Common Ground MESSAGE~~February 15, 2017
· I am so happy to be here with you all at Common Ground and with my beloved sister Sarah. Thank you for inviting me, and for welcoming me so warmly to your circle of love and worship. It is my joy and honor to be here.
· We are living in dire and frightening times. You know that. We are all seeking a way forward. So how do peace-and-justice-loving people of faith live through and make a difference in these times when, it seems daily, all that we love, all the values we hold dear, all the tenets that we live by are threatened and under attack, and our very democracy seems at risk.
· What I would like to do in the time I have with you tonight is to share some simple ideas, from a faith perspective, about how to live through these difficult times, how to be faithful during these difficult times, and after I have shared some thoughts, open the floor to hear your thoughts and feelings. So let me jump in and then we will share back and forth.
· And I guess I should say out loud what I think you already know: my message is both theological—I am directing this to people and faith—AND political! Sarah knows that and I hope you are all set and ready for that.
· So let’s begin…In her email blast to us all about tonight, our Sarah said this about my visit to you all: “if you are feeling overwhelmed, adrift, or just plain angry…come to Common Ground….” and so on.
I think we ARE feeling overwhelmed and adrift and a host of other feelings that we can talk about in a minute. But I want to start with Sarah naming that we might be feeling “just plain angry.”
I want to start by validating those feelings of anger. Why? Because sometimes people of faith—who cherish love and inclusion, compassion and caring, expansive hearts and extravagant welcomes—feel badly about feeling angry.
We try to deny or suppress feelings of anger, we hide or mute flashes of anger. We believe our God is a God of love, true true—and we think our hearts should only ever be soft, accepting, affirming, loving and filled with kindness.
· I am here to say that NOW is a good time to feel and, IN CONSTRUCTIVE WAYS, to express your anger—and when you express your anger, you should know that you are being true to your faith when you do that, expressing anger is consistent with long-practiced Christian behaviors, and expressing anger is consistent being a good Jesus follower and disciple. Jesus got angry. And he modeled for us pure righteous anger, and we can follow his lead.
· My friends, expressing your anger, in constructive ways, is appropriate now, needed now, and faithful to the one we seek to follow….Jesus. When Jesus experienced injustice, he responded…with prayer, with sermons, with parables, and with anger. Jesus was loving, angry and powerful. Model yourself after him.
· 3 examples from the Gospels: Mt 21; Mt 16; Mt 23
Mt 21:12-13 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of robbers.”
Mt 16:21-23 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Mt 23:29-33 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?
· Jesus got angry. And expressed it. And if he can, we can.
· My siblings…do not confuse Western politeness—the cultural convention to be to be kind and courteous, to not ruffle feathers, to know your place, to be well-mannered and appropriate–with being powerful and outspoken, progressive people of faith. Jesus got angry and we can to. We can feel and express our feelings as people of faith and be grateful that we experience righteous anger, grateful that we have a moral compass rooted in our religious beliefs and traditions, AND secure in the knowledge our behaviors are consistent with stories found in our sacred texts and words spoken by the one we seek to follow: Jesus.
· We are shaken…we are scared…we are disturbed by the daily news, we are outraged….and we have reason to be. So let us feel our feelings, completely…not deny our feelings, not try to drink our feelings or eat our feelings away, not sink into depression, not retreat and isolate. Let us feel and use our feelings. And anger is one of those feelings.
· So what do we do?
· We may be opposed to every single thing the current administration is doing to our nation, our friends and neighbors who are targeted, and people around the world. We can name what we are opposed to. And the list can be detailed and specific.
· I think you know and could recite that list this minute if I let you—the list of what we oppose that is already occurring and the list of what we fear might occur.
· But what we need to do repeatedly is give voice to what we are for, what we believe in, what we prize and hold dear….a vision of a nation that is welcoming; that lives up to the words on the Statue of Liberty; that cares for those who are vulnerable, poor, and sick; a nation that cherishes women, protects children, and honors elders; a nation that is diverse and understands the strength and beauty in diversity; a nation filled with earth stewards who care for the natural world with loving attention; a nation willing to wrestle with our past injustices to African Americans and Native Americans and make amends and reparations. And the list goes on. We need to say what we are FOR. We need to give our vision words, over and over again. We need to say what we cherish, what we believe in, what we are FOR and the vision we are carrying and repeat those again and again—in writing, in speech, in song, in prayer, in the town square, in the newspaper and on and on and on.
· And as we speak about this country, that we love, we need to identify ourselves as Conservative Americans. I am now using that term in all the (endless) calls I am making and the letters I am writing. I am saying that true conservative American values are being violated: the conservative values of freedom, and liberty and justice for all. I have been quoting the Pledge of Allegiance in the letters I have been writing:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
INDIVISIBLE, we refuse to be divided one against another. Not in this country. Our unity is one of our basic conservative values. Another is liberty and justice for all. Talk, write and sing about that.
I have also been quoting the words on the Statue of Liberty. Those are good conservative American values, rooted deeply in the very bedrock of this country.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Those are good values we have said for well over a century that we hold dear. Those reflect solid conservative values. Let’s live up to those values.
Remember what you believe in and why. State what lies on your heart with fierce clarity and righteous anger when those tenets of your faith and your love of country are denied or violated. Do not let your values and language be hijacked by leaders, elected and appointed, who are distorting our vision for truly GREAT America.
· And don’t give up the flag. Fly the flag. Reclaim the flag. All of us progressive Christians, we both champion conservative values (freedom, liberty and justice) AND we honor the flag for reflecting the truly best we can be as a people and the best we can be as a nation. Don’t let exclusion, misogyny, racism, fear, bigotry, class divisions and the plunder of our earth be wrapped in the flag. Don’t concede the flag to hate-filled policies. Reclaim the flag. Redefine it as standing for the values our foremothers and forefathers intended.
· And about challenging the new normal which is NOT normal, and using our pens and voices to express our concerns, hopes, fears and visions…focus on policies not people: dispute policies, object to legislative decisions, resist oppressive shifts in the culture but stay on that level. Personal attacks on elected and appointed leaders will not win us friends or allies. Talk about DECISIONS made that undermine the strength and beauty of this nation, and alternative DECISIONS that could be made that undergird a true democracy. STAY on the policy level, and push-back on executive decisions not on the executive.
· Rants about the new President’s mental state, jokes about his appearance, jabs at his family, leave all of those to the late night comedians, there are doing a fine job with all that material. Stay on message about policy decisions, appointments, laws, executive orders and push back hard.
· And finally two last points:
We need EVERYONE in to work in what is now a growing and vibrant and electrified movement to resist the direction this country is lurching.
We need everyone. And we need everyone’s gifts and talents brought to the struggle. So whatever is inside you….bring it to this movement.
You can draw? Paint? Write good letters? Sing? Walk long distances? Teach? Speak in public? Write editorials? Whatever you have inside you as a blessed gift from God, use it to create change. Use your individual gifts and talents in the service of change and be creative. There is much work to be done and all our gifts and talents are needed.
Are you good at organizing benefit concerts?
Can you send well-crafted letters to the editor?
Can you hand paint card expressing solidarity and send them to Syrian Relief organizations to distribute in refugee camps?
Organize bike-a-thons, walk-a-thons, teach-ins?
Create a prayer chain?
Write thank you letters to senators and representatives who are showing leadership in alignment with your beliefs.
Call friends in other states and encourage them to be active in the struggle.
Send out a weekly ACTION ALERTS.
Whatever gifts and talents you have, whatever contacts you have made, whatever influence you can bring to bear…make all of that come alive now.
We need you. And we need the gifts and creativity within you. Use your gifts and talents in the service of movement building and creating change.
We need you now. Bring it on.
· And finally…back to where we started. Feel all your feelings.
· Read John 11.
John 11: 34-35: Lazarus’ death, Jesus is at the home of Martha and Mary…
Jesus said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” And Jesus began to weep.
· Jesus wept and we can weep. We are shaken and deeply sad. We can weep. But don’t weep alone. And take hands and pray together and cry. Remember: Grief shared is grief reduced. Gather together. Do not face the next four years alone. Church groups, neighborhood groups, book groups, dorm groups, Bible Study groups—stay together. GROUPING together now is not just a good idea, it is our life-line. Clump together and stay clumped.
My siblings in the faith, in the book of Esther (Esther 4:14) Mordecai tells Esther NOT to keep silent “…at such a time as this…”
I believe we are living in a time of crisis.
I believe we are called to be active and progressive Christians in this time of crisis.
I believe we cannot keep silent AT SUCH A TIME AS THIS.
I believe that in years to come, our children and grandchildren will ask us…during those painful years, what did YOU do?
My siblings in the faith, we have what we need to get through this time of crisis and pain.
We have God, our faith, our inner compass, our gifts and talents, our vision, our anger, our hope, our voice, and each other.
Do not give up. Do not give in. And do not let go of each other’s hands.