Yesterday I preached a sermon entitled, “Loved and Called” with Psalm 139 as the scripture.
Earlier in the week as I was deciding on what text to preach on, I knew I wanted to go a more social justice-y sort of route. I mean, it is MLK weekend after all.
I had my sermon crafted in my head, though not on paper, by mid-week.
And then one of our country’s leaders opened their mouth.
I’m not one of those preachers who uses the pulpit to spout agendas or politics or whatever. That’s not what the pulpit is for. I mean, I supposed I could go there. I do have freedom of the pulpit. But I wasn’t taught to use the pulpit for my own agenda. I’m there to push a few buttons, yes, but about faith, God, justice issues and such.
I do, however, use the pulpit to preach the Gospel, which is clearly not something many our country’s leaders are aware of. The Gospel message is all about love, welcoming the stranger, and grace. (The Gospel is way more than that, so totally generalizing here. But you get the idea – clearly not on the minds and hearts of our country’s leaders.)
And so I preached about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the sight of God, as the Psalmist says. I talked about being totally connected to God, to the point where we as humans have God in our DNA and in cutting down others, we cut ourselves down in the process.
I talked about the “call” we have in life isn’t only the vocation, the job or profession we are in, using the God-given gifts God has given us. Instead, “call” is about God’s love, about being beautiful in God’s sight for who we are created to be – colored skin, warts, extra pounds, whatever.
I wrote/preached: “The United Church of Christ has a slogan, one my colleague and I say every Sunday from the chancel area – “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” That’s not simply an invitation, welcoming and radical hospitality to church and worship. It is, obviously, or we wouldn’t say it week after week.
It’s more than that. At least for me anyway.
It’s God saying, “I don’t care about your faults, your scars, your skin color, sexuality – I don’t care who you are. I love you. I love you because I created you and you are welcome, welcome on this journey of life. I hope you know I am walking with you. Whatever occurs on this journey of life, whatever befalls you, I am there. You are precious and loved and called by me to live this incredible life. For you are fearfully and wonderfully made.””
Later I wrote/preached: “A few days ago, I was shocked to hear yet more appalling news because let’s face it – that’s all the news is these days. Shocking, appalling, sad. As I read article after article, posts by friends and colleagues, I was saddened. To hear blatant racist remarks in 2018, and so close to Martin Luther King, Jr. day too. I was angry and sad.
But I was also reminded of this psalm – we are precious in God’s sight. We- humanity – from whatever country, whatever sexual orientation, skin color, nationality or whatever – we are precious in God’s sight. We are beloved by God. We are created by God to be unique and different.”
And I went on from there. I quoted South African anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela and poet/writer, Maya Angelou. And of course Dr. King himself saying, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
My congregation is a mix of folks – many supporters of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I’ve heard rumblings from some who haven’t liked my sermons (and my colleague’s too – I’m not alone) because they are more liberal.
Ok, my sermons may be a bit liberal but I’m simply preaching the Gospel. And answering the question, “What would Jesus do?” Because my Jesus wouldn’t stand for racist remarks. Jesus wouldn’t stand for divisions and an Us vs. Them mentality. That if you’re not blonde and white, you’re not welcome here. Jesus and God don’t work that way.
Oppss…I’ve gotten on my soapbox.
Dear Readers, whoever you are, know this – You are loved. Black, white, gay, straight, blonde or blue hair, skinny or curvy – whatever shape or color or country or religion you come from – You are loved. By me and by God. And if I have to preach that message a thousand times over my ministry I will.
I’m tired of hate, aren’t you? It’s simply too much of a burden to bear.
I choose love, kindness and grace instead.