Sunday, July 28 2019
"The irony of the recent national debate over who should stay in this country as a real American is not lost on those of us who were always here. It would be easy to make the joke that we Native Americans gather secretly at an undisclosed location on the reservation, bring out the drum, and begin chanting: send them home. That's funny because it illustrates the historical fact that no person of European ancestry can claim to be an owner of this land except by right of conquest (which is what this recent spectacle is really all about). It is not about who is a real American, since only a handful of us can make that claim legitimately, but about who dominates, who has the power. It is about control as much as it is about color. The same tragic need to exercise power over others through racism that fueled white colonialism is still alive and well and seeking to control everything around it. That is what we, as indigenous people, would like to see go away: that sad need to control rather than to share. So if you want a Native American view on the recent situation, here it is: you all can stay, but let racism and injustice be banished from our midst once and for all. That is what is un-American."
I was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a Native American Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston. I enjoy reading Bishop Charleston’s weekly meditations because he speaks the truth in an easy to understand way. This week, his lesson speaks to racism and injustice in America. It might be a little off putting at first, but before you shift to your political pole, I ask you to not only listen to what he said, but allow the truth of what he said to change your heart. This is the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray that we might hear the truth and change our hearts to align with God’s plan for humanity. Jesus teaches us that through self-sacrifice we can bring the world to the Kingdom of God. Jesus gave his life for our sins that we might be forgiven of our sins (and the sins of our ancestors).
In today’s meditation, Bishop Charleston forgives the trespasses of the white European colonists, but does not forgive the controlling, self-indulgent behavior that is fueled by racism and is still causing injustice in our nation. We are called in the Gospel of Luke to question cultural norms, to break boundaries, and to change our heart to the love of God. The past few weeks Jesus has taught us to love our neighbor, taught us who our neighbor is, and asks us to pray and listen to the Word of God. In this week’s lesson, Jesus is teaching us to pray to God for what we need. I believe that if racism and injustice are ever to be banished in this nation, we need to pray that we might have the love, mercy, and compassion of God. My prayer is that the Gospel will move our hearts to the truth and that each of us is willing to change.
Last week I read the book, White Fragility and I was shocked that the author blamed white progressives for the racism that exists in our nation. I thought progressives were the ones wanting to make change, but the author said that without structural change, racism will continue. Words alone are simply not enough. Structural change will only come when we understand the deep injustice that exists in our world and when we are willing to change it.
I sometimes get the feeling that nothing can change the political divide, the racism, and the injustice that exists in our nation. But today’s Gospel tells us that we must pray to God with all our hearts, with determination, and with persistence. God answers our prayers, beginning with our own hearts if we are willing to change. Will you pray with me, listen to the Gospel, and be open to change?
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, July 14 2019
“Mostly evangelism is not what we tell people, unless what we tell is totally consistent with who we are. It is who we are that is going to make the difference. It is who we are that is going to show the love that brought us all into being, that cares for us all, now, and forever. If we do not have love in our hearts, our words of love will have little meaning. If we do not truly enjoy our faith, nobody is going to catch the fire of enjoyment from us. If our lives are not totally centered on Christ, we will not be Christ-bearers for others, no matter how pious our words” (Madeleine L'Engle).
Last Sunday in my sermon, I talked about warming hearts in our worship and hospitality to our guests as the two key ingredients to our evangelism at St. John’s. When our worship warms our hearts we are filled with joy and peace. When we welcome a guest or stranger in our midst and treat them with kindness, we bring the Kingdom of God near.
This Sunday Jesus teaches us another lesson on how to treat our neighbor. We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, so Jesus tells him a parable. A man is robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho and neither the Priest nor the Levite stops to help him. A Samaritan went to him, bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn and took care of him. Jesus tells us that this is what it means to love our neighbor and that we should do likewise.
In today’s Gospel you are asked to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. The question that Jesus asks us is, “Who is your neighbor?” The point of the passage is that Christ calls us to deepen our relationship with God so that we might understand what it means to love our neighbor. This story is not just about helping others, but about mercy and compassion that can only come from God above. Our hearts are warmed when we help others, but we create barriers like racism, sexism, and homophobia to retain the privilege that we enjoy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the lawyer that he must break down the prejudices that we all have in order to love our neighbor as God intends.
Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins that we might understand the love, mercy, and compassion of God. When we follow the way of the cross through self-giving love we feel the peace that passes all understanding. The lesson from Deuteronomy tells us that when we love God and our neighbor we receive the “abundant prosperity” of God. While some would say this means fame, money, and power, I believe that God's abundance is the warming of the heart. It is the joy of following God’s will that brings the Kingdom of God near to us. Maybe the most important person that you can evangelize is yourself. Deepen your relationship with God and love your neighbor and you will receive riches that cannot be measured in dollars. You will be blessed with strength from on high that will get you through all of the valleys that are sure to come in this temporal life and you will surely inherit eternal life.
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, July 07 2019
This Sunday we will not print the Sunday chalice and insert it in the bulletin. Our warden, Rob Wheeler asked for a Sunday to reflect on God’s creation and our responsibly to sustain it. My hope is that we could be more conscious of the need to protect our environment. I realize that saving 150 sheets of paper will not make a huge impact on the environment, but I want to make the point that we should all be moving in that direction. We could make an impact if we all strive to reduce energy consumption, waste generation, our dependence on fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases. At St. John’s, this means recycling more, using less paper, using less electricity, caring for our lawn and gardens, and eliminating single use plastic such as water bottles, coffee stirrers, and straws. This is clearly not a political issue, but a God issue. God created the world and gave us the responsibility to take care of all creation:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it”
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev. 4:15).
“The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands molded the dry land.” (Psalm 95:5).
The Breakfast Group will meet this summer to find ways to be more environmentally responsible.
The Garden Committee will meet each month to care for our gardens and property.
The Thrift Shop is a wonderful way to participate in this effort. Please consider volunteering, shopping, and donating cloths.
The Building and Grounds Committee is insuring that our solar panels are functioning and that we are reducing our energy consumption. You can help by turning off lights and AC when you leave the building.
The Vestry will make environmental stewardship a part of every vestry meeting.
Please share your own ideas with Rob, Coral or myself, or join one of our committees and help them to put a focus on environmental sustainability.
In Christ’s love,