Scary words from Matthew today: “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Our country, our culture, feels like a furnace of fire right now. Each and everyone with much weeping and gnashing of teeth is trying to find some kind of moral high ground from whichever side they are on.
On a very personal level I, myself, tend to side with those who are oppressed. Shaped by my faith, my loyalties skew towards those who cry out, like our ancestors the Israelites did in slavery in Egypt, like our savior did abandoned on the cross. But I’m not naive. I know enough to know my views are my own, and that many people disagree with me with deep values and loyalties of their own.
It is an absolute honor to be gathered together with you this morning, to be in the Spirit of God together. So, when Pastor Quann and I Pastor Philip Krey from St. Andrew’s were talking, and Pastor Quann invited me to preach here today, I asked, “Is there any special Scripture I should preach on?” And he smiled and said, “Whatever you like, just come and bring the Word.”
Good morning! I feel like it’s been a long time since Pastor Krey and I have been in the same room on a Sunday! So, today is one of those Sundays where I am going to focus not on the Gospel (Pastor Krey did a good job with the children’s sermon). Instead, I would like to focus our attention on the lessons from Jeremiah and Romans.
During this episode in Jeremiah from chapter 28, the king had a huge problem. A bigger, stronger nation named Babylon was coming to take over. And the word that the prophet Jeremiah heard from God was that the kingdom of Judah was in big trouble.
Jeremiah put a wooden yoke around his neck, and waltzed into the palace of king Zedekiah, and said, “See this yoke, it’s God’s sign that it’s all over. All your prophets are liars and imposters. Unless we submit to the coming Babylonians we will lose everything.” This is exactly the opposite of what the king wanted to hear, of course. So another prophet, named Hananiah, a pet prophet of the king, grabs Jeremiah’s yoke off his shoulders and breaks it, and says, “Ah ha! Just like that, we are going to win against our enemies.”
And then Jeremiah says something very sad and profound which we heard in chapter 28.
This was a casual reflection given without notes, see the video above.
The Emanuel 9, killed by Dylann Roof on June 17, 2015: CLEMENTA PINCKNEY MYRA THOMPSON SHARONDA COLEMAN-SINGLETON DEPAYNE MIDDLETON-DOCTOR DANIEL SIMMONS CYNTHIA HURD ETHEL LANCE SUSIE JACKSON TYWANZA SANDER
So, here we are on music Sunday! And I know… there is not one of us who does not love some form of African American music. We are all proud of our nation’s heritage of Gospel, Folk, Blues, Country, Rock n’ Roll and Jazz—R&B, Hip Hop, Dance, Pop, Showtunes and more! You must know, all the roots of all these genres are firmly planted in the songs of lament and hope, joy and perseverance of the Black people of our nation’s history and present.
When we as white folks share these songs, and when we listen closely to the meaning of all these kinds of music, we do very important work. These songs, and especially our hymn of the day chosen today by Brian, these songs are Black songs. Beautiful Black songs about Black stories for Black people, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Getting ready to talk with you all today, about Pentecost, about the festival when we remember the Holy Spirit coming to the earliest church, I was talking with my wife Maddy about the color red. It’s the color that represents the fire of the Holy Spirit we heard about in the lesson from Acts. I asked her what she thought about the color red, what it represents to her. And as she scrolled through social media full of pictures of protest and grief, she said anger.
She said anger and she’s right, red does mean anger in our culture. And one way or another, this week we have all been seeing red. Our nation is seething with anger. Raw from anxiety in this pandemic, anger begets more anger.
We’ve done something this morning as a community, that we haven’t done in a while! Not since Holy Thursday, actually, on April 5th. We have confessed our sin. Now, normally, the Sundays after Easter are a very happy and joyful time. We celebrate Christ’s victory over death, and the completion of God’s plan to restore us to our true identity as God’s children. So, lately, in celebration, we have been thanking God for our baptism, the sign of this true identity, as Pastor Krey and myself have been splashing around in the baptismal font.
But, this morning we confessed instead—something equally as beautiful as baptism, I think.