I like you and nothing more #StayWokeAdvent

Like John so long ago, and Isaiah even before that, the voice came to me out of the wilderness. (You know, for values of ‘wilderness’ that include ‘bouncing off a few cell towers.’) “Hey Pastor Dave, we should play ‘Nothing More’ in church sometime soon. With all the horrible things in the news lately, it’s important to remember that how we treat each other is very important. Just a thought! :)”

Don’t sell yourself short, there’s nothing ‘just’ about that thought; it’s spot on. So this time the young woman birthed an idea rather than a child.

This week was our final Wednesday Night Live (youth group) gathering for the calendar year. With what message should we send them off? How might #StayWokeAdvent continue and even grow into #StayWokeChristmas or #StayWokeNewYear?

Here’s our first answer:

Do you like you? Cause I like you.

God’s incarnation into the world as a baby is God’s act of solidarity with humanity. The Incarnation shows just how much God loves you and me and everyone. God loves us all so much that God became one of us. In the Incarnation God opens up the eternal, mutual, loving relationship of the Trinity to invite us all in. We know God loves us, for God is love.

But I think it is more than that. I think the incarnation also shows us that God likes us. (Obviously there are some things that God does not like. When we hurt each other, when we oppress one another, when we fail to feed the hungry or visit prisoners or welcome immigrants or…) I’m convinced God does not look at us the way we might look at a crazy uncle and say, “Well, I love him because he’s family, but I don’t like him.” No, for God to dwell among us as one of us must mean that God likes us as well as loving us. And that is a message too many of our young people – especially our young women – need to hear in order to counteract all the messages telling them they aren’t good enough, aren’t pretty enough, aren’t skinny enough, aren’t white enough.

Our young people, and probably all people, need to be reminded that God loves us; God even likes us.

Having established who we are and whose we are – God’s beloved and liked children – we’re free to respond to the world with love. We’re prepared to let God’s light shine through us into a world that desperately needs light and life.

That song is a great reminder that treating each other well is the only way to truly demonstrate that #BlackLivesMatter; the only way to truly show the peace, hope, love, and joy of the season. Nothing more will do.

#StayWokeAdvent

Photo by Colleen Erbach
Photo by Colleen Erbach

That racism exists in our world, in our country, in our community, in our systems – social, economic, and political – is irrefutable. But as a middle-aged, middle-income, able-bodied, cis-gendered, straight, white, Christian, male, layers of privilege afford me the possibility – the comfort – of not noticing that racism. Or, if I do notice the racism rampant in our systems, those layers of privilege mean I can keep that knowledge at a distance. I’m protected from the violence in, of and from our systems.

Advent, the season of the church year that calls us to prepare for God’s incarnation in Jesus, began on Sunday with the gospel writer exhorting us to “Keep awake!” Mary’s song reminds us just what we need to keep awake for: the healing and justice Jesus brings for the blind, sick, and oppressed. One of the protest chants in Ferguson, MO this summer was, “Stay Woke!” Remaining alert to injustice is the most faithful way to participate in Advent. That’s why I’m eager to connect us with the #StayWokeAdvent movement.

One of the best uses of privilege is to make room for those who are less often allowed a seat at the table. That is, to share any platforms I have with those much closer to the violence than I. It is time for me and for us to listen to the painful stories of those hurt, crushed and even killed by our cultural systems: people of color.

Start with this introduction to #StayWokeAdvent from Micky ScottBey Jones: #StayWokeAdvent is a project of people interested in exploring the depths of the darkness and interaction with light through the time of Advent. It is an experiment in spiritual honesty during a time of the year that is often covers up the pain and struggle of the world with a giant glittery bow. The night is not silent. We are not asleep. [read the rest]

Jones also has a fantastic interview with world-renowned Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann. Here’s a snippet:

MJ: How do we react to anger being viewed as negative, or wanting to avoid it? We want people to “calm down” or “get over it”.

WB: We live in a bourgeois cocoon of niceness and anything that breaks out of that is very threatening and disruptive to people. We have to work towards having honest speech with each other. When we have honest speech we have to speak out about the things that are unjust and unfair. [read the rest]

To get a sense of the historical context of the protests occurring right now in Ferguson, Chicago, New York, and all across the country, read this quick take by Dr. Carol Anderson:

But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble [read the rest]

To get an even fuller picture of the injustice built into our current systems – and the key role Chicago plays – I once again commend to you the extraordinary, incisive, meticulous essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The men who peddled contracts in North Lawndale would sell homes at inflated prices and then evict families who could not pay—taking their down payment and their monthly installments as profit. Then they’d bring in another black family, rinse, and repeat. “He loads them up with payments they can’t meet,” an office secretary told The Chicago Daily News of her boss, the speculator Lou Fushanis, in 1963. “Then he takes the property away from them. He’s sold some of the buildings three or four times.” [read the rest]

Especially for we who are white, I’m convinced we are incapable of having an honest, informed conversation about Ferguson, New York, or Cleveland – that is, a conversation about race in the USA – unless and until we’ve been reminded of (or taught for the first time) our national history.

Jesus announces that his purpose is to heal the sick and release those bound by the chains of injustice. We who would follow him, we who would be his disciples, must have a #StayWokeAdvent.