There is a story of man enjoying driving his new convertible down a country road. The sun was shining, the wind whipping through his well-cut hair. He loves this ride and enjoys the power of his elegant car. Suddenly, a woman driving a Large Chrysler came swerving back and forth as she came racing around the corner barreling down on the convertible. As she barely misses him she shouts at him one word. PIG. And off she goes.
He is furious. Angry that she had the audacity to call him that name. She didn't know him. How could she judge him? She treated him with distain. Disrespect. He was outraged. Angrily, he jammed his foot on the accelerator and flew around the corner only to confront the mommy pig being followed by her 19 babies as she crossed the road. What he heard as judgement, was meant as a warning.
How do we hear and receive the warnings that demand our attention? How do we hear and receive the call of God: To seek God and to serve God by loving and serving all people.
Changing how we think about the world is most difficult. Changing how we were raised is impossible. That we experience new things and reflect on the old is how we make changes. Grow into maturity. The old adage that the pain to remain the same must be greater than the pain to change is still all too true. Change is very difficult. We like how we think and if someone challenges it, it is hard to step into their shoes to experience what they experience to fully appreciate, or even listen. It feels like judgement when what was intended was a warning.
Self-reflection, study, prayer, and encountering others, are ways to begin identifying how we think about things and how we might think differently.
The current protests seeking changes in the way justice is meted out on people of color, and frankly, now as seen on the news, the treatment of non-violent protesters is outrageous. It does not reflect on the values we love in America.
Watching a seasoned policeman show his young mentees how to arrest black men looking up at those videoing his actions with an expression of impunity captured the attention of men and women of all races.
Amid some of the most devastating events in our country's history; pandemic, recession close to depression, and now the racial unrest triggered by the killing of yet another black man by police, being the church of Christ is both an opportunity and a challenge. Racial tensions, caused by outright racist discrimination and systemic racism, is behind the current protests.
And this is not an issue for others. Rather it is for you and me, as well. Racism and slavery are right in the middle of our Episcopal tradition. The diocese of New York designated 2018 a year of lamentation. 2018. This silver chalice and paten were made for The Presiding Bishop of the USA and Bishop of Rhode Island. He was the grandson of James deWolf, who brought over 1100 slaves to work in his cotton fields as well as sugar plantations, and to sell to the highest bidder,
particularly in South Carolina. That is not just the history of this chalice. It is also our history as Episcopalians. Our church grew out of the abundance of the slave trade. Just 1½ year ago became the year to review and repent from the damage to people's lives the church helped perpetuate.
It is not a happy history. It is shameful.
So during this time of limited socialization now is a good time to reflect on what it means to be the church in troubled times as well as reflect how we contribute to racism. There are many opportunities. For one, we have been invited to participate in a course with St John's, Williamstown. I have enclosed a summary of the course in the back of your bulletin. If you are interested, please let me know. It may be something we do together.
However, there are other ways we can as a church congregation learn from the pain and suffering experienced by others and identify how we might make a difference. We might learn how to help heal the division slavery has caused the African American People.
ln addition to personal reflection on racism, we can reflect on the role of the church. How we serve the great Commission to preach the Gospel and baptize in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God, The Holy Spirit. The church represents God's love, inclusion of all people, and tolerance of other's differences.
Our faith teaches us to treat others as we want to be treated. It teaches us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves - all neighbors whether they be of our same race or not. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) and the Woman at the Well (John 4) are examples of Jesus accepting those of other races and in fact commending them for their loving behavior when people of his own race were not loving. People of Jesus' own race may have followed the law, but they failed in God's law of love.
We are called to love one another as God loves us - completely, unreservedly, and without limitations. (1 Corinthian 13:. 4-7, 13)
Now, Christians all the more are called into loving relationships with not only members of our church or social groups, but completely, unreservedly, and without limitations, of all people. It is a difficult challenge for us sinful human beings, but because of God's loving us empowers us to love others and to care for one another. (Galatians 5: 13-14) and (Matthew 25).
Finding solutions to these very complex, long term social issues will not be easy for our society, for our church, and for us as individuals. There are many forces that resist changing the paradigms (ways we have learned to behave and think). But change we must. Our baptismal vows require us to change.
Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.
A personal commitment to worship
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? When we sin, and we will, to repent and return to God.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Now the circles get larger as we promise to share by word and deed our belief in Christ.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Another way of saying the great commission to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? And finally, on global issues that we as followers of Christ work to make our society a good place for all people.
While the United States is not a perfect country, I am proud to be an American, and as Christians we are called to help our country be the place we all want it to be: a safe and loving society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect whether they be poor or rich, religious or not, no matter their race, intellectual abilities or anything else (Romans 8:28 - Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Jesus Christ).
As we come together to pray and worship at St. Luke's we have the opportunity to pray for all the divisions that separate, undermine and harm the people of faith, of this country and the world, and work collectively to participate in transformation...
Let us pray for God's solutions to the many problems in our country. May we reflect about how we contribute to the sins of racism, injustice, hate. May we be a part of God's solutions, not more of the problem. God is a God of love. We are a people of God. May we reflect that love God gives to us and shares with us, so we may give it for others.
June 3, 2020