My sermon was not only not written down, but differed greatly from the intimate conversation of our two smaller services, and our large 10:30am service with a guest bishop and a baptism. I cannot reproduce it here, but I can share with you some of the components:
We started with Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41) and the fear of the disciples, compared with the calm of Jesus:
Jesus can sleep and be at rest during the storm first because he is not the experienced boatsman (the fisherman disciples are): he trusts that they will do what they can. Going further and deeper, while Jesus plans to continue his preaching, teaching, and healing, he completely trusts God: he knows that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and knows that if he should perish, that God’s vision of the world will be carried by others (consider in Mark that Jesus only begins speaking publicly after John the Baptist’s voice is silenced.)
His criticism of the disciples is giving in to their fear, and ceasing their action.
We remembered the names of those killed in Charleston:
• Cynthia Hurd, 54, a manager with the Charleston County Public Library system.
• Ethel Lance, 70, a retiree who recently worked as a church janitor
• The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a South Carolina state senator and pastor at the church
• Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the church
• The Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, former Charleston County community development director
• Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a church pastor, speech therapist and a high school girls' track coach
• Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church
• The Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74, another pastor at the church
Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University
Their pictures were placed on the altar.
Using our voices to not be afraid, to confess and call out sin:
At the smaller services, I talked about my complete rejection of what the killer did (and his racial hatred motivations) and my assumption that those present in church feel this way too. However, racism is far more prevalent in our lives than we acknowledge. I admitted that I continue to benefit from being white in America: from storekeepers looking differently at me, to the reality that I can reasonably count on help from police officers. I suggested that while the Battle Flag does not represent the views of most South Carolinians, it’s presence gives justification to those who hate and would act on those views: and that…and things like it…is on us.
At the later service, I used what Peter Enns wrote on Jonathan Stewart’s Daily Show monologue after the murders, calling him a modern day prophet:
Stewart using his public platform here to call out sin, clearly, without compromise.
Not simply the sin of individual racism that led to this tragedy.
But the deeper sin of the collective racism of our country that supports and nurtures killers like Dylann Roof and of the structures in place that can’t quite seem to get up enough steam to move mountains if necessary to do something about it.
Biblical prophets held Israel’s leaders accountable. They got in their face, like they were prosecuting attorneys bringing out a laundry list of crimes against the people.
Biblical prophets were voices of moral consciousness and tireless advocates for the marginalized, the vulnerable, the oppressed.
They were voices of what the Bible calls justice and righteousness….
Bringing justice and righteousness to our world is nothing less than what the Bible calls: salvation, deliverance, redemption–words contemporary Christian rhetoric often restricts to spiritual matters.
Though those words include our spiritual state, the ancient Hebrews understood the body and soul, the individual and corporate, the psychological and sociological to be meshed together as one organism.
Israel’s rulers had the sacred–I will say it again, sacred–responsibility to insure that justice and righteousness are upheld for the good of the whole.
And like a prophet, Stewart took a step back and looked at the big picture. He was somber, angry, exasperated, and grieved by injustice.
Like a prophet, I heard Stewart getting political–laying bare the ugliness all around us and the insanity that allows it to happen–or even excuses it.
But I also heard a bit of hope, which biblical prophets also give, that it does not need to be this way. We can live differently.
Finally, I used a call to action by Episcopalian Paige Baker:
"I woke up to the news from Charleston, and this is ringing in my head: How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?
But this I know: God has no hands but ours. Nothing will change until we stop sitting on them.”