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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Charleston, South Carolina, June 2015

(On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, nine Black Americans where shot in a congregation in Charleston, SC. The killer (allegedly, although he left witnesses) is a White American, and there is evidence that the killings were racially motivated. The alleged killer spent 45 minutes with the congregation in Bible study, and there is a rumor that he almost didn't follow through because the people were  so nice. Not nice enough apparently. May their families find peace, and may their deaths not be in vain.)

How do I preach in a world where people kill others because they do not like the color of someone's skin? What sense does it make to live in a world where so much hatred resides, and because in the USA we allow people access to firearms, that hatred can often have tragic consequences? What to preach? How to preach? Why preach?

The sermon that follows gets to what I believe is the cause of racism: fear. Racism is an excuse to be fearful, and to not trust God in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit has taken care of you and will continue to care for you. The alleged killer was afraid, and rather than trust God, he trusted himself and his gun, and nine people died from his fear. More than cowardice, he blasphemed the Holy Spirit, in theological language, and made himself "God." He was wrong, as all people are who live in fear, and use racism, class-ism, sexism, and any other "ism" to justify their actions. (Living in fear isn't the problem, it's using the "isms" to cover up that fear.)

To trust in God is to trust in God, like the 9 who were killed trusted in God. And although they died, we would be remiss to think their trust in God was misplaced or lacking. They still live with God, although in a way we on this planet don't get to see. They may have been some of the greatest martyrs for the Christian faith in the last 1800 years. They didn't choose to be martyrs, they might not have wanted to be martyrs, and it may seem rather wasteful to think of them as such. But if you're going to have faith in a God who died on a cross, you shouldn't be surprised if you should die in a cross of sorts too. This doesn't mean we have to go seeking out such death, but we don't have to act surprised when it happens either.

Because I preach on the Revised Common Lectionary, the text this sermon is based on comes from the gospel of Mark, chapter 4, right at the end. I didn't pick the text, and truth be told I didn't pick this weekend to preach either, but my colleague went on vacation on Saturday. I hope somebody hears some gospel in this sermon, and I hope it's just not the white folks either.

One last thing: our quarterly healing service fell on this Sunday as well. This worship is a time for people to offer prayers, blessings, communion, lighting a candle of memories and hope, and quiet reflection on the presence of Jesus in their lives. Jesus is actively working to heal and make us whole. In my mind it was the "perfect storm," and what follows is my journey across the sea.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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