Saturday, January 14, 2017

HOW THE US TURNED FROM BARACK OBAMA TO DONALD TRUMP

HOW THE US TURNED FROM BARACK OBAMA TO DONALD TRUMP
©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is a Verb!

            Perhaps you and other people you know may be trying to understand how Donald J. Trump will succeed Barack H. Obama as President of the United States on January 20, 2017.  The answer to that question is multi-faceted and straight-forward, but not pleasant. 

The electoral answer is that Donald Trump received more votes in the Electoral College than did his chief opponent, Hillary Clinton.  While Clinton received millions more votes than Trump did overall, the President of the United States is determined by whoever receives the largest number of Electoral College votes based on choices made by voters in each state. 

Donald Trump is unlike Barack Obama.  Trump has a reputation for personal and commercial racism, sexism, xenophobia, bullying workers, and acrimonious dishonesty.  Obama has a reputation for thoughtfulness, concern about justice, equality, inclusion, and collegiality.  The people who voted for Mr. Trump obviously prefer policies consistent with his reputation and character than that of Mr. Obama.

In other words, the 2016 presidential election contest showed that people in Southern, Western, and so-called Rust Belt States (in the Great Lakes region of the United States) went to the polls determined to elect someone known for being everything President Obama has never been or wanted to be.   It will be interesting to observe how Trump supporters will respond when his presidential conduct resembles his overall personal history. 

White Christians who self-identify as “evangelicals” and self-styled white nationalists were key constituency groups for Mr. Trump.  These voters have supported politicians like Donald Trump for generations.  In 2016, the difference was that these groups voted in larger numbers in the states that mattered most in deciding the election outcome.

The United States will soon enter a period where national policies will be driven by a narcissistic white male supremacist with a known propensity for dishonesty, disrespect for people who are different, and idolatry of self.   It is telling that Mr. Trump received support from so many people who profess to being followers of Jesus, a Palestinian Jew who included women among his closest followers and treated them with respect, someone who was an immigrant refugee as a child (and probably undocumented at that), and a social progressive who was put to death by the Roman Empire based on false testimony fabricated by his religious enemies.     

The truth is that Donald Trump resembles more people in the United States than many people thought were around.  Some of us, however, have always known that the talk about the United States entering a “post-racial” era was hogwash.  We knew what people were really saying when they embraced the Tea Party and signed on to its rhetoric about “wanting my country back.”  Our elders warned us that “smiling faces tell lies.” 

White Democratic politicians in the South distanced themselves from President Obama from the beginning of his presidency.  Democratic office holders in Arkansas, Louisiana, and other southern states, who counted on help from Senator Barack Obama to win their elections in 2006, refused to campaign for his policies after 2008 even when those policies resulted in healthcare becoming more available and affordable for their constituents.

As the nation prepares to observe the holiday marking the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the last time during President Obama’s presidency, we should remember what Dr. King wrote about racial and social inequality in an essay published after his death.  In that essay, titled A Testament of Hope, Dr. King termed the problems of inequality and injustice as being “so tenacious because, despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially.”

Remember those words from Dr. King as the nation marks the King Holiday for the final time before President Obama leaves office. 

Remember those words from Dr. King next week as the nation begins a new era defined by the presidency of Donald Trump. 

And from now on, whenever someone asks how the US came to be led by a President named Trump after having been led by a President named Obama, quote these words from Dr. King:  “Despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially.” 


Donald Trump is proof that Dr. King was a prophet.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

HOW TO HAVE A HOPEFUL NEW YEAR

HOW TO HAVE A HOPEFUL NEW YEAR
Wendell Griffen, 2016
December 31, 2016 Watch Eve Homily
New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR

Joshua 1:1-9
1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 2‘My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.4From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. 5No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
        In many ways, approaching the end of one year and the start of a new one places us alongside Joshua in this passage from the Hebrew Testament.  The year 2016 is almost over.  A second past midnight it will be, like Moses, a history of memories.  As the year 2017 approaches we, like Joshua, must balance respect for the history and memories of 2016 with the fierce urgency of the New Year, with all its possibilities, uncertainties, and challenges. 

This can be overwhelming.  Whether one is standing on the edge of the Jordan River at the head of a young nation after the death of its liberator and law-giver or sitting in a pew somewhere as the seconds, minutes, and hours mark the end of one year and the approach of a new one, we must confront emotions, questions, anxieties, and other issues. 

One thing is clear.  We can’t stay where we are.  We can’t “park” in 2016.  No matter what we’ve been through, and no matter how or why we are affected by what we’ve been through, we must move onward.  So let me share three suggestions.

God is with us wherever we go!  God had Joshua realize that God didn’t die when Moses died.  God was with Moses to accomplish a purpose – to bring the descendants of Abraham from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Canaan.  God assured Joshua that God would be with him to accomplish that purpose.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5).  Look at someone and say, “God is with us.”

This is important to remember, always.  We are never forsaken.  We are never alone.  We are God’s people.  This is true at the end of every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, season, and year.  God is with us now.  God will be with us in 2017. 

Remembering that God is with us also reminds us that God is sovereign over time and the changes that come with time.  God is sovereign over shifting political and other circumstances.  God is sovereign, not time. 

Be strong and courageous!  Whenever we see the words, “Fear not!” in Scripture, we should remember that those words are a divine commandment, not a suggestion. 

Faithful people are courageous people because God is with us.  Faithful people are strong people because God is with us.  We are not strong and courageous in and of ourselves.  God is the strength for our living. 

As we are rooted and nurtured by God’s strength through the Holy Spirit, we are “more than conquerors.”  We will need and must rely on God’s strength in the New Year.  We will need and must rely on God’s strength as we encounter new challenges, fresh opportunities, and emerging realities.  

In a sense, the admonition to “be strong and courageous” is God’s way of telling us that we are part of an adventure with God!  The ancestors understood this, and often referred to life as a pilgrimage.  This mood is also seen in the South African folksong, Siyahamba (We are Marching in the Light of God). 

        Dare to dance!  Because God is with us we are able to obey the divine commandment to be strong and courageous.  Because God is with us, the New Year is not something dreadful to fear, but an adventure to be lived with God.  Of course, there are challenges to meet.  Of course, we will encounter opposing forces and occasional setbacks.  Through all these things, we are God’s people.  God is with us on the adventure. 

Because of this, we dare to dance!  We do not dance as people who are delirious, but as people who know the delightfulness of being with God on a divine adventure.  We dance as people who remember how God encouraged Joshua and so many others across the long and wide course of history.  We dance because God is sovereign, because God loves us, because God has taken part in our humanity through Jesus, and because in Jesus, God has overcome empires, overcome powers, and even overcome death. 

So dance!  Dance because God is with us! 

Dance!  Dance because we are part of God’s adventure! 

Dance, as children dance who know they belong to God!

Dance, with all God’s children!  And to help you dance, I ask that you pick up the African American Heritage Hymnal, and turn to # 164.  Read the lyrics to that South African Folk Song.

Siyahamb’ e – ku – kha – nyen’ kwen – khos’

We are march – ing in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God.

We are march – ing in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God.

We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching
We are marching in the light of God.

We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching
We are marching in the light of God.

We are dancing …
We are singing …
We are praying …
We are working …
We are suffering …
We are overcoming …

Amen. 

Please enjoy YouTube videos of that folksong being performed by the Mwamba Children’s Choir at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1KZbMprW8U and by the Soul Children of Chicago at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--BQ0PZSXpY.



Happy New Year!  I hope you’ll dance with God.

Friday, December 23, 2016

LOVE BEYOND SEASONS

MESSAGE OF CELEBRATION AND HOPE IN MEMORY OF THE LIFE, FAITH, AND MOTHERHOOD OF MRS. TAULESE OPAL PIERCE GREENE
Thursday, December 22, 2016, 11 a.m.
New Millennium Church
Little Rock, AR
©Wendell Griffen, 2016

DAUGHTER PATRICIA
SONS ANDREW AND AARON
DAUGHTER-IN-LOVE LATONIA
GRANDSONS CHASE, MARTYN, ELLIOTT, AND PIERCE
NEPHEWS AND NIECES
COUSINS
FORMER COLLEAGUES, STUDENTS, AND CHURCH MEMBERS
REVEREND CLERGY
SISTERS AND BROTHERS

        Thanks to God, Sister Taulese Opal Pierce Greene touched our lives in countless ways.  Thanks to God, Patricia, Andrew, and Aaron have summoned us to celebrate their sacred love and memories of Sister Greene in this place of praise, prayer, and proclamation.  Thanks to God, we have been loved, instructed, befriended, corrected, encouraged, nurtured, fed, and experienced what it means to be part of the Beloved Community because of Sister Greene. 

        Pat, Andrew, Aaron, thank you for being children who worked together so that Mrs. Greene received excellent care.  Thank you for working as a team.  Thank you, Pat, for diligently managing Mrs. Greene’s care and for faithfully communicating with Andrew and Aaron. 

LaTonia Greene and I are blessed to be Mrs. Greene’s “children-in-love” and parents to her grandsons Chase, Martyn, Elliott, and Pierce (named in the order of their birth).  Mrs. Greene has been our other Mom, so we will always cherish special memories arising from that relationship. 

Chase, Martyn, Elliott, and Pierce are why Mrs. Greene will always be remembered by the loving title “Mee-Maw.”  That title does not appear on the front of the bulletin for this service of remembrance.  Rather, it blazes with invisible and everlasting brilliance in the hearts and memories of her grandsons.  To everyone else, Chase, Martyn Elliott, and Pierce are known by their given names.  But, they are first, last, and will always carry the cherished title of “Pap-Paw’s and Mee-Maw’s boys.”

John Hale and Melvin Cunningham are Mrs. Greene’s nephews, sons of Reverend Greene’s sainted sisters.  But Mrs. Greene was loved so well by John (known by the family as “Pookie”) and Melvin that Pookie and Melvin are like brothers to Patricia, Andrew, and Aaron, and more like uncles to our sons than cousins. 

Mrs. Greene loved God.  She loved her immediate and extended family.  She loved her people, church, neighborhood, and the work of educating children.  Mrs. Greene loved music.  She loved art and beauty, and her favorite holiday each year was Christmas.  She decorated, baked, and rejoiced in Christmas holiday sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and aromas. 

So it is mystically poetic that she would transition from life in God among us to life in God beyond us during Advent season.  It is mystically poetic that we are celebrating God’s love for us as experienced through her long life in a sanctuary adorned with poinsettia, Advent tapestry, and Christmas candles. 

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians which sets out Saint Paul’s brilliant exposition about agape` love—meaning unconditional, unapologetic, unwavering, and unending love—was Mrs. Greene’s favorite Bible passage.  At verse 13 of that passage, the New Revised Standard Version reads:  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.  I title these remarks, Love Beyond Seasons.

Humans quickly become accustomed to marking life events by seasons.  We are in the Advent season of the Christian liturgical calendar, and the winter season of the solar year for the northern hemisphere.  Seasons mark the changes that come with time.  As time passes, the winter season ends and is followed by spring, summer, and autumn. 

As time passes, the season of childhood ends, followed by adolescence, adulthood, and our aged years.  As time passes, the school season ends and we become workers.  As time passes, the work season ends, and we retire.  As time passes, our retirement ends. 

Seasons are the way humans traditionally mark changes in our lifetimes.  We are accustomed to defining living as the events that happen during seasons, and accustomed to defining seasons by beginning and ending dates. 

Someone has written in Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).  Indeed, that passage from Ecclesiastes is often read during services marking the end of life among us for people we know. 

I did not realize it until this week, but Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul disagreed with that assertion.  Yes, there is a time to be born and a time to die.  Yes, there are seasons of the year, and seasons among the years of our lives. 

However, at 1 Corinthians 13:8, Saint Paul flatly declared, Love never ends.  Although the writer of Ecclesiastes declared that there is a time to love, and a time to hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8), Mrs. Greene held fast to what Saint Paul declared, Love never ends! 

Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul challenge us to realize and live a life that is not marked by seasons, but by the season-less reality of love.  They had an advantage over whoever wrote Ecclesiastes.  They experienced the presence of God and power of divine love in Jesus Christ. 

In Jesus Christ, God shows us that life is not defined by seasons, but by relationships.  What happens in time is qualified by our relationships with people and the world.  Because of Jesus, Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul affirm that love elevates living beyond time, beyond locality, beyond the circumstances of our situations and beyond temporality.  Love is timeless.  Love is trans-seasonal; no, love is extra-seasonal, meaning that love is not and cannot be confined by any season, or by all seasons.

Notice, I did not say love is unseasonal!  The writer of Ecclesiastes declares there is a season for love and a season for hate—for being unloving.  But Jesus, Saint Paul, and Mrs. Greene declare that love is never out of season.  Love is never out of style.  Love is never out of order.  Love is never out of date.  Love is never out of place.  Love is never out of time because love is extra-seasonal, and cannot be shut in, held down, or otherwise limited by time and seasons! 

Mrs. Greene didn’t openly contradict the writer of Ecclesiastes.  That wasn’t her way.  Mee-Maw came at us from the side.  She told us her favorite passage was 1 Corinthians 13, a prophetic word about love that never ends, never gives up, never stops believing, never stops hoping, and never surrenders to hate.  Love never ends is an outright challenge to the claim that there is a time to love and a time to hate.  Both assertions cannot be true. 

And through her frequent references to 1 Corinthians 13, Mee-Maw said to us, to the students to whom she read that passage each morning, and by her living that there is a dimension of life called love that does not die!  Love does not die because love cannot die! 

Love never ends means that life is death-proof.  Because only people who live can love, people who love are death-proof!  People who are loved are death-proof!   

Love never ends leads to faith.  Faith, like love, transcends facts, time, seasons, and situations.  Faith, like love, never ends.

Love never ends leads to hope.  Hope, like love and faith, transcends facts, time, seasons, and situations. 

Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul declared that of the three—faith, hope, and love—the greatest, highest, sweetest, and most wonderful gift is love.  Love is the gift that keeps giving.  Love is the gift that inspires faith and hope.  Love is what makes faith worth trusting and hope worth our sacrifices.

And so Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul, inspired and illuminated by God’s love as revealed in Jesus, call us to realize that love, hope, and faith are endless, timeless, beyond seasons, and never die.  Love, like faith and hope, is death proof.  Love, like faith and hope, cannot age out, does not wear out, will not give out, and cannot be put out.  Why?  Because love, hope, and faith make us one in God! 

So we do not gather today to bid farewell to the woman who loved us, taught us, sewed for us, counseled with us, prayed for us, taught and played music to us, and fed us.  We gather in God’s name to celebrate and remember that God loved us through this woman who loved us in God’s life while she lived among us, and who loves us still in God’s life as she lives beyond us. 

We gather to declare that we are children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, classmates, and church members, students and neighbors, and other beneficiaries of the love of God revealed through Taulese Opal Pierce Greene because of her love, faith, and hope in Jesus Christ.  That love is with us today.  That love has guided us through past years and situations.  And that love will never end, never stop, and never die. 

Rejoice in that love!  Thank God for that love!  Praise Jesus Christ whose life and ministry inspired Mrs. Greene in that love.  Beloved, now abide, faith, hope and love.   Take comfort from that love, now!  Share that love with everyone. 

Because love is from God, whoever lives in love is death-proof.  Because love is from God, and because whoever lives in love is death-proof, love makes us immortal!  Love makes us more than heartbeats and breaths.  Love makes us beings who inhabit a dimension not marked by seasons; a dimension called ALWAYS! 

Because God is love, In God, we are loved, ALWAYS.

Because God is love, we are citizens of ALWAYS, FOREVER, NOW! 

In 1976 the popular musician Stevie Wonder released what has become his signature recording, Songs in the Key of Life.  When we get to the repast in a few minutes you’ll hear a song being played as we encourage one another.  Here are the lyrics to As.[1]

As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May
Just as hate knows love's the cure
You can rest your mind assure
That I'll be loving you always

As now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow
But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all is born is new
Do know what I say is true
That I'll be loving you always

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky---ALWAYS
Until the ocean covers every mountain high---ALWAYS
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea---ALWAYS
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream

Did you know that true love asks for nothing
Her acceptance is the way we pay
Did you know that life has given love a guarantee
To last through forever and another day

Just as time knew to move on since the beginning
And the seasons know exactly when to change
Just as kindness knows no shame
Know through all your joy and pain
That I'll be loving you always

As today I know I'm living but tomorrow
Could make me the past but that I mustn't fear
For I'll know deep in my mind
The love of me I've left behind
 Cause I'll be loving you always

Until the day is night and night becomes the day---ALWAYS
Until the trees and seas just up and fly away---ALWAYS
Until the day that 8x8x8 is 4---ALWAYS
Until the day that is the day that are no more
Did you know that you're loved by somebody?
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left---ALWAYS
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself
I'll be loving you forever
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through---ALWAYS
Until the day that you are me and I am you

We all know sometimes lifes hates and troubles
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet your life times that and twice its double
That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed
so make sure when you say you're in it but not of it
You're not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell
Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love
And maybe our children's grandchildren
And their great-great grandchildren will tell

I'll be loving you

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky--Loving you
Until the ocean covers every mountain high--Loving you
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea--Loving you
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream--Be loving you
Until the day is night and night becomes the day--Loving you
Until the trees and seas up, up and fly away--Loving you
Until the day that 8x8x8x8 is 4--Loving you
Until the day that is the day that are no more--Loving you
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left--Be loving you
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself--Loving you
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through--Loving you
Until the day that you are me and I am you--
Now ain't that loving you 

                                                                                
Mrs. Greene’s life and faith have given us a truth we must not forget.  Now faith, hope, and love abide—remain, continue, do not stop, cannot be shut down, persist, persevere, overcome, and are everlasting.  And the greatest part of ALWAYS is love! 

Thank God!  Hallelujah!  Amen.

God of always, thank you for the blessings you have lavished on us through your servant Taulese Opal Pierce Greene.  Thank you for her faith, hope, and love.  Thank you for the differences that faith, hope, and love have made, are making, and will forever make in us.  Thank you for delivering the soul we’ve been blessed to know and love as Mom, Mee-Maw, Aunt Taulese, Cousin Taulese, and Mrs. Greene from the burdens of life in you among us to the blessings of life in you beyond us where she is at peace  with Jesus Christ and the ancestors. 

Grant us strength for the living of these days of transition.  Thank you for blessing us with the fellowship of other relatives, friends, neighbors, and pilgrims of faith so we are not forced to bear this experience alone.  Help us to live for you in the power and peace that comes from faith and hope that you love us ALWAYS. 

We pray especially for Patricia, Andrew, Aaron, LaTonia, Chase, Martyn, Elliott, Pierce, and the other persons who have been most strongly influenced by Mrs. Greene’s love life of service, devotion, and dedication.  Grant us peace today, tomorrow, and always, we pray, through Jesus Christ. 

AMEN

Sunday, November 13, 2016

WISDOM LESSONS FOR PROPHETIC PEOPLE IN A DISTRESSING TIME

WISDOM FOR PROPHETIC PEOPLE
IN A DISTRESSING TIME
©Wendell Griffen, 2016
November 13, 2016 (26th Sunday after Pentecost)
New Millennium Church
Little Rock, Arkansas

Luke 21:5-19
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

        We gather on the first Lord’s Day after the November 8, 2016 election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence as President and Vice-President, respectively, of the United States.  Five days ago, few people believed this result likely, even among the political elite.  So we gather for worship on a Lord’s Day after many people have been stunned, whether joyously or sadly.

        Since Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence were elected last Tuesday, news outlets have reported a marked surge in acts of bigotry and hate.  Women, persons who are LGBT, persons from racial minority groups, persons who appear to be immigrants, and persons who are perceived to be Muslims have been subjected to verbal abuse.  Property has been defaced with hateful slurs.    Protests have been held in various cities across the United States attended by people who are distressed about what Mr. Trump’s presidency portends for peace, equality, and societal concern for the vulnerable and marginalized.

        We are living in a distressing time.

        We gather on the first Lord’s Day after the November 12, 2016 declaration of a mistrial in the murder trial of Ray Tensing, the white former University of Cincinnati police officer who shot to death Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black motorist last year.[1]     The jury of ten white people and two black people were unable to agree whether Tensing murdered DuBose or not, despite having viewed graphic body camera video showing Tensing aiming his service weapon at DuBose’s vehicle while more than an arm’s length away from it.  On this Lord’s Day many people are disappointed and view the hung jury and mistrial to be the latest proof that black lives do not matter when it comes to law enforcement in this society.

        We are living in a distressing time. 

        As of this Lord’s Day, Michael Poore, the person appointed by Johnny Key (Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education) as superintendent of the Little Rock School District (the largest and most racially diverse in Arkansas), is proceeding with plans to close or “re-purpose” five schools that are located in central and southwest Little Rock.  None of Mr. Poore’s actions have been presented to, let alone approved by, democratically-elected representatives of Little Rock School District voters since the moment he was appointed by Commissioner Key after the Arkansas Board of Education dissolved the democratically-elected school board on January 28, 2015.    

        We are living in a distressing time for people who care about social justice.  We are living in a distressing time for people who care about democracy.  We are living in a distressing time for people who care about women and girls, people who are black, brown, immigrant, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, disabled, frail due to sickness, disease, and injury, and people who are otherwise vulnerable and marginalized.  We are living in a distressing time for peace in the United States and across the world.

        So, what can prophetic people learn from Jesus about how to behave in this distressing time?

        The setting for the lesson we read from Luke’s Gospel is full of political drama.  It took place in Jerusalem, the capitol city of Judea.  A few days later, Jesus would be arrested based on falsified evidence for the political crime of insurrection against the Roman government.  His enemies within the Jewish religious establishment would urge that he be condemned to die.  Pontus Pilate, the Roman governor, would order the crucifixion despite knowing Jesus was not guilty of insurrection or any other crime. 

So when Jesus heard some people speaking about the beauty of the Temple in Jerusalem, with its ornate stones and other prized objects, and predicted that the Temple would be demolished at some future time, some who heard his words were distressed.  They wanted to know when that ominous event would happen, and what its threatening signs would be.  They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” [Luke 21:7].  The people who heard Jesus predict that the Jerusalem Temple would be destroyed wanted to know what the warning signs would be for such a politically, culturally, and religiously devastating event. 

People with good sense want to know the warning signs for troubling events and conditions.  We want to know the warning symptoms for life-threatening illnesses.  We want weather alerts that help us know storms are on the horizon.  We want warning signs. 

And, we want to know how to interpret those signs.  We want to know what a tornado warning means.  We want to know what a flash flood warning means.
 
So the people who heard Jesus predict that the Jerusalem Temple would be destroyed wanted to know what events and actions would signal that threat to the cultural and religious heritage of the Jewish people.  They were thinking about the loss of their most cherished religious, cultural, and religious landmark.  They heard Jesus speak about it being demolished at some future time.  They were desperate to know what the warning signs would be for such a cataclysmic event.  Who can blame them for wanting to know?

The people who heard Jesus talk about the eventual destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem were not thinking about the end of the world.  Let me say that again in case you missed it.  They were not thinking about the end of the world!  

They were thinking about the loss of their religious, cultural, and political landmark.  They were thinking about the loss of a religious edifice that King Herod started rebuilding nineteen years before the Jesus was born.  That rebuilding project more than doubled the size of the Temple Mount.  While work on the temple itself took eighteen months, work on the outer courts where people could gather for various purposes such as speech making and healing (see Acts 3:11; 5:12) would continue throughout the lifetime of Jesus until 62-64 CE. 

But less than ten years after everything had been completed on the Herodian temple, the Romans destroyed it in 70 CE.  The Romans plundered its ornate furnishings and hauled them to Rome.  The Romans sacked it, and then visually portrayed the siege and burning of Jerusalem in large paintings that were paraded on wagons in a triumphal procession to Rome in 71 CE.[2]  When Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 70 CE, followers of Jesus thought that event confirmed what Jesus predicted in today’s lesson from Luke’s Gospel.

I suspect more than a few folks may be upset by learning that this passage is not about the end of the world.  It has been often preached, studied, and taught from that point of view.  That’s probably because every generation somehow figures that its time marks the end of history.  The pop music genius known as Prince famously set that thinking to music in his song 1999 about the end of the 20th Century in these words.
 
Everybody's got a bomb, we could all die any day, oh
But before I let that happen, I'll dance my life away, oh ho
They say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
(We're runnin' out of time)
So tonight I'm gonna party like it's nineteen ninety-nine
(We gonna, we gonna, oh)
Say it one more time
Two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
(No, no)
So tonight I'm gonna party like it's nineteen ninety-nine[3]

As someone accurately put it, only a genius like Prince could drop protest thoughts about the constant threat of war into a dance song – Everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day, oh, but before I let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.

My point – and I think what Jesus emphasized – is that we tend to view objective threats to our political, cultural, and religious icons as omens of the apocalypse, the end of time.  But Jesus warned us not to do so in these words.  “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say,’I am he!’ and,’The time is near!’  Do not go after them.” (Luke 21:8)

In other words, don’t get twisted out of shape when threats to our political, cultural, and religious structures happen and folks show up claiming, in God’s name at that, to be some version of Jesus. 

·       Don’t get bent out of shape when Mr. Trump or some other politician or religious personality shows up claiming to be the savior the world needs just because Jesus said the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed.
·       Don’t run around like Chicken Little – you recall the chicken who ran around shouting “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!” – because Ray Tensing wasn’t found guilty of murdering Samuel DuBose despite the body camera video showing that he shot DuBose in the head while feet away from the car DuBose was driving.
·       Don’t think the world is coming to an end because white supremacists and their black cronies on the Arkansas Board of Education hijacked governance of the state’s largest and most diverse and well-known school district from its black-majority voters.

Yes, this stuff is distressing.  But that doesn’t mean the world is about to end. 

Yes, Donald Trump appears likely to be a singularly unjust President.  Yes, he claims to be the answer to everything from income inequality to immigration struggles.  Yes, he bragged that he can sexually assault women and girls because he’s rich and famous.  None of that means the world is about to end because he was elected on November 8, 2016.  It merely means voters elected someone who appears likely to be a singularly unjust President, however distressing that must be to people –including followers of Jesus – who care about love and justice. 

Jesus predicted that there would reports of “wars and insurrections” before the great Temple Herod expanded was demolished.[4]  He warned there would be natural disasters (“great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”[5] Jesus said that before all those things happened, his followers would be targeted for persecution.  “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.[6] Jesus warned his followers those events would happen before the Temple was demolished.  Those events were not to be considered omens for the end of time. 

So what was Jesus doing? 

Look at Luke 21:13.  There read the words of Jesus to his followers.  This will give you an opportunity to testify. 

MC Hammer often used the expression “Hammer Time” as a call to break into his dance routine.  The distressing events Jesus predicted were not to be considered reasons for his followers to hide and be fearful.  Jesus said they would be opportunities for moral witness about God’s love and justice.  Jesus was warning about these things to challenge his followers to be vigilant and courageous witnesses in the face of all the distressing events he predicted they would experience.   

It’s prophetic witness time, folks!

Early this morning I opened an email message from Reverend Gilbert Caldwell, the 83 year old United Methodist champion for justice we met during the conference New Millennium hosted in April (Embracing and Affirming the LGBT Community in the Black Church – April 15-17, 2016).  Gil Caldwell included me among many people he sent a link to a blog post titled White Christians Who Voted For Donald Trump Fix This Now by Reverend John Pavlovitch, a member of the pastoral staff of a white non-denominational evangelical church in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I will end this sermon by sharing what Reverend Pavlovitch wrote because I think his viewpoint is what Jesus meant when he said distressing events are divine opportunities for followers of Jesus to be prophetic witnesses about God’s love and justice.

White Christians Who Voted for Donald Trump: Fix This. Now.
Description: child
We Christians like to talk about Hell a lot, so let’s talk about Hell a little.
Yesterday, in the very first few daylight hours after Donald Trump’s election victory it began:
Near San Francisco, a home in Noe Valley flew a nazi flag where kids walk by to get to school.
A white middle school student brought a Trump sign to school and told a black classmate it was time for him to get “back in place”.
A gay New York City man getting on a bus was told that he should “Enjoy the concentration camps, faggot!”
The NYU Muslim Students Association found the word “Trump!”scrawled on the door of their prayer room.
A female seminary student was stopped at a coffee shop with the words, “Smile sweetheart, we beat the cunt.”
Parents of children of color spent the day picking up their children early from elementary, middle, and high schools across the country because they were inundated with slurs and harassment and unable to study.
A group of Hispanic kids in Raleigh were taunted by white children, telling them they were “going back to Mexico.”
This is the personal Hell we’ve unleashed upon our people this week. 
And if you’re a white Christian and you voted for Donald Trump: You need to fix this. Now.
You comprise the lion’s share of Trump’s elevation to the highest office of our country.
You knew exactly who this man was while you held your noses and covered your eyes and endorsed him anyway.
You are fully responsible for the flood of personal sewage now engulfing children and adults of color, those in the LGBTQ community, those in the Muslim community.
And you, white Christian, better get you spiritual shit together and figure out how you’re going make this right.
Let’s be clear about something, brethren:
This is not the time to appeal to minorities and marginalized communities to “come together in unity” with white people right now.That was Hillary Clinton’s message, and even though she had the track record and the experience and the wherewithal to make it happen—you passed on it. Instead you chose the guy who’s entire resume is about supremacy and privilege, whose entire campaign was about the fear of the other (the other in this case, being anyone not white, straight, and Christian). You chose the guy endorsed by the KKK. You did.
You need to understand this.
Oppressed people aren’t obliged to make nice with their oppressors.
The bullied don’t owe anything to the bullies.
Victims don’t have to make their assailants feel better.
Young children of color aren’t responsible to educate racist children—or their parents.
In the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his listeners, that those who followed after him, those who would bear his name are to love the least; not those who are less-than, but those who are treated as less-than. He then paints the picture of the eternal suffering Christians are always so willing to condemn others to, and he says that it will be their lack of love and compassion and mercy for these most vulnerable, most hurting people—that will condemn them.
White Christians and the white Church, especially if you voted for Donald Trump: this is all on you.
Your pastors need to speak clearly and explicitly into this, now.
Your church websites and social media pages need to address this harassment and bullying and terrorizing, now.
You need to talk to your white children and teach them how not to be horrible to other kids, and how to stand up to those who are being horrible, now.
You need to talk to your kid’s coaches and to your midweek Bible Study and to your co-workers and your church staff and your gun club—and you need to call this poison out, now.

White churches, this Sunday, your only sermon should be the one that reminds your white members what the parable of the Good Samaritan was compelling followers of Jesus to be: radically merciful when everyone else looked the other way.
You need to reach out to your neighbors and coworkers and classmates and social media friends who are part of marginalized communities and reassure them, listen to them, care for them, be Jesus to them.
If not, no matter how you rationalize it or try to squeeze your way out of it, the personal Hell so many people are living in and will continue to live in over the next four years, will be one of your design.
It will be your shared sin.
The blood will be on your hands.
This is your place and time in history to show people what Jesus is supposed to look like.
This is your urgent moment to make a testimony that is Christlike or to willingly and openly deny Christ.
This is your crucial opportunity to be the peacemakers, white Christians; not by compelling the marginalized to be more understanding or to ask them to come to the table with those who are injuring them—but by speaking directly into the face of those inflicting the injury and demanding their repentance.
Now you can dismiss these stories or diminish their collateral damage or accuse the victims of exaggeration. You can claim that things will die down once these people “get this out of their systems”.
You can turn away and logout and retreat into the cloistered security of your white Christian bubble of privilege.
Or, you can step out into the school hallways and bus stops and coffee shops and Twitter feeds and bring the bold, loving, redemptive presence of Jesus you’re always claiming you want to be in the world. You can actually step into Hell and bring the freakin’ love of God.
At times like these, Christians like to smile sweetly and say, “God is in control.”
No. God is not in control.
God didn’t vote for Donald Trump, you did.
Stop passing the buck to God.
God isn’t defacing prayer rooms.
God isn’t taunting gay teenagers.
God is not bullying kids on buses.
God isn’t threatening Muslim families.
White Christians are.
You are in control of this. You have pulpits and pews and a voice and influence and social media, so get to work. 
You need to do some knee to the dirt exploratory surgery with your Maker and figure out how you’re going to respond to this—and then respond.
For the love of God and for the love of the people you claim that God so loves—fix this.
Now.[7]

Donald Trump appears likely to lead an administration that will be insensitive, if not hateful, towards women, racial minorities, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, people who are disabled, working people, poor people, immigrants, Muslims, and people who resist oppression.  And yes, white people who profess to be followers of Jesus flocked to vote for him.  That doesn’t mean the world is about to end.  It means white followers of Jesus along with any other followers of Jesus have opportunities to be prophetic witnesses about God’s love and justice.

The criminal justice system does not appear to be fair to people who are black, brown, and poor.  It appears to sanction abusive and homicidal behavior by people in law enforcement.  That isn’t proof the world is about end.  It provides followers of Jesus opportunities to engage in prophetic citizenship for love and justice.

Public education is under attack from white supremacists, free market capitalists, and their subservient black lackeys.  That doesn’t mean the world is about to end.  It means we have opportunities to be prophets of protest, prophets who are unafraid to challenge the forces of power and supremacy, people who will not flinch and cower in the face of racist, homophobic, and xenophobic bigotry.

Let’s get with it!

Amen.