the Nicene Creed, to emphasize what we all share, rather than how we are different.

Phyllis Tickle, a renowned authority on American religion once said:

“Every 500 years, the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered so that renewal and growth may occur. Now is such a time.” [2]

In a PBS interview, Tickle referred to this

 “[e]very 500 years” theory and said, “the church has a giant rummage sale.” She said, “Christianity is in the midst of a new reformation that will radically remake the faith.”

There is still much analysis to be done on The Reforming Catholic Confession by varied denominations of the church universal, but this may well be the beginning of a ‘modern’ reformation, working to bring disparate factions of God’s faithful into closer communion with each other. The statement has already been translated into French, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.

The complete document can be found at http://reformingcatholicconfession.com/.
 
[1]      http://www.christianpost.com/news/over-250-protestant-leaders-sign-reforming-catholic-confession-on-essentials-of-christian-faith-198747/?utm_source=newsletter
[2]      Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (Emergent Village Resources for Communities of Faith), Baker Books/Emergent Village-Emersion Books, 2008
 
 

Written for Connections, Diocese of Southern Ohio, 1 October 2017

Are We EVER Satisfied??

Exodus 16:2-15/Matthew 20:1-15

Take my words and speak through them, take our ears and hear through them, take our hearts & set them on fire with love for you. Amen.

Let’s set the scene: As the Israelites left Egypt, we would expect them to be overjoyed and relieved because their prayers for deliverance were finally answered, but instead we find an ungrateful and cynical nation. They complained to Moses:

“was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11)

So, God hears their complaining and splits the Red Sea and delivers them from the Egyptians to begin their journey to the Promised land.

But are they happy yet? NO!

You would think that the camp would be thrilled with their new-found freedom. They were leaving bitter bondage behind and were traveling toward the Promised land. But instead of rejoicing, we read that the Israelites were grumbling:

“if only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death”. (Exodus 16:3)

They were hungry. So, God provided them with manna. Manna, a sweet gum or resin type bread, appeared on the ground each day and they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. By evening what manna had not been eaten disappeared. In order to honor the Sabbath, the manna lasted for two days on the sixth day, because it was a holy rest day. So, they always had something to eat.

But were they happy? NO! They complained because there was not meat!

The Israelites continually reminisced about Egypt, as if it had been Paradise. How soon they forgot the brick pits, the task masters whip, how conveniently they forgot the cramps from the hard toil, and the blood, sweat and tears they shed slaving for Pharaoh. Like Lot’s wife looking back toward Sodom, they looked back toward Egypt, as if it had held something good for them to miss. The more God’s miraculous powers, protections, and provisions are made for them, the more ridiculous and loud their complaints were. With children so disrespectful and ungrateful as these, God might have rained down fire and brimstone, but instead He rains down sweet manna from heaven.

And yet again, they grumbled:

They began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6)

How foolhardy it was to look at the gifts from God with contempt. Manna was free. They didn’t have to work for it. It wasn’t hard to gather. It was sweet. It was versatile and could be used in a multitude of ways.

‘Nothing but Manna!” (Numbers 11:6)

Once again, God listened to their grumblings and gave them what they wanted:

The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them at twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. (Exodus 16:11-13)

Were they EVER going to be happy with their lot?

Just what was it going to take to please these people?

You know, it seems we can always find something to complain about. There is always something to complain about, even when there isn’t. We can find a grievance if we want to, no matter how unreasonable it is. We grumble and complain when it’s too hot, when it’s too cold, we grumble when it rains, we complain when it snows. We complain when the weather has been too sunny for just a day longer than we would like it to be… and that is just about the weather!

I guess it has been that way since the creation of Adam and Eve and will be that way until the end of time. People have always been grumpy and complaining. King Solomon, one of the wisest men on earth, prophesized it in Ecclesiastes 1:9:

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”.

*

Indeed, we hear the same type of complaining in today’s Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15).

This difficult parable attributed to Jesus only appears in Matthew. . . and there is probably a really good reason for this.

It addresses the greed of people who feel they deserve more than anyone else. Not a topic that most people want to hear about.

And, it also turns the world’s commonly-accepted idea of fairness upside down – also, not a popular idea!

Those workers who toiled all day in the hot sun were bitter because those who only worked a short time were paid the same amount as they were paid. They protested:

“It’s Not Fair!”

The estate manager hired laborers for his vineyard about 6:00 a.m. for what amounts to about one dollar, which was considered to be a fair day’s wages. Then he shows his generosity as he hires laborers at nine, noon and three. He actually didn’t need them for the harvest, but was compassionate because they were unemployed and their families were hungry.

When paid, they not only received payment in reverse order, but all workers received the same wage for their efforts. The workers who were hired first appealed to the estate manager using common sense, fair play, logic, and reason. Their complaint was not necessarily that the last hired received the same wage, but that if the manager was that generous with the last, then certainly he might provide them with a “bonus” for having endured the heat of the day. But a contract is a contract, and therefore the laborers hired at the beginning of the day had no real cause to quibble or argue – they got paid exactly what they had contracted with the manager. But they felt they had a legitimate complaint – based on the worldly principles of fairness and logic.

In fact, some of them felt so cheated, that they left without their pay.

I suggest to you this parable is not about fair labor management, but rather is a statement about the radical nature of God and the Kingdom, and the wideness of God’s grace. The nature of grace not only finds human labor to be  insufficient to gain grace, but ultimately unnecessary because of God’s love for all people. Participation in the Kingdom of God does not come about by works, but rather comes from the unmerited and unending grace of God. And all will receive that grace, regardless of when they come to accept the love of God.

I suggest to you, the real message of this parable is not about money and fairness, but

The kingdom of God. . .

And God’s Grace.

Grace is defined as ‘unmerited favor, unearned gift or blessing given, regardless of our worthiness’. It is God’s unconditional love that we don’t deserve, that adds strength to our daily lives, that provides forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings, and gives us assurance of eternal life.

No, life is not fair and, thank God, grace isn’t fair either!

God has no reason to be accepting and forgiving of us other than that He is love incarnate and loves us. We have no reason to expect, much less demand that grace, except that He promised it to us. If we were to receive what we deserved, if we lived by our idea of fairness, most of us would be left out and ignored, humiliated and condemned by normal expectations. We would work and receive little; if we arrived late, we would receive nothing. But God does not treat us as we deserve. He gives us His unconditional love. He extends to us the grace to do something worthwhile with our lives. He voluntarily promises us life with Him. So how can we whine or quarrel when He has given us, all of us, much more than is fair?

If we got what was fair, none of us would get to heaven.

Let me repeat that:

If we got what was fair, none of us would get to heaven.

God doesn’t give us what is fair, but gives us His love and grace, in spite of what we deserve!

The test for us is how will we accept that love? What kind of people will we be? Will we picture ourselves as those who ‘deserve’ grace and favor and complain about everything God has given us, or will we picture ourselves as those who are blessed undeservingly? If we end up resenting the grace God gives to others, we miss the point of God’s grace.

The grumblers that could only see obstacles on the way to the wonderful Promised land of God did not even see the blessing of God’s sweet manna. Today, I remind us to accept a new type of manna, a new type of bread.

Then Jesus declared “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Christ is the ever living, everlasting bread; bread that nourishes us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually

by His example and love,

by His mercy and forgiveness,

by His Holy Spirit that surrounds us every moment of our lives if we will be open to it.

This bread will sustain our soul forever!

When you find yourself cynically complaining and dissatisfied with life or the world around you, remember this quote from the Rolling Stones:

You can’t always get what you want,
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try some time, you just might find,
You get what you need.

And what we need is that sweet manna from Heaven, that Bread of Life, the love of Jesus, that will sustain us as we travel to the Promised Land.

So, when we come to the altar rail for communion, let us forget our daily complaints, and remember if we will receive it, we are offered this Bread of Life for eternity.

Amen.

 

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 24 September 2017

Care of the Earth: The Vital Imperative of the 21st Century

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and TAKE CARE OF IT. (Genesis 2:15)

The earth has endured an increasing array of disasters over the past several years: floods, tsunamis, forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes – all in increasing numbers. The past three weeks have seen the most powerful and destructive hurricanes on record do devastating damage to large areas of the United States and the Caribbean. “Harvey” and “Irma” have wrought billions of dollars of damage to major cities and entire states and nations, much of which will take years to recover and rebuild – and it appears more is on the way to these same areas – “Maria”.

The reason or ‘blame’ for all this is argued by various factions of society: some say it is God’s wrath for our godless actions, some blame religions or minority groups – and all this finger-pointing only serves to further exacerbate the tribal divisions that are plaguing our society. The arguing also directs attention away from the clear causes ratified over and over by scientists and meteorologist: it is the rapid and dangerous effect of our changing climate and the plundering of the earth caused by a dramatic increase in the earth’s population and the resulting demands for more energy.

More people demand more fuel and for over 100 years, that demand has been answered by increased use of fossil fuels, oil, coal, and natural gas. As these burn, the carbon dioxide produced builds up in the earth’s atmosphere, acting as a ‘blanket’, holding in heat, and thus warming the temperature of the earth, i.e., ‘global warming’.

Other human actions also contribute to throwing our earth’s equilibrium off-balance: increasing destruction of forests, big commercial agriculture and construction, chemical pollution of our waters by industry, and rampant populate growth.

Unless we attend to this growing destruction of our planet NOW, consequences and costs will be much more severe. So, pointing fingers of blame to elements of societal prejudice really harms us all. The blame is on each one of us, and the responsibility for correcting the problem resides in each of us as well!

Here are some things we all can do right now:

  1. Get involved; contact your local, state and federal representatives and express your support of measures to decrease our carbon footprint. Encourage legislators to impose carbon taxes on those energy polluters.
  2. Be energy efficient; switch to efficient light bulbs and try to minimize your use of energy, particularly those that contribute to our carbon footprint
  3. Trim your waste; carbon dioxide and methane gas from landfills contributes to the increase in earth temperature, so try to use recyclable goods.
  4. Minimize driving; drive as little as possible. If you can’t use public transportation, look at energy-efficient automobiles (either hybrids or electric), or carpool.
  5. Green your community; work within your community to reduce the use of non-green energy, reduce waste and work with organizations that encourage/legislate for clean energy.
  6. Stay informed; belong to elists and organizations that are actively working to switch to clean energy and reduce our carbon footprint.

Moreover, perhaps it is time for all of us at Saint John’s to move together to promote these ideas and actions within our community and the world.

We pray for the healing of the earth, that present and future generations may enjoy the fruits of creation, and continue to glorify and praise you. Amen.
 
 
Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 18 September 2017

Charlottesville is OUR Fault

Systemic and corporate racism is something that the majority of Americans don’t want to acknowledge exists or they contribute to that racism. And we don’t want to admit that, no matter how inclusive we feel we are, we are all racists to some extent.

This article was written by a young man who had an epiphany after the events in Charlottesville that we are ALL responsible for the racism that exists in the United States. His language may be a little harsh for some of you, but it needs to be said. I hate to admit it, but I see myself in passive racism; I am pledging to no longer remain silent – and I hope you will not either.. – Deacon deniray+

 

I live in rural Northeast Georgia, and was raised in rural Upstate South Carolina. I grew up hearing the black kids called monkeys and the ‘n’ word at the playground in elementary school. I’ve heard members of my family say derogatory things about other races, including these racial slurs. I was even told in third grade that I couldn’t have a black girlfriend because, “people just don’t like that.”

I could make an argument that systemic racism is the cause of a vehicle plowing through a group of protesters in VA, but I know too many people who claim that “racism doesn’t exist.” So please, friends and family, hear me. I’m going to set aside the argument for systemic racism for a minute and look at the four types of racism that I see every day living here in the south.

I see this as a pyramid with the smallest population at the top and the largest at the bottom.

The four levels of the pyramid:

Active Racism: Active racists truly believe that one race is superior to another and they are willing to make their race have a higher standing than another. An example would be Hitler in Nazi Germany. Or, a more topical example, these idiots in Charlottesville.

Quiet Racism: Quiet racists also truly believe that they are superior to others, but they’re just not willing to say that in public. This is the scariest group of people on this list. Here’s a personal example: I once needed some work done on my vehicle and I took it to a shop. When I went inside, I was greeted with a heavily used dartboard with Obama’s face on it, followed by a conversation with the owner in which I heard the n word several times. This guy is not ramming cars into people or at a Neo-Nazi rally, but it’s easy to see how the people that are at these rallies are surrounded by folks like this guy. I’m a teacher, and on multiple occasions I’ve had students tell me about some of the things that their parents have said about people of other races. They justify police shootings followed by riots by explaining how “they are made that way” or have “genetics that make them criminals.” This is real, folks.

“Soft” Racism: Soft racism is when people make racist comments or have a racial thoughts that they don’t realize are racist.  “Today I was on the road and I saw this black guy walking”… or, “I teach a lot of “urban’ students,” or, “I have black friends, so I can’t be racist” etc. This group also contains racial bias. Radiolab did a fanatic podcast about a father who had adopted a black daughter, but still found himself being cautious around a black man walking down the street. Even though he had just explained to his daughter that it’s not fair that people do this, he still found himself being a part of the problem. Why is this?

Every single person I know would say that they are not racist. And, again, we’re setting aside systemic racism for this argument. But I would argue a lot of people I know are soft racists. This is where I sat most of my life, and still find myself here on occasion. It is important that we not fear the prejudices that we are taught as kids (“people won’t like it if you date a black girl”), but to make ourselves aware of when these thoughts happen and to war against it, just like the man in the story above.

Passive Racism: For the most part, people I know aren’t any other these other three groups. Most people I know (including myself) fall into passive racism: they don’t speak up when others are racist, intentionally or unintentionally. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve heard a racist joke or even an off color statement where I haven’t had the guts to say, “hey, that’s not okay.”

This passivism is the root of the problem. Most people know racism when they see it (when people on the passive level see people on the soft level or higher), but just don’t say or do anything about it. But, what if this majority became active? What if we all agreed to, kindly, inform others that we’re not going to let people around us say or do racist things? What if, instead of blaming the president, or Nazis, or the alt-right, we took responsibility for our actions and the people in our own lives?

We must begin to speak up because by being passive and letting racist jokes and statements slide, we are literally building the foundation on which the KKK, Neo Nazi, and White Supremacist’s groups are built at the top of the pyramid. It doesn’t matter if it makes you uncomfortable or if it hurts your relationships, people are literally dying because the masses aren’t speaking up for those without a voice.

It is also easy to just cut off our friends and family who are soft and quiet racists. But, it is our job to stand up when racist ideas are brought up. As white people, we have an audience with our families and white circles that the black community will never have. If we do not start to have these conversations at the lower levels of the pyramid, who will?

So yes, Charlottesville was my fault, and your fault, and the fault of anyone who is not standing up to racism in our daily lives. Please, please, don’t be defensive, but take a moment to attempt to see that silence really is compliance.

I’m making a stand today to no longer sit by and let these things happen. I hope you’ll consider standing with me.
 
 
Josh Bryan, Sarondipity Universe, August 13, 2017
Charlottesville was my Fault

 
Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 20 August 2017

The Tragedy at Charlottesville

We saw the underbelly of American the last two days in Charlottesville, Virginia. People who now feel that they have ‘permission’, even support from people in the government, to spew their hatred and bigotry and racism openly and violently. We saw armed militias carrying Confederate flags marching in goosesteps, white supremacists shouting angry slogans, members of the KKK no longer hiding under bedsheets, but openly proclaiming their part in the election of the president and their right to return America to a white, Christian nation. Hatred consumes these people; something that is NOT a Christian value.

And most tragic of all, we saw a young person from Maumee, Ohio, deliberately drive his car into a group of peaceful counter-protestors, killing at least one innocent bystander just trying to cross the street, and injuring scores of others, some who may still succumb to their injuries. This kind of hatred and violence does not only happen ‘somewhere else’, but right here in our state and our communities. We need to stand against this.

But we also saw a group of people of faith joined together (Catholics, Protestants, Jews,  Muslims, Buddhists and others) singing This little light of mine in love and fellowship to counter the vitriolic chants of the ultra-conservative Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, KKK, nationalists, white supremacists, armed militia, and people angry because Charlottesville is going to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park called ‘Emancipation Park’.

Most of us cannot make any sense or see any justifiable reason for the actions of those who chose to create discord and spew bigotry and hatred and xenophobia. But, those people of faith chose to take the risk, get out there, arms joined together in solidarity, and do what was right.  They chose to get out of the boat! – to risk life and limb to present to the world what the love and teachings of Jesus really are.

They got out of the boat!

So where are you this morning?

Huddled in the boat with a life jacket and your seat belt on?

One leg in, one leg out?

Out of the boat, but fearful, still clinging to the edge?

Or looking with faith into the eyes of Jesus and walking on water?

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, help us to walk with you wherever this life may take us. Help us to recognize whatever it is that:

Helps us to seek you,
Helps us to trust you,
Helps us to obey your teachings.

Help us to face our fears and trust whatever the storms of life may be, You are there, guiding and redeeming us. Be with those who have died and are injured physically and emotionally from this horrid incident in Charlottesville. Wrap your loving arms around them and the rest of the nation, reminding us that

The greatest of these is love  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

And give us the strength to get out of the boat.

Amen.
 

Excerpted from a sermon (‘If You Want to Walk on Water, You  Gotta Get Out of the Boat!’) delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church  of Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 13 August 2017