The trembling of the white establishment

Here’s a line from a song we sang yesterday: “When tyrants tremble sick with fear and hear their death-knell ringing…” 

I think that’s what we’re really seeing in all these cries for secession in the aftermath of the 2012 election. Tyrants trembling, sick, fearful, acutely aware of their own pending (political) demise. Bill O’Reilly put it best: “The white establishment is now the minority.” To them, no longer being able to lord power over everyone else amounts to their own oppression. The fact that the face of power in the US is (still) brown, maybe because, by God, a majority of people WANT it that way, just reinforces that – and is utterly terrifying to them.

Obamacare and raising taxes on the rich ain’t the issue. The real issue is those faint death-knells ringing in the background, growing steadily louder as time marches on, signifying that the myth of white, middle-class normalcy is ending, and America is evolving into something other than a monolithic, assimilationist blob of red, white, and blue ca. 1950. We just may have to find a way to live together across difference, rather than (a) forcing sameness upon all, (b) excommunicating those who don’t agree, or (c) withdrawing, like unpatriotic cowards. 

In my humble opinion. 🙂:)  On a related note, read on for the sermon I preached yesterday…

Read the rest of this entry »

Power Over, Power Under

This past week, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading everything I can  pertaining to the unresolved murder of Trayvon Martin.  I also delivered a sermon for our 10am service about the temptation to dominate. These are very interrelated, I think.

Power Over, Power Under
By the Rev. Thomas M. Ryberg

Text:  Luke 4:1-2, 5-8, 13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Read the rest of this entry »

On Lazarus: While We Wait

We started a three week sermon series on the story of Lazarus today.  I preached the first part today.  It went well.  First, the scripture:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin,said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ (John 11:1-27, NRSV)

Read the rest of this entry »

Permutations of Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through [Christ,] who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV)

  1. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
  2. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
  3. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
  4. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
  5. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
  6. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
  7. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
  8. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.

Today I’m feeling compelled by #4 in particular: all the things I need to do, I can do through Christ, the living, embodied, incarnate presence of God.  And boy am I seldom actually looking for God in the midst of my workload.

Which one’s speaking to you today?

Thoughts on Christians and Muslims

Some thoughts on the recent controversies between Christians and Muslims:

– Those who oppose the building of a mosque near Ground Zero are unwilling or unable to distinguish between different groups of Muslims. These extremists who want to burn the Koran are simply following that same sentiment to it’s logical conclusion: all Muslims are indistinguishable AND evil. This is precisely why we need a center for dialogue near Ground Zero.

– These so-called “Christians” who want to burn the Koran on 9/11 are no more Christian than those so-called “Muslims” who attacked us on 9/11 were Muslim.

– Christians must unequivocally support religious freedom in America.  That includes the right of a group of Muslims to build a mosque wherever it is legally allowable, such as near Ground Zero in NYC.

– Remembering how our Lord hung out with those who were stigmatized and was himself hated, blamed, falsely accused, and put to death by those religious and patriotic folks who feared him, Christians must unequivocally condemn bigotry whenever it arises at the state or local level.  We should be the first to condemn the slippery slope of anti-Islamic scapegoating wherever it occurs.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and clarity of vision

A friend of mine has a parishioner who is struggling with the notion of how queer inclusivity reconciles with biblical teachings.  The verses particularly in question are 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

This is one of the seven-or-so Bible quotes that gets frequently trotted out in order to condemn gay folks on the cheap.  It’s particularly convenient for the nay-gay-sayers because, like Lev. 18:22, it seems so uncomplicated: here is a list of people who are sinners, condemned, officially blocked by God (and/or Paul) from getting into heaven.  Clearly, this thinking goes, whatever Paul meant when he included the words “sodomites” and “male prostitutes” on this list, is the same as our understanding of the queer folks in our midst today.

So when my friend asked me my thoughts on it, I first cracked open my exegetical resources, then read the passage in its broader context.  I read about how these verses — especially in view of Paul generally and 1 Corinthians particularly — are about behaviors which demonstrate greed and excess, and which result in breach and division within the community.  Reading in this light, it does not seem at all convincing that Paul’s inclusion of the words “sodomites” and “male prostitutes” amounts to God’s categorical rejection of all people in same sex relationships.

But then a couple days later, I woke up thinking about this text, and for some reason, thought immediately of a second verse:

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

To me, these words from Jesus are a fundamental aspect of Christian posture and priority.  When it comes to judging the evils of others, I need to be sure that I’m know what I’m looking at.  When I endeavor to say “God sez…” I need to make damned sure that I know what I’m talking about.  Maybe I should devote more time and energy into my own spiritual well-being, before attacking that of someone else.  And at the end of it all, I think it behooves Christians to construct arguments about who’s in and who’s out with more than just a small handful of references that work best when stripped from their original context.

First the log…then the speck.

The offense inherent in staking a claim

If you like this sort of thing, I’m engaged in an interesting dialogue on this thread with donniedarko, an orthodox Roman Catholic.  One of the questions it is raising for me is, to what extent do I bear the responsibility for my words which offend others?

On the one hand, on this post the other day, I initially referred to Glenn Beck as a “misty-eyed, Mormon moron.”  I subsequently removed the word “Mormon” because upon rereading it, I thought it could read as an attack on the Church of Latter Day Saints, and I don’t want to do that.  The potential for causing accidental offense seemed like a valid enough reason to change my initial rant post.

On the other hand, one of the things that donniedarko is upset about is that I am invoking the name of Jesus to defend gay people.  donniedarko also takes grave exception to my use of the word “McEucharist” (in a not-specifically Catholic context, but the offense is felt no matter what, simply because of the sacredness of the Eucharist).  Now, I don’t want to needlessly cause donniedarko offense, but at the same time, I am not about to censor my blog according to the sensibilities of Roman Catholicism.

In the meantime, what’s a peacemaker like me to do?