Editor’s note: this is the real opening of my sermon tomorrow, August 13, 2017 at the church where I work. I hope it brings a little hope to your part of the world.
I am not at all sure what you’re expecting to hear today. I have planned to speak on the journey of faith from freedom and I’m still going to because the message of the gospel needs to be heard, so that you know that God’s love hasn’t changed – and because I have a funny sermon, and I hate to waste the jokes.
That said, while the gospel hasn’t changed, the world outside these walls has. The sermon will address North Korea from a Biblical perspective, oddly enough. Charlottesville, wasn’t even on my radar earlier in the week when I started this sermon. As a preacher, and a pastor, it is my job to respond to the events there.
Quoting from their own writing: “Join Azzmador and The Daily Stormer to end Jewish influence in America. “You may have heard that the City of Charlottesville cancelled the permit, This is true. It is being challenged in court, but we’re showing up, permit or not, and now we need you more than ever! It is not illegal to protest without a permit anyway, and rumor has it, the copas are siding with us over the evil Jew Mayor Michael Singer and his Negroid Deputy Wes Bellamy. We have it on good authority that the chief of police is going to ensure that the protest goes on as planned, regardless of what the ruling Kike/Negroid powers are attempting”.
They are disgusting words to be used in a church. I know that. I use them here because I want you to be under no illusions about how disgusting their hatred is. I’ll bet none of you thought Charlottesville was about hatred of Jews. I certainly didn’t. But it is about Jews, and Muslims, and Buddhists, and atheists, and anyone who is not them.
This church struggles, as much of this country does, with what it means to be diverse and Christian. America is not the only country that does, and we are not the only church that does. The neo-Nazis that put on this march yesterday hate every one of you in this room because you’re not them. Some of you are women. Some of you are Black. Some of you, I assume, but have no way of knowing, are gay or lesbian. Some of you are Hispanic or Asian. We’ve actually had a Jewish woman in worship here. All of those people are under siege by the neo-Nazi cause, because all of them obviously aren’t them. But all of you are Yankees, from one of those elitist New England States. And if you’re a member here, you belong to “that liberal denomination” the UCC. It doesn’t matter what you actually believe, because they don’t care. Facts and reason are not their strong suit. They have prejudice, and that’s all they need. It’s them versus you. All of you. All of us.
I know that this church voted recently to be Open and Affirming in whatever ways you understand that. I know that some of you are still not convinced in your hearts that it was a great idea, but I want to bring you a gift from the gay community, whether you’re gay or not and I want to tie it into Christianity… where it came from. One of the things that has come about during all of the controversy is that teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, some clergy, have put a little triangle on their door, and it simply says “safe space” inside the rainbow triangle.
Years ago, when some event like this happened, and I was leading a prayer group at seminary, I had a book called “Stories of God”. The book said, in part, “in times like this, we do what we have always done. We gather together for comfort. We gather together and tell stories of God”.
I want every single one of you in this room to know that this building is “safe space”. No matter who you are, or what you have going on in your life, or what people think you have going on, you are safe here. No one here will ever do to you what those people want to do. This is a place where we practice love. No one will ever hurt you physically or with hate here, under my watch. Ever.
We hear a lot these days about sanctuary cities. And they are controversial. I get it. But Christian churches have always been sanctuaries, since the day Paul was blinded and the Christian church took him in. The idea of “safe space” that’s been used by allies of the gay community comes from Christianity. They got it from us. And now they give it back to us, in our time of need. We need their ideas as much as they need our safe space.
In order for this space to stay that way, though, we – all of us – must practice love– and loving each other. Today, we have baptized a baby – the symbol of all that is innocent. Every baby starts that way. No one is born hating. They must be taught to hate. Hate is a choice. A lousy choice to be sure, but a choice, nonetheless. Here, though, we teach love to protect the innocent from becoming hateful, and in doing so, we create safe space. We expand the sanctuary of God’s love every time we raise a child in this environment. You are safe here because love is what we do here. Everyone is safe here if love is what we do here. So, in times like these, let’s gather together and tell stories of God.
Resisting with peace,