Sometimes the pieces fall into place.
Look, I know there are plenty of reasons to be infuriated with a whole lot of Christian churches and people: White supremacy and nationalism; spreading QAnon nonsense; supporting Trump, to name three of the worst. But at Woodridge UMC we are doing our very best to be as open, loving, and healthy of an environment as is possible.
Last week I admitted that right up to just the day before preaching, I was still searching for the spark the sermon needed. My wise colleague, the Rev. Danita Anderson, said sometimes she finds that spark — that connection to the text that brings forth new awareness worthy of sharing with the congregation — by sticking with a narrative for a couple weeks in a row. Further, as a way to help me find that spark she offered me the following week’s sermon even though she was scheduled to speak. I think I found it in the questioning that occurs in the story according to the gospel of Matthew in chapter 22.
In addition to that famous “most important commandment’ question in Matthew, we looked at one of the sources of Jesus’ response: Leviticus 19. As you will find out if you watch the video/listen to the audio below, the phrasing from that translation of Leviticus that absolutely knocked me over is:
Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.Leviticus 19:16b
Other sources of information and inspiration for me:
NY Times report on the 545 children the Trump administration will not reunite with their parents becuase intentional cruelty is the only way they know.
Two Chicago Tribune articles I kept around for several months because I knew I would need them sometime this year. First, Heidi Stevens on #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives. And Cassie Owens on “What racism does to your heart, health.” (Turns out, while I read Owens’ article in the Tribune, it was originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.)
Prolonged exposure to stressors ultimately leads to health declines. The cumulative effects of racism that Black people face regularly wears down the body…Racism can lead to depression, anxiety, headaches, back pain, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Racism can also make preexisting conditions worse.Cassie Owens and Patrice Harris
“The Ultimate Test Question” video and audio below. We’re still working on the color in the camera, but I wanted to be in that spot in order to reference our “Love God”, “Love Your Neighbor” banners. Sermon starts at 44:56.
White supremacy gave us a Leviticus of clobber verses. So how great, how life-affirming, how grace-filled, how hopeful would it be if we now turn to Leviticus as the inspiration for eradicating White supremacy?
Wouldn’t it be an amazing reversal worthy of Jesus if we could use Leviticus — which has been misused to cause to much horrible harm to so many for so long — and found a way for it to be life-giving instead?
Together we can find more and better ways to stand up for those whose blood is being shed. Together we can love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.