It’s Inauguration Day America – Happy Easter!

20 01 2021

Some might think it odd for a pastor’s favorite Easter song to come from the likes of Nina Simon and Michael BublĂ©. But for me, nothing communicates the new life that Jesus brings to our lives and to our world like “Feelin’ Good.” Written in 1964 for a British musical, the song lifts up images from creation, and sentiments of the heart, that ring poignantly true to my understanding of resurrection. And today, on the inauguration of our nation’s 46th president, my thoughts are being drawn to this important theological concept.

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel

Regardless of how one feels or what one thinks about the past four years, today marks the beginning of something new. And the newness that we celebrate today is nothing short of Easter-like. Like the tomb and the grave that Christ-followers remember on Good Friday – the bleakness and hopelessness of yesterday, the pain and the grief of the past – this day, all of that is forced to step aside so that morning might come to America. As the sun rises on our nation’s capitol, which two weeks ago was full of violence and evil, today we can open our eyes to a bright new day, full of potential and possibilities.

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River running free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel

On the outside, the world may not feel as though much as changed. Racism will continue to deny America’s claim of ensuring liberty and justice for all; and sexism will continue to hold back and hold down more than half of the US population. The rich will continue to get richer, while the poor will continue to be marginalized and thus remain powerless in the face of an idolized and idealized capitalism. And democracy will continue to be threatened by the misinformed, the undereducated, and those whose lives are controlled by fear. But, even with all of our imperfections, America remains ripe for transformation. New life is waiting for anyone and everyone willing to reach out, grab hold of it, and begin to live into the Spirit’s promised ‘heaven on earth.’

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Oh, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel

No! Our trust is never put in human rulers or earthly kindoms! The empires of this world and the leaders they create are never the well-spring of our hope nor the birthplace of our joy. Never-the-less, we stand firm on the words of the Psalmist: “Blessed are those who reject the path of violence, who refuse to associate with criminals, or who even sit with people who belittle others.” Presidents and prime ministers, kings and queens can either resist God’s work in the world, or they partner with the Spirit to bring about a better tomorrow. And today, we trust the later to once again become a realty in this nation that we love.

So Happy Easter America. I know it’s only January, but he’s still risen. It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life for me.

And I’m feeling good!

Glenda is wrong!

8 01 2021

With the clear and decisive election of Joe Biden in the 2020 election, I had been hoping that I would never again have to type the name of “45” in any of my blogs! But as with anything-Trump, such hope-filled dreams always end in a frightening scene from your worst nightmare. And so today, less than two weeks before the inaugurations of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we are still being forced to deal with a petulant, infantile narcissist: pouting over his defeat, perpetuating lies and conspiracy theories, and perpetrating seditious and tyrannical behavior that will only further mar his legacy of deceit and deception.

Like Glenda, the good witch from “The Wizard of Oz”, I want to simply say, “Be gone, you have no power here!” But while Trump, and Trump’s power, will be severely limited once he leaves office later this month; “Trumpers” and “Trumpism” will be around for a long time, and their power will be long-lasting. There are still 70 million Americans – just over 1/5 of our population – who fail to see the evil they encourage. There are still far too many radical, right-wing extremists in Congress who stand, not for, but against the very ideals that have the potential to make America both good, and great! And there are still far too many Republicans who remain whimpishly silent in the face of this President’s assault on Democracy and the very fabric of American society. But most tragically, there are still far too many White Churches, full of the people most responsible for the election of Donald Trump and for the validation of his racist worldview, that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. For while their unwavering support for the actions of this administration have only further shortened their already a declining life-span, the death of American “Christianity” is still a long way off. And so the power of the White Church will continue to drag down American society.

Theologians and sociologists will likely study this phenomenon for generations to come, but I am confident that one of their conclusions will be that clergy need to shoulder much of the blame for the events of the past four years. For we have not only permitted the promulgation of a distorted version of the Gospel, but we have perpetuated it, and for generations. WE are the ones responsible for the state of the American Church today. And we are the ones who have made the Trump presidency possible. And therefore WE are the ones who need to be leading the charge for change.

But . . . that charge, must be more than a call to pray!

Like the disingenuous words of so many in the current administration, who finally, after the White Terrorism of this past Tuesday, terrorism that resulted in the desecration of the US Capitol, dared to condemn the actions of this President, the call to prayer by some of America’s clergy is too little too late. Pastors and preachers, who for the past four years have had nothing to say about the actions of this administration, should continue to remain silent, for they have lost the right to speak up now.

If over the past four years we have not preached on sermon on the politics of Jesus; if we have not led a Bible Study on the treatment of immigrants and refugees; if we have not done a Children’s Sermon on kindness and compassion, bulling and name-calling, or lying and telling the truth; if we have not sent a ‘get-out-the-vote’ postcard to a resident of Georgia, or attended a rally with a member of our congregation, or protested beside a person of color; if we have not read a book on racism or White privilege . . . if all we have done is written and read beautifully crafted prayers, imploring God to bring about the Divine will for creation, then such a misguided understanding of prayer disqualifies us from being able to call people to it! We have no right to speak up now. And something as simplistic as a call to prayer only harms our witness, as well as the witness of people of faith everywhere!

Embracing the misguided belief that politics does not belong in the Church, or that Jesus never challenged the theology of empire, demands that we reconsider our understanding of the Gospel. And allowing our fear of offending a certain segment of our congregation, or valuing ‘niceness’ over the promotion of Christ-likeness, demands that we reexamine our calling.

Like the Wizard of Oz, God has given us minds so that we can think, hearts so that we can love, and courage so that we can face the evils of our day. To America’s clergy I say the time for change is here. With a new administration comes a definite shift in power. But the power of White Supremacists and Christian Nationalists, the power of violent racists and right-wing extremists, the power of Trumpers and Trumpism remains. Fortunately, while Glenda is wrong and evil continues to have a great deal of power, the power of the Gospel is greater. And we who dare to preach the Gospel need to carefully steward our gifts, channeling the power of the Spirit for the glory of God.

Over the past four years, White Evangelicalism has signed its own death warrant. Thankfully! So now, we Whites who are left in the Church need to stand with our BIPOC siblings in the faith community, and work with them to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Following their lead, we need to work together to dismantle racism and eradicate White privilege; and as one body, the Body of the risen Christ, we need to be bold in our speaking truth to power. In the power of the Spirit, a power that transcends all other power, we need to strive to build a world where God’s will is indeed done . . . on earth as in heaven. For only then will be able to look into the eyes of the evil that we saw on Tuesday and say, “Be gone. You have no power here!”