Archive for A Canadian Priest Speaks on Love

On Breaking the Tyranny of Sin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 3, 2017 by playthell
Marching Against White Supremacy in Charlottesville Virginia

A White Priest Preaches to Whites about Racial Justice

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.

I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.” NRSV Genesis 45:1-15

Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” NRSV Matthew 15:21-28
“Breaking the Tyranny of Sin”

Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and sent into our hearts the Spirit of your Son. Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service that all people may know the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s prayers teach us something profound about being a Christian. They tell us that God has broken the tyranny of sin, and we ask for grace to live in that freedom from tyranny, as faithful inheritors of the Kingdom that’s been promised to us. What does it mean, what does it take, to break the tyranny of sin? And how do we live our lives in a way that shows that we are free from the ruthless hold that sin can have on us?
This morning we heard the end of the Joseph story. Joseph was betrayed by his own brothers. They sold him as a slave, and he could have been dead for all they knew. Yet he forgave them, embraced them and saved their whole tribe from starvation. Joseph broke the tyranny of sin. This story is a pivotal change in the whole thrust of the Old Testament. It was normal in that society, to be competitive. It was normal to put yourself and your own family first. It was normal to get revenge, and they even had lists of rules about how much revenge you were allowed to take on another family or tribe. But Joseph was close to God’s heart and he took a completely different path.

Love, forgiveness and grace shattered the cruel, tyrannical hold sin had on that family. And then in today’s gospel, we follow Jesus up the coast, from familiar territory up into Tyre and Sidon – foreign lands. And a woman from a different race, from a foreign religion with strange customs, insinuates herself in Jesus’ path and demands attention. We’re not used to Jesus being snippy with people, but he gives her a hard time, suggesting that his healing is exclusive – it’s only for the chosen people of God.

What a slap in the face! Was Jesus having a bad day? Did he mean to push her away like that? But she persisted…even the dogs get the children’s crumbs, she said. And look what happens here – look how quickly Jesus heals her daughter. Instantly. That very moment. So, did her retort change his mind, or was Matthew up to something clever in how he shaped this story?

Perhaps the exchange was about teaching the disciples back then, and you and me now – teaching us to recognize our own tendency to ignore people we think of as outsiders. The disciples felt no responsibility for this woman’s problem. She’s not one of us, she worships foreign gods and strange idols, so we won’t waste God’s grace here. We owe her nothing so let’s move on.

To see what the author is up to here, let’s step back and look at Jesus’ whole ministry. All throughout the gospels, Jesus consistently crashed through the boundaries and barriers humans put up against one another…..bringing the ‘sinful’ blind man into the Synagogue and then we found out that he wasn’t the sinful one – it was the religious leaders who had excluded him; then Jesus chose the shamed women at the well to bring God’s truth to the whole town; he had dinner with people that the religious leaders thought were unworthy – hookers and charlatans; and the most interesting part – in a society where the only people lower on the social scale than the shepherds were the fishermen, and Jesus chose a bunch of them as his disciples.

The list goes on and on – whoever was excluded, Jesus pulled right into the centre of the community. This looks like a very intentional story, designed to show Jesus, once again, crashing through the tyranny of sin by including someone the disciples wanted to exclude. So, how do we live this out? Today we’re taught to stretch our understanding of who’s in, who belongs, who is worthy, who God includes…a message the world is crying out for, right now.

Today both Joseph and Jesus say no to hateful exclusion – Joseph won’t exclude his treacherous brothers. Jesus won’t exclude the foreigner who worships strange idols. I so appreciated Judy’s entry in this week’s Happenings. Judy sent us a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Judy was accurately taking the pulse of our times.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Washington March
A 20th Century Prophet Speaking Truth to Power

When there’s trouble in the world, it takes commitment to stand up and speak out, and to bring change. And Judy’s not the only one responding to the chaos of Charlottesville. In fact, most of the world, including Christian leaders from many countries, are responding to what happened – not only because Heather Heyer died, but because the vilest form of hate – represented by the swastika and the white robes of the KKK – has risen up to claim a voice in the streets of that powerful country that sets itself up as the moral leader of the world – a form of hate which many veterans gave their lives to resist in the war – a form of hate that led to the slaughter of millions – a form of hate that would string a man up, torture, mutilate and kill him because of the colour of his skin. These things happened – we humans did this to one another – and not so long ago.

Heather Heyer
Murdered by Nazi’s in America standing up for Justice
American Exceptionalism…
Torch Bearing Nazis March in the Night in 2017!

My friends, this has nothing to do with politics, because we know that there’s good and bad in every political platform. This has to do with right and wrong! This has to do with a rising ethos of white supremacy that decent human beings thought had been at least quieted decades ago. This has to do with decent people saying it’s not okay that our Jewish or Asian or Brown or Black brothers and sisters are pushed aside. And for you and me, this has to do with Christians taking a stand against something that is in complete opposition to everything Jesus taught.

It’s hard for me, for white people, to see the severity of this threat of white supremacy, because it doesn’t threaten me – it doesn’t personally or directly threaten me. Those of us with white privilege can live our lives blindly and happily completely unaware of what’s happening to other people. It’s so easy for us to say “Everything looks just fine to me – what’s all the fuss about?”
We must take a hard lesson from history here, and remember early Nazi Germany, when the Christian Church turned a blind eye as the government slowly and insidiously started segregating the Jewish people. First, they made it mandatory that they be marked with patches of the Star of David, and arm bands, taking away their autonomy by denying them the right to individual anonymity.

Then you’d find that your Jewish neighbors no longer lived in their house next door because they were pulled out of their homes, away from their possessions, and gradually isolated, pushed out to the fringes of the cities. Their rights were compromised one by one, until they had lost their freedom. There was a slow and steady normalization of placing the Aryan race above, and Jews and others beneath. But why should the church be concerned? It wasn’t affecting them. Can we hear that?

The Signs of those Terrible Times were EVERYWHERE!
But the Church Turned it’s Head!

Just like the rise of White Supremacists and the re-emerging KKK doesn’t affect us white people right now. Back then, the church was left alone by the powers in charge, and so they bought the deal. And to this day, they bear the shame and the guilt of that choice. Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t buy it, though. He was a humble German pastor who spoke out against the evil of Hitler because he saw where it was heading – to the ruthless torture, degradation and slaughter of millions of innocent human beings. He stood up and said, “Christians! Wake up! This is as far away from the gospel as one can get!” He was executed in prison for speaking out.

Reverend Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Righteous German Churchman who Gave his Life Opposing Hitler

I’m not going to talk about how or why these hate groups have felt empowered to rise up again – that would take hours – but every expert out there is telling us that they are rising up again, threatening to become much bigger than Charlottesville. As of yesterday, there were at least 9 more rallies planned by white supremacists across the States. And here in Canada, there are similar rallies planned in Vancouver and Montreal, and the Canadian white supremacy websites are lighting up like a carnival.

Similar things are happening in England and elsewhere, so I’m afraid, my friends, that this is a thing. It’s happening. To be indifferent at this time in history when the whole world is challenging what’s happening just south of us – to be indifferent is just as dangerous to our moral integrity as it was for those Christians in Nazi Germany. But don’t take my word for it…here’s what Christian leaders and others are saying….
Debra Kolb says the opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. To be silent is to take a side.

One of the most respected Christian leaders and theologians of our time, Brian McLaren, says, clergy, church leaders, it’s time. It’s actually past time. It would have been good if Christians had seen throughout history that loving their Indigenous and African American neighbors would not mean genocide or enslavement or white supremacy or lynching. But we failed to understand the most basic message of Christ’s teaching … love for everyone – no exceptions. So white supremacy became systematically embedded in our systems and structures and we see the results today. It’s long past time for Christians to resist.
Long-respected news anchor Dan Rather says he covered the civil rights movement in the 60’s and he says tragically, what happened in Charlottesville demonstrates that history might be repeated. He remembers that Dr. Martin Luther King felt that if people who are unaffected by racism could see the true depth of the hatred, could see what it looked like, they would recoil. But he says, we are once again peering into an abyss. Perhaps we needed to see how easily our moral order can break down. This is a moment for moral clarity – a time for everyone to line up and be counted. Are you on the side of love or hate? The world is watching. History is watching. I hope we’re up to the challenge, he says, and I think we are.

A huge gathering of North American Christian clergy made this statement: All humans are created in the image of God, and yet in Charlottesville, white hatred, anti-Semitism and violence were on bold display. This hateful rally of white supremacists seeks to destroy the very soul of the country. White supremacist beliefs, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, the alt-right, are antithetical to our scriptures. One cannot serve God and embrace hate and inequality. Most importantly, one cannot be silent.
Our own Anglican Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz says: The events in Charlottesville, Virginia and the very real threat of more activities on the part of white supremacy movements, have been a painful reminder that racialized violence is a sad reality of our time, not only in the United States, but in our own country too. The escalation of racial tension causes great anxiety. Let us pray for the Church’s witness in the midst of this growing crisis. May we be united, courageous and unwavering, in denouncing racism and in proclaiming the God-given dignity all people deserve.

My regular theologians, Dr’s. Lewis, Skinner and Jacobsen said this: This is a moment when the church has to speak up. We cannot be vague and careful about this; we can’t be afraid because some people want church to be comfortable and safe. We must be faithful to the gospel we are paid to preach. White supremacy is a sin in all its forms, rooted in the worst, most erroneous theology imaginable. If the church does not speak up against Neo Nazism, the KKK, white supremacy and anti-Semitism, we will be complicit in our silence.

And finally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” When evil rises up, Christians are called to respond from the core of our teaching. This is why the church exists – to name what is broken in the world and to stand up for justice.

Friends, this is about more than one or two little protests gone wrong. This is about the re-emergence of an evil that, if ignored by indifference, if allowed to become normalized in small steps, can take the whole world down an amoral pathway to the purest evil. But now we return to our earlier question…..how do we break the tyranny of sin? How do we remain faithful heirs of God’s kind of justice? How do we respond to this encroaching craziness?

• By opening our eyes to see that, even if a movement doesn’t hurt you, if it hurts your fellow man, it is your problem too.
• By teaching your children and your grandchildren what Jesus taught – that everyone belongs in God’s kingdom, without exception. By talking to them about Charlottesville, white supremacy, the truth about the KKK, what the Nazi flag actually represents. These lessons will spread out into the future and affect the world through those you influence with your words of truth.
• By speaking up at work or in your neighbourhood or amongst friends and colleagues when you hear talk of any religion, race or culture being excluded, isolated or oppressed.
• By praying for wisdom and guidance to respond to hate with God’s powerful love.
• By letting leaders know that we will not stand for the intolerance or oppression of any group of human beings; that we will not vote for leaders who do.
• By working hard to become a community right here, where people don’t even have to think about whether or not they’ll be fully welcomed…they just feel the love from the moment they walk in.
Joseph broke the tyranny of sin by forgiving in love instead of seeking vengeance in hate.

Jesus broke the tyranny of sin by embracing someone that everyone else wanted to exclude. The church cannot be a place that ignores the pain of the world. We cannot escape the suffering of our brothers and sisters, no matter how comfortable things might be for us personally. The church must speak out when the tyranny of sin from the past threatens to become the tyranny of sin in the present.

But our God is a great God, who always brings good news. And the good news for us today is this. Love will always prevail in the long run, because hate eats people up from the inside, and exhausts them. Love is far more powerful and enduring. Love fulfills us and transforms us and brings peace to us and to those around us. That holy love can even touch the hearts of the haters and bring them peace, because in the end Love Trumps hate! It is God’s love, my dear friends, working in us and through us, that will break the tyranny of sin.
Thanks be to God. Amen

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Sermon TSP ELEVENTH Sunday After Pentecost Year A 20 August 2017
By: Reverend Susanne
Priest in the Anglican Communion of Canada.