World-on-Fire
Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, June 26, 2016: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21  +  Psalm 16  +  Galatians 5:1,13-25  +  Luke 9:51-62

Pew Partisanship InfographicA report published this past Wednesday by the Pew Research Center describes U.S. partisanship as being at its highest point since at least 1992, when they first began tracking the data. According to the report “91 percent of Republicans view the Democratic Party unfavorably, with 58 percent holding ‘very unfavorable’ attitudes toward it. Among Democrats, 86 percent view the Republican Party unfavorably, while 55 percent hold it in a very unfavorable light.’” (1)

We feel the split throughout our life together as a nation and it is reflected in the divided Supreme Court, which delivered a ruling this week that denies protections from deportation to more than four million undocumented people living in the U.S., most of them parents of U.S. citizens, families now living under the daily shadow of being separated from one another. (2) We feel it in the irrational divide between the 90 percent of Americans who support expanded background checks for gun purchases and the continued failure of our elected government to act on the will of their constituents.

These deep canyons between us are widening and spreading. While we were in Barcelona, Kerry and I saw posters on every street for the campaign for Catalonian independence from Spain. British voters have now decided by a very narrow margin to secede from the European Union, immediately prompting calls for new referendums in Scotland and Ireland about their futures in the “United” Kingdom.

And we feel it in the church, where seven years after the ELCA moved to allow for the rostering of LGBTQ people and local control over which relationships congregations will or will not choose to bless with marriage rites, we still exist in a state of limbo that does not allow us to say without reservation that LGBTQ people are of sacred worth, created in the image and likeness of God, and that our relationships are as holy and healthy as anyone else’s (which, of course, we would then need to follow up by acknowledging that our relationships are as strained and stretched and painfully broken as anyone else’s as well).

In her letter to the church following the massacre in Orlando at a gay bar that left 49 queer Latinx (3) people dead, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton told the church:

Our work begins now. We need to examine ourselves, individually and as a church, to acknowledge the ways we have divided and have been divided. We must stand with people who have been “othered.” We must speak peace and reconciliation into the cacophony of hatred and division. We must live the truth that all people are created in God’s image. (4)

This is our work to do as Christians, because we bear Christ’s name, and because we have been baptized into his life, his death, and his resurrection. To illustrate the point, we need look no further than the passage we’ve already read this morning from the gospel of Luke.

The scene opens, “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Here we are to understand that Jesus faced his future with no uncertainty about what was to come. His confrontation with empire would be his death, but not his end. The phrase “he set his face” is an echo from the prophet Isaiah who confidently professes, “Therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.” (Isa. 50:7) Like prophets in any age, Jesus knows that his ministry will provoke opposition and he draws strength from his confidence that God is with him in his work.

Next we learn that Jesus and his followers have entered a Samaritan village. Moving as he is from Galilee to Jerusalem, it makes a certain amount of sense that he is in Samaritan territory, because the most direct path from Galilee to Jerusalem ran directly through Samaria — yet, most Jewish people took the long way around and avoided Samaritans because they were because they were of mixed ethnic heritage, because they had it all wrong when it came to worship and religious life, because they were different.

But Jesus takes the direct route, leading his community straight into Samaria where they unsurprisingly are not well received. Think about this though. Knowing he was headed for a world-changing confrontation in Jerusalem, Jesus still opted not to avoid conflict with the people and communities along the way, but to move through the world not making distinctions between his people and those other people, between his followers and his skeptics. What a different style of leadership and communication than what we’ve grown accustomed to, than we have adopted as our own.

Furthermore, once he is rejected Jesus’ followers ask, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” In our present age of aggression, flame wars on the internet are a daily fact of life — the natural byproduct of a culture of micro aggressions and interpersonal violence both large and small. We are experts at dismissing one another. We are primed for retaliation. But Jesus refuses to engage in their ongoing war with one another, instead turning to rebuke them.

The way so many of us have learned to make a home for ourselves in the world is to figure out who is for us and who is against us, and then to fortify the walls that separate us. We find our security in surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who share our opinions, our politics, our prejudices, our language, our religion, our skin-tone, and we call that home. Could this be what Jesus means when he says, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son-of-Man has nowhere to lay his head;” that to follow Jesus is to give up the safety of like-minded community, and to take the direct path to engagement with the people you’ve been conditioned your whole life to avoid?

I feel like I end up preaching some version of this sermon over and over again every four years, as the national elections heat up. It’s baked into our political process, this culture of negativity and demonization, and we all get sucked in so quickly. We surround ourselves with like-minded people, and we call down fire upon one another.

How’s that working for us? Has it stopped the gunfire in our neighborhoods? Has it slowed the rate of homicide in our city? Are we feeling any safer?

As the city gathers this afternoon to remember the Stonewall riots that took place in New York City 47 years ago that gave rise to the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement, I am reminded that the single action taken by millions upon millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, Two-Spirit, gender non-conforming people and their allies to change the world was coming out. Telling their story to parents and siblings, friends and co-workers, neighbors and elected officials. It was an act of radical vulnerability. It was the willingness to share their truth with the very people who had too often proven to be untrustworthy, but to do it anyways.

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It’s not just the 49 queer Latinx sisters and brothers we’re remembering this year. It’s the children at Newtown. It’s Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland. It’s Aurora and Columbine. It’s Tijuana and Juárez. It’s the 6 year old girl shot here in Logan Square, slowly working her way back to health. We honor them best not by doubling down on the tactics of division, but by coming out from behind our walls to tell our stories, to listen to one another, to find the common ground between us — no matter how thin that isthmus of understanding may be — and to begin again the work of building the home large enough and safe enough for us all.

Jesus says, “let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the dominion of God.” It sounds callous at first, but I think in his own way he was saying what I’ve heard so many saying once again in the last two weeks. “We don’t need your thoughts and prayers. We need change.” The dead are gone, and we honor them best by fighting like heaven for the lives of those who remain. When the world is on fire, we don’t need a monument to firefighters, we need water — more water than we’ve ever dared to imagine — to pour down and save us.

You baptized people of God. You are God’s water. We are God’s water. We pray with our feet. Our pride is in the God of Israel and Judah, Galilee and Samaria, citizens and the undocumented, Native and colonizers, Black and White and Latinx and Asian, Democrats and Republicans, Britons and Europeans, straight and cisgender and the whole rainbow of folks who are not. Our God is the God of the living and the dead, and since we can count on God to care for those who have passed on from this life, we are free to fight for those still here and yet to be born.

Amen.

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(1) “U.S. Partisanship is Highest in Decades, Pew Study Finds” New York Times, June 23, 2016.

(2) “Low-Priority Immigrants Still Swept Up in Net of Deportation” New York Times, June 24, 2016.

(3) Latinx (pronounced: La-teen-ex) being the name that some trans and gender non-conforming people of Latin American descent have chosen for themselves as a way of moving beyond the gender binary woven into the Spanish language.

(4) “ELCA presiding bishop issues letter in response to Orlando shooting” ELCA press release, June 13, 2016. Online at http://www.elca.org 

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, January 18, 2015: Second Sunday after Epiphany

Texts: 1 Samuel 3:1-10  +  Psalm 139:1-6,13-18  +  1 Corinthians 6:12-20  +  John 1:43-51

So the apostle Paul wants to talk about prostitution?  OK, let’s at least start there, but here’s where I want to end up: with Samuel in the temple praying, “speak, for your servant is listening.”

I’ve known plenty of people who’ve been involved in prostitution. They’re more or less like the rest of us, neither better nor worse. They are neither morally degenerate, nor covert heroes. They are human beings, each distinct with her or his own story about how and why they ended up involved in prostitution, how it served them, how it trapped them, how they survived it, or didn’t.

As an example, I remember one young woman whom I’ll call Cecilia, a transgender young woman I met while working with runaway and homeless youth in Minneapolis almost twenty years ago.  Cecilia was big and loud, and sometimes awkward and shy.  She worked at a drop-in center for LGBTQ youth, sometimes checking people in at the door, sometime as a barista behind the coffee bar. She’d been kicked out of her house very early in life for coming out as a woman and, like every homeless youth I’ve ever known, had to make hard decisions about how to survive. There is a market for young people’s bodies, so she used what she had.

Once she’d left the streets Cecilia was, for the most part, able to leave prostitution behind. Then one day as she was walking home from work two police officers stopped her on the street and harassed her, making cruel comments about her gender identity and publicly humiliating her. Once they left she returned to the park where she’d often met johns and turned a quick trick, not because she needed the money but because she felt so violated and powerless that she needed to assert herself in a situation she felt she knew how to control.

I wonder how Cecilia would hear Paul’s words to the First Corinthians. “Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1 Cor. 6:15b) I imagine there’s a way to read that verse that sounds an awful lot like the way those cops spoke to her on the sidewalk. I wonder if anyone ever looked at her beautiful trans* body and said, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor. 6:19). That’s what I wanted to tell her, that her body and the bodies of her friends whom I cherished, were sacred temples and homes to a divine presence that is democratically distributed among us all and can never be kicked out. That no matter the rejection or abuse any of us has suffered, God has chosen to make a home inside of us that is permanent.

It was stories like Cecilia’s that finally drove me to seminary, that helped me get over the idea that there was no place for me in the church and to ask if the church actually mattered if it had nothing helpful to say to Cecilia and her friends. I knew from my own experience that the church could be a site of incredible community, unconditional love, and ethical challenge — if you were well-housed, in-school, middle-class. But I wondered if the church had anything to offer to those Howard Thurman described as the “disinherited,” those living with their backs to the wall.

1303751314-logo.31184548_stdIt turns out the church has plenty to say to the disinherited, and a variety of creative and effective ways to say it. For example, down in Nashville, Tennessee the Rev. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal chaplain, started the Magdalene ministry almost twenty years ago to work with women with histories of substance abuse and prostitution. Knowing that poverty and addiction make it very difficult for many to escape prostitution, the Magdalene program combines Narcotics Anonymous and addiction counseling with residential treatment, job training and financial education. After five years of working with these women, Pastor Stevens recognized that it is difficult to find good work upon leaving residential treatment, so launched Thistle Farms, a small business that employs graduates of the Magdalene program to make personal care products sold in stores like Whole Foods and the Thistle Stop Café. For women who have experienced prostitution and have decided to leave it behind, the Magdalene program and Thistle Farms are one way the church has shown up with more than words to communicate God’s unfailing love for their precious lives.

If we read Paul’s words to the Corinthians carefully, we notice that his instruction isn’t aimed at prostitutes, but at those who pay for their services. From everything we know about the world Paul lived in, prostitution was quite common and men felt entitled to women’s bodies in ways that, sadly, hasn’t changed all that much in the intervening millennia. Paul is critiquing common practice, and challenging those who have found their identity in Christ to make a distinction between what is allowed, or lawful, and what is beneficial. It may have been commonly accepted, or permissible, to engage the services of a prostituted woman, but that didn’t make it beneficial to either party. Paul describes the exchange of bodies for money as a sin against the body, as a reduction of something holding sacred worth to something to be bought and sold in the marketplace. Some have asked how prostitution is all that different from the many other ways we buy and sell our bodies in the marketplace: our time, our skills, our labor. I think this is a wonderful line of questioning that might lead us to think more broadly about all the ways modern labor practices dehumanize real people in the production of fetishized objects. How is our treatment of the people who work in sweat shops to manufacture cheap designer clothing or underpaid migrant labor to produce cheap organic food different than our treatment of abused and neglected women and men, girls and boys, to provide cheap sexual gratification? And are any of the above really beneficial to us?

But there is another question that the set of scriptures we heard read among us this morning asks, that begs for our attention. That is, what is God calling us to do and be in and for those whom God created in love for love? The story of the boy prophet Samuel is the story of a child dedicated to God by his family and apprenticed to an older generation whom God calls to lead the people in a new direction. Three times God calls out to Samuel, and Samuel goes to the bedside of his mentor, Eli, mistaking the voice of God for the voice of the past.  Eventually Eli realizes that it is the LORD who is speaking to his young protege, and he instructs Samuel to return to his bed to wait for the voice of God and to answer, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

I wonder what it felt like for Eli, who had spent his life caring for the people and tending to the temple, to recognize that God was preparing to do a new thing with new leadership. And I wonder what it felt like for Samuel to be called by God to share a difficult and painful message with Eli, to tell him that his family’s term in the temple was coming to an end. God tells Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears it tingle.” (1 Sam. 3:11) It’s a moment of great courage by both parties when Samuel comes to Eli to share what God has revealed and the older man says to the younger, “What was it that [God] told you? Do not hide it from me.” (1 Sam. 3:17) What a deeply respectful exchange that is. And then, after Eli hears what God has in store for his family and the larger nation, he says, “It is the LORD; let [God] do what seems good to [God].” (1 Sam. 3:18)

This is how God seems to work in the world, calling unlikely people to get up and leave what they’ve known to do the unexpected, which turns out to be precisely what is needed. When Philip the disciple tells Nathanael about Jesus, he replies, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But that was the pot calling the kettle black, because who really expected anything good to come out of a group of working class fishermen in occupied Israel? Who really expected anything good to come out of a group of women used in prostitution? Who really expected anything good to come out a group of twelve elderly Lutherans in a crumbling church? But here we are. Out of twelve people who had the courage to follow the voice that called them away from the lives they’d known, God was able to build the church. Jesus assures Nathanael, “you will see greater things than these … you will see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:50-51)

In this season of Epiphany we are challenged to remember that God has a vision for the world that is larger than the domesticated dreams to which we’ve grown accustomed. God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, declaring,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isa. 49:6)

As we consider our future together, I pray we have the courage to dream on that scale, to consider that we were called together by the spirit of God, which is not content with simply restoring the survivors, but saving the nations. What radical departures is God calling us to make? What shores is God calling us to leave? Come and see. Speak, LORD, for your servants are listening.

Amen.

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, June 30, 2013: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts:  2 Kings 2:1-2,6-14  +  Psalm 77:1-2,11-20  +  Galatians 5:1,13-25  +  Luke 9:51-62

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Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa 1994-1999. Freedom Fighter.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the news, watching and waiting for any changes in the condition of the man President Obama has compared to George Washington, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.

Mandela, as you know, became president of South Africa in 1994 after decades of struggling against the system of racial segregation known as apartheid.  In his youth, Mandela was a lawyer involved in anti-colonial politics.  He directly opposed the National Party that came into power in 1948, first non-violently, and later by leading bombing campaigns against military targets.  He was captured, convicted of sabotage, and sentenced to life imprisonment, part of which was carried out on Robben Island, a prison compound off the coast of Cape Town.

Mandela served eighteen of his twenty-seven years of imprisonment on Robben Island, and the stories from that place are a part of his living legend: how he befriended the prison guards, reaching for their humanity in an inhumane place; how he gifted his captors with plants he grew on the windowsill of his tiny prison cell.  I was in high school when the government of South Africa finally bowed to demands for his release, as he had grown to become an international symbol for the anti-apartheid movement.  That was 1990.  Four years later he’d gone from prison inmate to president of the newly reconstituted South Africa, an office he held from 1994 to 1999.

When I visited South Africa as a seminarian in the summer of 2000, Mandela’s presidency had just concluded, and the country was nervously making the transition from his leadership to that of his successor, President Thabo Mbeki.  It was difficult to move from the iconic leadership of the man who had confronted the violent powers of the institutionalized racism of the Afrikaners’ National Party, and had lived to tell the tale, to his successor.  There was a great deal of fear that the non-violent transfer of power from the National Party to the African National Congress, Mandela’s party, would finally break down and that the country would be plunged into violent conflict and civil war.

That was almost fifteen years ago, and South Africa has made the transition from one leader to the next more than once now, each time confirming Mandela’s vision for a peaceful, multicultural nation.

After leading the nation through decades of the anti-apartheid movement, then as its elected president for five years, in 1999 Nelson Mandela stepped down from public office, ready for a quiet family life.  At the age of 80 he married his third wife, Graça Machel, also a political activist, from Mozambique.  For the next few years he continued to be an active presence in South Africa’s political and cultural life.  Then, in 2004, he announced that he was “retiring from retirement,” receding more fully from the public eye, though always in the national consciousness.

Tahrir Square, April 8, 2011.

Tahrir Square, April 8, 2011.

I asked Judith Kotzé, the South African LGBTI activist who was with us at the beginning of this month to share news and build support for IAM — Inclusive and Affirming Ministries — how South Africa was faring now that Mandela and Tutu, and other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, were growing old and struggling publicly with their health.  She said to me, “we are, of course, grateful for their leadership.  They were symbols of the anti-apartheid movement.  They brought the world’s attention to South Africa.  But that was twenty years ago.  Today we don’t need another Mandela, or another Tutu.  We need networks of activists.  We need the entire nation to push toward the vision they gave us.”

We’ve been traveling with the prophet Elijah through the book of First Kings for the last month, from his initial confrontations with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, to his exile in the wilderness east of the River Jordan where he fed and healed the widow of Zarephath and her son.  We remember how he condemned the power of the state when Naboth’s vineyard was illegally seized, and declared a coming day of judgment when the mighty would be brought low, and Israel would return to the Lord, its God.  Last week we reflected on how lonely this work was, how silent God could be, how again and again those touched by God are sent back into the fray, when all they want is to be allowed to retreat from the struggle.

Finally, this morning we see Elijah retiring from his public ministry.  He, alone among the prophets, does not die but is lifted into heaven by God whose power manifests in the appearance of a fiery chariot.  Elijah is ready to make this journey, and even seems to prefer that he be allowed to take it alone, but his protégé and successor, Elisha, is determined to accompany him.  Along the way from Gilgal to Bethel to the Jordan, Elijah and Elisha are joined by fifty others from a group we’ve not heard of before, called “the company of prophets.”

This company of prophets is one of the first signs we see that Elijah’s ministry has been about more than a dramatic public confrontation between power and the prophet.  It has been about stirring the public’s imagination and creating a space in which people could begin to imagine themselves as members and leaders moving toward God’s vision for the world as it was meant to be.

In his book, Prophesy and Society in Ancient Israel, scholar Robert Wilson writes,

“Although there is no direct evidence on this point, members of [the company of prophets] were presumably individuals who had resisted the political and religious policies of the Ephraimite kings and who had therefore been forced out of the political and religious establishments.  After having prophetic experiences these individuals joined the group, which was under the leadership of Elisha.  In the group they found mutual support and were encouraged to use prophesy to bring about change in the social order.”

Reading between the lines of scripture the picture that emerges is that, far from his imagining, Elijah has not been alone in his struggle against empire.  Inspired, perhaps, by his public witness, a community of prophets, a society of resisters, a network of activists has emerged who are already practicing the tools of prophesy, the art of truth-telling, to make change in the world around them.

This company of prophets, led by Elisha, accompany Elijah to the place of his ascension and there Elisha makes his request.  “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”  Throughout his ministry, Elijah has performed miracles that confirmed his message.  He created abundance where there was scarcity.  He called down fire on his enemies, and commanded the waters to part before him.  His message to the powers and principalities could not be ignored, when he was so obviously filled with power from another source.  Elisha asks for that power, the power to lead with credibility and authority.

Elijah’s response to the eager young prophet is instructive.  How often do we see leaders, whether it’s in business, or politics, or even the church, who try to select their successors.  It is tempting, when a person has invested all of themselves into a lifelong project, to want to ensure that it will live on past the leader’s departure.  How many companies, or movements, or congregations have suffered when a leader’s desire to select their successor saddles the community with the wrong person at the wrong time?

Elijah does not promise Elisha anything, because Elijah knows that his own ministry has been powered by his relationship to God.  Elijah has argued with and complained to, but ultimately been faithful to the God who gave him power to meet the demands of the ministry to which he was called.  Elijah knows that, in the end, it is God who will select his successor.

So he tells Elisha, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”

Here’s how I hear Elijah’s reply: if you have the vision, you will have the power.  “If you see me as I am being taken from you…”  If you can see that I was always about something greater than me, then you will still see me even when I myself am not here.

Elisha and the company of prophets had seen, and did know, that Elijah’s work had always been about more than Elijah.  It had been about bringing the people of Israel back into right relationship with their God and with one another.  It was a ministry that began during a drought, a sign that the king was not caring for the window, the orphan and the stranger, but which brought the rain.  Over and against imperial power that sought its own interests at everyone else’s expense, Elijah’s ministry had been marked by costly truth-telling for the sake of the common good.  Elisha, too, was marked as one ready to lead the twelve tribes of Israel; one who shares the vision for the world as God made it to be.

Ascensions: Elijah & Jesus

Ascensions: Elijah (top) & Jesus (bottom)

The story of a wonder-working prophet ascending into heaven, and leaving behind a community of followers ready to continue his ministry should sound familiar to any of us who have been Christian long enough to celebrate the festivals of Easter and Pentecost at least once.  The gospel of Luke draws heavily on the story of Elijah in its presentation of Jesus.  The people even wonder if Jesus is, in fact, Elijah returning for them.

They can wonder this, in part, because rather than dying, Elijah is taken up into heaven to be with God.  This ending is powerful not because of the prestige it confers on Elijah, but because it defies resolution.  Elijah is not dead, but ascended, which means that he might return at any moment.  Indeed, the way Christians order the Hebrew scriptures, the last book of the Old Testament is Malachi, from which we read, “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” (Mal. 4:5).  To this day, our Jewish brothers and sisters leave a place at the Passover table for Elijah, who may yet come knocking at the door during the festival of liberation from the slavery of Egypt.

Likewise, we who are Christian, see in the stories of Elijah and Jesus a vision for God’s work in the world that is greater than any one person, a message that is bigger than the messenger.  From Jesus’ own defiance against the slavery of the grave, we draw power and conviction that God’s work in this hurting, broken world is not done yet either.  We have ordered the books of the New Testament so that they also end with the promise that God’s visionary Word will come again, as the book of Revelation ends with these words, “‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)

And, of course, we say these words each time with gather for a meal at this table, as we recite the mystery of faith: “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.”  And, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”

These words, spoken over and over, aren’t magic spells that turn bread into sacrament, they aren’t ingredients in a liturgical recipe.  They are pledges of allegiance to a new world order, the one we saw breaking in through Elijah, through Elisha and the company of prophets; through Jesus and the company of the apostles; through our brothers Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.  These words, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” are acts of sedition, drawing us into a struggle for the future of the world.

Nelson Mandela was not released from 27 years of imprisonment so that he could enjoy his retirement.  Nelson Mandela was set free in order to lead the people of South Africa, and the entire world, into a greater freedom.  For freedom he was set free!

And so are you.  So are you, my dear brothers and sisters, who by baptism have been initiated into the company of prophets, the community that looks at Elijah, and Jesus, and sees the message in the messenger.  Who see the vision.  Who are called prophets of the Most High.

You have not been set free from lives of bondage to racism, or classism, or sexism, or nationalism, or heterosexism, or militarism, or consumerism, or capitalism simply in order that you might enjoy a more peaceful life.  In Christ, you have been set free from all these powers, powers that try to tell you who you are, powers that try to reduce you to one aspect of your identity, in order to liberate the world from these same lying, death-dealing powers.

After years of prophetic leadership that saw an end to apartheid, Nelson Mandela stepped back so that others, many others, could continue to work of freedom, truth-telling and reconciliation in South Africa.  After a prophetic ministry that brought King Ahab and Jezebel low, that brought waters back to parched lands, Elijah withdrew so that others, a company of prophets, could lead Israel back to God.  After a public ministry so encompassing of God’s politics that it led to a cross, a tomb, and a resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we, together, the church, might become God’s advocates for God’s emerging reign of peace with justice, of a world of plenty shared equitably with all, of love for everyone forever.

We are called to be prophets of this reality. Whether we are working to relieve hunger, marching for LGBTQ equality and civil rights, working for passage of common sense immigration reform, organizing to ensure all citizens continue to enjoy equal voting rights.  Whatever our vocation, whatever our cause, we are called to set our minds on freedom, this morning and every morning. Come, Lord Jesus!

Amen.

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