Responding to the insurrection at the United States Capitol, Church Anew contacted our network of contributors to ask what they would preach this Sunday. Our prayer is that these words from visionaries, nationally recognized or locally committed, provide witness for your proclamation this Sunday as the nation looks for spiritual leadership and solidarity. May the Spirit ignite your words with fire for justice.
Dr. Valerie Bridgeman
Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Associate Professor of Homiletics and Hebrew Bible
Methodist Theological School in Ohio
May You Be Brave
In December 2013, I wrote the blessing below and posted it on my social media. I don’t remember the context for this blessing, what made me write it at the time. But as I was reflecting on what I wanted to say to preachers who must stand and deliver this Sunday, the first Sunday after Epiphany, it seems especially appropriate:
May God Strengthen You for Adversity
A blessing for today:
May God strengthen you for adversity
and companion you in joy.
May God give you the courage of your conviction
and the wisdom to know when to speak and act.
May you know peace.
May you be gifted with deep,
true friendship and love.
May every God-breathed thing you put
your hand to prosper and succeed.
May you have laughter to fortify you
against the disappointments.
May you be brave.
© Valerie Bridgeman
December 18, 2013
On Wednesday, I watched with sadness as the United States Capitol building was overrun by aggrieved citizens. I want to be clear to note that they were citizens. They’ve been called a number of things, including by me: rioters, insurrectionists, seditionists. But they were citizens who believe that the election was “stolen” from them, who believe that the votes of (mostly) black and brown people should be rejected, that there is “proof” that the current president has been wronged. And so, they were there for the revolution and to “take back their country.” For them, those of us who voted against their will are not true Americans. I was not surprised at all. I have found myself weary from all the handwringing and the “this is not who we are” posts from (mostly) white people. I have found myself weary from the “unbelievable” and “shock” from the media and others. Most of that weariness is because no one I know that is an activist/advocate for racial and social justice found it “unbelievable” or “shocking.” It was predictable. I’ve been saying for many years, “we are not safe,” because I have been in conversations with (white) people who have said directly that they can’t wait for a revolution to “take our country back.” It was as American as baseball and apple pie. White grievance and rage are baked into the DNA of this nation. I know what I just wrote is offensive to people whose mythmaking about this country deifies it and demonizes anyone who says such things. Right about now comes the “if you don’t love this country, leave” or “go back where you came from.” It’s all so very predictable.
I turned my television to a station that is consistently sympathetic to the current president and was reminded that there is no Venn diagram between the world I generally inhabit and the world of those who only dwell in that world. And, as I usually pray, I wondered how in the world will we ever know one another since we don’t live in the same universe. And that’s where the blessing I wrote in 2013 comes in. I don’t have anything deep to write in this moment. But I know that those who claim the gospel as our starting point will have to be brave. Bravery requires precision. It requires thinking clearly about what all the issues are. It requires using language carefully. It requires resisting pablum and platitudes. It requires resisting “what about-ism” when calling out wrong. It requires truth-telling, even in the face of rage and handwringing. It calls for wisdom. But it also calls for friendships, love, and laughter. It calls for strength and God-given companionship. And preachers must invoke all of that. So, friends, may you be brave as you prepare to preach in the breach of these difficult days.
Dr. Raj Nadella
Samuel A. Cartledge Associate Professor of New Testament
Columbia Theological Seminary
Reflection on Terror in Washington D.C.
The violent attacks on our nation’s Capitol and the mayhem that unfolded are disturbing and shocking on many levels. Still, there is much about those attacks that is eerily familiar, especially the absolute sense of entitlement with which thousands of White insurrectionists stormed the capitol complex and the freedom they enjoyed in doing so.
It appears that the insurrection was driven not just by a sense of blind loyalty to Donald Trump but also by an irrational fear of the changing political landscape in the U.S. that has seen many people of color headed for prominent positions. The insurrection occurred as a Black-Indian woman is about to occupy the nation’s second highest office and the most diverse cabinet in American history is about to be sworn in. It occurred on the day a Black American and Jewish American won historic Senate victories in Georgia. Within this political context, the attack in D.C. was a grotesque display of power by White supremacists aimed at maintaining the status quo at any cost.
Many of the insurrectionists displayed, among other things, American flags and Christian symbols. Perhaps it is significant to note that many of them were also unmasked. The image of unmasked rioters carrying American flags and Christian symbols in support of White Supremacy is a metaphor for the ways the insurrection exposed the unholy alliance between White supremacy and some segments of Christianity. As the attacks on our nation’s Capitol were playing out, The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser tweeted about her teenage son quoting Sinclair Lewis, “When fascism comes to America, it will come cloaked in American flags and bearing crosses." The tweet highlights the ways sections of Christianity have been eagerly jumping into bed with the empire the last few years and enabling it to perpetuate ugly aspects of the empire in pursuit of power. Many self-styled Christian leaders have actively aided White Supremacy by weaponizing religious symbols and contributed to the current crisis.
The eighth century prophet Amos spoke of the divine disgust for people who substitute religious festivals, offerings, and symbols for justice, the quintessential divine attribute. Amos encouraged people to pay more attention to ensuring justice for the marginalized than to religious sacraments. What would Amos say in our context? He would ask Christians to focus more on addressing the idolatry of racism rather than on engaging in seemingly religious rituals. He would ask Christians not to engage in a form of religion that might cause them to be blind or indifferent to structural racism that treats armed White people attempting a coup much more gently than unarmed Black people questioning systemic violence, to paraphrase Jelani Cobb. If visible expressions of religion take precedence over commitment to justice, they run the risk of becoming substitutes for justice or even weaponized in service of injustice.
Few progressive Christians would participate in anything remotely similar to the attacks in D.C. but the prophetic call for the Church is to consistently privilege justice over religious symbols.
It is not enough not to actively contribute to the disease of racism. Any indifference to it or a failure to consistently enervate it invariably makes one complicit in it. My prayer is that faith leaders will have the needed wisdom to realize the seriousness of the Church’s complicity in this disease and sufficient courage to confront it.
Dr. Greg Carey
Professor of New Testament
Lancaster Theological Seminary
Preaching When It’s Broken
God bless you, preachers who will address congregations this Sunday and in the Sundays to come. Here in the United States, things are broken, most people know they’re broken, and we all need healing and truth. It’s necessary, but so very difficult, to bring healing and truth together when the truth is painful.
For many of us, this moment feels somehow new; for others, it’s all too familiar. Some communities in our society, particularly black and brown communities, know the brokenness more acutely than those of us who are white. For many of us, the invasion of the Capitol and the response to it by people we know, love, and also admire, brings this brokenness to the foreground.
We learned the things. Don’t make it about you and your emotions. You are pastor to the whole congregation. You’re called to exegete the congregation. We know those things. We also know some congregations will need comfort, while others will need direction. And we know there are times when we must draw the line and speak the truth, come hell or high water. But it’s broken: so now what?
Jeremiah preached when Jerusalem was broken. We just witnessed the desecration of our Capitol; Jeremiah endured the absolute destruction of God’s dwelling place. Commentators remind us that Jeremiah features oracles of judgment alongside laments. Kathleen O’Connor notes how “messages of hope coexist with threats of doom.”* We’re also reminded that Jeremiah physically enacted his message and its consequences, from moldy underwear (ch. 13) to time in the stocks (ch. 20). We might not necessarily preach texts from Jeremiah during this season of brokenness, but our reacquaintance with the prophet may resource our preaching.
I don’t mean to turn Jeremiah into a hero or a role model. The book stands out for its misogynistic language and imagery, aspects of the book that cannot be redeemed. Moreover, it’s rarely helpful to imagine ourselves as biblical prophets. I simply suggest we may relate to the book in ways that lead to wisdom.
In this moment, I commend the voice of lament. Lament allows preachers to take our place alongside our listeners rather than thundering down to them from on high. Just about everyone is hurting right now from Wednesday’s devastation, even when we disagree about what it means. Add on the pandemic and our economic dislocation, and preachers can speak as co-witnesses with their congregations to the pain this moment represents. Voice that pain, preachers. Speak those images. Name those feelings, not the emotions but their bodily manifestations. Name tightness in the gut, hot tears, pillows fluffed over and over again. “My heart is beating wildly,” says the prophet. “I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war” (4:19).
Lament opens some space for truth. During his election campaign, Rev. Raphael Warnock was attacked for his preaching. Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s historical Ebenezer Baptist Church and a newly elected senator, decried the racial and economic injustice endemic to our brokenness. We name such preaching the jeremiad. But like Jeremiah, Warnock pronounced truth from within the location of brokenness, not down at it. We are not all victims in the same way, but preachers can voice that brokenness, can walk around in it, and can identify the need for rectification. We can diagnose the fractures, and having done so, speak the truth about them. We do so only as participants in the brokenness.
- Kathleen M. O’Connor, “Jeremiah,” in Women’s Bible Commentary (3rd ed.; ed. Carol A Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2012), 267.
Dr. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder
Associate Professor of New Testament
Vice President of Academic Affairs & Academic Dean
Chicago Theological Seminary
More Pandemonium in a Pandemic
When my sons were in elementary school, I constantly told them, “You can’t do what white children do. The consequences for you will be different.” My afternoon pickups were filled with trepidation and angst when I asked them, “How was your day?” I always feared there would be report of “misbehavior” from a white teacher or a detention note for an “infraction.” A small slight from a white boy or girl was an almost criminal act for my then small children.
The acts of insurrection yesterday proved the refrain is still true: “Black people cannot do what white people do. The consequences will be different.” In June 2020, innumerable armed guards phalanxed the Capitol ready to pounce Black Lives Matter protesters. However, this past Wednesday was a stark contrast as white seditionists overpowered police officers, desecrated legislative halls, disrespected federal offices, and demoralized congresspersons and senators alike. With the statue called “Freedom” looking down, extremists took much liberty, looted, and ran amok on Capitol Hill. The images of mayhem and chaos from that white, pristine edifice are quite different from those in Ferguson and Baltimore. Why? Race in America makes the difference. Race in America is the difference.
Before some of us could celebrate historic victories in the Georgia senate races, our attention was diverted to efforts to circumvent and upend democracy. While thousands of Americans were dying, still dying, from COVID-19, a narcissistic, political sickness begged our focus. As the liturgical calendar turned the page to Epiphany, a manifestation of mayhem, madness, and selfish motivation demanded center stage. And yet, this is the messiness of humanity. This is the messiness of the season.
Epiphany is the showing, the appearance of the magi, a group of Persian travelers, who come to pay homage to a baby born in Bethlehem. The Gospel of Matthew in chapter 2 records “fear,” “terror,” and “lies” as colors painting broad contextual strokes of the arrival of Jesus. Herod is anxious. The people under him are grossly apprehensive. Herod prevaricates. The magi sniff him out. Herod kills innocent babies. Jesus is born — born in pandemonium. The Prince of Peace appears, and Persians bow when all of Jerusalem is in a panic.
What is striking about Matthew’s lens is that the magi still bow. Although Herod takes herculean efforts to thwart what is beyond his control, angels still speak. Humanity is no match for divinity. The Creator knows what to do with and in chaos. Creation has chaos in its DNA. The late Toni Morrison’s words ring just as true now: “I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom.”
I am not offering some in the sweet by and by theology. This is not a clarion call for a Kumbaya convening. We are frustrated. Some of us are afraid. We are angry. I am furious. What I told my children years ago does not have to be redacted. What is problematic is that little boys and girls whose entitlement goes unchecked grow up to be men and women who know no boundaries and who are not afraid of the police.
Dr. Ulysses Burley III
Founder, UBtheCURE LLC
Former member, Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Law and Order.
When you hear these often-coupled words, what comes to mind first? For many of us it's probably the famed police and courtroom drama that aired on NBC for 20 years, showcasing the sometimes-nuanced process of determining one's guilt or innocence in less than an hour of commercial-filled TV. Often scripted based on real-life events, the show highlighted legal, ethical, moral, or personal dilemmas to which all of us could relate. I imagine that's what made it one of the most popular shows in the history of primetime network television.
However, when I hear the words Law and Order, something quite different registers for me. Instead, I hear that phrase as a political dog whistle with very real consequences for marginalized communities and people of color. In June 2020, Donald Trump declared himself the "Law and Order" president while threatening military intervention to suppress nationwide peaceful protests against police brutality following the state-sanctioned murder of George Floyd. Ironically, the same president incited violent riots at the U.S. Capitol where some law enforcement officers were put in harm's way, while others simply looked the other way.
Nothing about the events at the Capitol resembled law or order, and yet those in power might have us believe that what took place was not only acceptable, but necessary to illegally maintain power, and more dangerously, dictate what is lawful or not.
The challenge to Jesus on the question of paying imperial taxes to Caesar calls attention to the oppressive nature of earthly rulers who pardon allies, loyalists, followers, and other members of the ruling class, yet impose heavy financial burden on everyday citizens. While such economic inequality might be legal, Jesus suggests that what is lawful from Caesar’s point of view isn't automatically righteous unto God. In the process of being challenged, Jesus is challenging us to carefully consider the complexity of that nexus where what is political and what is theological intersect, cautioning us not to blur the lines between what man says law is and what God declares as moral.
Law and Morals.
People pay taxes to Caesar’s oppressive empire as a legal mandate, but Jesus instructs us to also give to God the things that are God's as a moral mandate to promote an alternative kingdom. Paying taxes only legitimizes Caesar’s political power to set laws and enforce them, not his moral authority to rule. That moral authority belongs to God.
My brothers and sisters in faith and goodwill, we are in a political moment where the empire wants to maintain law and order as the status quo — where subjugation and oppression are hidden under the guise of legality — while failing to adhere to law and order themselves. But we are also in a theological moment where Jesus warns us that what is law might not be moral. And while we often participate in Caesar's economy — either out of self-preservation or because we feel like we just don't have a choice — God does not deal in Caesar's currency.
As children of God then, under this earthly rule of legal oppression — we can continue to pay the tax to keep in line with the law, but it cannot be divorced from actively resisting what is lawful yet immoral and working to promote the alternative kingdom where the moral authority to rule is God's alone. That's what being salt and light is all about! People rarely change systems from the outside-in. The change comes from within. Our light shines brightest amidst the darkness. Our salt adds flavor to the bitterness. Jesus understands this, so instead of pushing back on the darkness and bitterness wholesale, Jesus commands a both-and strategy: "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."
For communities that have and continue to deal with oppressive and violent administrations under the veil of Law and Order, the choices are never as clear cut as paying taxes or flatly refusing to pay; rather, the way forward is likely somewhere left of center — a fair tax. Nevertheless, taxation without representation is theft, and thieves who have come to steal, kill, and destroy democracy lurk amongst us in plain sight.
The Beatitudes suggest that whatever brings wholeness, transformation, and healing to communities is in-and-of-itself a form of resistance against that which seeks to rob us of our livelihood. So, let us RESIST the empire's attacks; let us RESIST racism and white supremacy; let us RESIST partisanship and divisiveness, and let us strike back until kingdom come and God’s will be done.
Rev. Paul Raushenbush
Senior Advisor for Public Affairs and Innovation
Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. We have a false prophet in the land who has harkened the susceptible to his Twitter voice, where he, his Senatorial enablers, and Media minions fed them lies, fear and resentment. We have a false prophet in the land who is posing for a photo op - holding the Bible, wrapped in a phony Flag as he blasts those hurting and suffering out of his path. We have a false prophet in the land, declaring himself the keeper of the faith, the protector of faithful, whose craven ministers lap at his feet. Oh, weary people. Oh, wondering populace. We were warned and warned. And now, this false prophet, a president who believed himself a monarch. A ravenous wolf who, when threatened by his electoral loss, told his pack to attack, and they did.
And so many did. So many eagerly made themselves prey to the trump call. Those who break down doors and windows, and parade with Nazi symbols believe themselves to be the righteous ones. Those who wave the confederate flag believe they are saving our country. Those who hang a political flag in place of an American one, believe themselves to be the keepers of our traditions and the hopes for our nation's future. Those whose faces twist with hate, who burn with violence believe themselves to be followers of the Prince of Peace. They do not yet know that Jesus' warning: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven' — applies to them."
Their deluded minds, their fallen souls is evidence of a terrible failing of the Church and it is our great challenge ahead. Knowing good from bad, right from wrong, truth from lies, figs from thistles — these are the essential lessons of a life lived in the Way of Jesus. We must ask ourselves at every juncture to make a judgement upon which we shall be judged — is this the Way, or have I strayed? If you are not vigilant, if you are not awake, if you follow wolves, you will be led to spiritual slaughter. We are living in an age of disinformation in which the powerful or the clever are able to manipulate the population to make them believe just about anything. How well have we prepared one another for that world? Have risen to this occasion to proclaim a Gospel that pierces through these bubbles of insanity, that plant such terrible trees that lead to such poisonous fruit.
Too many Christians lift up the cross and say "Lord, Lord" even as their theology is based on white nationalism, and their heart is hardened by hate toward immigrants, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Too many Christians cry "Law!" "Order!" as they attack peaceful movements for Black lives, while letting white militias threaten openly and praise good people on both sides. What happened in the Capitol was only the latest offense in a series of terrifying and terrorizing acts that have been given sanctuary and sanction by too many in the church.
It must stop now — in God's name. Now, the wolf in sheep's clothing has been denuded, de-platformed. The emperor has been laid bare, crude and plain for all to see. But that is only half the work. We must find ways to reach out and bring Americans led astray out of a life of falseness, of hate, of hurt into the Way of Truth, of Love- a missional invitation of repentance, reparation and reconciliation. Let the radical, liberation ethic of Jesus show all of us a better way and build together a future based on mutual care, liberty and justice. It will take all of our spiritual power, it will take all of our media savvy, and technology skills, and our shared civic commitment. We must reach out to our enemies, talk to them, listen to them, love them until they come back and become, once again, our neighbors, all part of the beloved community of God.
Dr. Eric Barreto
Associate Professor of New Testament
Princeton Theological Seminary
This Sunday, the lectionary takes us to an illuminating story for these difficult days. A story about wise seekers and a fragile king. The political center, the imperial heartbeat of this story is ever clearer this Sunday.
The magi first come to King Herod and ask, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”
Let’s consider anew the gravity of this question.
In Herod’s mind, there is not a king of the Jews except him and certainly no child was going to take his place. Even asking such a question is an act of political treason, but Herod is curious. Even more than curious, he is completely insecure, not totally stable, even paranoid. It’s not obvious quite yet in Matthew’s narrative, but Herod was a cruel, oppressive ruler. His cruelty will soon become explicit in Matthew’s account, but for ancient readers Herod’s reputation required no explanation. The simple mention of his name would bring with it images of his cruel rule. If Herod felt his power was threatened, he would lash out violently even against his own family. One historian from that time said of Herod that it was safer to be a pig in Herod’s house than one of his own children. He killed several of his children suspecting them without reason to be plotting against him. When he knew his death was imminent, he ordered that a litany of men be executed so that there would be the sound of violence at his death and thus some grief in the land, even if it weren’t for him. Obviously, Herod’s interest in this baby is not the same as that of the magi. Even on this day of epiphany, threats against the Christ child abound.
In the midst and in the wake of Christmas revelry, we should remember that while the angels proclaimed, “Joy to the world!,” the kings of the earth trembled. When the promise that the world would be turned upside down by a mere child was proclaimed, the powerful only saw a threat to be exterminated.
This is a story we need these days. The birth of the Christ child drew in these distant worshippers. The magi saw in the stars a sign of something hopeful, someone who was about to transform the world. And the magi celebrated. They brought gifts. They rejoiced. Might we dare say that they hoped for something? Might their wisdom entail not so much their relentless chasing of a star but their relentless hope? Hope that the world did not have to be this way.
The magi celebrated.
But Herod quaked.
Herod wondered if his power was so ephemeral that a mere child would challenge him along with the armies and the empire at his back. Herod quaked.
When powerful, narcissistic, fearful people like Herod quake, the rest of us have to worry too. Because in Herod’s fear rests the threat of violence. Herod, it seems to me, was a weak ruler’s idea of what the powerful are like. And followers of an executed Christ should know more than most that the pretentious, narcissistic, vicious exercise of power is utter weakness, total folly, true cowardice, pitiable fragility. The promise of the resurrection is a divine power that heals, loves, and embraces the other. True power does not lash out at any threat. True power does not still the cries of children caught in the crossfire of a king’s insecurities. True power is wise and full of compassion. True power sees the birth of a baby as a possibility not a threat, hope for the future not an anchor or a chain. True power would rather die for the sake of the other than kill in order to preserve what little power we think we have.
That Jesus’ life starts in this way is instructive. Pursued by Herod in his earliest years, Jesus is later caught by the same empire and executed on a cruel cross. Empire thought they had once again defeated the powerless. But Empire could not see the truth. God’s power is not like the purported power of Empire and privilege and supremacy.
In Herod’s cruelty, we may be reminded of the political character of the gospel. From the very first, the gospel threatened the powerful even as the gospel lifted up the lowly, the meek, the powerless. Perhaps after the glitter of Christmas has faded and the revelry of the New Year has abated, we need to be reminded that the light of Christ still shines if we will only open our eyes and step out in faith. Perhaps in the short cold days of January, we need to be reminded what shape true power takes:
Power in a manger.
Power in a humble home visited by magi.
Power as people’s ailments are cast out with a simple word.
Power as words that reshape our imaginations.
Power at tables of abundance and belonging.
Power as life fades on a cross.
Power as friends and followers flee in fear.
Power in the resurrection of the body.
Power in the crumbling of empire’s arrogations.
Power in the flourishing of abundant, liberated life.
Power as we hope against hope.
Dr. Diana Butler Bass
Author, Speaker, and Independent scholar
At the very beginning of the Christian story in Matthew 2:1-12, we are warned that the birth of the peace and justice is intertwined with the reality of imperial violence. As the beloved community comes into the world, evil kings will lie and murder — do anything — to stop the possibility of God’s dream made manifest here and now.
So what do we do?
Be like the magi. And do not give in to Herod.
The best wisdom I have tonight is that the wise men were, indeed, wise. This is the time to pause amid the yelling (and I’ve been doing a lot of yelling on Twitter!) and remember the light of the star. Remember the angelic song of peace. Remember the longing of our hearts for a governance of grace. And remembering, we continue on following the star. It will stop. We can kneel, worship, be overcome with joy. Even through Herod lies, God’s presence does not absent itself. Love is still here.
And then — once we let that truth fill us — we do not go home the way we came. Because there will always be some Herod whose fear leads to violence and death. We will leave this Epiphany by another road.
I don’t know where that other road will take us. But we can’t continue on the road we’ve been traveling. If nothing else, I’m glad we’re on this journey together. There are many who see more clearly today than yesterday, and many who will be searching for the star. Look up. Salvation is at hand.
An excerpt from Dr. Butler Bass’ The Beloved Community and Imperial Treachery. Used with permission.
Rev. Angela Denker
Pastor, Author, and Veteran Journalist
I am heartbroken thinking about the deployment of tear gas and gunfire on Black Lives Matter protesters all over America this summer, including here in my home town of Minneapolis. Meanwhile, we watch armed anarchists and militia members storm the Capitol with very little law enforcement response.
Meanwhile, National Guard troops are finally called in to save America. Ordinary American men and women who signed up to serve their country and maybe get help with college tuition as they serve drill on weekends. They didn't deserve this. None of us did.
None of this is limited to the last four years. For far too long we Americans have valued our lives based on our bank accounts and our social media followers. We have lifted up liars and grifters as role models to emulate.
This year, I am going to try and BE. Focus on the following questions: Who am I? What are my values? How do I love my neighbor as myself? How do I follow the Jesus Ethic? Do I consider what Jesus would do in every critical situation in my life?
My prayer today, as I continue to watch armed protesters punching law enforcement officers on the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C., is that maybe America can reexamine herself, too — especially our leaders. If I may, especially our leaders who have supported the President for the past four years.
Reexamine ourselves. Who are we? What are our values? How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? How do we follow the Jesus Ethic, for those of us who claim to represent American Christianity? What would Jesus do today in America?
May God bless the United States of America — and may justice roll down like waters.
May you and I be those who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God in 2021.
An excerpt from Rev. Angela Denker’s blog Be: America's Self-Examination In 2021. Used with permission.
Rev. Meta Herrick Carlson
Minneapolis Pastor and Poet
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
A blessing for grieving terrorism
There is sickness
with symptoms as old as humankind,
a rush of power born by
inciting fear in others,
a wave of victory
in causing enemies pain.
There is a push
to solve the mystery,
to isolate the suspect and
explain the evil simply
to a safe distance
from the anomaly.
There is a temptation
to skip the part that feels
near the suffering
that shares the sadness,
that names our shared humanity.
There is a courage
in rejecting the numbing need for data
in favor of finding the helpers,
loving the neighbor,
through random acts of connection.
There is a sickness
with symptoms as old as humankind,
but so is the remedy.
From Rev. Meta Herrick Carlson’s book “Ordinary Blessings: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Everyday Life.” Used with permission.
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