Monday, October 31, 2016

Welcoming Jesus Into Your House; Luke 19:1-10

Rev. George Miller
Oct 30, 2016
Luke 19:1-10

Confession time- I’ve had no idea what to preach about today. We’ve talked about so much over the past year- mental illness, racial tensions, the election, finances.

It’s time for some levity.

In yesterday’s paper, amidst all the super-serious news was an article about the president of the Philippines who said God told him to stop cussing.

He was on a flight to his hometown when God woke him up and said “If you don’t stop with the foul language I am going to bring this plane down to the ground!”

Now, the president of the Philippines is known for being crass and crude, cussing out both the pope and our president.

He’s used off-color language when talking about the UN Secretary General, human rights advocates and Islamic extremists, and he’s been seen in public chewing gum in front of emperors.

And the man is not a teenager, he is 71 years old.

He’s a political bad boy, but he claims God had a come-to-Jesus-moment with him, so he will try his best to change his ways.

I love the notion that God can enter into someone’s life unexpectedly and change them for the better.

Of course, this notion is Biblical. In the book of Acts, Saul, an enemy of the Christians, has an encounter with the resurrected Christ and becomes the biggest cheerleader for Jesus.

In the book of Judges we have God appearing to Gideon, who is the weakest member of the weakest clan, calling him to be the mightiest of leaders.

Today, in the Gospel of Luke, we have Jesus inviting himself over to the house of Zacchaeus, enemy of the state.

The delight is in the details.

Jesus is entering into Jericho on his way to Jerusalem, and a crowd has gathered. And we have Zacchaeus, who is a short, short man climbing a sycamore tree just so he can see him.

To fully enjoy this story, we realize this was 2,000 years before Facebook; 2,000 years before you can tag someone in a photo or hashtag someone in a post if you wanted to get their eye.

This is before selfies and cell phones, so if Zacchaeus was to get Jesus’ attention, he was gonna have to do it the old fashioned way- he climbed a tree.

The interesting thing is that apparently Jesus already knew who he was. We’re not told how, we are not told why, but we are told that Jesus looked up, saw this short man in the tree and said-

“Zacchaeus! Bro! Hombre! Get down from there so I can hang with you at your house.”

Of course, people didn’t like it one bit. Not only did Zacchaeus collect taxes for the Roman government, but he was their chief guy.

What kind of rabbi would eat with their enemy? What kind of savior would stay with a sinner?

But Jesus doesn’t mind what the others say.

Zacchaeus stands there, on solid ground, short in stature, but soaring in spirit, and he says-

“Look- half of what I own I will give to the needy, and I will pay back 4X to those I defrauded.”

His reward: the gift of acceptance. He is accepted into the Family of God, guaranteed a place at the table.

No longer an outsider, an enemy, a sell-out, but a brother, a friend, and among the found.

There is a lightness, a joy, that comes from this scripture. That is a good thing, because in the same chapter Jesus will enter into Jerusalem, cry over the sins of the city, and cleanse the Temple.

But for now, for this moment, separating all that has come before and all the drama that will come later, is this perfectly captured moment in time in which Jesus is standing before a sinner who may be short in stature, but he is extraordinary in heart.

And the possibility for positive change is present.

Change that can bless the poor, change that can bless the community, change that can bless Zacchaeus himself.

Once again we get to see the Still Speaking God at work.

Once again we hear what happens when holiness enters into a person’s life.

Once again we are reminded that no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey- Jesus wants to be welcomed into your house.

No matter who you are, or what you have done- Jesus wants to be welcomed into your house.

No matter who you are, no matter who you have-
-robbed from
-cursed at
-lied about
-sinned against

Jesus wants to be welcomed into your house.

Every day.

No matter what you have said, no matter what you have done, no matter your age, your height, your sex, your role in life-

Jesus wants to be welcomed into your house.

It’s never too late, it’s never too early. You’re never too rich, you’re never too poor.

Jesus wants to be welcomed into your house.

For that, we can all say amen and amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Shades of Grey- Election Edition

Rev. George Miller
Oct. 23, 2016
Luke 18:9-14

Today is a day in which I’m going to talk like I am a Big Boy. And I trust that you all here are Big Boys and Big Girls, and like Stephanie would say, that you are each able to pull on your Big Boy and Big Girl pants.

Because it is about time that we talk about this election. It is safe to say that this is an election unlike anything we have ever seen.

All these issues of lies and misbehavior, misbehavior and more lies.

But I got news for you- I was born in 1970, which means I came to consciousness during the Watergate Era, and in a country still dazzled by the Kennedy Legacy.

So I have never known a time in which presidents didn’t lie and politicians did not misbehave or cheat on their wives.

Call me jaded, call me a realist, but when I hear about these things I’m like “Yeah, so?”

I’m not looking for my leaders to be my buddies, or my friends, or my Sunday School teachers.

I’m looking for them to be the best leaders they can be who put the welfare of the people and the land before themselves and their cronies; leaders who can protect but can also play well with all the other leaders of the world.

In other words-justice. But not- perfection.

It’s a shame that we expect people to be so perfect. We live in and have co-created a society in which we expect everything to be so black and white.

Either everything is all good or all bad.

Someone is either all saint or all sinner.

Things are heavenly or they are hellish.

Where is the in-between?

The truth is that we are all in-between. We all are composed of good and bad, saint and sinner, heavenly and hellish.

Question is- do we hide it? Do we deny it? Do we push people away if they get too close to our truths? Do we attack those who stumble upon our shades of grey?

What if…what if Hillary had said 2 years ago, upfront, and on her own “Guess what- I made a HUGE mistake. I used my own personal server and in the process received and sent confidential e-mails.”

What if Hillary said “I admit that what I did was wrong, and once it was brought to my attention I stopped and sought council on how to best address my mistake.”

Would she have been justified by the American voters, humbled by her honest confession of non-compliance?

What if…what if Trump spoke up immediately and said “I have said some inappropriate things in private that I now realize were harmful to others. And I acknowledge that there are instances in which I have disrespected women; some of these are on tape.”

What if he said “I never meant to harm anyone, but I am seeking council and advise on how my words and actions can affect another, and I intend to learn and grow from these unfortunate experiences.”

Would he have been justified by the American voters, humbled by his honest admittance of objectification?

Is either candidate all good or all bad? All saint or all sinner? All heavenly or all hellish?

Today’s reading is one of those scriptures that if one is not careful, it can place people in a one or the other category.

Jesus is telling a parable.

A parable is a story that defies description. It seems to go one way, and then veers to the other. It shakes up pre-conceived notions of the world.

Parables challenge us to think, and no matter how much time we devote to them, we can never quite fully grasp them.

Parables force us to wrestle with God, and it is in the wrestling that we become closer to our Creator.

Here Jesus tells a parable in which he talks of 2 distinct people.

First, there is the Pharisee. Pharisees back in the day were akin to our church elders and church leaders.

They were the ones who served as deacons, they were the ones who sat on the boards, they were the ones who ensured things kept running.

They were the ones who gave greatly, tithed ten percent, and made sure the bills were paid and the lights were kept on.

The Pharisees were also notorious for being big on following the rules, and not straying from how things were done.

They preferred the old hymnals, and liturgy spoken in the proper language, and everyone to dress a certain way.

The Pharisees kept the Temple going, but they could also be overly righteous, quick to judge, and assume that only they worshipped God the right way.

Then we have the Tax Collector. Back in the day tax collectors were seen as greedy, untrustworthy, and unclean.

Perhaps worse- they were seen as traitors to their own people. Tax collectors worked for the Roman government, collecting the taxes from their Jewish peers living in Jerusalem.

They made their money off of commission, so they could charge people whatever they wanted. If the person refused or was unable to pay, they could be fined or arrested.

It would be akin to Isis conquering America and your neighbor going to work for them collecting taxes to strengthen their army.

So, who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? The one who is holier than thou but keeps the Temple running? The one who works for the enemy but is humble?

Does it make a difference on how we view them if we realize there’s a good chance the Pharisee was born into a Pharisee family that was well-to do, had power and position, so he had the luxury of fasting, tithing and following all the laws of the land?

Does it make a difference if we realize there’s a good chance the Tax Collector was born into a poor family that struggled every day, had no power, no position, and none of the luxuries that allowed for fasting, giving, and following all the laws of the land?

What kind of desperate background may someone come from that they would be willing to work for the enemy?

What if the Tax Collector had a family to feed and needed some way to earn money?

Who is good, who is bad?

So you are being asked not to see either man as black or white, good or bad, saint or sinner, heavenly or hellish.

But to see them as doing what they know, and doing what they can in a complex world.

As the parable continues, Jesus tells us what the Pharisee says. It is interesting to note that his prayer features
-33 words
-1 reference to “God”
-5 references to himself, and all the good he’s done

Clearly, the Pharisee’s prayer is not so much to God or about God, as it is about him.

Jesus then tells us what the Tax Collector says. It is interesting to note that his prayer features
-7 words
-1 reference to God
-1 reference to himself as sinner

Clearly, the Tax Collector’s prayer comes from a heavy heart.

The twist in the parable is when Jesus tells us that it is the Tax Collector who is justified.

Why? Because he was honest before God. He spoke his imperfect truth, he confessed his sins, he admitted his flaws.

He sought mercy.

Therefore mercy is what he received.

Justification is what he got. Grace is what rained down upon him as he returned home.

Does this mean that he was the better person? Does it mean he is now the one who is all good, all saint, all heavenly?

Does it mean that upon being justified he changed his ways? Does it mean he stopped collecting taxes and working for the enemy?

We don’t know; we will never know.

Jesus doesn’t tell us, because a parable is not meant to be easy.

A parable is meant to make us think. Make us uneasy. Make us wrestle with God.

If the world was only in black and whites we’d be left to wonder:

-Is it better to be holy but unhumble?
-Is it better to be unholy but be humble?

We do not live in a world of black or white. We live in a world of grays.

Which means we are constantly surrounded by people who are like both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. We are surrounded by people who can boast and be humble.

And truth be told, we all have a bit of the Pharisee in us, and we all have a bit of the Tax Collector in us.

We have all done things for the benefit of others, and we have all done things for the benefit of ourselves.

We have all bragged upon how much better we are than another, and we have all had times in which we said that we were worms in the dirt.

Today’s parable does not give us an easy answer or easy insight but maybe we can take a bit of what we like from each person in today’s tale.

That we can be inspired to try our best, and to admit our worst.

That if we trying to do what we need to get by, we can still find ways to help another.

That we don’t judge so quickly, but we are brave enough to present ourselves before God to be judged.

That we can be honest enough with God about how we have messed up, and humble enough to receive the gifts of grace.

To not only see ourselves in shades of grey, but to see others in grey, realizing that people are not all good, people are not all bad.

…No one is perfect; everyone is perfectly flawed…

…As we near the close of today’s message, I have a brief story to share.

A few weeks ago for the adoption class, I had to find someone to sit down with and to share my fears.

My real fears. The ones I keep hidden, even from myself.

I invited my friend Aisha over, she’s a mother of 7 and radiates a spirit of love.

So in the comfort of my sun room, I talked. I shared my fear, and as I shared one fear, another came out, and another, and another.

And with the admittance of fears, came the tears, and admittance of other feelings, like anger, doubt, and even joy.

And Aisha just…listened.

She didn’t cut off. She didn’t critique. She didn’t shame or explain away.

Aisha was simply there, hearing every word.

At the end she smiled. We hugged.

I felt like five pounds from each shoulder had been removed.

That moment became, for me, an example of how God is. That God is there. God listens.

And when we give ourselves the gift of confessing and speaking our truth, God is there to release, to embrace, and to justify.

Days later, Aisha confided that there wasn’t a single thing I said that she herself had not felt or experienced, confirming that my grays were here grays too.

In conclusion, today’s scripture has so many things to say. Today is can be a reminder that we can come before God and be who we truly are and to admit what we truly feel.

To know that God can handle it.

God is a Big Boy.

God’s got Big Girl pants.

There is nothing we can say or confess or admit to that God is shocked by.

There is nothing we can say or confess or admit to that God doesn’t already know.

There is nothing we can say or confess or admit to that would ever make God take God’s love away.

For that, we can say amen and amen.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Women Warriors Judges 4:1-10

Rev. George Miller
Judges 4:1-10
October 16, 2016

There are those who would say that we are in “The Year of the Woman.”

At the Olympics, women won 61 medals for the USA. The Women’s Gymnastics Team won 9, and Simone Biles and Simone Manuel set records.

Music wise, women have ruled the airwaves. Rhianna told us to “Work, work, work, work, work.” Beyonce visually and sonically poured us a big ol’ glass of “Lemonade.”

Adele sang “Hello from the other side” and sold 10 million copies of her latest CD.

In the world of literature and stage, J.K. Rowling is making magic with her newest Harry Potter creations and “Girl on the Train” has become the must read book.

By reimagining their classic cartoons with real people, Disney has been crafting films that feature women as the main character.

Last week Disney made news with their live action remake of “Mulan,” undertaking a huge, international casting call for one of the few Asian female leading roles in history.

As we prepare for this year’s Trunk-o-Treat, retailers report that female anti-hero Harley Quinn is the number one costume, with people of all ages dressing up like the “Suicide Squad” character.

Then there is this little thing called the Election, in which for the first time in American History we have a female presidential nominee for a major political party.

Personal preferences and politics aside, we can all agree that this is a historic moment in time.

But yet, other countries have had women in powerful positions for quite awhile, such as England and Germany.

And then we have the Bible, and though it is much harder to come across, we encounter a handful of stories featuring women in prominent roles.

For example, Miriam, the sister of Moses. She followed him down the river, ensured his survival, and worked alongside Moses and their brother Aaron in delivering the people.

Upon crossing the Red Sea, Miriam leads the women in a song of praise which is believed to be the first piece of recorded scripture.

For those who are taking part in our Daily Bible readings, you know that this week we met the Queen of Sheba in Chronicles 9, who paid a visit to King Solomon.

The Queen of Sheba came to the Holy City to test Solomon, to see if he was as truly wise as others said.

She brought with her spices, gold, and precious stones. Upon investigating and interviewing him, she gives her approval and rewards him with her blessings and gifts.

In the Gospels we have Mary Magdalene being the first one to hear about and to experience the resurrection of Christ.

While the disciples hide away in fear, it is she who bravely goes to the tomb and experiences the Good News.

Then we have today’s reading. Like last week, it is also from the Book of Judges.

Here is a story that not too many people are familiar with, and that is a shame.

Here is a story about a woman of great power, of great wisdom, of great might.

During a time in which Israel has yet to be ruled by Kings, Deborah is a judge.

She is married to a man named Lappidath, which in Hebrew means torches. Therefore Deborah is literally a “fiery woman” or a “woman of spirit.”

Deborah was not just someone’s wife. She had many roles. She was a prophetess, which meant she was looked upon to declare whether or not God would give the people victory in battle.

Deborah was also a judge, which had a different meaning back then. Judges were seen as deliverers, they were responsible for bringing their people up out of harm’s way.

But if you also noticed, she was sought after by people who came up to her, seeking her knowledge as she sat under the palms.

Deborah was many things to many people. And in today’s story we also witness as she becomes a general.

Once again, the people of Israel have failed God. They have failed to trust God. They have failed to believe that God will do what God says can be done.

Because of that, new trouble and new enemies arise.

But Deborah is not afraid. When Barak comes to her, she says “The Lord says Go! Bring an army of 10,000 men and God will defeat your enemy for you.”

Barak asks her to go with him. Who knows why. Was it because he was scared and wanted her there for support?

Was it because he was untrusting of Deborah and God’s promise?

Was it because he so highly valued her leadership that he wanted Deborah right by his side?

We never know, but it is clear that Barak has no issue going into battle with Deborah, and we are told she gets up, she goes, and like General Patton she leads 10,000 men to war.


Just recently we as a nation were debating if women should and could serve in combat, and right here, in a biblical story that’s nearly 3,000 years old, we have a tale of a fiery woman who bears the light of freedom, justice, and victory for her people.

Makes you wonder how different we would be as a people if we all knew this story.

Makes you wonder where we would be as a nation if we taught every child this story.

Makes you wonder how the church could go centuries debating if women could or should be ordained, or be ministers, or hold leadership roles.

This story, though 3,000 years old, is still so revolutionary. Just this week we had a pastor say that it is against the will of God for a woman to be president.

But right here, in sacred scripture, we have God using a woman to lead, to judge, to discern, to save.

Once again, today’s reading goes along with the theme of last week’s reading- the freedom of God.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it much more- scripture teaches us again and again, and again and again that God is free. God acts unexpectedly; God cannot be controlled.

Which means if God wants to use a lefty in a world of righties- God will.

If God wants to rely upon crafty word-play- God will.

If God wants to use the tools of the enemy against them- God will.

If God wants to appoint a woman as a judge and use her as a prophetess- God will.

If God wants to use a woman as a soldier in the Army of the Lord and promote her to general- God will.

If God wants to stop injustice, unkindness, and the evil of the enemy- God will.

God is free, God is wild, God is funny. God is complex. God is with us in the high places, and with us in the low places.

God is not sexist. God does not discriminate based on gender. God does not fall victim to gender roles placed upon people by their society.

God hears, God sees, God acts, God moves.

God will use who, what, where, and when, and God does not have to answer to the “why?”

God is not limited. God is forever free.

For that, I believe we can ALL say Amen and amen.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Bible's Bathroom Joke; Judges 3:12-20

Rev. George Miller
Judges 3:12-30
October 9, 2016

Here is a list of current events:

-tension between groups in the Mid East
-Uncertainty over gender roles
-Power-hungry political leaders who chase after and demean women
-Child and spouse abuse
-Senseless acts of violence
-Moral confusion
-Narcissism (J. Clinton McCann, “Judges”, pp 1-2)

Except these aren’t today’s events, they were the current events taking place in Israel during the time period the Book of Judges covers.

Judges is a book that has familiar names, like Gideon, Samson, and Deborah. But it’s a book that’s rarely preached on in churches. In fact, the Lectionary (which I often use), recommends one reading from this book once every 3 years.


One guess is because Judges is the kind of Old Testament book in which God seems to always be angry, inflicting punishment and revenge, and seems to prefer war over the ways of peace that us progressive, protestant followers of Christ tend to prefer.

But read this book and you are left with deep theological questions about the nature and actions of God, and if God actually cares just about Israel and not one whit about the rest of the citizens of creation.

And then of course we have today’s reading, a raunchy, ribald action-adventure that is fit more for a Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” sequel than a Sunday reading. (And having Jean read it aloud is such a delight.)

Let’s be honest- Judges 3 is vulgar, violent, possibly racist, heroic, and funny as heck.

Not just funny, but punny.

In the original Hebrew, the left-handed Ehud is from the tribe of Benjamin, which literally means “Son of the Right-Hand.”

The name of the fat king is Eglon, which means “calf” or “bull.” So King Eglon is literally a fat cow.

The word for “message” is the same word as “thing”, so when Ehud tells the King he has a secret for him, and then pulls out a sword, Ehud is both lying and telling the truth.

“Dirt” can be a nice way of saying the inside of one’s bowels.

And we have this gratuitous scene in which the King’s staff think they’re smelling him going to the bathroom, but what they are really smelling is the after effects of said “dirt” being spilt out.

Not to mention this story is not easy for any of us men who are rather larger in girth and have been meaning to lose weight for the past 2-20 years but just haven’t gotten around to it.

Why such a story exist? What possible good can come from a vulgar bathroom joke in which 10,000 men die?

Well, we have to remove ourselves from our current station in life to understand.

This was as a story told, and written by, people who had experienced great oppression.

They were people who knew all about impotent rage.

They were people who underwent years, decades, and centuries of being oppressed and experienced all kinds of injustice.

And for people who’ve been oppressed, who are being held down by an oppressor, sometimes the only thing they have is humor.

The ability to laugh at one’s enemies is one of the most powerful balms; poking fun at those who hurt us can diminish their power and make them seem less invincible.

This story’s original tellers and listeners weren’t being cautiously politically correct.

They did not see this as a story of unfair murder, but a story of how their enemy was defeated, and how God rained down righteous vengeance upon people who had held them down for 18 years.

And the questions arise-
-did God really act this way back then or is this how people perceived God as working?
-does God still act this way now, and if so, what does that mean?
-did having a son in Jesus Christ change God?

There are numerous other questions, but for this remaining of our morning, I’d like to ask “How can we apply such a vulgar, violent, funny tale to today’s life?”

I say “easy.”

First thing to do is to think of who or what an enemy or a threat would be.

We just survived Hurricane Matthew. Matthew posed a threat to the entire state and east coast.

Gusts of wind, heavy rain, booming thunder, assured death and destruction.

What if Hurricane Matthew replaced King Eglon in our story?

Then we have a metaphorical tale about how God will deliver us from even the worst of storms, and that even though there is dirt, and mess, and uncertainty, God will prevail.

What if we replace Ehud with Jenny Craig?

Then we have a metaphorical story about how individual fat and America’s chronic-obesity epidemic is able to be slayed and destroyed through God.

That instead of using a knife to cut another piece of rich, decadent cake, Jenny Craig is able to cut down the fat that is enveloping our bodies and health-care system.

What if we replace King Eglon and the Moabites with other kinds of enemies?

What if the Moabites and King represented cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or AIDS?

And this story is about how God is able to come into our lives and destroy illness?

What if Ehud represents the medical community?

Then this story becomes a metaphorical telling of how God is able to use doctors, surgeons, medicine, and technology to care for and protect those living with illness.

If we see the king as disease and Ehud as the presence of God, then we can say that no matter how devastating, no matter how oppressive, no matter how evil cancer, Alzheimer’s and AIDS are-

-they are not more powerful than God, and they do not get to have the final say.

What if we went back 70 years and simply said Ehud represents our American military, and Eglon represented Hitler?

Then we would have a clear understanding of right and wrong, good and bad, free and oppression, and we would have zero issue with Hitler being taken down in a vulgar, funny, violent way.

Yes, today’s story is not what many expect out of the Bible.

Yes, today’s story is not neat, pretty and smelling like roses and lavender.

But today’s story is once again another instance in which we get to glimpse into the history of God and God’s people, and be reminded:

That God is free. God acts unexpectedly; God cannot be controlled.

Which means if God wants to use a lefty in a world of righties- God will.

If God wants to rely upon crafty word-play that borders on the deceptive- God will.

If God wants to use the tools of the enemy against them, such as their greed, their over-consumption, their false idols- God will.

If God wants to enjoy a good fart joke- God will.

If God wants to stop injustice, unkindness, and egocentrism- God will.

God is free, God is wild, God is funny. God is complex. God is with us in the lofty places, and God is even with us in the outhouse.

That’s amazing when you realize there is not a place in which God will not go; there is not a story in which God cannot be made known.

For that, I believe we can ALL say Amen and amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

When Human Rights are Perverted does the Lord Not See It? Sermon on Lamentations 3:19-36

Rev. George Miller
Lamentations 3:19-36
Oct 2, 2016

“When human rights are perverted…does the Lord not see it?”

Last March, Eden Seminary hosted a gathering called “Forward from Ferguson: Prophetic & Pastoral Visions.”

I attended that gathering and the most memorable moment was when guest lecturer Gregory Ellison came out from behind the pulpit, walked throughout the sanctuary and silently…

…looked at all the people present, nodding his head and making small gestures of acknowledgment.

After what felt like 5 minutes he stood in front of everyone and said “It is good to see you.”

He then spoke about what it is like not to be seen. To be a young black man in society and to feel like people do not see you.

To be a homeless person and to feel as though people do not see you.

To be an elderly person in a nursing home and to feel like people do not see you.

According to Mr. Ellison, when you go a long time feeling unseen, you develop a series of emotions- insecurity, sadness, and anger.

When people’s blindness to you causes them to mistreat you, it can develop into what he labeled “impotent rage.”

Impotent rage is when you have been made to feel so helpless, so silenced, so invisible, that all this anger bubbles up and eventually erupts.

In other words, look at the riots that recently took place in South Carolina regarding the shooting of yet another black man.

For decades, actually centuries, there have been issues about the way authorities have treated people of color, people on the fringe of society, and people from another land.

Back in February Beyonce tried to address the issues of police-related shootings through song, dance, and video.

Instead of people listening to what she had to say, and trying to see as she saw, they became outraged, condemned her and threatened boycotts.

Months later on the BET awards, actor Jesse Williams addressed the issue with an eloquent, impassioned speech.

Instead of people listening to what he had to say, and trying to see as he saw, talk shows went into a frenzy and people demanded he be fired from his television show.

Footballer Colin Kaepernick peacefully addressed the issue by doing nothing- he sat during the National Anthem to bring people’s attention to social injustices.

Instead of people trying understand what he was saying, and to see as he saw, he was immediately judged, the recipient of hateful comments, and called to leave the country.

So, in South Carolina when yet another black man, when another mother’s son was shot, people responded with impotent rage.

Music didn’t get the message out. Speeches didn’t get the message out. Sitting didn’t get the message out.

So with nothing left, people took to the streets, protesting, rioting, shooting and looting.

And still- we have yet to hear that what they are trying so hard to say- that human rights are being perverted and can we not see it.

Let’s go back 47 years, to New York City. An establishment known as Stonewall, a place frequented by the LGBT community.

A time in which being so was a crime.

It was not unusual for the cops to come in and do a raid, usually once a month. Lights would be turned on, patrons lined up, IDs checked.

If men were dressed as women they were arrested; if women did not have on 3 identifiable pieces of feminine attire they were arrested.

Names would be printed in the papers, families humiliated, people lost their jobs.

At 1:20 am on a Saturday night in June 1969, the authorities came once again. 205 people were present. Some began to run away, but the cops barred the doors.

Tired of the injustice and humiliation, something snapped. Impotent rage kicked in.

Patrons refused to be arrested. People refused to show their Ids.

It is reported that some of the cops began to assault some of the women, while others pushed and kicked customers outside.

A bystander began to sing “We Shall Overcome”. Someone was shoved.

Soon little things like pennies were being thrown. Then beer bottles. Then bricks from a nearby construction sight.

Impotent rage filled the street as officers barricades themselves inside the bar while the crowd grew in size.

Garbage cans, rocks, a parking meter- all used as expressions of rage and anger.

Nights later thousands gathered to show their support for the LGBT community.

As a result of that night, the Gay Rights Movement began, with the institution of community organizations, Pride Parades, and nearly 50 years later we see the result with marriage equality becoming law and the chance for people like me to adopt.

“When human rights are perverted does the Lord not see it?”

Let’s go further back. Boston, 1773, at a congregational church known as the Old South Meeting House, which is part of the UCC.

A group of white men meet, filled with impotent rage.

These colonists are angry because they object to the Tea Act that’s been passed by British Parliament. They feel it violates their rights to “No taxation without representation.”

These colonists believe it is unfair that they can only import their tea from Great Britain. They are offended by the extremely high tea tax that at one point was as high as 25%.

These men hear that seven ships carrying 2,000 chests of tea are coming their way to the colonies.

They realize they have had it with the way the British have treated them. They hate how they are being over taxed.

Since England will neither listen nor see them, they do something that gets their message across very clear-

They protest. Thousands of people arrive; 7,000 people surround the Meeting House.

With ships in the Boston Harbor, people pour out of the church. Up to 130 men, some dressed in Mohawk costumes, board the tea-bearing boats.

Over the course of 3 hours they dump 90,000 pounds of tea into the water, costing up to $1.7 million dollars in today’s money

Talk about an act of impotent rage, in which those who felt helpless forced others to see them.

As Americans we view these men as heroes.

But the British were aghast, calling this destruction of private property, viewing the colonists as hooligans, riff raff, trash.

Britain punished the colonies, shutting down the port, implementing harsher laws that became known as the Intolerable Acts.

When human rights are violated does the Lord not see it?

Throughout history we see episodes of impotent rage.

Whenever people deemed as less than, savages, wormwood, gall, and hopeless are ignored, abused, arrested and told to shut up and take it, there is likely going to be some kind of response.

Throughout history we see people who have been bearing the yoke of hate, of those whose mouths have been made to taste the dust of the ground, and of those whose cheeks have been hit by the smiter.

They are left to wonder- does the Lord not see it, does the Lord not care?

And in many circumstances it can appear as if the answer is “No…no the Lord does not see it, the Lord does not care.”

But then a sliver of hope can come in by the act of remembering; hope can come from the stories and narratives that are stored in our soul.

Hope can come from the recalling of scripture and found in our Holy Text.

Hope comes from the ways in which the Bible reminds us that yes- God does see, yes- God does care, and yes- God does act.

God saw the suffering of the slaves in Egypt, God heard their pleas for help and God delivered them.

God saw the Samaritan woman as her jars of oil and grain nearly run out, and God made sure both of them never went bare.

God saw the cries and suffering of Jesus on the cross, and God responded by resurrecting him on the 3rd day.

We recall these stories; we remember that God saw, God heard, and God acted.

In these narrative truths comes hope.


Hope is like impotent rage in that it comes from the same place- it is born out of pain.

Hope and impotent rage are both expressions of profound yearning rooted in hurt.

Hope and impotent rage come from wounded insides and scarred psyches.

And when we have hope, we are able to hope with God.

Hope that things can change.

Hope that things can get better.

Hope that although things are not like they were, and they are not as they should be, in Christ and by the Holy Spirit, things are still becoming.

Hope says things are still happening.

Hope says that possibilities are still unfolding.

Hope says that New Beginnings lay just beyond the horizon.

Hope- the kind that comes from remembering and recalling that if God has done it before, God can do it again.

Hope that says the very worst of human kind pales when compared to the very best that God has to offer.

Hope that says as long as we have breathe, there is always the chance for a grander tomorrow.

Hope manifests itself into acts of life and victory that defy the odds, defy the -isms, and defy those who say “No you can’t.”

Hope is the weed that grows out of the concrete sidewalk.

Hope is the budget that believes great things will transpire.

Hope is the breaking of bread and pouring of wine during your last meal.

Hope is a confidence born out of trust in God that says if waters can part, if jars can stay full, if the dead can rise, then God’s steadfast love can see us through.

Hope is not superficial. Hope is not naïve. Nor does hope in God mean that we expect God will do it alone.

But in hope we trust that God will work through history, work through creation, work through the people.

That God will use us to speak, to act, to step, to rise, to march, to cross over, to give, to share, to welcome, to love, to point out.

Hope asks that we see.

God asks us to see as things really are, and God asks that we act accordingly, to do what is right.

That we see injustice and act justly.

That we see meanness and act kindly.

That we see hubris and act humbly.

“When human rights are perverted…does the Lord not see it?”

I say the answer is yes. And in that answer I believe there is hope.

And in that hope comes strength.

When there is hope and when there is strength, there is the ability to believe in and to face tomorrow.

When there is hope, instead of impotent rage, there can be infinite glory.

Amen and amen.