Yesterday, someone made the mistake of treating me inappropriately. And I say that this was a mistake, because it didn’t go well for him. However, today is the day after, right? And I am still filled with rage over this incident.
What would God want me to do about this? Jesus said something like, we have to leave our anger behind us. And I wonder about this, because had I not gotten angry, then I wouldn’t have stopped the behavior in the way that I did. That was important. But at the same time, I have to decide what I’m gonna do with the anger next. And I need my prop for this.
How heavy is this bottle? Part of that depends on how long you’ve been carrying it. And anger can be this way. If you carry this for a whole heap of time, if I tried to carry my anger for weeks, imagine how heavy this would feel. That’s what happens with resentment. I think that Jesus told us to leave our anger before we try to approach the alter, because if we don’t, it takes over. And then we can’t see God anymore. It’s very important that we not carry things forever. We take a drink. And then we worship God. Amen.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” And as I think about light, I think about matches. And matches are kind of fickle, right? They don’t always work, and sometimes, the striking surface can get a little worn down. I worry about whether or not your striking surface has gotten worn down. Because light is really important to protect, and the things that ignite us are really important to be deliberate about. Because sometimes, we can get lit up about things that are not of God. Sometimes, things can take all of our energy so that we become depleted. On top of that, there will be forces that will try to burn out our light. They will tell us that we’re not supposed to have light. They’ll try to tell us that we should shine in the way they want us to instead of the way God wants us to. They will tell us that we don’t have any right to light. Know that Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” which means that you are light when you shine God’s brightness within you. And nothing can ever take away your access to that. But you need to kindle your light. And when you can’t, remember this: light is stronger when it joins the other kindled light, and when we join with other people, we shine so much brighter. So, find people who will shine with you. Find the light of Christ in others, because, when we join our forces together, we are an inferno that will change this world. Amen.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about anger. In part, because I find myself getting angry more and more, and it feels as if we’re in a world of growing anger. Regardless of whether or not we’re more angry than we used to be, I think church needs to help people to figure out what we do most effectively with that anger. Is anger bad? Is it something that God calls on us not to feel? I would say no. I would say that there are numbers and numbers of examples throughout the Bible where even God gets mad. And so, when we get angry, I think the question becomes, what does God want us to do with it? There is a place for people of faith to feel righteous indignation. There’s certainly a place to notice something is wrong and to feel wrong about it. To feel as if it needs to change. And that anger that might spark us to say a holy no to something that is wrong is very, very important. Because it’s only when we start to notice the places where we say no, or where we need to say no, that change can come from. The problem is when our anger starts to brew within us like “a hot burning coal,” I read one writer write, that becomes uncontrollable and it burns and it harms us. And so we ask. We have to think of ways to channel that anger most effectively. And how do we know if we’re using our anger right? When good things come from it. When it turns from anger into action that is loving and compassionate. That’s the thing that God is always calling us to do. We have to love. And when we find ourselves acting out of anger that is not loving, that is when we’re not following Jesus. So, get angry. Feel the burn of change coming within you. And then effectively channel it somewhere. But when your anger harms someone, or when your anger turns into trolling on the Internet. We spoke out last week in support of Muslims, and I was shocked at how angry that made people feel. That reminded me by the way that I probably need to talk more about it. So do many of us. But figure out what to do with your anger. Respect that anger and turn it into love. That is how we follow Jesus. Amen.
I’m going to get straight to the point. I am joined by a number of religious leaders who are completely appalled by the Muslim ban and the ban on refugees that has just come from the current administration. Why are we appalled? You see, if we ever want to follow Jesus, then we’re going to realize that we have to take care of the least of these, which includes people who are coming to us in crisis, when their lives are on the line, and that includes refugees. If we want to follow Jesus, then we have to remember that he, too, was a refugee, several times, not even just once. So, if we want to turn away a refugee then we need to go ahead and realize that we’re turning away Jesus – because every person bears the image of Christ. And this is not the country I’ve known. So, if you have a minister who defends a policy in which we turn away refugees, realize that they’re in a moment of crisis right now where they’re not following Jesus. There is no possible way to follow Jesus and say no to a refugee. So, let’s be clear. You can do what Jesus says and encourage them to repent. I have had to repent several times. They need to repent now. Amen.
So now that we’ve marched, what’s next? A lot of us came and showed up. We stood up. In Washington DC, in New York City, all over the country, all over the world. In over 370 cities, we stood up for women. Now what?
I would propose a few things. One, go back home now. Go back to your neighborhood and figure out the one thing that you can do. And decide on it. And then go after it. So maybe there’s a parent organization that you can join at your children’s school. Maybe there’s something, like you need some sidewalks fixed in your neighborhood. Maybe you need to hold people accountable to the promises they’ve made before they’ve been elected. Whatever it is that your feeling like you should do, go ahead and start on it even if it’s small. Because the way that we really stand up is that we get active. We saw people coming to be activists – for the first time for some. And instead of being upset that they weren’t there before, what I would suggest is that we celebrate. We bring them to the party and we keep celebrating.
The spirit was alive yesterday, so we can’t let that spirit die. I borrow language from the prophet Isaiah, who says, “Listen up. God has chosen you. God has chosen you for a purpose. And that you are an arrow in God’s quiver.” A “quiver” is a thing that holds arrows. So, you are an arrow in God’s quiver. And God is going to pull you up right now, and shoot you off to a target. Find your target and pierce through.
It occurs to me that church has become a bit confused about when it should say Yes and when it should say No. I understand that this can be confusing. When we carry as much moral authority as church has often claimed, it can be somewhat of a moment of potential abuse. There are times when church has said No when it should’ve said – and listened to God’s unsurpassing – Yes. And yet it said No to people based on all kinds of morality clauses that were picking and choosing what God wanted us to do. For example, we see church saying No on matters of so called “lifestyle” while letting a whole bunch of other things happen that church needed to say No to. And so, I wanted to address this today because I would love to call my colleagues in the ministry and all of us who are in churches to think very carefully about the things we should be endorsing as church community and the things that we should be resisting. And instead of resisting people’s choices in terms of who they love, in terms of all sorts of sexual questions that seem to obsess church community, we need to set aside some of that and think, what else are we endorsing? Are we endorsing leadership that is going to be oppressive? Are we stepping into spaces that say Yes to leaders who don’t care about whether or not all of the people they are called to serve are able to thrive? And so, I ask us to think now, what do we say Yes to? And what are we going to powerfully resist? That’s the role of church.
There has lately been a lot of conversation about the LGBTQ community in churches. And in many churches, you see silence: silence in the face of other congregations where there are people who stand in the pulpit that is supposed to be preaching a gospel of love and inclusion and freedom, and they’re talking about death for gay people in 2017. That makes no sense. It is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And so I would actually like to call on progressive Christians – and what that means to me is the groups of Christians who would proclaim that there is no one ever excluded from the love and the grace and the mercy of God – I need my colleagues in these churches to say, Indeed, if you are Lesbian, if you’re Gay, If you’re Bisexual, if you’re Transgender, if you’re Questioning, if you’re Queer, if you’re somewhere of this spectrum of love, that God made you that way. And you are affirmed in your being and anyone who would preach that, you need to get up out of that church and walk away. And there are churches that are open to you. There are Faith Communities that will have you, so know that a Gospel of Death is no Gospel. The Gospel we know is one of life eternal for every single created being. And that means you.