Archive for category Racism

John 3:1-17 Spirit Born, Spirit Living

bornanewNow there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”  Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”  Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSV]

1.   Ticket to Ride

  • Nicodemus is having a rabbi-to-rabbi
  • Talking about faith is not having faith
  • Talking about eternal life is accessing spiritual birth
  • Birth comes as a process of conception, maturity, and birth
  • Spiritual Birth is God’s process of bringing Spirit to become alive in us.

2.   Being Born of the Spirit in No Physical Accomplishment

  • Spiritual Birth is God’s Work, not our work
  • We can’t explain salvation into being, The Jesus’s work
  • We can’t scientifically prove salvation, That is Jesus’s work
  • We can’t hold the Spirit, but it can move us like the wind moves the trees.

3.   Spiritual Awakening vs. Spiritual Birth

  • Jesus makes Spiritual birth possible before our awareness
  • Our waking up the Spirit within us is our awakening
  • Philosophers, poets, musicians, lawyers, teachers and scholars have lead people to spiritual awakening but they cannot create the Spirit of God within us.

4.   Wind Blown, Spirit Lead

  • Jesus helps find Jesus in his being and not just in his head and in the words.
  • More than being people of God or followers of Jesus, you and I are people of the Spirit.
  • We are spiritual beings in a physical body.
  • Awakening comes to us when we realize there is more to us than the sum of our parts.

5.   Jesus brings Us to Spiritual Life

  • The many physical and mental things that divide us in society are not of the Spirit.
  • Racism is a spiritual problem: The misuse of power over people based on the color physical parts
  • Sexism is a spiritual problem: The misuse of power over a gender.
  • Political polarization is a spiritual problem that is not solved by converting the enemy, it is solved by spiritual awakening to follow God.
  • Division in the church is a spiritual problem. The answer is not getting the colors right or the money right nor is it getting the theology right.
  • The answer is being in right relationship with the Spirit

 

6.   God is doing whatever it takes to save us.

  • Hear the Good News: God is working to save us, not condemn us.
  • When you hear someone talk about church, God or the Bible as judgmental, know their perspective is out of right relationship.
  • God’s work in Jesus is to save us.
  • God’s work in Jesus requires that we see what separates are physical things.

 

Nicodemus is holding on to his own way of thinking, and Jesus is saying the gift of salvation is already available, ONE has to let go of SIN, let go of PRIDE, let go of being CORRECT, Let go of

 

SO WHAT does all that have to do with my life?

  1. Know God is working to love, save and claim us.
  2. Know Jesus makes new birth possible
  3. Know that following Jesus is following the Spirit
  4. Know that following your heart is not the target.
  5. Following the Spirit will let go of selfishness, sin, brokenness, control

 

 

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Psalm 84 Claiming A Place with God 20160207 RSUMC

opendoor

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah (two of 74)

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you. [NRSV]

Text Notes:

A psalm, a hymn for worship, to be sung by the choir/praise team. Not a congregational hymn but more of a solo or at least for the choir, [psalm for *Korah]

Denote 2 of the 74 Selah references are in this one psalm/hymn.

 

VERSE 1

God’s Temple is our Refuge, heart’s home

Song begins remembering the temple/tabernacle is beautiful.

My heart longs to be there, my bones ache to sing for joy and know God is alive.

 

Secondly, God’s house is a place where everyone is welcomed. Even the least little bird (swallow) finds a home at the temple. Who wants the swallow? Bugs, mites, disease, messy? But God’s house has room for all of us.

Bottom line of verse one: People find God at the temple and love to worship when there are in the magnificent gates. Come and find God present in the sanctuary. The ornate nature of the space reminds us of God’s presence and our belonging.

SELAH, pause to praise, breathe and find God with us.

 

VERSE 2

Finding God outside the walls.

It makes us happy to know God is near, even when we are not in this place…

It is a blessing to know God is with us, even when we are not at church…

When you are at home or your place of safety, all is well. You make it through the day back to base, you can breath easy because you are thankful for all that is “home”.

 

Perspective is looking at the “place of comfort” when you are not there.

The Valley of Baca (Weeping)

Instead of focusing on the being lost, focus on the being at home, where you are.

 

Happy are those who know the way home. But what of those who have lost their way… those who don’t know where to turn? It can be a comfort, that even though we have gone astray, we know the way home, the way back. the GPS coordinates match up.

 

Those who know the Strength of the Lord, That’s Us.

 

BUT VERSE 3

WHEN ALL I HAVE IS A SHIELD

What about those who are outside or

those who have lost their way, or

those who have not heard?

 

Imagine hiding from the struggles, turmoil and threats in life, picture yourself out in the open, a shield is a protection but only on one side and the arrows are hurling in from every direction: money, hunger, rejection, fear, shame, sin, etc.

 

When we realize we are far from the walls of safety, belonging and peace.

A place between the House of God and the tents of wickedness.

Our place is between, bridging the gap.

Our Space is halfway in and halfway out.

 

Claiming Space in God

Dwelling Place

Happiness is : Content/at Peace/at one/ complete

Shield: temporary help, but we need to claim/reclaim temple life, when there is no temple.

Door Keepers: The greatest service is to be one of the choir members of Korahites, sing so someone will hear and find their way to God.

 

Happy are those who trust in God

God’s House has room for us all

Someone is living in the valley of weeping adversity

Our place is not in the temple, but out singing, knowing/remember the comfort of home, but reaching out to be shield

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Mark 7.24-37 Racism: “How about them Dawgs” 20150905, Facetimed from COS to RSUMC

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter. So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. [NRSV]

The Politics of Racism:

It is in influx of racially motivated incidents AND the fires fueled by political factions that our United Methodist Council of Bishops has asked us to address the topic of Racism this Sunday. They ask us to 1) acknowledge that racism is a sin and to 2) affirm the church’s roll in eradicating Racism is to be a priority. I find this passage that is typically remembered for its emphasis by Jesus on miraculous healing, is an interesting perspective on dealing with assumptions and prejudice, regarding racial divisions.

The passage is about seeing and hearing Racism.

First, the passage is about Jesus healing people from different political and geographical regions.

Gentiles of Syrophoenician heritage, Folks from Tyre, Sidon and the Decapolis regions.

We generally focus on the healing miracles and skip over the very thing we need to hear and see in the passage:

Might Jesus be a racist?

What?  This might be an uncomfortable question for Christians to ask given this text.
Our immediate response likely is, “Of course not! Jesus couldn’t possibly have been racist!”
 What are you talking about?
But Jesus’ conversation with the Syrophoenician woman seems to raise the question. In it, Jesus calls the woman, who was desperate for a miracle for her child, “a dog”, a dehumanizing ethnic slur common at the time. No matter what theological tap dance we might create to avoid this uncomfortable truth, eventually, we have to face this stark truth.
Jesus uttered a racial slur. “Dog’s are not worthy.” Blessing is not for you, you are a female dog.” We have a word for that term.
If we only knew Jesus was talking with a women, we might Just call his statement Sexist.
But since she is first identified by her race and as a women. Its a double whammy.
What in the world is going on here?
 (Have you ever read or studied this passage? It is troubling but crucial to address.
Part of the difficulty of this passage is that as Christians,
we want Jesus to be the simple,
clean-cut,
white or black with absolutely no shades of grey
Jesus must have easy answer to all our problems and to all of society’s problems.
When in fact: 100% x 2 is not 200%
The passages show us that Jesus is 100% God who can heal beyond any medicine and all limits.
This passage shows us that Jesus is 100% human. A man who was raised in a culture, filled with real people who struggle to choose good from bad and right from wrong.
This passage reveals the complexities of personal and institutional racism, it is much easier to think of Jesus as being above them all and loving all people regardless of skin color or culture of origin.
But that is not what we want to see and hear from Jesus, but, “Whoop, there it is.
And yet, he says: You are a dog: You are not legitimate, you are not worthy, you are less than human, as a woman and as a Canaanite.
 This does not fit our picture of Jesus at all:
After all, that’s what our children’s song teaches us. Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight.
But how about them Dawgs?
Does Jesus love them too? Is every team unworthy of support?
Here we are in the start of SEC Football season kicking off and you are bring racism in religion and sports into
The difficulty of this passage particularly for white Christians is that we want Jesus to be colorblind.
We want Jesus to be colorblind because that’s what we want to be or think we should be. But, in truth, at least in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is anything but colorblind.
In fact, and not being part of the solution to racism or ethnic prejudice, Jesus seems to be very much part of the problem, according to this story.
So What?
So what does it mean, exactly, that the Son of God, the Incarnation, the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, utters a racial slur?
Because that is exactly what Jesus does in his dealing with the Syrophoenician, Canaanite heritage woman.
When confronted with the gentile pagan in this story, he explains that his message and ministry are for Israelites only, a comment of ethnic exclusion and prejudice that calls to mind a similar refrain – “whites only” – that is part of our history not too long ago.
It wouldn’t be fair, Jesus explains, to take the banquet ready for his people – the children, the humans – and give it to gentiles – the dogs, the less than human.
He is “Just a Joking” trying to get someone’s attention?
A some scholars whistle past this ghastly put-down by explaining that perhaps Jesus called the woman a dog with a twinkle in his eye, as if he winked at her knowingly to say he didn’t really believe her to be a dog. Like she was in on the joke when he uttered this well-known racial slur.
Others emphasize that the word for dog that Jesus uses isn’t the typical strong language usually associated with this racial slur. They explain that the word Jesus uses takes the diminutive form, implying perhaps a beloved pet or a lap dog, and therefore takes the sting out of the slur.
Of course, white Americans have had their own diminutive versions of racial slurs to imply endearment. Still unconvinced?
Look at the picture
Perhaps we can put this story in better context, our current context. Imagine the Syrophoenician woman as an African-American woman who comes to Jesus, a white male, seeking to be healed.
In response, Jesus dehumanized her, calls her an animal, a female dog. She is coming to Jesus for healthcare for her daughter and calls her a welfare abusing mother of a litter that has not paid taxes to cover the care.
If those slurs are too harsh, choose a different one. Does a more kind-sounding name make the sting go away?
I will always remember my Grandmother’s conversation with my Grandfather. He called the people he hired to help around the farm: Negros. My Grandmother corrected him repeatedly, Now Charlie they preferred to be called Coloreds. The terminology did not change the foundational relationship. And similarly, I don’t think Jesus’ diminutive case of “dog” in this text softens the bite of his own racism either.
So what are we to make of this conversation?
Clearly, racism is a sin, an evil, systemic sin which Christians everywhere should stand against. But how are we to do stand against racism when our own Lord and Savior has so clearly uttered such a heinous racial slur?
Does it make Jesus a racist? Does it make him a sinner? What flag would Jesus have raised to this woman?
Q: Does this passage change the way you  think of Jesus?
This, I think, is the great lesson of the Syrophoenician woman:
It teaches us about Jesus and it teaches us the dynamics of racism, of how even the best of humanity — Jesus himself — can get caught up in systems of oppression, in a culture of supremacy.
I Slice of Real Life
As a good Jew, Jesus would have been reared to give thanks daily that he was born a Jew, not a Gentile, a man and not a woman. Jesus could not help but become entangled by such a sexist and racist snare.
His statement reflected his heritage, his culture, his up bringing, his community understanding of men and women.
Jesus, given his embedded culture, could not be colorblind. And neither can we.
But being caught in such evil, however, does not make one an overt racist. It is what happens in the moments afterwards that makes that determination. How we respond, when confronted with the narratives of the oppressed, reveal who we truly are.
Do we continue to ignore or deny these realities of oppression? Mock them?
Continue to brush them aside as dogs? less than human?
Or do we, like Jesus, do the miraculous and listen to them, be changed by the power of the truth of they are speaking?
When this woman, in boldness, confronts Jesus and his racist, sexist slur, Jesus listens, and hears. It is the only time recorded in the gospels where Jesus changes his mind.
“But even the dogs get table scraps,” she replies, a complex response often required of the member of the “lesser race” who stands up to dismissive racism even while accepting its instituted, ugly, dehumanizing order.
I heard, for the first time.
Jesus is astounded, the holy wind knocked out of him. A moment before, she was but a dog to him.
 In the next, he listens to her and sees her for what she truly is, a woman of great faith, a moral exemplar, his teacher.
Jesus does the most difficult thing for those of us born into the unfortunate privilege of dominance or prejudice.
He listens. And allows himself to be fundamentally changed.
The very next healing miracle Jesus conducts is to open a man’s ears to here.
 
When it happens, when we finally have ears to hear, we will never be the same, will never be able to listen to the lies of the dominant oppressors the same way again.
For me, this happened as a student at Gammon Seminary at the ITC at Atlanta University. Having grown up in the racist culture of the Deep South, I was serving a congregation that had about a quarter of its members we in bi-racial families and my reference to serve and lead as pastor was lacking
I found myself disarmed in my doctoral  class, by the students sharing stories of what it meant to be black in the church in the south and a Christian. We listened to one another’s faith journey stories, by the reflections of my classmates, (by being the a minority as a white person) they heard what it was to be white from a real person seeking God and I heard what it was to be black from real people seeking God.. It happened listening to the stories of Atlanta-area ministers explain the realities of being Black in urban America. It happened as I learned to be quiet, to listen and to allow myself to be changed. I also shared my journey that did not necessarily fit their assumptions about the power of the “whites.”
I also had a well-respected faculty member in the area of Christian worship dismiss my dissertation agenda of addressing Racism in Worship, resigning from being my committee chair because she said she wanted to know, and I quote, “Why do you think a little white boy has any business teaching the black community anything about racism? I believe you have it backwards.”
I knew I was not little.
I was not a boy, and
I was not fitting her definition of racism and its potential for resolution.
I knew God has a better way.
First: Processing, honestly what we hear:
Second: Be willing to change our hearts and minds when we experience oppression.
You see, when Jesus listened to the Syrophoenician woman, he heard not only the truth of her reality. He also heard the brokenness of his own reality.
Both must happen to tackle racism. We must be able to hear the realities of the oppressed and disenfranchised as true. This, in and of itself, can be difficult for those of us who are members of a majority race or gender, to accept a foreign reality without qualifications, to listen without interrupting, to hear without reworking their experiences into the dominant cultural narratives embedded within us.
But we must also be able to hear the brokenness of our own realities and of our own stories.
Things to note:
Racism is about power and can be abused both ways.
The Goal is not colorblind, but to find ways to appreciate one another, even if we offend each other.
The church, by Jesus example, is the agent of transformation of racism.
I would offer this passage needs to be read, studied, shared and brought into life before political correct politics claims another task of the church.
 
So, in the end, Jesus’ conversation offers us perhaps the most powerful story for those of us in majority classes as we stand against racism. It compels us to listen to the narratives of the oppressed we devalue implicitly. It requires us to listen to our own prejudice.
It asks us to do the unthinkable: to own our racism and to be changed by society’s most marginalized.
Having followed Jesus this far, perhaps we can do no better than he did, and that is to learn to listen to those with such different realities than mine and to let that new reality change my reality from– who I am and who I will become through living out our relationships with God together.

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