Thursday, December 4, 2014

November 30, 2014
Advent I, Year B
Isaiah 64:1
Mark 13:24-37

The City was hot…
Unrest in the streets.
Poverty increasing.
Threats of power, suppressing.

And each one thinking, is this it? Is this the end?

For our Gospel writer, Matthew and his community, they were living in a turbulent time.
Matthew was the first to write a so-called “Gospel”  – the genre of the literature itself – Gospel meaning “good news” - flew in the face of what was happening in and around Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was on fire with Jewish leaders persecuting Christians and Rome oppressing the Jews.

In those years, back in the 60’s (not the 1960’s the 60’s) leading up to the sacking and burning of the city and the Temple;tensions were so high it must have felt like the world could come crashing to a fiery end at any moment.

Maybe for those who longed for justice they prayed for God to come down.

Like their ancestors who long ago cried out through the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.”

In those days…
Jesus says.
In those days…
After that suffering. 

“Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

For one who is comfy cozy this might seem like a great interruption.

But if the walls of the city are burning…
If you’re tired of waiting for justice…
If the poor are getting poorer and more and more resources go to incarceration rather than education...

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”
But there is a certain hope “in those days.”
There is a hope then when the Son of Man comes there will be an end to injustice.
In those days,
When ALL things are made new.

And so there is a refrain in this season of Advent.
We say, “Come Lord Jesus.” Come.

Come Lord Jesus and pour out your grace.
Come Lord Jesus and establish your reign of peace.
Come Lord Jesus and make all things new.


 There is a cry rising up in our country.
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

And it’s not the first time we have heard the cry.

But when a city whose population is 2/3 black, but the mayor and all but one of the city council members are white; and when there are 50 white police officers to every 3 African-American police officers;
When 93% of all arrests made by the police are of African-Americans, even though a higher percentage of whites arrested are possessing contraband.
And when an unarmed young man is shot at 12 times with 6 bullets entering his body, but his body is left out on the street for a half hour before paramedics arrive…

A cry goes out!

And the thing is:
It isn’t only in Ferguson. 

The problem existed before the death of Michael Brown.

It is decades of systemic racism which continues to inhibit growth and sustainable life for all people.
I’ve heard well intentioned white folks say, “Why can’t we all move past this?” or, “Don’t you know Michael Brown wasn’t innocent?”
I say, we have to stop.
We have to listen. And listening is the first step toward healing love.
A few weeks before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continued to press the principle of non-violent resistance as a path towards change and equal, human rights.
But in light of the riots which were popping up around the country he said,

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. 

These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. 

And what is it America has failed to hear? 

It has failed to hear that the plight of the [African-American] poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity."
You see,
We could debate what we believe are the facts of the Michael Brown case, but we might both be wrong.

I am deeply saddened that an unarmed black teenager can be shot down in the street by a police force charged with protecting and serving all people.

I am sympathetic to good police officers who every day carry out an incredibly stressful and dangerous job.

I am distraught that it seems to be a pattern of cause of death for young urban African American Men.

I am angered that racism continues to have a systemic stranglehold particularly on the poor.

And I join the cries of those who would plead for justice.

And cry out.
Come Lord Jesus!

Jesus says, “In those days” stay awake!
Stay awake – for what?

Stay awake to listen to the cries of your neighbor. Stay awake to hear the experience of one who can teach you. Stay awake to walk with and stand side by side with those who will cry out for justice, and cling to God’s promises for all people.

Stay awake – in these days – for opportunities to put love in action.
Devonte Hart is a 12 year old African-American boy from Portland.
He is one of six children adopted by his mother Jennifer Hart and her wife Sarah.
A day after the decision in Ferguson, the Harts went downtown with the intention of spreading kindness by holding signs that read “You Matter” and “Free Hugs.”
Jennifer said Devonte was struggling, he wonders if some day, when he wasn’t wearing a “free hugs” sign, and was a full grown black male, if his life will be in danger simply because he is black.
Sgt. Brett Barnum, a white police officer, was standing a few feet away from where Devonte and his mother were standing. The officer noticed something was wrong; he saw tears rolling down Devonte’s face.
The officer then asked for his name and shook his hand. He asked Devonte where he went to school and what he had done this past summer, he asked about what he likes to do and he learned Devonte likes art.
The tears stopped.
While continuing to talk the officer read Devonte’s sign and asked,
“Can I get a hug, too?”
Devonte put his arms around the officer for a tight embrace.

Cornel West says that “Justice, is what love looks like in public.”

Come Lord Jesus.

Let Love Rule. Amen.