Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sermon after the Christchurch shooting: Sanctuary


         “For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter, hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high upon a rock.”
         Sanctuary—this space where we are worshipping at this very moment, and a generic term for a place of safety.
A worship space and a place of safety… Sanctuary.
         A year or so back we did a pub theology that looked about disaster preparedness, the focus was how can we help when the next hurricane hits? What do we do if someone faints?
         Fast forward to last month. We put together a “Congregational Disaster Preparedness Team” and one of the things we’ll need to think about, at least a little, is what happens if our sanctuaryis under attack.
         Sanctuary… a worship space and a place of safety…
We need sanctuary!

         At first blush it’s a strange thing, the Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod’s threats of violence. But they realize their fate is directly connected to Jesus’. You see, for Herod, one pious Jew looks very much like another… and it was known that Jesus didargue about interpretation with the Pharisees, and dideat with them
—breaking bread and asking “how do you read”
—as far as Herod cared Jesus was just another Pharisee…
and there is a history of the Royal Family off-ingPharisees, Herod’s great grand-father-in-law once executed 800 Pharisees in a single day.
The Pharisees knew that for Herod, Violence is as violence does.
         So they warn Jesus to cool it!
He’s been describing God’s Kingdom in epic ways, which has King Herod worried… 
“Just cool it or we’re all dead!”

         But Jesus won’t be slowed down, he’s doing what he’s doing
—going to Jerusalem… Jerusalem where the Prophet’s are killed…
(some of you have been asking what this phrase means)
Jerusalem, the center of religion
—where else would a prophet die, except in a confrontation with God’s people
religious messengers are killed for delivering their message to religious people,
God’s people who reject God’s message due to their religious convictions,
convictions that are ultimately idolatrous!
         And Jesus laments this, that all these people are loved like Children whose lives are cut short,
loved like chicks who refuse to nestle down and are in grave danger…
ultimately the image Jesus conveys about his message to Jerusalem, an image which will be born in his very body on the Cross, is this:
There is a Fox seeking to eat the Hen’s precious chicks,
-the Hen seeks to save them putting her very body in the way of the deadly fox,
-and the chicks, turn on the Hen, their own mother, and kill her…
-and then, in turn, the fox kills the chicks…
God help us… we need sanctuary!

         We need sanctuary!
-Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg,
-Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston,
-First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs,
Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin,
and now the twin mosques in Christchurch…

         It feels like, to the Violent, to people of ill-will, we are all prey.
Wherever groups of goodwill gather together, v
iolence is as violence does… there are no distinctions made… We all need sanctuary!
         Yet, that’s not quite right, with the exception of the shooting at First Baptist in Southerland Springs (which was an incredibly tragic domestic dispute),
there wasa common thread,
there WERE distinctions being made
—in fact, like violent religious martyrs, the shooters gave witness to their faith, they named very clearly why they committed these horrendous acts of violence
—the worship of whiteness… they were all white supremacists, 
They fit the same pattern as:
the murderer who killed 77 people over in Norway 8 years ago,
or the shooter at the Overland Park Jewish Center 5 years ago where three people were killed,
Or Charlottesville nearly two years ago, where neo-Nazi chanted “Jews will not replace us”
… where counter-protestors were beaten and clergy pelted with coke bottles filled with cement, an African American church put under siege,
and the whole event culminated in a white supremacist running over the counter-protesters with his car, leaving twenty eight people injured and one young woman dead.
         They worship whiteness.
         And again, in the name of this hellish God,children, women and men, mothers and fathers, all gunned down while they worshipped together.
         The absurd horror of a refugee who escaped violence in Syria shot dead at a mosque in New Zealand, where he had found sanctuary…
         God help us, we need sanctuary!

         In the face of Herod,
in the face of the tragedy of Jerusalem,
thank God we can see the Pathos of God in Jesus!
Thank God for his tender sorrow,
the tears of God,
and the tragedy tearing at God’s heart!
         Thank God, as well, that he goes to Jerusalem,
that God in Christ Jesus puts himself in the way,
goes forward anyhow,
knowing that he goes forward to be betrayed by religion and authority
—the impulse of every Jerusalem, every instinct to worship that bypasses God… Jesus goes to meet men who
gladly sell all that is good in religion, for violence’s sake.

         Do you hear me?
The pathos,
the tender sorrow,
the torn heart of God!
         God is moved!
         God weepsat the attack on the worshippers at Al Noor mosque and at Linwood mosque.
         God weepsevery time sanctuary is supplanted by violence!
         Do you hear me?
Jesus puts himself in the way!
         God is always found between the victim and acts of violence! 
         God was withDaoud Nabi, the attacker’s first victim, the greeter who was at the door to the mosque and whose first and last words to the attacker were, “welcome brother.”
         God was withthe father shot in the back while shielding his two sons, now in a coma.
         Even when the church sells itself out to quietism, get-along-ism, that’s-too-political-ism,
when it turns its eyes from white supremacy and any other idolatry under the sun… even then
—God shows up!
         “For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter, hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high upon a rock.” 
a worship space and a place of safety…
We need sanctuary!
Amen, and God help us.

Sunday, March 10, 2019



(to congregation)        
Look at him, filled with Spirit—and nothing else
          I’d watched him at the river when he was Baptized, it was a sight to see, the heavens opened, that vile Dove, the Holy Spirit, she was there with him, and the Creator of all that is, seen and unseen, told him, “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
          Doesn’t look so happy now does he? Bet he’s not filling Ol’ God with happiness now… all gaunt and starved, skinny, wasting away.
          Truly, I wonder, what kind of Son of God is this? The whole thing is so incomprehensible to me. What kind of Son of God is this Jesus?

(to cross)
          Jesus! Since you’re the Son of God, I expect you can follow in your father’s footsteps, you can do for yourself like he did for Moses in the… well… (indicate surroundings) the wilderness… since you are God’s Son, make for yourself bread…
          Take this rock here, make it into manna…

(to congregation)
          And he spits back at me scripture… “One does not live by bread alone.” Nodding to Deuteronomy, to the reminder found there that the 40 years Moses wandered in the wilderness were about God’s people aligning themselves with God’s will, being tested and finding that they trusted God, trusted God’s providing, even when it looked to be the opposite…

(to cross)
          Tell you what! You can’t even make manna from stone…
 you are hardly a Son of God… you are powerless… follow me…
Look at all of this, every nation—look at the strut and strength they have, their glory and authority—it all belongs to me, I’ve taken it from them, they gave it to me willingly, they tripped over themselves selling themselves… and I can do whatever I want with them, I could even give all of this to you…
 If you worship me, then all of this, this magnificent prize, is yours.

(to congregation)
          Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.
          Bllaaa! Again with Deuteronomy… describing one of those powers that I offered him, the might of Egypt, seduced and fallen, describing how the Israelites were strangers and then slaves, and no amount of power freed them, only God freed them, only God is worthy of worship!
This guy, I think I need to try a new tactic.

(to cross)
          Come with me, up to Jerusalem, such a Holy and important place, the belly button of the world, its bedrock, its beginning and its ending…
 no, don’t stop here… come up higher still, up to the tip-top of the temple, up to the highest height, for all to see…
          Look Jesus, since you are the Son of God, spread out your arms, fling yourself from here, and they will see, they will see that you do indeed fulfill scripture, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you” and if that’s not enough scripture for you, “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”
          Huh? How about that, that’s how a Son of God acts, isn’t it? Centering himself and showing everyone his holy power, his heavenly protection—Jesus, that’s how the Son of God acts!!!
(Storm out to congregation in a RAGE!!!)
          And a third time, Deuteronomy, describing the meaning of this God of liberation, this God who took God’s people out of Egypt and through the Wilderness! “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
          What kind of Son of God is this Jesus? He will feed the multitudes with bread, but not himself.           What kind of Son of God is this Jesus? He will bring people from every tribe and race, every nation under the sun under his rule, but not for the glory and authority that nations and races and tribes offer.
          What kind of Son of God is this Jesus?
          Who gets up and goes with that Holy Dove still upon him, who leaves me behind and goes and preaches,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
          What kind of Son of God is this Jesus?

          Look, back at the temple again! Back in Jerusalem!
          What an opportune time!!!
          Look at you on that cross!
          Dear Jesus, now you thirst! Bring out water from a stone! Now is your time to produce manna in the desert—show them you’re God’s Son.
          Now you are abandoned by the very one you worship! “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani”
          Now you are feeling what it means to reject the power of a nation—executed by the state! There is a simple truth to this world, Oh Son of God, if you aren’t doing the killing, you will be killed.
          Now you wonder, are you God’s Son?
          Now your arms are outstretched! Again, in Jerusalem…
          Show them, just show them, what kind of Son of God you are!
          Call upon angels for protection, worship me, be satisfied by more than gall from a rugged stick and sponge!
          Show them what kind of Son of God you are!

          No… you just quote scripture again, “Into your hands I commend my spirit, you will redeem me, Lord God of truth.”