Don’t Say Nothing: Preaching and Racism

In the summer of 2015, I was a chaplain at a camp in North Carolina. I preached to hundreds of campers and mentored approximately fifty counselors. In the summer of 2015, about four and a half hours from my camp, Dylann Roof walked into a church and murdered nine black people who were praying. In my preaching and teaching at camp, I said nothing. I knew what happened and I chose to say nothing. Honestly, I cannot say whether I stayed silent out of fear or out of foolishness or, perhaps, because of my own inherent racism. None of those reasons are acceptable. Lord, forgive me for the things I’ve said and the things I’ve left unsaid.

In the summer of 2017, I’ve been gifted with another opportunity to preach. This time, the community is a wild group of all kinds of people called Anchor Community Church. And though Anchor is more diverse than many churches in Fort Wayne, racism is still alive in our neighborhood. Confederate flags fly from two different houses near to the church building. As I walk to my church’s building, those flags remind me that we need to keep preaching to confront racism. The question is how do we preach to confront racism?

Continue reading

Advertisements

Weekender: June 3, 2017

Weekender: 06/03/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

This is a special edition of Weekender. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreements has raised questions for many. The church needs to face these questions head-on. We worship God the Creator of All Things. What does that mean for us? How do we respond? How can we participate in the movement of God to make all things new? The resources offered below are not all specifically Christian. They are given for the sake of perspective.

Quotes Worth Repeating

“All life is interrelated…Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly…There is an interrelated structure of reality.” From “Letters from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King Jr.

“Strange though it may sound, lament is something we need to learn to do…Scripture is altogether our best guide to prayer, but you have to ask: How can it guide us in this situation? How could an ancient text possibly shed light on a thoroughly modern oil spill? Of course the biblical writers did not know about this particular technological disaster. However, there is one biblical voice, the prophet Jeremiah, who teaches us to lament over the suffering we have caused the earth and calls us to be reconciled with both God and the created order. Jeremiah spoke to and for God in the face of a disaster as devastating as this one: a prolonged and deadly drought, which left animals and people desperate with thirst, and ruined the once-fertile land of Judah. We would be inclined to say that drought is a natural disaster, and therefore quite unlike this oil spill, but Jeremiah would say that the earth always and everywhere suffers as a result of human sin.” From a sermon called “Learning to Lament” by Ellen Davis.

Videos to Watch

  1. Norman Wirzba: “Why Theological Education Needs Ecology”
  2. Ellen Davis: “Christians and Creation”

Books to Read

  1. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
  2. From Nature to Creation by Norman Wirzba
  3. Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley
  4. Making Peace with the Land by Fred Bahnson and Norman Wirzba
  5. Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis

Essays to Read

  1. Whose Earth is it Anyway?” by James Cone
  2. “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” by Wendell Berry
  3. “Jesus is Coming! Plant a Tree” by N.T. Wright
  4. “Globalization and the War against Farmers and the Land” by Vandana Shiva
  5. “The Uses of Prophecy” by David Orr

You might also find some of my (Zen) writing on the subject useful (and more accessible). Click here for a list of posts on Theology Forum. I’ve also written on these matters for The Other Journal and my previous blog Faith Commune. I’ve also abridged my thesis bibliography so that it contains only books, essays, and articles directly related to this topic. You can download the PDF by clicking here.

Websites to Visit

These websites are denominationally affiliated but are loaded with helpful resources.

  1. Mennonite Creation Care Network
  2. UCC Environmental Ministries
  3. PCUSA Environmental Ministries
  4. Catholic Creation Care

Add your resources, books, essays, videos to the list in the comments below!

Giveaway: Ten Walter Brueggemann Books

The good folks over at Homebrewed Christianity are giving away TEN books by renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. Whether you want to read them for yourself or give them to your nerdy friends (like me!), this is a giveaway worth entering.

Click here to enter the giveaway (you will be redirected to Homebrewed Christianity’s website). While you’re at it, subscribe to their podcast!

A Pentecost Prayer

We are well on our way to Pentecost. Let us pray!

Oh God whose breath makes all things new, you whose rushing breath made something out of nothing, be with us today.

Oh God of Israel, you whose rushing breath like wind made a way through the sea, a way where there was no way, be with us today.

Oh God of Covenant, you who came down like fire upon Mount Sinai and filled with promises the people you had chosen, be with us today.

Oh God of Israel, you talkative God who gave words to the prophets and to psalmists, who called the four winds of the earth to raise dry bones in a low valley, be with us today.

Oh God of Pentecost, who swarmed into the room where Christ’s disciples were gathered and gave them tongues ablaze, be with us today.

We gather in these days of trial and confusion, humbled by your presence, as the united body of Christ in a world so divided, so fractured.

We ask for your grace so that we might be made whole. Help us to know that we are brothers and sisters. In our baptism, we belong to you and to one another. Through you, Holy Spirit, may it be so.

Amen.

We are always beginners: Barth on discipleship

For Barth, the Christian life is all grace from beginning to end, so the Christian is always a “beginner,” leaning upon God’s grace in all things.

[T]hose who through grace (because Jesus Christ became and is their Brother) karlbarthpipehave the freedom to call upon God as their Father will never once, when they make use of this freedom, encounter God except as those who are inept, inexperienced, unskilled, and immature, as children in this sense too – little children who are totally unprepared for it. The invocation “Our Father,” and all the Christian life and ethos implicit in this invocation, can never at any stage or in any form be anything but the work of beginners. Even at the most advanced stage and in the ripest form it can never be anything better, for in this field what is supposedly better can only be worse, indeed, it can only be evil. What Christians do becomes a self-contradiction when it takes the form of a trained and mastered routine, of a learned and practiced art. They may and can be masters and even virtuosos in many things, but never in what makes them Christians, God’s children. As masters and virtuosos they would not live by God’s grace. … In invocation of God the Father everything depends on whether or not it is done in sheer need (not self-won competence), in sheer readiness to learn (not schooled erudition), and in sheer helplessness (not the application of a technique of self-help). This can be the work only of very weak and very little and very poor children, of those who in the littleness, weakness, and poverty can only get up and run with empty hands to their Father (Church Dogmatics, IV.4, 79-80).

Our Strange Family: A Pentecost Sermon

“What does all of this mean?” That is the question folks gathered in Jerusalem were asking two centuries ago. Jews from all over had come to gather for the Feast of Weeks and found themselves a part of something rather unexpected. In May, Kevin at Anchor Community Church (Fort Wayne, IN) was kind enough to let me preach on the story of Pentecost in Acts 2. The whole sermon reflects on the question, “What does all of this mean?”

The answer to that question exceeds our grasp, in the same way the gusty wind that filled the disciples exceeded their grasp. Yet we have part of the answer. It means the Holy Spirit is on the loose — and is busy at work among us even still.

Continue reading

Weekender: May 27, 2017

Weekender: 05/27/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

Quote Worth Repeating: “Preaching’s value is often in the subtle but powerful ways it forms us into people who have empathy for others, who assume responsibility for the needs of strangers, who feel that we are under judgment from a higher criterion than our own consciences, and who believe that, with the Holy Spirit set loose among us, we can be born again.” From Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism by Will Willimon (Abingdon Press, 2017: review forthcoming).

Blog Post to Read: “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson is a thought-provoking essay on what motivates us and what should motivate us. “Fear,” Robinson writes, “is not a Christian habit of mind.”

Interesting Insight: Christianity Today reports on a study by LifeWay Research that seeks “to discover [American’s] feelings about fear, shame, guilt, and other issues.” The results are interesting and, potentially, insightful for practitioners within the Church.

After seeing the results, you might want to read Kent’s posts on shame. You can find them here and here.

Questions to Ponder: At the church where I’m interning, I’m helping with a small group about the Bible and Christian theology. A member asked an important question: Why does it matter what we call God? The question was in response to me, perhaps arrogantly, correcting what I saw as a flaw in the curriculum a week earlier. Under “Great Doctrines of the Bible,” the author lists “God,” “Jesus,” and “Holy Spirit.” I suggested that a more helpful naming would be: “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit.” “Each of them,” I explained, “are God, and all together they are God. One is not God and the others something else.” This must have jostled his thoughts throughout the week, so I pose the question, and some follow ups, to you now:

  • Why does it matter what we call God? Or, I think, why does it matter that we call God the Trinity?
  • How would you respond to that question pastorally? How do you encourage congregants to see the significance (i.e. not telling them, “You’ll never understand so don’t worry too much about it.”) without frustrating them?
  • Are there helpful resources you’ve found to assist congregants and students with a fairly basic theological vocabulary to better understand the Trinity?

Recent Posts on Theology Forum:

  1. We Are Here to Love by Kent Eilers
  2. Dear Publishers by Kent Eilers
  3. Ascension Thursday: Salvador Dali and Karl Barth by Zen Hess
  4. Baptism, Preaching, and Politics by Zen Hess