By Rev. Becky Schofield Motter

For the “Worship Protest: Inspiration in Action,” Saturday, July 11, 2020

It is an honor and blessing to be with you today. I give God thanks for Jasmine and the many people who made this Worship Protest possible. I love it when the Body of Christ comes together in witness and in love. And I appreciate the different types of music, preaching and worship we will experience today, revealing the diversity and yet holding up what is the same – our desire for justice and our love of God!

Who here can say that they chose their race and the color of their skin?

Well, if you did not choose it, who did? That’s right, God chose it and we are going to take some time looking at what God has said in how we are to regard each other. And we will take some time to reflect on racism in our country and in the world.

Prayer

Genesis 1:26-27-Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Many of us probably remember what comes before that …we have this vivid description of God creating everything in our world and after God created we heard this phrase that keeps coming up and God saw what was created and said, “It is good.

God created the beautiful sunrise and sunset and said, it is good.

God created the mountains, rivers, valleys, desserts and all the creativeness of the land, including quick sand and said, it is good.

God created whales, dolphins, fish, lobsters, stingrays, seahorses and all the sea life, including the jellyfish and said, it is good. 

God created the daisies, roses, lettuce, kale, strawberries, watermelon, carrots, brussels sprouts and all plant life, including the venus flytrap and said, it is good.

God created the elephant, giraffe, cows, guinea pigs, mice, puppies, kittens and all cute and creative animals, including the duck-billed platypus and said, it is good.

Think about the variety of plants and animals, the beauty of nature that is so very different and how much we enjoy how spectacular God is in creation. This amazing, wonderful, breath-taking world we have been given.

Then, then, God created each of us, with the beauty of different hues and shades, and we are all amazing, wonderful, breath-taking and gorgeous in the different colors of our skin.

Vs. 31 – When God was done, God looked at all of creation and said “It is very good.”

Look around at the nature and the people around you, God declared that all of this is very good.

But humanity at times looks at creation and decides it is not as good. It does not take long for us to find individuals who have a disrespect for creation, of the earth and of people. When individuals judge others based on physical characteristics involving their race or ethnicity, we call that prejudice. When that prejudice has power we call that racism. It is prevalent in our world, found in most countries and places on the globe. We could spend a lot of time naming examples of genocide, war, violence, slavery, and of one group trying to keep others down; out of fear, a feeling or superiority and sometimes simply to make someone feel better about themselves. Power that is abusive is dangerous, destructive and devastating to our world and the people who live in it.

Prejudice and racism reveals the brokenness and sinfulness all around us. When our world is so full of the sin of racism, it can be hard to escape it and we may discover in personal reflection, experiences or assessments that we have bias’s which we were unaware of. Many of us are here today because we want to declare that Black Lives Matter to us and to the church. Through reflection we may discover other bias we have against someone who is Asian, Latinx, in a different socio-economic class, different sexual orientation, a member of the native Nations in this country, or even someone who is a mixed race. Bias and Racism are not welcome in the church, it is not in keeping with the way the Hound of Heaven comes after us to reveal the great love and grace that has been poured out on us by the death and resurrection of Christ.

When Jesus walked this earth, he was constantly pointing out the bias of people and Jewish leaders. He had a habit of going to those on the fringes of society, those left out, those who were unwelcome, those who were told they were not good enough and telling them through his words and actions that you are a child of God, you are a beautiful creation, you are worthy of my time and energy to let you know how important you are in the eyes of God.

Do you realize that as Christians, that is our job, we have been given that mission and that ministry to reach out to all people and tell them how important they are? Those who are on the fringes, those who are pushed to the outside of society, those who are stereotyped, those who are not in the position of power, they too are a child of God, are a beautiful creation and worthy of our time and energy to let them know how important they are in the eyes of God.

We were created the same, by God and all of us were declared good and it is not ok in the church to allow anyone to tell anyone anything different.

I heard true story from someone who used to work at the county jail in the 90’s. Two teenage boys were charged with a crime they committed together. They were the same age, but different skin colors and had different economic backgrounds. The white youth was from a well to do family and the African American youth from a family who struggled financially. It was the idea of the white youth, whose family hired a good attorney and he got off with probation. The African American male had a public defender and was sentence to seven years. The attitude of those two while in the jail was very different, the African American male was kind and respectful, while the attitude of the white male was disrespectful and unkind. Those sentences should not have been different. There should not be a difference in our criminal justice system based on our race. And yet, and yet, we see those difference again and again and again.

Where else in our society do we see these disparities? We might be here all day. We need to continue to say in our words and actions that this has not place in the church and with the body of Christ.

Unfortunately, much of the prejudice and racism still in this country can be traced back to the institution of slavery and the many ways individuals tried to get around the laws of emancipation in the mid to late 1800’s, (almost 200 years ago). As laws continued to be written to bring more equality in our nation, there are also those who try to fight to keep power in the hands of whose currently hold it. The more we educate ourselves to this reality, the more that we can come face to face with the system which is bent to help those in power.

Galatians 3:

 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Did you hear what Paul is saying to the church, the categories, labels, classifications don’t matter? Because we are in Christ, we are all one. The sacrifice of Christ to provide love and offer grace was to All people. The categories we put on each other don’t matter. But we as humans want to hold up the labels. We want the status, we want to feel valued, important, make a lasting impact, make a difference – but the categories we designate don’t matter. God didn’t create so that there would be a hierarchy, God sat back and looked at all that was created and said it was very good.

So, we need to ask ourselves as individuals, congregations and as a Church: what are our biases, what are our prejudices, where is there racism in my heart, in our midst and in the body of Christ. And we need to pray and ask for God to point out our sin. And if need be get the Holy Spirit to give us a little come to Jesus meeting about what needs to be acknowledged in our heart and confessed to God so that healing and new life can be breathed into us.

In this country we have enslaved blacks, we have tried to wipe out the native nations, we have put Asians in concentration camps, we have put Latino kids in cages; we have a history of bias, prejudice and racism. And at times the church has been complicit in these prejudices and racism.

Acts 10:34-36-Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Peter didn’t come to this realization himself, it took God and the Holy Spirit working in his life and others life to help him see that what God created is good and it is not our place to say that they are not good, or unworthy, or not precious in the sight of the creator. The church needs a conversion like that of Peter to realize that we need to hold up all people, give value to all people, to proclaim that Black lives matter , prejudice and racism of any kind are not welcome in the church and we need to offer the same sacrificial love to our sisters and brothers with different tones of skin as Christ did for us.

One of the challenges that I feel on a regular basis is that the shows and movies do not help with our perspective. There is an obvious bent in how people of different races are portrayed, what roles actors and actresses of different races are given, and who the awards are handed out to, who the media gives attention to, etc. So if we watch the movies and shows, the subtle or not so subtle racism is reinforced consciously and unconsciously. And this bleeds into the church, the body that Jesus bled for is not always loving and gracious to the others he was raised in order to offer new life and connection with God.

Edward Huenemann, article published in Church and Society, entitled “Reflections of a White Presbyterian Theologian on the Black Messiah”

“Racism is, therefore, not merely a threat to the victims who suffer its injustice. It is a real threat to mature faith for those who do not know how it undercuts their knowledge of Jesus as the Christ. It leaves them with an impersonal rationalized abstraction. It calls them to worship an exclusive, limited, narrowly defined God. It prevents them from knowing and experiencing the presence among us of a God who breaks down barriers by becoming one with those who are excluded.”

In other words, racism affects us all and limits our connection to God. It can prevent us from fully knowing and experiencing the grandness of God’s presence because we are not seeing the beauty of God in all people.

Jesus went to those on the margins, he gave them value and worth. He told them when God created them God declared that they were very good. Jesus told them that the categories and the labels that others put on them do not matter because I love you, God loves you and you have value and worth in the eyes of the creator.

And a real challenge for the church is that sometimes we are way too silent. Or we think this it’s someone else’s injustice to fight, not mine. That is referred to as the sin of omission. This means we know there is a wrong being done and we fail to act. We fail to speak up, we fail to call out the injustice that is being done. Jesus’ actions and behavior angered the religious leaders because he was pointing out their sin of omission. They knew it was a wrong, but they valued their place of power more than they desired doing the right thing. God did not create a person of a different race and say, it is not good. God looked at all of creation and said it is very good.

Revelation 7:9-Then I looked, and there was a large crowd of people. There were so many people that no one could count them all. They were from every nation, tribe, race of people, and language of the earth. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They all wore white robes and had palm branches in their hands.

I don’t know about all of you, but in many ways I look forward to that day when I will see the sea of people together worshiping God. Where we will be free of stress, hatred, bad hair days, sickness, cancer, trying to decide what to wear while others have nothing to wear, sweat shops, slavery, broken relationships, broken families, making dinner every single night, violence, virus’s, doing the never ending laundry and the dishes, paying the rent, children dying of hunger while others are trying to lose weight, prejudice, bias and racism.

The sin of racism impacts all of us, when we use our prejudice and power to put down another that God created as good we are denying them the vastness of God’s love for them. When we sit in silence while prejudice and racism have their way in our society, we are not valuing the creation that God declared as very good and we are denying them and ourselves the overflow of God’s blessing.

Matthew 28:19-Go then and make disciples of ALL the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We have been given a charge, a mission to make disciples who know their value and their worth in the eyes of a loving creator.

Church we need to stand together to love our neighbors as ourselves, do to others what we would have them do to us, to find the lost sheep and rejoice, and to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God. May it be so. May it be so, Amen and Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micah 6:8 – We have been told, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

 

Lost sheep

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew 7:12- “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

 

John 13:34-35-I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

 

Mark 12:31-The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

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