Thursday, December 11, 2014

What shall we cry?

Below are excerpts from my sermon Dec 7 on Isaiah 40. I wrote this having heard from people in my congregation - and experiencing myself - concern, even outrage, but also feelings of powerless as to how to respond to the decisions in Staten Island and Ferguson. What role can I play in the healing of the nations?

Living between "What shall we cry?" and "Here is your God."

"Comfort, comfort my people" says Isaiah.   God comes to us in the wildernesses of our lives through people who offer comfort.  True comfort, however, often requires something besides caring presence: true comfort requires the promise of change

Something very important is happening in our society.  As Christians who believe all people are God's children and therefore equally valuable, we do well to pay attention.

As the Garner and Brown cases have been brought to light, they've also brought new light to the ways, small and large, that racism is alive and well in America.  Some of you have known that for a while.  Some of you can likely add to that testimony. Others of us are just now learning how much the legacy of racism in our society is not just a thing of the past.  I wish it were over and done.  We all do. It goes against our basic Christian values to accept a society rife with racism.
But, as with many of the biggest problems in our lives, many of us feel powerless and confused about what to do. How can we be part of the change that's needed?
When God says, "Cry to the people."  Isaiah says, "What shall I cry?" He too was confused and probably felt powerless.
Feeling powerless is no reason to give up hope.  Isaiah teaches us that we are powerless to do anything in God's name unless and until God comes to us, in our wilderness, and intervenes.  This means that we have to learn to cultivate Godly patience and be honest about the wilderness life we're living.  I don't mean we should sit quietly while we watch others suffer, but if you don't know how to respond (and I confess being in that category), you can be still be faithful and prepare for change, trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal a pathway forward.  I offer these practices:
  1. Pray earnestly and intentionally about prejudice in America and ask for God's help.
  2. Confess.  None of us is free from entanglement in systems of privilege and oppression.  We do well to confess both the ways we've contributed and our befuddlement at how to move forward.  After you confess, know yourself to be forgiven. 
  3. Listen and learn from other people, especially those who testify to the way racism affects them.  Trust the stories, even those that seem unbelievable to you. 
In all of this, we can trust God to act to make a way forward.  Eventually, even in the wilderness, the path became clear. God's freeing activity was made known and Isaiah was able to say with utter clarity: Here is your God. 
Be at Peace,
Pastor Sarah

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