Here are some responses to my recent sermon called, “Jesus Repents”, which spoke to the need, as followers of Jesus, to repent of our own distancing from the racism in our nation and ourselves, and commit ourselves to listen, learn and act with people of color.
“You should have condemned Trump outright. Spell out how he is leading the U.S. toward a fascist state.”
“You weren’t empathetic enough. Condemning incidents in Moses Lake, Charlottesville and the U.S. is a judgment on people who are mistreated themselves. How is that loving?”
“I was overwhelmed by all that is going on. I couldn’t listen to it all.”
“Good sermon.” This from a few folks who don’t often commend my preaching. 🙂
And some faces just clouded over — whether because you came to church for a lift of your spirit, not to confront a painful reality, or because you just don’t think there’s any place in church for “politics”, or because it was all just very heavy.
Your varied responses prompt me to share a bit about how I think about my call as a pastor of Word and Sacrament and our shared call to be a beacon of God’s hope, love, justice and courage within our community.
I hope to encourage dialogue, not end it. And I say “dialogue” meaning conversation that is safe, respectful, open to learning from one another and seeing more of the picture AND more of God’s presence than we can as individuals. This is a strength of our congregation, and one our country desperately needs right now.
We can’t separate politics from the gospel. The gospel always has political implications because God cares about the world God created, and the physical needs and justice of the humans God created. Politics affect humans, so as God’s people our faith has political ramifications. Both the history of God’s people from the beginning and Jesus’ own death bear that out.
So, let us disagree on HOW God’s purposes should be implemented politically, but agree there is no room to say the church should keep our hands off political realities.
Saying “Love your enemies” doesn’t mean we should never condemn naming actions and speech as destructive or evil. Again, there is a LONG history of God’s people both speaking out AND God’s prophets calling God’s people out because they are failing to speak out and act.
Speaking out for justice is not a zero sum game. It doesn’t devalue those intentionally or unintentionally hurting and devaluing others. To honor one person is not to dishonor another. There is enough grace, justice and love for all.
However, we never speak out from a position of superiority, but with acute awareness of our own real sin and the parts of us that have led us to be unkind or unjust, whether consciously or unconsciously.
We are called — each of us as individuals and all of us as a congregation — to offer our best gifts to be God’s instruments in the realities arising in our time and place. No one way of doing this is going to work for all of us, but all of us are needed to speak and act with our marginalized neighbors.
We MUST stay rooted and grounded in God’s grace as we do this in our tense times. As St. Paul says, we must “speak the truth in love,” not “return evil for evil.” This is demanding work, possible only with the aid of God’s Spirit.
In 2003-2004 we had an in-depth conversation as a congregation about becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation, explicitly welcoming all LGBTQ folks, and, actually, ALL people. We prayed, listened, talked, disagreed and then did it some more. The result? We never all agreed, but we understood one another and really sought God’s will.
As opportunities present themselves in the months ahead, I hope Our Redeemer’s will dare to engage with that same depth and care around our white privilege, and our differing understanding of what is needed.
I believe this isn’t just important, but essential. It is the work of the Holy Spirit around and within us. For God’s Spirit disturbs as well as comforts; speaks truth right alongside peace; and, through it all, holds us fast in a love which nothing can separate us from and a hope which nothing can destroy.
Grace and peace+
Pastor Kathy Hawks