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June 28, 2020 — The Rev. Deacon Richard P. Limato

By July 7, 2020No Comments

Black Lives Matter!

Get Your Knees Off Our Necks!

I can’t breathe!

I stand with Bubba!

Gay is Good!

Love is Love!

Happy Pride!

 

The rallying cries for human rights!

Happy Pride Sunday –– Happy Human Rights Sunday!

Happy? Despite some gains, (including recent big ones from the Supreme Court,) our quest to Kingdom build, to build the reign of God continues.

Words fail every time I witness a person denied their God-given human rights.

As Christians, words shouldn’t fail us, should they?

Each time we participate in a Baptism, we commit with these words, “I will with God’s help.”

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

“I will with God’s help!”

Christians must never let these words fail.

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A few summers ago, visiting my nephew in Georgia, I went to the nearest Anglican Church on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Greeted warmly by the priest and the parishioners, I settled in to worship with this community who initially made me to feel so welcome… until the sermon.

Father preached a strident sermon defining traditional family and the teaching that marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples.

Panic and confusion set in, what if these “loving and welcoming” Anglicans figured out I was an “other” among them? Would their welcome be the same if they knew who I was?

The words of the sermon did not fail, I felt excluded from their definition of Church.

Remaining through Communion, kneeling with them at the communion rail, I received from their table, the Body of Christ, the Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation, their salvation, my salvation, and what I believe to be OUR salvation – no exceptions!

Then I left with a heavy heart.

Anyone whose ever been made to feel unwelcome knows this feeling.

This story surfaced because it is in clear counterpoint to today’s Gospel.

In a few short sentences, as powerful as the human rights activist phrases, Jesus challenges us to think more deeply about what it means to be a welcoming community.

It’s a clear message – radical inclusive welcome is at the heart of our understanding of Christian service.

It’s an important message – like the prophets we must bear a new vision of God’s all embracing hospitality.

It’s an emphasized message – Jesus wants these liberating words to be remembered, to bear life in ministry, /these are the very last words of instruction Jesus gives in his missionary discourse.

The simple act of hospitality is elevated to the level of discipleship.

A deep valuing of all relationships, those that are enduring, /those that are distant and occasional, /those we find abrasive, /those whom we view as “the other,”  – is what it means to be a “life giving, liberating Christian.”

Jesus viewed his presence in the world as a means to offer a way to God to those who had no way.

As Christians we are emissaries of Jesus,  “The one sent represents the full presence of the one who sends.”   

This Gospel begs that it is time for some soul searching.

Crucifixions thrive in a culture of hate, and it seems that hate is winning.

The message on our streets is that we fall short in ensuring that God’s justice and mercy are the birthright of all.

Too often, pride, ego, racism, sexism, homophobia, trans phobia, pave the way forward – preserving the status quo, investing in those with privilege and power.

Borders limiting our understanding of Church define our Congregations, and our welcome.

Polite, less than honest conversations, prevent us from grappling with the hard truth of a systemically racist society.

There is so much in the news today that leaves us heavy hearted.

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As Christians, we believe, we trust that God’s grace, working through each one of us, brings forth Resurrections.

Look around, see them, in the Black Lives Matter Movement, /in demonstrations advocating policing reform, in the banning of a flag at NASCAR that symbolizes racism /in the social action promoting equality and justice for all -God’s beloved – people of all hues, all beliefs, all ethnicities, all gender and sexual identities, and social status.

These are Resurrections tearing down those crosses of Crucifixion.

Love manifest in our lives, and the lives of others.

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Yet we have much work to do, here within our parish family, in our City, in our nation.

In his book, How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi offers this, “There may be no more consequential White privilege than life itself.”  White lives matter to the tune of 3.5 additional years over black lives because of health disparities.

According to the Pew Research Center, 38% of LatinX report that they have experienced being called offensive names, being told to go back to their home country, being criticized for speaking Spanish in public, experiencing unfair treatment because of their countries of origin.

Almost three quarters of LGBTQ+ students have reported verbal harassment due to sexual identity, while more than half have reported verbal harassment for gender expression.  More than half choose not to report violence believing that schools will not act on their behalf.

The stories, the statistics go on and on, these are just a representative glimpse of a larger more systemic problem.

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As a faith community, as a Church, we must ask hard questions and only accept soul- enriching answers, wherever they lead us.

How wide and expansive is our own welcome?

Do we see our roles as gatekeepers, or as those willing to open the doors, bridge the divides that exist, and live Church as Christ intends it to be lived?

Do we choose inaction, or become an advocacy, /become Prophets of our Christian world-view, where all are welcomed without exception?

Do we choose to profess, live and act on our faith?

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Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry says, whenever we listen to someone else’s story, we are on holy ground – sacred ground.  It’s holy listening.

We must begin to listen more deeply to the stories of others, even when they cause us to feel pain, /to bear responsibility, /experience shame for our part in their exclusion.

We must engage in respectful conversations where everyone feels seen and heard, /most importantly treated with dignity as part of our church family.

We must listen deeply and learn from one another as we do the hard work to reimagine church and community in more inclusive ways.

We must be willing to turn from those well-established behavior patterns and prejudices that prevent us from fully loving and accepting others.

We must turn towards our Christian commitment to   live in a new way, /where radical welcome dismantles privilege, stops preserving only what we are comfortable with, /stops denying that we live in a time where the lives of people of color, people of different gender expressions, sexual identities, living in poverty, with less privilege don’t seem to matter.

Where God’s reign exists, they very much matter.  

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As I walked away from that Georgia church heavy burdened on a lovely summer afternoon, I felt excluded from community by their powerful words.  Words do matter.  Actions matter.

Let’s build God’s reign together, let’s bless this holy ground, this sacred space, let us be the ones who are willing to listen and to offer God’s inclusive hospitality.

Let’s recommit:

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

“Will your strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

Say it with me boldly, “I will with God’s help!”

Say it again,

I will with God’s help!

Amen.

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