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Homily Preached at United Lutheran Seminary Chapel 9/5/17

The sermon is based on the following text-

 Matthew 16:21-28

After Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16), Jesus reveals the ultimate purpose of his ministry. These words prove hard to accept, even for a disciple whom Jesus has called a “rock.”
21From that time on, [after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah,] Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
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A Sermon Lent 5 Year A 2017

 

A sermon based on the followings text. I would suggest reading them first.

 

First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is a promise that Israel as a nation, though dead in exile, will live again in their land through God’s life-giving spirit. Three times Israel is assured that through this vision they will know that “I am the Lord.”
1The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Gospel: John 11:1-45

Jesus is moved to sorrow when his friend Lazarus falls ill and dies. Then, in a dramatic scene, he calls his friend out of the tomb and restores him to life.
1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 

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Dear Church: I’m Not Surprised- A Reflection on Last Night’s Election

That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained;  – Bob Marley “War”

 

 

I want to start with a word of hope. If you are reading this, you are called to be church at a time such as this. God decided that you would be here on this day, the day after the election reading this. You are the incarnation of Christ and the hope of the world. That before the first stars burst into the universe and started to send light across the expanse, you were chosen for such a time as this. When the inky black expanse seemed to swallow creation whole, light knifed into the existence. At those very moments, you were ordained for this time. God is with you. Christ loves you.

Dear Church, I am not surprised. By 9pm EST I had a sinking feeling, By 10pm EST my fears were made manifest. By 11 pm EST I turned off the TV and told my wife lets go to bed and hold each other. She a Jew and I, Black, we had often joked that our marriage would illegal the day after the election. We went to bed with the sinking feeling it almost was.

More than half of America has spoken, and it was what I have come to expect. They have sided with hatred. As a Lutheran I was struck by Rozella  Haydee White’s tweet last night. She pointed out the area’s that won this man the day are heavily ELCA.

Dear Church I am not surprised because of Emmett Till.

I am not surprised because of  Sandra Bland. Eric Garner. Freddie Gray. Gynna Mcmillen.  Trayvon Martin.

I am not surprised because systemic racism is demonic and exorcisms are not an easy affair. I am not surprised because as I waited in line at 8 AM to cast my vote, a Hillary supporter was trying to feel me out. I was in collar with a “pray for your enemies” hat. Doesn’t scream liberal.  She was a well to do white liberal feminist working for the campaign, and when I talked about xenophobia, racism, and the fact that I have only had the right to vote for little over a 50 over years, she immediately was dismissive and centered her story. I hate misogyny as much as you, and her points struck true. Patriarchy be damned. But I don’t think she had any clue what she was facing. She was facing white supremacy and it will cause any white person, male or female to vote against their own self-interest.

She had no idea because she was lulled to sleep by the Obama presidency and was self-assured by neo liberal ideals. She truly thought she was doing enough.

I have seen the deep well of hatred and the hands that have lowered our collective dignity to pull up the bitter gall and poured it in our national cup. I have watched from facedown on the sidewalk the tear gas of the machine rise and the boots march in. I have seen the cell door close with the deep and metallic slam that vibrates in your very bones.

I know what empire looks like. It has been giving stump speeches for over a year now. It has been beating up activist. America, the mask has fallen and it is time we look into the dim mirror of our national living room. With sober eyes and clear heads we need to see who we truly are. The crimson in our flag is the blood of  indigenous peoples of this land. The blue is the nightstick bruises on black bodies. The white is all we have ever cared about.

If you are a leader in the church, or in a movement of liberation, our fight has just begun. If you are complicit in this travesty, may God have mercy on your soul.

 

 

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Dear Church: #decolonize16 Happened

( Editors note: When I wrote this I know I didn’t mention the great African Descent Bishops in place in the ELCA and our full communion partners. I know you good folks are there. I see you, as role models and hero’s. I’m calling for more so you don’t stand in the breach almost alone.)

 

It’s been over a week and I’m still not sure what happened. I know we gathered. I know the spirit, She was there. The room was heavy with it. I mean the power was moving, flowing, pushing, prodding. It was cornering us and making sure the only way out was justice. Our only defense before God would be erring on the side of Grace.

The Holy Spirit is a terrorist and it wasn’t negotiating. Jesus is a liberator and the chains of oppression are on us all. The dominant culture in the secular world is singing its swan song (Make America Great Again). In our church, it is embedded in all we do. It is the small pox infested blanket we sell as a hymnal.  It is the mission developers who are the share croppers of the ecclesiastical world. It is the LGBTQ pastor you keep blaming for shrinking endowments while you still don’t tithe 10% anyway. It is the secret ballot you cast at Synod assembly where you pass up the qualified African Descent candidate for the Bishop. Amazing how the “Holy Spirit” never seems to choose the black choice.

I think hope put on a hoodie, grabbed some skittles, and sat down up front at #decolonize16.

I think an angel stopped over to #decolinize16 on its way to the Stonewall riots.

I think our ableist oppression got smacked in its demonic face by a cane at midday.

I think Eric Garner may have taken a deep breath at the banquet.

I think many leaders who were there actually listened to the cries of black and brown peers.

I think those same leaders noticed the scars and bruises and bloody stains on our stoles.

I think change may be afoot but this gathering had so little to do with the leaders and was something bigger than us.

I think this thing went down without a mistake. It was perfectly crafted by grace and shaped by our brokenness.

I think #decolonize17 in Philly is going to be a breakthrough …..

Of the kingdom…..

Of God’s victory ……

Of justice and God’s equity.

I think you should be there.

I pray we cracked the door open….

 

If you are interested in what #decolonizelutheranism is check out http://decolonizelutheranism.org/

#decolonize17 tickets are available now here  http://decolonizelutheranism.org/decolonize17/

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Livestream Test

https://livestream.com/accounts/21602078/events/6502640

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Sermon Preached at LSTC Chapel 10/3/16

 

 

Sermon Notes –

The sermon is on Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. It was preached to excite the LSTC community about #decolonize16 on October 22nd 2016. This is full of run on sentences and grammatically a mess. Its written how I thought I would preach it. Might be better to listen.

 

 

 

Grace peace and mercy from God the Father and the Sneaky Lady the Holy Spirit, Amen?

 

So I want to thank you all for the kind invitation to visit my peers here in Chicago. My name is Lenny Duncan and I am Coop Mdiv student at LTSP or United Seminary. I am also currently serving as the Vicar at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Conshohocken PA which is 2 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I am also an early adopter and organizer within the #decolonizelutheranism movement. All that to say I’m broken person in a broken world trying to live out this thing called Church and follow Jesus. I’m also sure just like at home you are at the AHHHHH Phase of the semester where it’s like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant so I bring greetings from your peers on the edge also in Philly.

 

2O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

 

I want to talk to you about the in between spaces. The spaces where it seems the whole world is taking a deep breath and ………………there seems like there will never be an exhale.

 

Liminal spaces.  Church, peers, collogues we are in a liminal Space.

 

Liminality is the in-between moments, the space between an inciting incident in a story and the protagonist’s resolution. It is often a period of discomfort, of waiting, and of transformation. Your characters’ old habits, beliefs, and even personal identity disintegrates

 

Our country and our Church is in a Liminal Space. The moment of inhale was Charleston and the massacre at Mother Emmanuel. We are waiting to exhale.

O Lord how long shall I cry to you for Help, and you will not listen.

Terrence Crutcher

Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save

Sandra Bland. Philandro Castile.

3Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?

Orlando and the Pulse Massacre, Charlotte, Baltimore, Fergunsen

Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.

#BlacklivesMatter #Bluelivesmatter #Alllivesmatter Does life matter at all God?

4So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.

Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Gynna Mcmillian

The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

When you are surrounded by wickedness and you are suffering from a national PTSD, as I think all black and brown peoples are in this time, these voices will pervert the clear and sound judgements of God. These voices will tell you that the real problem is you are killing yourself. Never mind the systemic conditions that led you down this rabbit hole with only one way out. Never mind that the you can see pools of crimson blood of young men and woman growing and spreading until our entire nation becomes awash in them. Never mind the fact that you should be screaming, but the tone police have reduced your lament to a whisper. Never mind the fact that we all say something should be done, but nothing. Nothing is all we can come up with. I grew up on 63rd and race in West Philly and no one read the CWA memorials this year there.

The judgement of God is in my opinion being able to see things from his perspective. The way Jesus a brown man who was living in a colonized land, was railroaded in court and killed by the means of state sanctioned violence and execution. We can put on those glasses.

 

But we are in a liminal space. You have been crafted for this space. It was decided before the very first cries of your parents out of the womb that you would feel a call, an urging to serve the people of God at this time. This liminal space.

(Tell the story of the week of Charleston. Talk about that Sunday. Take a deep breath and walk away from the podium)

 

:1I will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;

Called, ordained, emerging, and all leaders I ask you to stand at your watch post at this time in our country, do not look away. Do not turn your head. Do not look away at this time. It would be easy to become weighed down by another hashtag that is supposed to represent another life. That somehow a trending name is supposed to encompass all the joys, sorrows, birthdays, triumphs, failures of someone’s son or daughter.
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

God is listening. The Holy Spirit she is moving. Christ is in, with under us at this time. The incarnational community.

 

2Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.

Write the vison clear, make it plain. #Blacklivesmatter. Jesus stands with the oppressed. The marginalized is not where the Church should be looking to see where it can help, but should be walking towards because that is where the very heart of our church lies.


3For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.

There is hope around the corner. There is Grace pouring out from the great font that is God all-encompassing love. We must stand in the liminal space that is playing out across our country with the surety that the kingdom will come. That we are the visible sign of this kingdom, while folks have flagging spirits. When they have no belief that a better day is on the very edge of bursting forth. That the very nature of what we call Justice is going to be flipped on its head. The ministry of accompaniment has to include lament. It has to be a deep a roving critical eye on what we are doing, how we are telling the story because the cross happened. Resurrection happened. They took Trayvon from his mother, but she will hold him again. They broke the back of Freddie Gray but he will stand next to me at the banquet. They left Sandra to die but Christ showed up, he took his loving daughter in his hands and he gave her a glimpse of what he was going to do with all of this brokenness, these shattered pieces of a dream deferred and he took her image, her vision, and added it to the beautiful mosaic he was painting with the broken pieces of the American dream. He took the colors of red white and blue that have turned into a crimson pool and he dipped her hand in it, and the colors she was suddenly painting with are the deep browns and rich black of our bodies and he showed her a vision of the kingdom to come. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when.

We serve a creator not held by the confines of time and space but has stepped into time and space and he has plucked you.

Suffering from imposter syndrome. Stricken with the belief that you are alone. Shoved into a whirlwind of theological thought and ideas. Exposed to ideas so alien to you try to fight them off but they are now part of your heart.

He has chosen you. I beseech in the name of Christ write the vison down plain in tablets. Be the runner and tell all you see. In this Liminal Space God is alive. He is well. He has calling for us all, right now.

 

4Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.

 

Amen?

 

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Dear Church: The Rules For Being Black Today.

We’re the survivors, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (black survivors)
Thrown in the fire, but-a never get burn
So I I-dren, I-sistren
The preaching and talkin’ is done
We’ve gotta live up, wo now, wo now! –
‘Cause the Father’s time has come
Some people put the best outside
Some people keep the best inside
Some people can’t stand up strong
Some people won’t wait for long

 

Bob Marley- “Survivor”

 

A portrait of national PTSD. A glimpse what it’s like to live in empire with hope, but little justice. A list of the new laws I have received from the Pharisee’s of the empire.

Skittles. Don’t carry skittles. Or Ice Tea, those cans are big and can look like a weapon in your pocket.

Hoodies, you can wear your hoodie, I know it’s cold but don’t pull your hood up. No in fact wear a sweater.

Don’t move. Don’t move, or reach or move your hands…..hands on the wheel, look straight ahead. Don’t look afraid or nervous, look natural and relaxed although you may die. Seriously relax …..

Be respectful, yes sir. No sir. I don’t know sir. I’m just headed to the church, yes I work there. I’m the Vicar…..

Wear your collar you should be ok. Don’t wear your clericals to many questions with the tattoos, too many tattoos. You should wear the collar. You will be safer.

Wallet. Keep your wallet on the dash, not in the visor. No on the dash. It will slide on the dash and what happens if it falls? Keep your wallet in the visor, not your back pocket that’s how he was killed……

Mark your wife’s number as your wife and her name so they know who to call and you are on the sidewalk…..

What will my family do if I don’t come home tonight? I better make plans, and tell them it’s possible.

Is the triple A payed up? I can’t stop and ask a cop for help. Ever.

No loosies.

No smoking while pulled over. (Be respectful)

Swallow your dignity so you can see your daughter again.

No loitering in front of a store. Loitering is hanging for more than to the car and back.

Don’t argue, with anyone. Ever. Not on the street.

Call your wife, when you get there. Don’t let her worry. Call her before you leave. Give her an ETA. She has to be prepared to be a widow.

Don’t protest. Don’t speak up. Or at least do it in ways that are acceptable to society.

Don’t post on social media when you are outraged.

Remember your tone. Tone. They won’t believe you if you can’t keep a calm clear voice and a sense a peace as the world burns around you.

It’s like when you were in prison. Anyone can be killed, at any time. For any reason.

Remember that Christ is with you. Hope is real, even as you are slowly being wore down by the world.

You will lose your friends.

You will risk your career.

If you tell the truth to the empire you had better be prepared to die.

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Radical Hospitality and #decolonizing the Heavenly Banquet

Here is a sermon I preached at University Lutheran Church or “Unilu” in Philadelphia. It was preached on August 28th 2016, or Year C Lectionary 22.

It based on the following Gospel verse-

Luke 14:7-14

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

 

 

 

Grace Peace and Mercy to you from God and Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

I’m honored to be asked to preach for you today. I want to thank Pastor Fritz for being so kind as to invite me share the Gospel with you and the important work we are doing in #decolonizelutheranism.

 

All of our readings today deal with Hospitality. It is a gift, a very powerful spiritual one, but it often gets relegated to place of, “well I’m not gifted in preaching or teaching or evangelism or any of those other “uber” Christian things, but I’m good at hospitality. Can I be honest with you, that’s a load of crap.

 

Hospitality is so important, how we do it, how we respond to it, that in today’s Gospel reading Jesus uses it to describe the kingdom of Heaven. He covers it in mundane and everyday practical advice but he is pointing to our very nature and the way the kingdom of heaven operates.

 

Jesus sees how the guest to the banquet treat themselves, how they regard themselves, by taking the place of honor. They center themselves. They take the privilege they feel they have been afforded. To put this in context, he is eating in a Pharisee’s house and they are as the Gospel puts it “Watching closely.”

 

Picture the scene.

You are invited to eat with the holiest of men, and to make the night even more intriguing they have invited the strange preacher from Nazareth who has been raising hell. Breaking tradition. Healing the sick, outwitting the scribes, priest and teachers. A revolutionary spirit is in the air.

 

A great meal is laid before you. You visit the temple. You go to the synagogue meetings. You give. You keep the commandments. That’s why you were invited.

 

You take the seat of an honored guest.

 

That’s the problem.

 

That’s what we mean by #decolonizelutheranism.  The dominant culture in the ELCA has seated itself at the place of honor. It has looked at its 30 years of accomplishments and don’t get me wrong many of them are amazing.

 

But it is looking at all it has done and its place as the largest Lutheran Denomination in America and it has plopped itself down at the head of the table.

 

That’s exactly what privilege does. It fools us, it lulls us into a false sense entitlement. It throws up smoke screens made out of the vapor of our accomplishments. It takes what God has done for us and fools into thinking that we somehow have made this happen solely by grit and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

 

Church I spent about a decade homeless to varying degrees. From following the Grateful Dead around in a van to sleeping on the sidewalk to couch surfing to being at ridge homeless shelter during a code blue. I have sat on the sidewalk and seen the looks and the glares as I begged for coins.

 

I can assure no one comes from nothing without some help on the way. In my case because I was so far pushed to the margins in this world it was clear who had stepped in. Although I was unchurched and had no contact with anyone religious institution in decades I knew it was Jesus Christ that had interrupted my death.

 

Jesus is asking the honored guest.

 

Those of us who have always had the center seat at the banquet to do something that is absolutely against our grain. He is asking us to go all the way to end of the table away from the host. Away from the main dish. Away from the place of honor and to sit with the lowly and the downtrodden. They are seated there not because they are intrinsically downtrodden or lowly but because it’s the only the place we leave for those on the margins of this Church.

 

We are infected with white male cis gendered hetro privilege. It has seeped its way into everything we do as a Church.

 

So what the #decoloinize movement is saying, is the same thing that Jesus is saying.

What he always says.

 

He says you will find him with the poor and oppressed. You will find him everywhere but with the folks we center as church.

 

We are saying the reason that the ELCA is 96% percent white isn’t sociological. It is theological. We are saying leave room for the stranger who is showing up just a little later to sit at the place of honor. We are saying that if you are only serving hymns written by white men at the banquet that’s the only people you are being hospitable too. We are saying the Jesus Christ of Nazerth didn’t look like a hipster Kurt Kobain and that when you bombard person of colors with those images you are saying that white is holy, you are not, and you aren’t welcome here. We are saying that if love is love is love than where are all the LGBTQ Bishops in the ELCA? We are saying the woman stayed at the cross when the men fled and hid like cowards, but you won’t call one as pastor. We are saying culture and cuisine don’t make us Lutheran, it is our relationship with grace.

 

12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

 

 

Church who are we going to be in the 21st century? Are we willing to strip the altar bare and enter a period of ecclesial lent? Where we take away the Saxon heritage, the cover dishes, the group of white folks dressed in white robes, and just get down to the primary things that makes us part of the 1800-year-old tradition that is the Church? Word, Bath, and meal. Are we going to remove anything that takes away from the Cross and the beloved community we are building here?

 

So where is the Gospel in all that? It’s that Jesus has already done this difficult work for us. On the cross. We just have to follow the urging of the Holy Spirit. We have to look at his vison of the kingdom and although bar may seem high. Although the cost may seem like too much; it has been already paid for. Already accomplished. We are empowered and called to this work. We want to be the Church that provides safe space for the next Tamir Rice to play, not the creators of the next Dylan Roof.

 

This holy work in a time of Holy Uncertainty throughout the nation is what I believe is the new reformation.

 

A time where we tell our brothers and sisters who are undocumented that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. No matter what a piece of paper or those in power might say. That at time when it is popular to build walls around what we hold dear we will tear them down so that the light of God can burst through. Where we invite the poor oppressed and the marginalized into the banquet that is our theology and our baptismal promises and say here.

 

Sit here . In the place of honor. Because you are our beloved sister. Our beloved brother. And we are honored you would join us. Amen?

 

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#decolonizelutheranism Is The Movement That Will Change This Church

Jesus is at the center, but we know where he looked. It takes a simple reading of the Gospel to see he stands with those on the margins of his time. Calls to do the same in our own day age appear few and far apart. But the Holy Spirit is moving.  I believe in this Church. I believe in you.

 

I believe #decolonizelutheranism is the most important thing happening right now. #decolonize16 is where you get involved. We stand at the precipice as a country. We have lived in that tension as church for far too long.

 

I wish I could paint a narrative of good versus evil. Right vs wrong. I have been accused of that with my exorcism rite for systemic racism. I still stand by those statements, our country, our community and our church and its system are possessed by the demon of racism.

 

Possession implies that those who are oppressed by the demon itself are victims also. When have you ever carried sin in your heart and it has been life-giving? When has hatred ever given you respite?

 

We stand at the edge of the cliff. We can either be who the American church has always been, willfully blind or active participants in the oppression of others. We have often got it so wrong.

Women. We got it wrong. African descent people. We got it wrong. People with varying disabilities. We got it wrong. The LGBTQ community. We got it wrong. The list can go on…….

 

Today. Right now. As soon as you are done reading this you can start to be the Church. The Church we dream about. I know your hearts because I know the Church I said yes too. Why I’m plunging myself into debt, even with all the affirmation and help I received from the wider church in that regard. Why I’m working endless hours and missing time with my family. If you knew my story you would know how much I have already missed, and what a holy sacrifice that is for us.

 

You are the incarnation of hope on earth. We are the incarantional community of a loving God who was beaten and hung from a tree for us.

 

You see the headlines. You have watch demagoguery rise in our politics. Our leaders. You have seen the post from people whom you share communion with supporting hatred wrapped up in promise of salvation. You have wept at the senseless killings that have happened all over. Whether its Dallas that has outraged you or Orlando. Whether it is #Philandro where you said enough is enough or the Charleston Massacre. You have wept with Jesus. Church I know your heart. That’s why I’m here.

 

The problem for us isn’t “out there.” Beyond your sanctuary walls or on the other side of the stained glass. It is here. It is the woodwork of your altar. It is the binding of the hymnal. It is the well-worn pulpit you fiercely mount every week. It is in the scratches on “your pew.” It is a member of your Church council although there was no vote. For clergy it is as close as the collar we wear and the stole on our necks. (Not mine yet.)

 

It is in our theology that was once a beautiful flower in God’s garden now choked with weeds. You are afraid we will kill them both.

 

It’s not our leaders in our wider Church, its everyone we have passed up for those offices.

 

It isn’t what our liturgy is saying it’s what it’s not.

 

It isn’t the meal we share; it’s how it has become obscured with cultural identifiers that Jesus wouldn’t have identified with.

 

We know we stand on the shoulders of the work of countless saints of the church before us. Why is that stopping you from getting involved?

 

We know we aren’t saying anything new, we have read the Gospel too.

 

Our story has become scarred by names that make us  shiver when we hear them. Like Dylan Roof. If there was a one in a million chance the next Dylan attended your VBS this summer isn’t that one too many?

 

On October 22nd a group of us are gathering, not to offer answers but to ask the questions. A group of us who have been here the whole time while you have searched for diversity. We don’t need diversity we need to re-stitch the very tapestry of the church with the threads that have been carefully plucked out over centuries.

 

This can be done lovingly but not without pain. This can be done with community but not the way we have structured them up until now. This can be done with laity but we will need the ordained. This can be done with marching, but the march stops at your doorstep.

 

We can find salvation but it won’t be without crucifixion. This is your personal invitation to enter the movement that will change the Church. It has transformed me. Join us in Chicago. Donate. Livestream ( if we can make it happen.) Tweet. Preach. Share.

 

But most importantly. Come to Chicago. Show up. Yes, its short notice. Yes, you had other plans. Yes, it is inconvenient.

 

But isn’t the Holy Spirit always like that?

 

Tickets for #decolonize16

 

What does #decolonizelutheranism believe?

 

I still have questions ( a FAQ)

 

 

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Black America’s Sin: The Election of Barack Obama

have been paying in influence. We have been paying in political capital. We have been paying in blood. The charge is clear, and White America finds us guilty. We elected a Black president and for that we must die.

 

Let me start with a few disclaimers. This isn’t an endorsement. I’m a seminarian and studying to be clergy. I think the Church should never under any circumstances support a candidate. Whom I vote for is my own business now. Some of the stories I will share will be when I worked for a Democratic candidate in ‘08 locally. I will attempt to not identify that person. But I will share he was a local candidate running for state office. He was a young Black male.

 

This is not a treatise on the state of Black America. This is a stray thought that occurred to me. This is the observation of one person who is living his own black experience. Some will state that I have too myopic a view. They could be right.

 

But we are locked in a prison. Black America is on death row and we are slowly being killed. Our crime was electing a Black President. We finally reached the highest office in the land and white America is going to make us pay for it for the next few decades.

 

I spent ‘08 as a paid campaigner for a local race. It was a heady time. We spent many days watching the primaries. We were elated at the victories but we were also cautious. I never thought the united states would allow a Black man to win. But at times I dared to hope. I watched from the inside the democratic machine, as they call it in Philly, mobilize for Hillary Clinton.

 

My guy won. The primary. He ran unopposed in the general. I dared to believe that democracy worked. I wasn’t asked to be on his staff and I don’t blame him. I was newly sober and a hot mess in many ways. I could organize canvassers like a champ, but to go to Harrisburg? Not with a litany of felonies. I moved on.

 

But something else happened that same night my guy won. Something amazing. As the news came in and my mother, a white woman who had raised me through the late 70’s and 80’s in West Philly, in an interracial family called me. We were crying. She was in North Philly dancing in the streets. I was doing the same thing. The streets in black neighborhoods were packed. Jubilation. Rejoicing. Strangers hugging strangers.

 

My phone started buzzing again. A white friend thought it would be funny to add me to a group text. The first text read. “Obama wins, rose garden is now a watermelon patch.” The next was “The new national bird is fried chicken.” The rest are not worth repeating.

 

As I watched Obama step on stage or go to a public event over the next few months, I waited for a shot to ring out. I waited for his death. As the years rolled on I started to realize that it wasn’t him white America wasn’t going to kill. It was us.

 

From Trayvon to Philandro we have paid in blood.

 

We are experiencing  the death rattle of the baby boomers and the cookie cutter mid-1950’s homogenized dream. It is the last grip of white supremacy and they have decided to burn the house down, even if they are still in it. They are willing to sacrifice black and brown bodies on the altar of systemic racism. There is a red, white and blue colored dagger poised above our very hearts and it is held in the trembling hand of White America.

 

The 2008 election was a pin prick to the heart of the edifice that America has built on the foundation of its original sin, the eradication and genocide of the original peoples of this country. The mortar was mixed with African blood poured out of the holds of countless ships. Finally shored up by an incredibly confident belief in manifest destiny and the resulting arrogance.

 

Racism is dead. There is a Black president. Now get against the wall nigger and shut your mouth.

 

The voting rights act?!? You don’t need that; we have a black president.

 

Can’t find a job after college? Well that’s your fault boy, you could be president.

 

What’s that? #blacklivesmatter? Stop being a thug and you won’t be killed.

 

You want guns out of your neighborhood?! Write “your” President.

 

 

American history is a pendulum that swings slowly from one extreme to another. For every action there has been an equally horrific reaction. This blood soaked pendulum had no choice but to go from the perceived point of ultimate equity, to white supremacy. The Church’s history mirrors this and is often out of sync with this cycle. That’s actually a good thing.

 

That’s why someone like Elizabeth Eaton ,the presiding Bishop of the ELCA, was at a march and vigil for #Philadro. Because the Church is the counter culture, at it’s best, that pushes back on the excess and oppression of the day. We have often not been on the right side of history.

 

We are being hunted by those meant to protect us. Vilified by the media. Our neighbor is openly hostile. Jesus wept.

 

All this because Barack Obama won the presidency. He has been called socialist Muslim. Accused of being a Kenyan terrorist.

 

I haven’t agreed with everything he has done. As a pacifist his policy on signature strikes alone is frightening. But he was the first beacon of hope Black America had in a long time.

 

They killed our prophets. They gunned them down in the 60’s. Our radicals they exiled or imprisoned. They indoctrinated everyone else.

 

I am convinced that everything we have seen is White America’s response to Barack Obama. Because it was the first sign they may be losing control. I remember the jubilation the night he was elected. I remember thinking he would be dead soon.

 

I now keep my wallet in my car on the dash. So I don’t get killed. I’m on death row. The price of victory in ’08.

( Image credit Vicar Louis Tillman)

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