Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

Jesus said and Jesus says.

Black Lives Matter Jesus breathes through the black families having the difficult talk about the dangers of having a different color skin

Black Lives Matter Jesus states on the wind, blowing the truth into the ears of the black mothers and fathers who are worried about their children,

Black Lives Matter Jesus murmurs inside the black children trying to walk, talk and play in a world where their existence can be seen as dangerous.

Black Lives MatterJesus assured the black prisoners in jail, disproportionately arrested and abused.

Black Lives Matter Jesus screams with the black man  and woman murdered by cops or white supremacist, or both, Jesus says this as they scream for help, scream for breath, and  scream for their mother.

Black Lives Matter Jesus coaxes to the Trans black woman as she negotiates walking the streets, trying to stay safe.

Black Lives Matter, Jesus’s never-ending sigh finally filters through to the world of whiteness and privelege

Black Lives Matter Jesus is whispering it in the ears of white women who were afraid of “the unidentified black man”

Black Lives Matter Jesus is chanting in the subconscious of the average white man trying to go about his business as normal

Black Lives Matter Jesus is singing it to the ears of white children, trying to sleep as they really realize that their friends of color were in danger

Black Lives Matter Jesus prays in the churches, raising his voice to the heavens.

Black Lives Matter Jesus says, all day every day.

Do you hear him?

A Prayer for the Protestors

Psalm 73: A Plea for Relief from Oppressors Rewritten

 

Black Lives Matter | Keppler Speakers

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy

Rejected Sermon Titles: Jesus and the demons of our mind

Mark 5:1-20

Psalm 89:1-4

by Pastor Katy Stenta

“Legion: for We are many”

I think it is amazing that Jesus gets the man to name his demon…or the demon to name itself before Jesus expelled it from the poor man.

How many times do we need to name our demons before we can get rid of them? If it’s something that is (typically) smaller like jealousy or self-righteousness or something all encompassing like mental illness or addiction, so often we humans need to name a problem before we can even work on it.

And don’t we all have demon voices, terrible self-erasing voices in our heads twisting the way we see the world.

Whether they are the kind of demons that self-aggrandize (though I don’t think that is this demon’s way) telling us that we are better than everyone else, telling us we deserve more than others, dismissing others as meaningless, insignificant (or worse of all) dehumanizing them so that we don’t have to care for each other. There are strong echoes of the need for Anti-racists and Anti-Terf and Anti-Ageist work across the board. It’s the voice that tells us we are better Christians (or patriots or workers or whatever) and don’t need to listen to anybody else. Martin Luther King Jr looked towards the humanization of all people and basic humans rights, beyond the dehumanizing results of institutions and systems the include the church and capitalism and nationalism.

Or there is if it is the demon voice that points out every one of our anxieties and failings. It harps on our imperfections and plays our mistakes on repeat in our heads. It gets us to focus on all that is wrong with us and the world so that we cannot hear the voice of God anymore. We devalue ourselves, and can no longer see ourselves as the image of God.

Demons dehumanize.

They erase and X out our names and existence (Madeline L’engle covers this well in her Time Quartet)

When I hear the story of the man tormented by legion–even though no details are given as to how they are making him feel and act crazy only the side effects. When I hear he can’t stand still, and he is driven to live alone, uncleanly with the dead. When I hear that he is cast out as better to be with the dead than the living. I have no trouble hearing those doubting and harping demons in this man’s mind.

In essence that is what the Screwtape Letters is about. The demon has the human focus on the high pitch voices, the gum smacking neighbor and the squeaking shoe fidgeted until these people are no longer seen as community but as annoyances, and all of church is seen as annoying and there is no room to focus on God.

But when we name these problems in our lives, when we lift up our imperfections and sins for prayer, when we ask for support from others and talk about our insecurities. Then people can help us to name all that we did do that day, and how our imperfections are small compared to being a beloved child of God. They lift up that people care for us even when we make mistakes. And remind us of our friends and neighbors good qualities even when (especially when) they are driving us to distraction.

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Maybe then it is no surprise that Jesus restores the Gerasenes Man to his community. I do not think it is about if this man is good enough to follow Jesus, nor about his will to follow for he wants to follow Jesus. I think that Jesus has decided that to complete the healing, this man needs to be restored to his community–so he says “god back to your friends…” The community that hopefully can counter the years of bad and do a better job of nurturing and supporting this man. And I hope we as the church can do the same.

 

Rejected Sermon Titles: Jesus and disabilities

Mark 2:1-22

Psalm 103:6-14

There is a certain amount of mourning that goes on when you have a child with disabilities. Immediately you start to try to figure out “what went wrong” which is code for who to blame. Most people start with themselves. When I found out Westley had autism, I worried about my two week trip to Israel while I in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. My mom pointed out that genes are formulated way before that.

My husband talked about his own worries “You know I”m neurotic, and I have ADD” for that matter people in my family have ADD too, and I didn’t eat most foods for most of my life because the textures bothered me, but sure it’s solely your fault that our child has autism.

I think in all societies there is a tendency to try to blame someone for disabilities and the imperfections. We try to find the sin that caused  the sin. It is here that we can start to understand that it was more shocking  for Jesus to forgive the paraplegic man than it was to see a bodily healing.

Eventually I have come to conclude that no human body is perfect. Not one of us has a body that works perfectly. We all have things that are different. And we are all sinners, we all are imperfect in that way too.

What causes this forgiveness and healing is the communal faith. The parapalegic faith, and his four friends. His friends who haul him up onto the roof, dig a hole in the grass and thatch and lower him down through the roof. Perhaps the lowering through the roof was less amazing than the fact that probably the friends had to touch this crippled man in order to get him to Jesus.

I wonder what that moment was like. I wonder if Jesus saw them trying to get through out of the corner of his eye, or if suddenly a man just appeared out of the sky, like an angel.

Like Jesus lowering himself to human level.

Like a miracle of community.

Then Jesus says because of all of their faith, not one, not another but all including the paraplegic man, he is forgiven…and then healed. Per usual in the Bible faith is used to describe the beliefs and actions of faith (as opposed to belief which is used in ref. to the individual). Not all of them had the same faith or beliefs, all of them had different bodies and skills, but together they formulated the faith for forgiveness and healing.

That is what we practice here in church. We pray for one another when our bodies don’t work well, when we sin, we work on forgiveness together. This church is a communal thing, because that is how we see Jesus.

Death by #Suicide, Waiting for Morning

I cry  to you O Lord hear my voice.-Psalm 130:1

In the midst of two very public death by suicide, one female Kate Spade, and one male Anthony Bourdain, both of whom leave beyond tween daughter. I think of all those people who cry out, unheard. I think of the fact that I didn’t know that Kate or Anthony struggled with depression. I think how suicide rates are up 30%, I think of how much we need hope these days.

Let your ears be attentive, to the voice of my pleas

I think about that I sometimes go by Kate and my husband’s name is Anthony. I think of the times both my husband and I struggled with depression, and had to struggle just to get through the day, and how, though not suicidal, and not at the same time, we have both experienced this reality. And even though we were doing everything, seeing therapists and the like, it was so hard to get the help we needed.

And I think of the hard times, I think of when my child with autism has to stay up all night, all night, dealing with days of constipation, and how when that constipation stops, we are up and down to deal with diarrhea. Up in the middle of the night, drinking water, going to the bathroom, changing clothing, cleaning the toilet, up and down, up and down and I can barely think I am so tired. And together my son and I wait for the morning

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6 my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning.–Psalm 130:6

I think of those long bleary hours, and I think of Anthony and Kate, who were waiting for the morning, who were stuck  in the night, and couldn’t see the morning.

And I believe, somehow, that God Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, were longing for God, I’m so sad that they died before morning came.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
   For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
   and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
   from all its injustices.–Psalm 130 7-8

If you struggle from depression, please stay with us til the morning. We will miss you if your gone. When the night feels too long or overwhelming, please reach out!

US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741

 

Psalm 130

In the Pit

Today in America, I can safely say we are there, in the Pit.

In the Pit because Young People, People my age who look like me, were protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue with swastikas and Heils and Nazi chanting. Because there is nothing we can call these people, but Nazis.

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It hurts me that these people are very close to who I am: White, Straight, Cis, Christians, etc.

Genesis 37:12,17-28

12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.”” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Now there was some hope too

UVA students stood their ground against the increasingly violent Nazis

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An African-American Cop bravely protected these Nazis, who are against his humanity.

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Clergy went down for a counter-protest and blocked the Nazis path and peacefully singing “This Little Light of Mine”

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Businesses Closed

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I feel for Joseph who was betrayed by his own brothers, As a member of the Christian Church, knowing that the Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville are baptized into the the Christian Church like I am. I have to own that, I have to acknowledge the problem, so we can work on it.

What can we do? I heard a lot of POC clergy saying its time to step up our “Thanksgiving Politics” where you are trying to get along with family members and yet still call them out when behavior is inappropriate. Its especially hard because its thanksgiving and your supposed to be thankful for these people, and they are your family but they are just so annoying.

But the truth is, we are not so good at standing up to bullies, we are a lot like Judah, wanting to be nice and placate. Placation is not the same as peace, but often we stand up there.

And sometimes we are like Reuben and we come back and try to help later. I have a recent incidence of racism at a conference, where, too excited by my own self-importance, I did not listen carefully to my colleague of color and let other people tromp on her ideas and leadership. It was so humiliating when 5 minutes later I realized I had witnessed it but was too embarassed/self-invovled to say “knock it off”

The truth is, we a the church are not so good at standing up to bullies. We are too concerned with offending people, we are, in short too nice.

But we need to name it. Too often we ignore the problem and try to just get along with the person or cut the person completely from our lives. (Think how we handle Thanksgiving again). Notice what is in common with both of these ways of handling the situation, we avoid addressing the actual problem!

Better ways to handle bullying are to call the bully on their behavior by telling them “that’s inappropriate” and to “knock it off” or to simply go to the person who is bullied and treat them like a human being. Often if you go over and have normal conversation with the person who is being targeted, say a Muslim, and ask them how they are doing and treat them like a human being the bully backs down realizing A) That person is not an easy lone target B) They are human.

So that’s our job now, to address the problem, because thats the only way we stand with the oppressed. This is what Jesus does, he calls people on their inappropriate behavior or he goes over to talk to the lone woman, the leper and the tax collector and treats them like a human being. When he does that, the entire mob mentality becomes transformed, when he does that he starts to create community. Jesus stands with the minority/marginalized in this way! This means that this is our job too! We need to go out and do the work that is so obviously needed to stop bigotry. We need to acknowledge and address the problems and know Our God stands with the marginalized, and that God’s love is accepting of every skin color, gender, sexually and faith. That is our God, and its that God’s Kingdom we are building.

NazarethFirst? Nah!

The first time the people riot in Luke is in response to Jesus preaching in his hometown. (hinting at his eventual crucifixion by the state) There he proclaims the word of the Lord to the poor, lost, forgotten and marginalized.

He talks about that the Word of God, he says he is there to fulfill the word of God

and the People of Nazareth say “Great, me first”

Jesus says, “Nah”

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Then they get mad, because they want to be first. Because they think that if they don’t go first God won’t get to them.

It should be NazarethFirst or JewsFirst or AmericaFirst: Those who are the most entitled should go first in the human world.

Not to Jesus, tho, for Jesus says I’m helping the most needy ones, the forgotten ones.

During the inauguration speech the only piece I felt like struck home was when Donald Trump said was “No one will ever be ignored again”

Do not be confused, we humans often look for a human savior/king. Lots of the Old Testament is about humans begging God for a King they don’t need. When Donald Trump did his alter call for patriotism, insisting that it negated all prejudice, we Christians all shook our heads and said. Only JESUS does that. God calls not to nationalism, but to the forgotten ones.

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth;  on that very day their plans perish.–Psalm 146

Because people DO feel forgotten! About 3 million women gathered on all 7 continents and march to draw attention to all that gets ignored. If that isn’t a counter to blind nationalism I don’t know what is.

These women marched for a variety of reasons, and yet the same thing

They marched for

Women’s Rights, Black Lives matter, the queer community, the Muslims, the immigrants, poor in the rust belt, Flint water, Indigenous rights, survivors of assault, climate change, sex workers, the poor, the disabled, poor.They marched

They marched for their children and husbands and communities.

But most of all, they marched for the forgotten & ignored. 

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth,  the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith for ever;  who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;  the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.–Psalm 146

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Our God is the one who fights on behalf of these people. Our God is not a human or a politician, our God is the God of the marginalized, the lost and forgotten.

Jesus made that clear. Its not about being first or getting the most. Its about making sure NO ONE GETS IGNORED.

We need to do this work, the time has begun.

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Luke 4: 14- 30

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ 24And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers* in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Mustard Seeds #faith #church #hope

I have a deep seated theology about belief vs. faith.

Belief is individual, Faith is shared–hence community of faith.

Faith is the vast array of beliefs, doubts, worries and hopes that are held in community.

When a disciple asks to increase faith, the disciples says, “Increase our faith”

The disciples feel like they don’t have enough, enough hope or energy or whatever to get the job done.

And Jesus says, you–plural all of you–all you need is the faith of a mustard seed, and you can do all the moving you need to do.

Luke 17:5-10

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”’

You know, I have never seen the thriving church. I’m 33 and I have never seen the church the way it used to be.

But I have seen the church. I’ve seen it in my small church which struggled to find a new pastor, which put in thousands of hrs to sit with and reconnect with the local community.

I have seen  it in the four years we could count on, the 6 years we’ve had and the 2 more (at least) that are going to happen.

There Jesus is, in a group of people who don’t know if they have enough resources.

Jesus doesn’t say don’t worry….I love this about Jesus, Jesus never says don’t worry. Because God knows to worry is to be human. We are great at worrying, we are super champs at worrying, and its how we deal with

the unknown

the unsteady

the scary

Jesus doesn’t say don’t worry, he doesn’t dismiss the worry or tell us its stupid. Instead Jesus says “I have good news, the good news is that all the faith any and all of you need is the size of a mustard seed. I can work with that amount of faith”

The implications being this faith is enough to grow.

And when we have those moments of faith, the hymn or the prayer, the sermon snippet or the conversation in the parking lot. We are church.

I have seen the church–come see it with me….

#rejectedsermontitles Really Your Thoughts and #Prayers? That’s all you got?

Context:

At the beginning of the week, and saw that the passage was about prayer. Thank God, because no matter what happens this week, I know that it will apply.

Then the African-American caretaker of an autistic man was shot……

I am the mother of an autistic child. Right now he is small and cute. When he flaps his hands giving “exclamatory hands” to excitement or frustration, its not very threatening, and if he does throw a tantrum he is still small enough that I can pick him up in a worse-case-scenario.

As the mother of an autistic child I can say, I don’t care who this police officer was aiming for, this was a terrible action.

So what am I supposed to do, pray?

What can others do for me and my son, pray for us?

Sermon:

Prayer is often used as a comforting action–but that is not its only purpose.

When you pray for someone, you are placing them in God’s hands. You are enacting love. You are opening yourself to be in relationship with them.

Whenever there is a harsh disagreement in the church congregation, session (board of leaders) or the Presbytery (our higher governing board). I will be the first to raise my hand and call for prayer.

And I’ll tell you what it is difficult to immediately stop and pray, the temptation is to continue arguing, the temptation is to prove that I am right, and that you should be listening to me!

This is exactly when prayer is needed, though, because you are trying to focus on God, to change your own individual perspective. Prayer is an act of Holy Imagination, where the world is viewed as the beginning of what God wants for us. God’s priorities and love are given voice and precedent over our own perspective. True prayer, opens oneself to actively love others, and that love is changing. That action is one in which we practice persistence to build a practice and discipline of prayer.

Time after time the most effective antidote to bigotry and prejudice is not education or knowledge. Its not about who is on the “right side of history.” Its having a relationship with someone who is different than you. Its knowing and loving a queer person or a person of color or one who is trans, female in leadership, or living in poverty.

Love is dangerous, because love changes your perspective.

Praying for someone is looking at them and loving them. Praying for another person an act of loving God, one where you recognize the other person as a child of God.

Just as Jesus looked at Martha, and then loved her, and then spoke to her last week.

So too are we called to love each other. Prayer is a discipline by which you practice seeing the world as God wants it to be, so we are more equipped and enabled to bring that world into being. Praying for one another is loving them through all the joys and hardships and struggling to find community with them, especially when we disagree.

Prayers are so much more than a comforting platitude, prayer is one of many disciplines by which we are able to get things done.

Lord teach us to pray….

 

Neighbor? Who?

its been a crazy week. I’ve in essence heard the Good Samaritan story three times.

First time was with Alton Sterling, then Pilando Castile and finally with the Dallas police officers who were targeted. This in the wake of Orlando is wearying.

And then we hear the story of the Good Samaritan and the lawyer asks but…who…who exactly is my neighbor?

My flippant answer is whoever is close enough to annoy you. And as you know people can be pretty far away and still be close enough to annoy you.

My more serious answer is those you are close enough to hurt. This is an amazing thought because you can be very far away–all across the world or thd internet and still be able to hurt someone.

The counter to that is that if you are close enough to hurt someone then you are close enough to hurt someone then you are close enough to help them.

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the Good Samaritan story was so revolutionary because the Samaritans were so politically and religiously at odds with one another. They would desecrate each other’s temples, burn each other’s buildings and fight over the same land and water. When Jesus tells this story it angered people because it’s like telling about  Muslim and a Christian or an African American young man and a police officer. This was Jesus’s answer to Who is my neighbor.

The Belhar Confession, which is being adopted by the PCUSA was written by Africa about apartheid. We in the USA don’t seem to have apartheid until you look at the kind of violence that is going on and how it hurts African-Americans  until you look at the kind of violence that is going on and how it hurts police officers.

Belhar Confession is about unity being both a gift of God and our duty. I don’t know what to do about African-Anericans being stopped for minor violations and things escalating so quickly. I don’t know what to do about police officers being targeted for violence. Unity Both a gift and a duty because God says we belong to one another.

We belong to one another because we each of us are called to bind up the wounds of the cops and the African-Americans. We belong to one another because Jesus has loved us into being  showing us how love affirms our??? identity. Christians need to love like Jesus. There are no “buts” I this love, it’s not I love you but… It’s I love you and We belong to each other.

Real love is the kind that takes nothing away from you  it affirms and does nothing but add to your identity  it’s a live not based on your value or progress or perfection. God made us each unique and still belonging to one another. The word of God is not to believe in God and be the same, but love one another and affirm each identity so we add to each other.

Love is a language that doesn’t even compute in the financial, political and corporate world . That is the kind of love we are called to practice because we belong to one another God gives us to one another as a gift and it’s something to also work for. We belong to one another. Who is my neighbor? All those whom we are close enought to help.  This is the word of the Lord  thanks be to God!