I use the word massacre intentionally: The Charleston Massacre. In fact, the word is accurately used for the murder of 10 or more people. Literally and accurately, I use the word inappropriately. However, I view the murder as more than the number of a beating hearts that were ceased that day. And as a person of faith, as I watch Mother Emanuel respond, I believe more than ever in the the power of resurrection, which raises us up not only when we reach the end of our lives, but also when the power of death visits us as it did in Charleston.
I am pleased and proud to say that First Congregational Church (Moline, IL) raised $4,100 to send to the Mother Emanuel AME Church Hope Fund. Money is not all we have to give, but it is privilege and honor to contribute to this fund for hope as we look for other ways to fight against racial terrorism and Christian passivity.
5th Sunday After Pentecost, 6/28/2015: 2 SAMUEL 1:1, 17-27 | Mark 5:21-43
Desperate for Healing (pdf sermon manuscript)
This was again an important Sunday for churches across America. We came to church for the second Sunday with Mother Emanuel heavy on our hearts, and only a few days earlier the Supreme Court made Marriage Equality the law of the land. On a day that combined celebration with mourning, the theme of our texts brought us to the the connection between desperation, grief, and healing.
Here are the first 3 paragraphs of my sermon last Sunday. I wrote this for you to share with your friends who are hearing a lot of nonsense about the church and religion and Christians, and they are again hearing preachers quoting the bible to hurt others. You know better, but a lot of your friends don’t:
David, not yet a king, mourns the death of King Saul and his son, David’s beloved friend, Jonathan, of whom he says: …”Greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26b), not a text quoted by those claiming their religion and their gospel is under attack because the Supreme Court at last made Marriage Equality the law of the land, but then cowardly and unfaithful people have long resorted to religion to justify bigotry.
If I am offending anyone, I do not apologize, for I believe that in time, when you have a child or grandchild, a niece or nephew, a dear friend or loved one who is born to love differently than you love, then your love will move you to advocate on their behalf, and though it may take you awhile, you will remember and appreciate this day, this Sunday, when many join with me in saying “Praise God for this victory on behalf of all God’s children,” and you will join me in praying that Christians like us would raise up our voices to show the world that those who take to the airways to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit do not represent the God of love we serve.
Love is love. God is love. Jesus Christ revealed God’s love, and religious people of his day killed him for it. I stand in, with, and through Christ, and I say, “Praise God for that the United States of America has dignified all love as equal.”
The media is playing President Obama’s singing of Amazing Grace in his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinkney. But the President’s eulogy offers much more than this song: he calls us to express God’s grace today, in our world; he tells the truth about racism in the United States–about the Confederate Flag, Gun Control, the prison system, poverty–all within the context of faith.
I invite all of my friends: those who have not lost their faith in the church and who seek to express God’s grace with their lives; those who have left the church because it has worshiped its own traditions, because has been too slow to engage the movements for human dignity and justice of our age, because it has loved comfort and feared conflict; and those who see faith as weakness and belief as a sham; I invite all of my friends to watch the entire video of President Obama’s eulogy, or download the full text ( .pdf | .docx ): the President puts into words what I believe and what Christians in my life see as the heart of faith.
4th Sunday After Pentecost, 6/21/2015: Mark 4:35-41 1 SAMUEL 17:32-40
This was an important Sunday for churches across America. Four days earlier, Rev. Clementa Pinckney was assassinated and eight parishioners were massacred during a bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The story of David and Goliath provides a way view of how we as people of faith will slay the giant of racial terrorism.
I am indebted to Malcom Gladwell’s recent book, David and Goliath. Gladwell’s reading of the story is available as a TED talk: The Unheard Story of David and Goliath.
Slinging Stones for Mother Emanuel (pdf sermon manuscript)
Audio Children’s Sermon: Hold On!
First Congregational UCC Moline
VBS SUNDAY, 6/21/2015
Our VBS program focused on God’s power. Each day of the week, the children learned about a different way we experience God’s power and explored how God’s power helps us to Hold On! In our Children’s Moment, the children shared what they learned with the congregation, and we celebrated God’s power together.