10 Scriptural ideas about Texas, Buffalo or Briana

I had a nice sermon ready about Jesus’ Ascension- mystery and humbly looking for Jesus.  However, I awoke this morning at 4am, remembering that we are two years past George Floyd, two weeks past Buffalo and a few days past the terrible events in Texas. I felt the need to write a different sermon. The following might not be a sermon, maybe just 10 ideas from the Scriptures that we might should keep in the front of our minds.   

  1. It is a blessing to grieve.  Indeed, we Christians should be grieving over the love of violence in our society.  We need to grieve or it will bubble up in bitterness. Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s systemic evil.   Luke 19 tells how “as Jesus came near and saw the city (the capital- the symbol of the nation), Jesus  wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  In Luke 13 and Matthew 23 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you. How often I wanted to gather your people together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that. Look, your house is left to you deserted”.  I imagine Jesus is weeping over America as we can’t seem to recognize the things that make for peace.   In Matthew 5,  Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Perhaps, grief allows us to linger in the places of hurt so that we might find resurrection. 
  1. It’s okay to be angry.  Mark 3 tells how Jesus confronted the religious and civic leaders, asking about matters of law. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. Jesus looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart.”  
  1. It is okay to call out political lies and leaders who are liars. It may be necessary for Christ-likeness. In Luke 13 “some Pharisees ( a religious and perhaps political movement somewhat allied with Jesus)  approached Jesus and said, “Go! Get away from here, because Herod wants to kill you. The Pharisees knew what Jesus was up against a ruthless king who stopped at nothing to hold onto power, and the religious leaders lining up to kiss Herod’s royal feet. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ warning is so human that it shocks us, “Go, tell (King Herod) that fox.” In those days, fox meant predatory, treacherous, cunning, and deadly. Jesus calls the king a name and thumps his chest at the throne. “Go, tell that fox.”  Why would Jesus use a slur against the sovereign? It’s not polite. It’s not proper. It doesn’t seem to make for peace. Peace demands truth-telling not polite pleasantries that ignore the bad-behavior of self-interested kings and senators.  John Baptist thundered at the priests, “You brood of vipers” and was executed for speaking out over corruption. (Luke 3) Paul condemned Peter to this face. (Galatians 2) Often we church people prefer civility over honesty, politeness over truth. A sinless Jesus  told the truth about an evil king, “Go, tell that fox.” 
  1.  Our baptism vows call us to resist unjust, oppressive and evil systems, wherever we find them.  Jesus led a protest. In Mark 11, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple; and when he had looked around at everything. … (On the following day), they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves;  and Jesus would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.  Jesus was teaching and saying (over and over), ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’ Imagine that like a protest chat: My House shall be- a place of prayer for All- but you- have made it a robbers den. (repeat).  And when the chief priests and the leading scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill Jesus; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.”  Josephus tell us more than 100 thousand people made the Passover pilgrimage to the Temple.  Jesus shut that down with an organized, disruptive, controversial and on point protest. 
  1.  The church must always preach values that challenge every nation’s status quo. We are called to resist evil, injustice and oppression and love our neighbors as ourselves.  Marcus Borg writes that The “proclamation of Jesus as Son of God, Lord, and Savior directly countered Roman Imperial theology…. Jesus was Lord and the emperor was not! “Jesus is Lord” was high treason!… (The)message challenged the normalcy of civilization, then and now, with an alternative vision of how life on earth can and be.” (Marcus Borg- The First Paull)
  1. God abhors violence.  In the Genesis flood story, God laments making humanity because of our violence. Jesus’ crucifixion is an act of state sponsored and church backed violence.   In Luke 13 and 19, Jesus laments over the nation that can’t seem to do the things that lead to peace. The Apostle Paul contrasts the Fruits of the Spirit; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”  with baser values like “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, and fighting.”  Jesus tells us prophetically  “all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26)  What does it say about our nation that  we have enshrined the protection of weapons in our founding documents?   
  1. God calls us to make peace. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” ( Jesus Matthew 5)
  1. Jesus calls us to actively break the cycle of retribution and payback. “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.”  But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment… So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister… ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other also;  and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. … You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?.” (Matthew 5 & &7)   Now, Individual forgiveness does not end communal or civic accountability. Forgiveness and justice belong together. I can forgive you and testify in court about your actions.    
  1. Christianity is not just thoughts and prayers.  We pray the Lord’s prayer: your kingdom come, your will be done. Not someday in heaven, but on earth as in heaven.  Today, right now, we are called to build a community of love, forgiveness, and justice. In Luke 4, “Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place (in Isaiah) where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because the Lord has anointed me. God’s Spirit has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’   Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. Jesus began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”   In Chapter 17, the church leaders asked Jesus when God’s kingdom was coming.  Jesus replied, “God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed.  Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you.” .
  2. Our Ascension text reminds us that our Crucified Lord knows the depths of our suffering and is with us in every tear and grief’s deeper angers.  And so we come together to lament. We share our suffering and grief together. So that we might find healing and hope.  We stand in solidarity with each other.  And YET, We do not resign ourselves to wait for heaven to fix everything.   We resolve to stop living with revenge, strife, enmity, quarrels and violence but to instead offer ourselves to the world  with acts of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” for this is who we are- this is what beloved-ness looks like.  And our message is not just about reconciliation with individuals, but about systematic justice, repentance and forgiveness.  If we follow the Risen Christ then hear Jesus’ blessing “ You are witnesses of these things”. And see, I Am sending upon you the Spirit God promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’”   May God’s healing living water flow into us, but not stagnant as in a pond. Might Christ’s healing justice and love follow out from us to heal our world. Amen.

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