Do Not Be Afraid

April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday
Matthew 28.1-10

Easter Sunday is a strange day. On the fact of it, it is a glorious day of celebration. There are beautiful decorations, the music is wondrous, our spirits are lifted up. Here in Kentucky we are far enough south, and climate change is moving our growing zones northward, to make seeing the evidence of spring all around us a usual part of our experience on Easter. At Central we have a delicious breakfast feast and we welcome family, friends and neighbors. So many signs around us point toward a magnificent day.

At the same time, the story whose message we celebrate, is set in a graveyard. The story in Matthew’s gospel takes place in a cemetery.

The location of our story is a place of death. Of endings. Of sadness. Of emptiness. Of hopes dashed against the rocks.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did not get up that morning and say, “Let’s go see what’s happened at the tomb. It’s such a glorious day to be alive.”

I imagine the two Marys went to the tomb that morning simply to be there—in the manner of the Jewish tradition of shiva—the seven days after a person’s death during which time friends and family sit together, acknowledging their grief, remembering the life of the one who has died—being present with the memories and the loss and with one another.

I suspect that’s what the two Marys were doing that morning when they decided to go back to the tomb. They wanted time together to remember their teacher, their friend. The One in whom they thought their lives—the lives of their people and the world—might really be different.

It’s really hard for us to hear this story and put ourselves in their place—because we have heard the ending—and we know what’s coming next.

But for Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sitting there in the cemetery, it is over. Death has had the last word. There is nothing more.

* * *

And is this not also where many of us sit—even on Easter morning?

– A friend wrote this week to ask for prayer for two teenage friends driving home from spring break—they were in a car wreck and the father, who was driving, was killed.

– Other friends and friends of friends have been diagnosed with cancer.

– Two friends who have experienced multiple miscarriages now grieve two stillborn babies.

– Friends whose mothers, whose fathers, whose spouses have died.

– We have seen the faces of Syrian children who have been gassed.

– We have heard about the murder of 45 Coptic Christians in Egypt in church on Palm Sunday.

– We have read the news of the US bombing in Syria and Afghanistan.

– We are experiencing the legacy of white supremacy that continues to dehumanize all of us.

And, we, too, wonder if the last word doesn’t indeed belong to death.

* * *

Back at the 1st century tomb, the ground began to tremble and shake. If you’ve ever been in an earthquake, it is quite a frightening experience. There is no place to go to get away from it. All you can do is wait for it to be over—and pray you are still able to stand up when it’s through.

Then an angel descended from heaven and rolled back the stone that was blocking the entrance to the tomb.

In the Bible, when an angel arrives, people tremble and shake. They wonder what terrifying event will happen next. And the first words out of the mouths of angels are: “Do not be afraid.”

From our vantage point, if we were Mary Magdalene or the other Mary, knowing what we know now, we might yell, “Yippee!! He’s done it! I knew it! I knew it!” and give high-fives all around.

But for the two Marys, this is a very disorientating experience. That Jesus should be raised from the dead was not what they were expecting at all.

The angel sends them back to Galilee and they leave the cemetery quickly, running to tell the disciples, filled with fear and great joy.

Fear and great joy.

Isn’t that also how many of us live? Maybe it’s the reality of human existence to live with both fear and great joy.

The news of the resurrection doesn’t mean everything is solved; that all suffering is eliminated. We live on this side of the resurrection, but we also know that death still deals us a hand we don’t want. We know that people we love still leave us. Addictions still wrestle us to the ground. Cancer still mutates our once healthy cells. We lose our jobs. We can’t pay our bills. Depression follows us around like a stray dog. We are falsely accused. We suffer the consequences of someone else’s actions.

We know the world is not yet completely transformed by the resurrecting power of God who raised Jesus from the dead.

And what is this resurrection? Sometimes we confuse it with being a belief in “life after death.” We mix it up with the idea of the immortality of the soul which is a theory about human nature that says there is something within us that cannot die. But resurrection is not about human nature. Resurrection affirms something about the nature of God—who acts even for those who are dead. Jesus did not raise himself. God did it. “He has been raised” the angel says to the women at the tomb. Christian hope is in the resurrection, not in immortality. It is hope in God not in ourselves.

The first line of the Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church says, “In life and in death we belong to God.” The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What exactly does that mean about what happens to us after we die? We don’t know for sure. There are lots of ideas that come from the Bible and from Christian tradition and cultural speculation. No matter what the details turn out to be, what we can trust is that even in death we are not separated from God—and we don’t have to be afraid.

* * *

As the two Marys leave the cemetery caught up in fear and great joy, Jesus met them and he too, says, “Do not be afraid.” The root meaning of that Greek word that we translate as “met” means more than they just ran into each other on the road. It means Jesus “joins and accompanies them.”[1] He is with them in that place of fear and great joy and he promises that he will be with them and the other disciples in Galilee—when they all return to their homes and their work and the ordinariness of their lives.

If resurrection is a trustworthy promise about death, it is also a trustworthy promise about life: that nothing in life and nothing in death can separate us from the love of God. Resurrection then is also a promise that we are not alone. We are joined and accompanied by the risen Christ in the places of fear, in the places of great joy and also in the ordinary places of our lives.

The resurrection has not yet erased the reality of death but it has changed the reality of death. The resurrection has not yet erased the reality of suffering but it has changed the reality of suffering. The resurrection has not yet erased the reality of injustice but it has changed the reality of injustice.

Death and suffering and injustice are not the last word. As we often sing in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

[God’s] goodness is stronger than evil;
[God’s] love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.[2]

Do not be afraid.

*  * * * *

[1] M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 102.

[2] Desmond Tutu, “Goodness is Stronger Than Evil,” in Glory to God, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), #750.

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Unbind Them

April 2, 2017 – 5th Sunday in Lent
John 11.1-45

I want to tell you a story that my friend, Jane Larsen-Wigger, who is the pastor at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church told me this week—and said I could share with you.

For about 15 years now the Crescent Hill congregation has had a connection with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of farm workers in Florida who have been at the center of the Fair Food campaign. Early on in their struggle for fair working conditions, they zeroed in on Taco Bell and YUM! Brands—which brought them to Louisville on quite a few occasions. The rallying cry then was “a penny a pound!”—that’s how much they were asking for: one penny a pound more for the tomatoes that were picked in the field. YUM! Brands was the first major corporation to make that concession and committed to only buying tomatoes from farms that would pay one penny a pound more than had been the going wage for tomato picking.

Over the years the Coalition—and the Fair Food campaign—has gotten a dozen more corporations to sign on. Next on their list is Wendy’s which is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. So, a group of farm workers were through Louisville last week on their way to Columbus, and as Crescent Hill has done many times over the years, they prepared breakfast for the farm workers.

After breakfast, Lucas—one of the long-time leaders of the group—talked to the Crescent Hill folks to catch them up on the progress toward justice that has happened over the last 15 years. Speaking in Spanish, with someone translating into English, Lucas thanked the Crescent Hill members for their hospitality over the years—pointing out the place in their Fellowship hall where he had slept on a couple of occasions! He reminded them of the rallying call of a “Penny a Pound”—and how that victory is still secure. But that’s not all. He told them tomatoes don’t have to be heaped over the tops of the buckets any more—just even with the top of the bucket is enough. And there is now shade available in the fields—shade—so people can get a break from the hot Florida sun. And they are allowed such breaks—workers no longer have to worry about being fired for taking a five-minute break during the work day. And, to make sure the workers know their rights, groups like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers hold sessions informing the workers of how they can be expected to be treated. And representatives of the corporation are present and hear this reminder too. When the Coalition of Immokalee Workers was formed many tomato pickers worked in conditions akin to modern slavery. Lucas said that it used to be he was told by a shift boss to find him so many hands for the next day. Now he is instructed to find so many employees.  Jane said that Lucas had been telling the group at Crescent Hill all of this in Spanish, and at this point he stopped and said in English, to make sure everyone heard what all of this progress means, he proclaimed: “We are now human beings.”

Of course, people who pick tomatoes have always been human beings but they have not always been treated as human beings. And when you’re not treated like a human being it erodes your sense of yourself as a human being. A penny more a pound, shade, breaks during the work day, being referred to as employees, experiencing the accountability of their employers to treat them in these seemingly small, yet enormously significant ways that has set them free. “We are now human beings.”

There are many communities of people in our country who have not been treated as human beings. We have been thinking particularly this Lent about African Americans who were lynched in what James Cone refers to as the lynching era between about 1880 and 1940. During that time “white Christians lynched nearly five thousand black men and women.”[1] Lynchings were public events in which newspapers announced “the place, date and time of the expected hanging and burning of black victims.”[2] White women, men and children attended the lynchings. Postcards were made and sold of “black victims with white lynchers and onlookers smiling as they struck a pose for the camera.”[3]

To torture, lynch and burn another human being, one must deny the humanity of the other. James Cone writes that African Americans “affirmed their humanity and fought back against dehumanization” on “Friday and Saturday nights at juke joints and at churches on Sunday mornings and evening week nights…Both black religion and the blues offered sources of hope that there was more to life than what one encountered daily in the white man’s world.”[4]

Part of the question we are asking this Lent and through our New Beginnings projects is: How can we be part of repairing the damage that has been done to our sisters and brothers throughout our country’s history? The legacy of slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynching, white flight, redlining, mass incarceration, the lack of public support for public education all continue to dehumanize and diminish communities of people of color, especially poor communities of people of color.

This story of Jesus and Lazarus fascinates me. There is so much that could be said about it. What I want to notice with you this morning is the end of the story. Jesus calls Lazarus back to life with a loud shout. The one who had been dead comes out of the tomb. But he comes out like a mummy—he’s still wrapped up and bound by the fabric in which his dead body had been wrapped as part of the preparation for burial. And Jesus says to those gathered around the tomb, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

It is Jesus who brings Lazarus back to life but his full restoration and his freedom and his capacity to become a human being again requires the rest of the community. In John’s gospel, being brought to life and being set free is happening in a literal, physical way. I keep thinking about this metaphorically: that this is our work too as a community—to unbind people and let them go.

And there are literal, physical ways in which we can be part of this work of unbinding and setting free. Reading with elementary age children who need the support of caring adults to be able to read at grade level and be successful in school and in life. Befriending people in our neighborhood who need the support and friendship of others and in whose lives we learn more about our own. Supporting first generation college students who encounter numerous challenges to being successful in school simply because they are the first in their family to go to college. And for those of us who are white, continuing to do our work to understand our complicity and to do our part to dismantle systemic racism.

And I suspect that when we are part of a community that is unbinding and setting others free, we will find that as others are set free, our own humanity is restored and we, too, are unbound and set free.

Lucas said, “We are now human beings.” I think those who employ tomato pickers and those who buy the tomatoes are also more human now because they no longer treat other human beings as less than human.

* * * * *

[1] James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 31.

[2] Ibid., 9.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 12.

Seeing

March 26, 2017 – 4th Sunday in Lent
John 9.1-41

(This sermon begins with a back and forth conversation as the scripture is read.)

Ann: This story in John’s gospel is about being blind and being able to see. The story functions on a physical level of literally being blind and literally being able to see. It also functions on a metaphorical and spiritual level of being able to see or being blind to what is true.

Act One: Jesus Heals a Man Who Was Blind from Birth

Katherine: As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

Ann: Hold on! Hold on! I really dislike this verse! The idea that God made the man be born blind so that Jesus could heal him and God could be glorified. I do not like this at all—as if God would plan suffering for us so that good could come out of it. I do believe God can redeem suffering but I don’t believe that it’s God’s plan or desire for us to suffer. Suffering is a part of life but not because God picks us out to inflict it upon us.

You know what I just learned this week from biblical schools Fred Craddock and Eugene Boring (who is not, actually boring)? In verse 3, in Greek, there is no “he was born blind so that.” It’s a bad English translation. In a more literal translation, the verse would read, “Jesus answered ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but God’s works might be revealed in him.” The sense of the Greek sentence is that the presence of the man who is blind provides an occasion to do something about it and as Jesus heals the man, God is glorified.[i] It has nothing to do with God intending for the man to be blind.

Okay. Go ahead.

Katherine: [Jesus continues]We must work the works of [the One] who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When [Jesus] had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then [the man] went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

Ann: Isn’t this what we want to know too? How? Show me some evidence and I’ll decide if it’s for real. We’ve all got our own set of criteria for what is real and what is true and we want information so we can make a judgment based on that criteria. What throws us off kilter and what we often resist is letting ourselves and our understanding be transformed by something we don’t (yet) understand—in this story that is the power and glory of God.[ii]

Katherine: 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

Ann: Act Two: The Religious Leaders Investigate the Healing

Katherine: 13 They brought to the [religious leaders] the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.”

Ann: The religious expectation was that a truly religious person did not work on the Sabbath—that included not healing someone. You could do that the next day. The man was not going to die of blindness in the interim hours.

Katherine: But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

Ann: People who observed Jesus had different expectations. One expectation: If Jesus is Messiah, he would obey the law and not work on the Sabbath. Another expectation: If Jesus is Messiah, he can heal people. Expectations of how it’s supposed to be can keep us from seeing what is true.

Katherine: 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The [religious leaders] did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the [religious leaders…for they] had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah[d] would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Ann: This word “know”—“one thing I do know” the man says—shows up multiple times in the rest of the story. It comes from a Greek word that means to have sight (that is, physical seeing) but it is also connected to comprehension (that is, mental and spiritual seeing).

And the Greek word here for “see” is a word that suggests to see something physical, with spiritual results (that is, perception or comprehension).

What the man says, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see,” is both a literal statement and a metaphorical declaration.

Katherine: 26 They said to [the man], “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Ann: Here again is a clash of expectations about what can possibly be true. What is obvious to one person who has encountered Jesus is completely opaque to another. Who can see and who can know are hard to comprehend from different vantage points. Our preconception of the truth can blind us from seeing what is true.

My sister told me about a class she took on marriage years ago. The biggest take-away, that we both remember all these years later, was recognizing “What is obvious to me is obvious to me.”

Act Three: Jesus and the Man Meet Up Again; Who Can See and Who is Blind?

Katherine: 35 Jesus heard that they had driven [the man] out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of [Humanity]?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the [religious leaders] near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Ann: The Word of God
All: Thanks be to God.

In chapter two of James Cone’s book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cone reflects on the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, who he describes as “widely regarded as America’s most influential theologian in the twentieth century…with wide influence in the secular political world.”[iii] Niebuhr was born in 1892 and was a pastor and a professor of ethics and theology between 1915 and 1960. Cone says Niebuhr wrote and spoke about the sufferings of African Americans and the evils of racism but “he failed to connect the cross and its most vivid reenactment in his time”[iv]—that is, lynching.

The lynching era is considered to be 1880 to 1940 during which time “white Christians lynched nearly five thousand black men and women in a manner with obvious echoes of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus…Both the cross and the lynching tree were symbols of terror, instruments of torture and execution, reserved primarily for slaves, criminals, and insurrectionists…In both cases, the purpose was to stroke terror in the subject community. It was to let people know that the same thing would happen to them if they did not stay in their place.”[v]

Niebuhr had a big platform to speak to ordinary Christians and politicians alike and instead of using his voice for justice for African Americans, he joined Southern moderates who called for “gradualism, patience, and prudence”[vi] during a time when blacks were being lynched. What kept Niebuhr from advocating for justice for African Americans? What kept him from seeing? “How could anyone be a great theologian and not engage America’s greatest moral issue?”[vii] Cone asks. “It was easy for Niebuhr to walk around in his own shoes, as a white man, and view the world from that vantage point, but it takes a whole lot of empathic effort” says Cone, “to step into [the shoes] of black people and see the world through the eyes of African Americans.”[viii]

As we talked about this chapter in our book study this week I got to wondering what helps any of us step into the shoes of a person whose life experience is different from our own? Niebuhr himself talks about the powerful self-interest that we all serve (many times unconsciously) and how hard it is to “feel the pain of others as vividly”[ix] as we do our own. What enables us to feel the pain, learn the story, find a truth that is not our own, to see with different eyes?

I grew up going to public schools with a fairly significant racially diverse student body. In elementary school, my group of friends (the group that got invited to my birthday parties) included African American girls and a Native American girl. The high school I attended was 60% African American students and other students of color and 40% white students.

When I went across town and enrolled in an evangelical Christian college where the overwhelming number of students were white from white suburbs or small towns. I realized that growing up in a different environment from many of my college classmates made me see the world in ways that were different from many of them.

I wonder about your life. Has there been a person or an event who opened your eyes to see something you’d never seen before about a person of a different race than your own?

Martha and I stayed in the home recently of one of my friends from seminary and his wife. They are both African American. Their home is filled with art that depicts African Americans. As I walked around their home I was conscious that the art work I was seeing was not a representation of me. And it made me more aware of how often a white face and body is normative and what that does to the well-being of children and adults whose faces and bodies are all shades of brown and what that does to the well-being of people when they don’t see themselves represented in images of beauty or power or leadership or creativity or achievement. And what it does to the well-being of children and adults who are white who unconsciously (and not so unconsciously) absorb the lie that white people are smarter, more beautiful, more skilled, more accomplished than brown people.

What has God put in your way that opened your eyes to your own bias? Who has God brought into your life who has helped you see a deeper truth about people who are different from you?

Let us take a minute to remember and then, in your own heart and mind, to give thanks to God for the gift you have received.

* * * * *

[i] M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 318.

[ii] Ibid., 312-313.

[iii] James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 32.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid., 31.

[vi] Ibid., 39.

[vii] Ibid., 52.

[viii] Ibid., 41.

[ix] Ibid., 40.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

March 5, 2017 – 1st Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4.1-11

Since January we’ve been jumping around a bit in the gospel of Matthew. We heard the story of Jesus’ baptism and how he called people to follow him. Then for several weeks we heard part of Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount. Now we drop back to the story that comes immediately after Jesus’ baptism and before he begins to call disciples to join him in ministry.

You remember, Jesus goes out to the wilderness to meet his cousin John who is at the Jordan River calling people to repent and be baptized. Jesus is baptized and as when he emerges from the river, a voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” It’s a declaration for everyone to hear. It’s an announcement of Jesus’ identity.

In the very next verse, which is chapter 4, verse 1, the Spirit leads Jesus to be tested. Where Jesus’ baptism was a declaration of his identity, this story is one of testing Jesus’ identity. In the wilderness, Jesus meets up with the devil, which the NRSV also describes as “the tempter” or Satan. Now, lest you start conjuring up a guy with red horns and a long tail, “Satan” in the New Testament represents all that opposes the will of God. Satan is not necessarily a specific being but “all those who obstruct and resist what God intends for human life.”[i] In Greek, the word we translate “devil” is from a word that describes one who “attacks, misleads, deceives, diverts, discredits, or slanders.”[ii] It is clear the devil wants to “mislead Jesus about the meaning” of being the beloved Son of God and seeks to distract Jesus from the “purposes of God.”[iii]

One scholar says the overarching temptation Jesus faces in this story is to go for power.[iv] The self-serving aggrandizing kind of power that wants to crush everything in its way. The kind of power that wants to be something it is not. Another person writing about this story says the primary temptation is “to be someone other than who God calls us to be.”[v]

This Lent we are inviting everyone to read James Cone’s book The Cross and the Lynching Tree to accompany our journey through this season as we get ready to enter the mystery of Easter. There is still time to sign up for a small group to talk about the book with others. You can find the meeting dates and locations in the bulletin plus a sign up sheet.

Robert Michael Franklin, former President of Morehouse College wrote, “This book will upset your equilibrium in all the best ways, inviting you to think, challenging you to act.”

In the introduction to the book, James Cone says, “I write [this book] in order to start a conversation so we can explore the many ways to heal the deep wounds lynching has inflicted upon us…I offer my reflections because I believe that the cross placed alongside the lynching tree can help us to see Jesus in America in a new light, and thereby empower people who claim to follow him to take a stand against white supremacy and every kind of injustice.”[vi]

As I was reading about where the word we translate “devil” comes from—that it means one who “attacks, misleads, deceives, diverts, discredits, or slanders”[vii] I thought about how lynching and the culture that supported lynching, including Christian culture, is of the devil. It misleads, attacks, slanders, and lies about the belovedness of African Americans and about the purposes of God.

Just like history has downplayed the brutality and torture of slavery and ignored the financial exploitation of black bodies that drove the economic engine of our country, we have also minimized the terror of lynching. I think because it is so horrific. For white people, how can we face ourselves as descendants of this legacy? James Cone writes, “Black people know something about terror [and terrorism—connecting with our collective current fear of terrorism—] because we have been dealing with legal and extralegal white terror for several centuries. Nothing was more terrifying than the lynching tree.”[viii]

One of the connections James Cone makes between the lynching tree and the cross is that in the first century, “crucifixion was the particular form of execution reserved by the Roman Empire for insurrectionists and rebels.” It was used by the Empire to keep people in their place. “It was a public spectacle accompanied by torture and shame—one of the most humiliating and painful deaths ever devised by human beings.”[ix] Just like lynching.

For many Black Christians, “just knowing that Jesus went through an experience of suffering in a manner similar to theirs gave them faith that God was with them, even in suffering on lynching trees, just as God was present with Jesus in suffering on the cross.”[x] Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, says the spiritual. Nobody knows my sorrow but Jesus.

Many of us—especially mainline Protestants—are a little bit queasy talking about Jesus’ death on the cross. We prefer to talk about the life of Jesus rather than his death. But for people who are experiencing, or have experienced great suffering, there can be a deep solace in knowing that Jesus experienced suffering too—and that God was with Jesus in his suffering and so too is God with those who suffer.

Now suffering is complicated in the Christian tradition. Throughout our history, people have been told to stay in their suffering because God will reward them, or that suffering is a spiritual practice. People have sometimes viewed the suffering of others as what God intends or what they deserve. And all of that has led only to more suffering. Suffering for the sake of suffering is not a good thing and I don’t believe it is what God intends. But the hard reality is that life comes with suffering. The experience of being human includes suffering. It doesn’t come equally; some get more of it than others. Some suffering is random—like cancer or a miscarriage—and some suffering arises because of the brokenness and sin of people—like racism and bullying.

When Mark, Katherine, Phillip and I were talking about our Lent preaching series and James Cone’s book, Phillip noted that in our current Presbyterian hymnal there is no section for the cross in the topical index. In the African American Heritage hymnal there are three sections of hymns about the cross in the topical index: the cross of Jesus, the cross of the believer, and the cross and salvation. Now the Glory to God hymnal does have hymns about the cross but they’re not categorized in the same way as in the African American Heritage hymnal. That doesn’t prove anything but it does perhaps recognize that the cross has different meanings and significance to different communities of people depending on our experiences of the world.

James Cone, in a conversation with Bill Moyers, said, “The cross is victory out of defeat…And the lynching tree is transcendent of defeat. And that’s why the cross and the lynching tree belong together…Christians can’t understand what’s going on at the cross until they see it through the image of a lynching tree.”[xi]

I know that doesn’t wrap it up or explain it all. It probably leaves you with more questions—and even some anxiety and discomfort. There’s more to say about this and we have more weeks in Lent to ponder the cross through the image of the lynching tree—and we have more weeks in Lent to open ourselves to be changed to become more of the people God has created us—all of us—to be and to continuing aligning our lives with the purposes of God.

* * * * *

[i] Thomas G. Long, Matthew, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 37.

[ii] Robert A. Bryant, “Exegetical Perspective: Matthew 4.1-11,” Feasting on the Word, eds. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), Year A, Vol 2, 47.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Douglas John Hall, “Theological Perspective: Matthew 4.1-11,” Feasting on the Word, eds. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), Year A, Vol 2, 44.

[v] Long, 37.

[vi] James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011, xix.

[vii] Robert A. Bryant, “Exegetical Perspective: Matthew 4.1-11,” Feasting on the Word, eds. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010) Year A, Vol 2, 47.

[viii] Cone, xix.

[ix] Ibid., 1-2.

[x] Ibid., 22.

[xi] http://billmoyers.com/content/james-cone-on-the-cross-and-the-lynching-tree/
accessed 4 March 2017.

 

Ash Wednesday

March 1, 2017 – Ash Wednesday
2 Corinthians 5.16-20 and Isaiah 58.1-12

We often speak of Lent as a journey. Which might cause us to wonder, Where are we going?

The season of Lent is a time to prepare to enter the mystery of Easter. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation….in Christ God was reconciling the world to God’s self. That is a big theological claim: that in Christ we are made new and reconciled to God, and not just we as individuals, but the whole world, all of creation. How do we comprehend this Good News? How do we comprehend it not just with our minds as a theological idea but as an incarnational reality—a truth we live with our lives?

We get to the Good News of Easter through Lent. Lent is an invitation to begin this journey again, to ask the question, What helps me live my faith? And what gets in the way?[1]

For many of us the world around us is chaotic and cluttered. We are bombarded with more information—both truth and false—than we can take in. We are saturated with messages and expectations that distort our humanity. Lent is an invitation for simplifying and for traveling light[2]; for laying aside the heavy baggage we carry and taking only what is essential.

Do you remember the story of Jesus’ baptism? As Jesus comes up out of the water, a voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” In our baptism, we too are marked by God’s love. We are marked as God’s beloved children, the delight of God’s life.

But often we forget that identity. We obscure or deny it. Our identity as God’s beloved is also obscured or denied by others.

Lent is a time to excavate our identity as God’s beloved, to find it again, to practice living it more deeply.

This Lent we are encouraging everyone to read James Cone’s book The Cross and the Lynching Tree. For hundreds of years, the belovedness of African Americans in our country has been obscured and denied. To recover our own identity as God’s beloved, we must recover the belovedness of all people. In Christ God was reconciling the world to God’s self—not just us as individuals but us, collectively, all people. James Cone’s book invites us to a collective Lenten journey to look at ourselves honestly; to remember, repair, and restore[3] the mark of God’s belovedness in all people.

In baptism, we receive a new identity as a follower—a disciple—of Jesus. Baptism is a sign of new life, a mark in our lives of God’s great love for us and a sign of our life now dedicated in love to loving God and loving our neighbors.

Lent is a good time to ask “Is my identity rooted in [God’s love], [in] baptism, [in] discipleship or is it rooted in something else? If it’s rooted in something else, what do I need to do about that?”[4]

Simply by living in our world, our identity is, at least in part, rooted in something else other than God’s love, baptism and discipleship. So we all ask, what do I need to do about that?

Isaiah 58 guides us to develop congruity between our identity as God’s beloved people and the way we live our lives. The journey of Lent—often spoken of as the Lenten fast—is not about making ourselves look humble or adopting a practice of self-denial as a means to spiritual elevation. The journey of Lent is rooted in justice. The way Isaiah talks about it, it’s the way we live out loving our neighbor as ourselves: doing justice, caring for those who are vulnerable, changing systems that diminish the humanity of others. The journey of Lent is more than giving up a food group for six weeks. Our journey is toward life-long transformaiton. Our goal is not to deprive ourselves of something for six-week and then quickly resume it again after Lent is over. The invitation of Lent is to embody new life in Christ—not just for six weeks and not just for ourselves—but for a life-time and for the sake of the whole world.

Now I know I’ve been talking about being marked by baptism and I know that today is Ash Wednesday when we are marked by ashes so let me say something about ashes.

Typically we look at the ashes on this day as a reminder of a mortality. From dust we have come and to dust we shall return. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, we say in the funeral liturgy.

Tonight, I want to add another possible meaning to being marked by ashes. Just this week there has been some research released about forest fires and it reminds me that in the ecology of the forest, fire is an important part of the health of the forest. Periodic fires burn up the underbrush and leaf litter that, if left to accumulate on the forest floor, can become an enormous amount of flammable kindling that turns a regular forest fire into something catastrophic. What often happens after a forest fire is that native plants are able to sprout and gain a foothold when they’ve been choked out by invasive plants. In this way, fire supports the healthy and robust biodiversity of an ecosystem. Fire also helps germinate the seeds of many tree species. Some seeds need fire in order to sprout. In this way, fire can become a catalyst for new life. And if you’ve been in a forest after a fire, amidst the grey, ashy soil and blackened trees, there is also a remarkable green that begins to show up. The green of new life.[5]

Now, I don’t want to push this metaphor too far because forest fires can also kill and devastate people’s lives and homes. So I want to keep the metaphor to the ecology of a forest in which fire is a welcome catalyst for new life and life which is abundant and flourishing.

So perhaps tonight, we might let the ashes on our forehead be not only a reminder of our mortality but also be a mark of the new life God desires to bring forth in us.

* * * * *

[1] Michael Waschevski and John G. Stevens, Rhythms of Worship: The Planning and Purpose of Liturgy, (Louisville: Westminster Knox Press, 2015), 53.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Jennifer Harvey, Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014), 241.

[4] Waschevski, 54.

[5] http://blog.nature.org/conservancy/2013/07/24/how-fire-can-restore-a-forest-time-lapse-video/, accessed 1 March 2017.

Overshadowed by Love

February 26, 2017 – Transfiguration

The reading for today in the narrative lectionary is found in Luke 9. It’s the story of the transfiguration. Eight days earlier—one week earlier—Jesus asks his disciples who people are saying that he is. His disciples throw out “John the Baptist” and “Elijah.” Peter speaks up and says, “You are the Messiah of God; the Christ.” Jesus tells them not to tell anyone and then talks about what is coming as he makes his way to Jerusalem. He will suffer, be rejected, he will be killed and raised from the dead three days later. And he told them about what it meant to be his disciples: Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.

The writer of Luke tells us none of the reactions of the disciples other than to leave a week of silence in the story. Jesus has dropped the word of what will happen to him and what is required of those who will follow him and the next thing we hear is where our story this afternoon picks up.

Listen for the Word of God.
Read 9.28-36

The following day, the disciples and Jesus come down from the mountain and are met by a large crowd. There is a man whose son is possessed by a demon and the man begs for healing for his son. He tells Jesus that his disciples have been unable to cast out the demon. Jesus is able. Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit, heals the boy and gave him back to his father.

So what happens in those eight days? The days after Jesus has told them what is going to happen when they get to Jerusalem. News that they do not want to hear. Are they stunned? Are they in denial? Do they scatter? Go back to fishing? Do they pretend Jesus didn’t say what he said?

We don’t know. What we know from the story is that Jesus took three of the disciples, Peter, John and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. I suspect Jesus—who has an idea about what he will face in Jerusalem—is in need of spiritual strength. And so he takes his companions and together they go to a place away from the crowds to be in God’s presence.

Do you remember the fog from last Monday morning? A friend of mine who walks early in the morning said he was taking his regular route but at one point he lost his bearings. Everything looked so different in the fog. He was in a place where he had been before but the landmarks were obscured because of the fog. It’s a disorientating—even frightening experience—when you’re enveloped by fog. Even though you would ordinarily know what is right in front of you now you’re not so sure what is ahead.

I wonder if the cloud that overshadows Jesus and Peter, James and John is a little like that. Luke writes that a cloud overshadowed them and they entered the cloud. From other stories in the Bible we know that the cloud is the presence of God. Jesus and Peter, James and John, are overshadowed by the presence of God.

This word that gets translated “overshadow” is related to a Hebrew word that means “right smack dab in the middle” and “completely surround by.” It’s like that experience of fog all around you. Which can be frightening and unsettling. It can also be holy and mystical.

The language of overshadow also shows up in the annunciation story where an angel comes to Mary and says she will have a baby and that baby will be the Child of the Most High God. When Mary asks how it will be that she will have a baby, given some physical constraints in her life, the angel says the power of God will overshadow her.

This experience on the mountain is one of glory and wonder and awe. It is probably not what Peter, James and John were expecting and Peter, particularly, isn’t exactly sure what to do with it. He’s ready to erect an historical marker or take a selfie with Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Something to sort of concretize the experience that he knows is monumental but perhaps doesn’t really know its significance.

In the overshadowing cloud, the presence into which the disciples enter right into the middle of, the disciples hear a voice—it’s almost the same voice they heard at Jesus’ baptism—“This is my Child, my Chosen, my Beloved.”

I wonder if the disciples aren’t going to need this experience for the coming days when their life with Jesus is tested, when they aren’t sure who they are or who Jesus is. When they’re not sure whether to stay or flee. I wonder if in those uncertain moments they will remember the glory, the dazzling radiance, the overshadowing, the confirming voice. I wonder if they will remember that and draw strength and courage from their experience?

Eight years ago in January, I was on my way to fly across the country to be part of an experience that would change my life for good in some profound ways. I knew a little bit of what I was signing up for but I was also really nervous.

That January morning was snowy and when I walked out the door to go to the airport and there in the tree in front of our house was a bright red cardinal.

From the time I was in middle school, seeing a cardinal—the red song bird (not the UofL mascot)—was many times a sign, for me, of God’s presence and care. I didn’t grow up where there were cardinals but they appeared at times in my life when I was scared and uncertain and in need of encouragement.

In that moment, eight years ago, I experienced God say to me, “I am with you.”

I wonder if you’ve had an experience of beauty or love or holiness? We Presbyterians don’t talk about this sort of thing very much but what people confide in me tells me that lots of people do have these sorts of experiences. But we’re not sure what to do with them or how to talk about them.

This afternoon, I invite you to remember a time when you experience unexpected beauty or love or holiness. Perhaps something that took your breath away. And maybe you wanted to stay just in that moment.

If you’d like, you can close your eyes. You might ask God to bring to your remembrance an experience. Trust whatever comes into your heart or mind.

I’m not going to ask you to share this with anyone so let yourself be free to remember whatever it is that God is bringing to your awareness.

Be with that memory.

What is it that you felt? That you saw? That you heard?

I wonder if there is a gift you received.

In the silence of your own heart and mind, give thanks for this experience and the ability to return to it.

When you are ready, open your eyes and bring your awareness back to this place.

What we hear next in the story of the Transfiguration is that Jesus and the disciples went back down the mountain to return to their ministry. And so do we. And this presence, this memory, this awareness, this gift of God, goes with us.

No matter what this day has been like,
no matter what the days ahead will bring,
whatever the action is that we need to take,
we can return to this gift, this experience,
and draw courage and strength for whatever will come.

 

Blessing and sending
May the nourishment of this table
and the sustenance of this community
be part of the overshadowing presence of God
that goes with you everywhere and at all times.

The Word We Don’t Want to Hear

February 19, 2017 – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5.38-48

My sermon title is “The Word We Don’t Want to Hear” because, as you heard me to talk with the kids, what Jesus tells us to do is really hard.

Yesterday afternoon I saw the documentary about (but also more than just about) James Baldwin titled “I Am Not Your Negro.” It’s currently sold out at the Speed Cinema but will open in early March at Village 8 Theatres. I highly recommend it. It is not an easy film to watch but the truth James Baldwin speaks is so important for us to hear. We who are white need to hear it. And what I heard from African Americans in the audience is that as hard as it was to experience, there was something affirming about having the truth of one’s life named.

When I got to the theater, I was thinking about my sermon for this morning. Thinking about what Jesus says, “Do not resist an evildoer….Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Part of “I Am Not Your Negro” is James Baldwin’s reflection on his relationship with Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Medgar Evers worked for the NAACP investigating injustice. Evers, Baldwin wrote, was a “peaceful man, who had constantly urged that violence is not the way.”[1] On June 12, 1963, Medger Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his home in front of his family members by a Ku Klux Klan member. “So much for not resisting an evildoer,” I thought to myself.

Malcolm X “exhorted blacks to cast off the shackles of racism ‘by any means necessary,’ including violence.”[2] Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965 in a ballroom in Manhattan, where he was preparing to deliver a speech. “Resisting an evildoer doesn’t save you either,” I thought.

Dr. King, of course, was a proponent of non-violence, learning the ideals of it from Jesus and the “operational techniques from Gandhi.”[3] In his sermon, “Loving Your Enemies,” on the same text we have heard this morning, he says, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiples hate, violence multiples violence…into a descending spiral of destruction.”[4] On April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Dr. King was assassinated. “Loving your enemies does not protect your life either,” I thought.

It would be so much easier if these words of Jesus were just ethereal admonitions. You know, great ideals but nothing we’re ever going to actually do in our real lives.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we didn’t have to deal with our enemies? If you’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof you probably remember this exchange. Someone asks the rabbi, “Is there a proper blessing for the tsar?” The rabbi ponders, “A blessing for the tsar?…Of course…May God bless and keep the tsar…far away from us!”

But the kind of evildoers and enemies Jesus talks about are not just a few people from whom we can distance ourselves. In the Jesus’ day it was the entire oppressive and coercive system of the Roman empire. And for Dr. King and Medgar Evers and Malcolm X and James Baldwin it was not one or two Klans men, it was an entire entrenched, and legalized, system of white supremacy which remains largely in place today, remodeling its method from enslavement to Jim Crow to mass incarceration to gutting voting rights to whatever this period of time after President Obama will come to be called.

75 years ago today, February 19, 1942, three months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, another President signed an Executive Order. President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

“The order allowed the secretary of war to declare that an area was a military zone, clearing the way for more than 110,000” people of Japanese ancestry, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens, who were living in Washington, Oregon, and California, to be evacuated and interned.[5] They were forcibly moved inland, without a hearing or a trial to internment camps (also called concentration camps by some historians). They were allowed to take with them only what they could carry, leaving behind homes and businesses, farms, possessions and communities in which they had been respected and contributing members.

Jesus says, “Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” How does that even make any sense in the face of white supremacy? How does that make sense in the face of evil?

Let me offer a few possibilities that give me some way to tentatively move forward with this text—and maybe it will for you too.

This word “resist” in verse 39 is more, scholars say, about retaliation than about being passive. The Greek word for “resist is usually used in military contexts referring to armed resistance.” Talk of armed resistance was not an abstract conversation. Pastor Karen Sapio tells us that “The appropriateness of violent resistance to the Roman occupation was a matter of intense debate in the Jewish community of Jesus’ day.”[6] One writer summarizes verse 39 to say, “Love does not retaliate.”[7] Retaliation and the violence which comes with it are not part of the realm of God. Eugene Peterson in his translation in The Message says it like this: “‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’”

In a recent interview, Representative John Lewis from Georgia talked about taking part of the lunch counter sit-ins in the 1960s when he was in his 20s. A recent documentary about Rep. Lewis is titled, “Get in the Way”—which is what he has done his whole life. In both the interview and the documentary, Rep. Lewis  talks about the preparation for the sit-ins. There was serious training for this work including practice with the kind of physical and verbal abuse the young adults would experience when they asked to be served at the lunch counter.

Rep. Lewis said, “[We were trained that] if someone kick[ed] you, spit on you, pull[ed] you off the lunch counter stool, [we] continue[d] to make eye contact. Continue[d] to give the impression, ‘Yes, you may beat me, but I’m human.’”

Krista Tippett, the interviewer, said, “In the way I come to understand this…the point of all of this role-playing was not just about being practically prepared. I suspect that some neuroscientist now in the 21st century probably understands what happens in our brains somehow with what you knew about that moment of eye contact and human connection. But you also understood this to be a spiritual confrontation, first within yourselves, and then with the world outside.”

Rep. Lewis responded, “You’re so right. First of all, you have to grow. [Nonviolence is] not something that is natural. You have to be taught the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. And in the religious sense, in the moral sense, you can say in the bosom of every human being, there is a spark of the divine. So you don’t have a right as a human to abuse that spark of the divine in your fellow human being.”[8]

Love does not retaliate, Jesus says.

Listen to how The Message translates verses 43-45. “You’re familiar with…‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.”

More than a decade ago, a church member said in the prayers of the people, “The Bible tells me to pray for my enemies so today I want to pray for [and he named the man who was President of the United States at the time].” There was a lot of laughter in the congregation but this church member was serious.

John Lewis again: “From time to time, [we] would discuss if you see someone attacking you, beating you, spitting on you, you have to think of that person — years ago, that person was an innocent child, innocent little baby. And so what happened? [Did] something go wrong?…Did someone teach that person to hate, to abuse others? So you try to appeal to the goodness of every human being. And you don’t give up. You never give up on anyone.”[9]

In Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence, the third principle is, “Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.”[10]

James Baldwin asks, “How can you lynch me and keep me in ghettos without becoming something monstrous yourself?”[11]

We white people are coming to see that white supremacy and systemic racism is damaging not just to people of color but it is also damaging to those of us who are white. It distorts our view of the world, of ourselves, of God’s creation. It makes us assume we are something we are not. As the Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church says, “We violate the image of God in others and ourselves, [and] accept lies as truth.”

So loving our enemies is not just our enemies, it is also for us.

Professor of Theology, Matthew Boulton, says Jesus calls us to a way of discipleship that “points toward a deeper, more radical resistance: namely, noncooperation in the underlying [system] of hate and brutality involved in evildoing…Jesus advises defiance—but not defiance directed against the enemies themselves, since this simply perpetuates and intensifies the relationship’s adversarial character, but rather a deeper defiance directed against the vicious, endless cycle of enemy making.” The endless cycle of you do something bad to me so I retaliate against you. Then you retaliate against me. And then I retaliate against you. And on and on until we both die and our children pick up the retaliation, back and forth. “Do not fight fire with fire, Jesus says; rather, fight fire with water, and therefore refuse to take part in the incendiary, all-too-familiar work of injury and domination.”[12]

Before “I Am Not Your Negro” began there was a preview for a movie to be shown at the Speed Cinema this coming the week. It’s called “Disturbing the Peace.”

The film is about people born into conflict, sworn to be enemies, who challenged their fate. The film follows former enemy combatants—Israeli soldiers from elite units and Palestinian fighters, many of whom served years in prison—who have joined together to challenge the status quo and say “enough.”[13] The film tells the story of their journey from being soldiers committed to armed battle to nonviolent peace activists.

In the trailer, a woman is challenging one of the Palestinians who has given up fighting and now is a nonviolence peace activist. “You think a small group like [yours] will change anything?” she asks skeptically. The former fighter turned peace maker responds, “Nelson Mandela, one person, was able to change the whole country. One man. How did he do that?”[14]

One man. One person. Nelson Mandela. Or Martin Luther King, Jr. Or Rosa Parks. Or Ella Baker. Or Jesus. Disturbing the Peace. Getting in the Way. Loving Our Enemies.

It might seem crazy, naïve, even hopeless. But what other choice do we have? Continue the violence or choose another way?
* * * * *

[1] Quoted in printed notes for “I Am Not Your Negro,” 18 February 2017, Speed Art Museum Cinema.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 51.

[5] www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/japanese-american-internment-75-years-ago/, accessed 18 February 2017.

[6] Karen C. Sapio, “Matthew 5:38-48 – Exegetical Perspective,” Feasting on the Gospels: Matthew, vol. 1, eds. Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 111.

[7] M. Eugene Boring, “The Gospel of Matthew,” in New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 193.

[8] www.onbeing.org/programs/john-lewis-love-action/, accessed 18 February 2017.

[9] Ibid.

[10] http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy#sub2, accessed 18 February 2017.

[11] Quoted in “I Am Not Your Negro,” 18 February 2017, Speed Museum Cinema.

[12] Michael Myer Boulton, “Matthew 5.38-48 – Homiletical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word – Year A, Vol 1, eds. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox press, 2010), 385.

[13] http://disturbingthepeacefilm.com/about/, accessed 18 February 2017.

[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A95PDQWr4xs, accessed 18 February 2017.