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Isaiah 61

61The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners; 
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
   and the day of vengeance of our God;
   to comfort all who mourn; 
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
   to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. 
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
   they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
   the devastations of many generations. 

5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
   foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; 
6 but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
   you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
   and in their riches you shall glory. 
7 Because their
* shame was double,
   and dishonour was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
   everlasting joy shall be theirs. 

8 For I the Lord love justice,
   I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
   and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
   and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
   that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. 
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
   my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
   he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
   and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
   and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
   to spring up before all the nations. 

You need to know two things today and all days.  You are a child of God, and so is everyone else. You ARE a child of God, and so is EVERYONE else. Glennon Doyle Merton, a wonderful woman with a blog called Momastery, says it this way, “I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is, too.” You are a child of God, just as you are, right now, and so is the person sitting next to you, and so is the person who will never darken the door of this sanctuary. You are a child of God.  There’s no caveat, no reservation, no asterix, no “if”s or “but”s. You are a child of God, and so is everyone else. When Christ died on the cross, what was put to death was every thing that would separate us from God and from one another.  Every. Thing. What rose from the grave was a new way of life, an entirely new world where that wholeness is experienced in full. You are a child of God, right here, right now, just was you are and don’t let anyone ever tell you different. This is our identity, the foundation of who we are in addition to all our unique diversity.

We have forgotten our identity, we have allowed others to make us forget. I know that we have forgotten because…

Because when I gathered with the LGBTQ community Sunday night, my neighbor was sure he had all the candles and lighters we needed because, he said “I have a vigil bag ready.”

50 empty places at the table for all those lost to hate at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando

50 empty places at the table for all those lost to hate at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando

Because jail sentences are awarded by considering their potential negative impact on the affluent and athletic rapist and not the victim.

Because it was only 153 years ago that black slaves were declared free in this country, because it took 2 years after that before anyone told the slaves in Texas, and because in all this time, and one year after the shooting of the Charleston 9, almost a year after the death of Sandra Bland…we still struggle to honor their humanity fully.

Because slavery is not a thing of the past, and our city is one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in the nation.

Because mass shootings have increased exponentially, but we continue to make an idol of assault rifle ownership.

Because we still try excuse ourselves and distance ourselves from our contributions, both subtle and overt, to the systems that support our forgetfulness.

But God does not abandon us here.  God’s vision and hope for humanity is not a life of despair and oppression, but joy and liberation. That is our true identity, to be a part of God’s work of restoration.

When God’s people lose sight of their identity and how that identity calls them to live – to love god and love people, especially the vulnerable people in their society – the widow, the orphan, the slave, the foreigner, the prisoner, the sick, the leper, those cast outside of the mainstream societal walls….when god’s people lose sight of their invitation to love these people…God raises up prophets in their midst.  Prophets emerge, they raise their voices, to remind the people of who they really are and to name to the ways the people are missing that mark.  You are a child of God, and so is everyone else.  Let us Love God and Love one another.  In Christ, you are a part of this redeeming and prophetic work. We are the ones who get to show up, speak up, and act up.

We pray that love might find root in our hearts, in our world. We pray for love to outrun hate in our inward souls and in our outward bodies. The prophet calls the people to love. Love, not in word alone…not in some overly sentimental rose-colored glasses way, but embodied – inviting the stranger, the foreigner, into their homes; giving the thirsty a cold cup of water to drink.

We are called to comfort those who mourn. It is no comfort to say “I’m really sorry this happened, but there’s just nothing we can do about it.”  “When the church of Jesus Christ is known only for its prayers and its limp expressions of sympathy for the oppressed rather than its speaking up and acting out in Jesus’ name, we have decided to be a bit of honey to sweeten the world’s evil rather than to be what Jesus commanded us to be: salt, light and agents of a new age… Jesus did not say, “Light a candle for me,” or “Every now and then when there’s a spectacular criminal act, pray to me.” You know what Jesus said. “Follow me.”” We are children of God. It’s who we are.  It’s who you are.  You are a child of God, and so is everybody else. That identity is already secured, so how does it shape us to follow?

Today, you are invited to follow with prayer, anointing, and action.

There is a station for prayer, where 50 candles wait for you to light them in memory of all those who were lost to hate in the shooting of the LGBTQ nightclub, Pulse in Orlando. There are additional candles there for you to light in honor of others who suffer hate and mourning.

I will be standing at a station over there for any who wish to be anointed with the oil of gladness and receive a blessing.

Finally, if you have not contacted your elected officials to plead for equality, safety, and justice…it’s time.  If you haven’t registered to vote….it’s time. There’s a table with your representative’s contact info and scripts you can make use of and adapt.  You can write them, call them, tweet them. 

Let us now enter these stations of prayer, anointing, and action.

As we head out from this place, we find rest in the promises of God.  The promise is that these hopes of equality and justice are not pie-in-the-sky, but they are promised by God. This reality, this promise WILL be fulfilled.  This dream is not impossible. The promises Isaiah declares may not have been fully realized in his lifetime, not until almost a millennia later when the Messiah, the Christ, broke through to redeem all of creation, but he was a part of it. Perhaps the most powerful moment for me this past week, was at Monday night’s interfaith vigil, where I held hands with my Baptist siblings, my Buddhist siblings, police officers and transgender veterans, people of all colors, and we sang We Shall Overcome….someday.  We will overcome.  We are the children of God.  This is our inheritance, our hope and our empowerment.  You are a child of God, and so is everyone else.  And absolutely nothing can take that away.


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