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St. Margaret's Day Sermon - November 13, 2016

posted Nov 19, 2016, 9:03 PM by Parish Administrator
2 John 1–9

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love. I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father.

But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in a small North Carolina town between Ft. Bragg Army and Pope Airforce bases.

In many ways, it was a fantastic little bubble in which to grow up. I had friends of so many nationalities and ethnicities; and the combinations were incredible. My small town had not one, but two Mexican-Thai bodegas. Have you ever been to a Mexican-Thai bodega?

But my mother and the rest of my family made sure that I knew that my world was not like the world around me. I remember when one of my neighbors came over to tell my mom about a harrowing experience. She was German and had married an African-American GI and she had taken her children on an excursion, to the zoo, I think she headed home, after dark.

As she was coming down the road, she came to a place where the cars had stopped. And when she looked further, she saw a cross burning on the side of the road. She ordered her 3 children to get down on the floor of the car, to cover themselves with the blanket they’d been curled under, to be absolutely quiet and to be utterly still. As she inched her car forward she came to a spot where men in white hoods surrounded her car, shining flashlights. After a moment, they waved her through.

She told my mother that she was shaking all the way home and she didn’t let her kids off the floor until she’d reached the outskirts of the base. She said, “I couldn’t stop thinking what would they have done to my babies; my beautiful brown babies.”

After wards, when my family was together, I remember my mom “tsk, tsking” about my neighbor and saying, “What was she thinking, driving through there at night?!?” “Doesn’t she know where she lives?”

My mom wanted to make sure that I always knew where I lived. She pointed out the billboards that proclaimed Johnston County “Klan Country.”

She made me watch news footage of the Carolina Knights of the KKK, and made me listen to what their leader Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr had to say. She made me witness how even when the white robes come off, the messages were the same.

I am acutely aware of the world in which I live: So I wasn’t surprised at the looks Mark and I got when we were dating in North Carolina. Nor was I surprised when a woman grabbed him in the grocery store, “Asking are you WITH her?” And when Mark said yes, she hissed, “But she’s a Black woman!”

(I was surprised however when Mark yelled loud enough for the whole store to hear, “Kym, why didn’t you tell me you were a Black woman?!”)

I was horrified and deeply saddened by the 1998 lynching of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, TX and Matthew Shepard in Ft. Collins, CO. But I wasn’t surprised. I was somewhat surprised and thankful that the perpetrators in both cases were caught and tried.

I was not surprised when, in the progressive town of Chapel Hill, my 3rd grader was called the N word in 2008. I was angry, but not surprised.

I wasn’t surprised when after killing two adults and a child outside a Jewish Community and Retirement Centers, Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. said, “He was trying to kill Jews, not people.”

And I have not been surprised by the number of unarmed Black men shot by law enforcement. I have said to anyone who would listen that the significant difference between the past and present is that people have video cameras in their pockets and bear witness to what has been happening all along.

And when convicted rapist Brock Turner was given a commuted sentence with virtually no jail time?? I just shook my head and said, “This is where I live.”

I know where I live.

And for the last 8 years, I have noticed demons stirring in our nation. And to clarify what I mean by demons, I point you towards the baptismal covenant of the Episcopal Church (p.302 in the BCP). There it talks about the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, and the evil powers that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.

The demon of White Supremacy (that idea that skin color denotes one’s worth and value), the demon of misogyny that denies the full humanity of women and girls, and misogyny’s step-child, the demon of homophobia, these demons have been gathering momentum in our nation. While our society dismissed and denied, while many churches congratulated themselves on how progressive they were, these demons were gaining strength and spreading their poison, waiting to be unleashed.

And they have been. And these demons cannot be legislated away. They cannot be reasoned with, they can only be defeated by the Spirit of a living God, working through people like us, to change hearts and minds.

And guess what? St. Margaret’s Church was created for a time such as this.

This community named for a woman who dedicated her life to prayer and serving those in need; this church that opened its doors to people of color, when other churches were sending their black and brown guests to the “other Episcopal church” a few blocks east.

This church was one of the few “early adopters” when it came to accepting the leadership of women.

This church didn’t just tolerate gay and lesbian people with don’t ask, don’t tell; this church welcomed them and gave them shelter, seeing the merit of full, honest selfhood. This church mourned the loss and celebrated the lives of the victims of AIDS

This is the legacy of St. Margaret’s. This is who we’ve been and who we must be, especially now. A Jewish friend once told me that what mattered most was knowing where to could go for shelter when the pogroms started.

This community is called to be that shelter.

St. Margaret’s has faced these demons. And we must face them again. But we cannot afford to face them in the typical, genteel, quiet way of Episcopalians. We must now face them (as one of our members said) loudly. We must proclaim boldly with our words and deeds the truth that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.

We must proclaim that “scarcity mentality” is a ruse. There is enough for everybody. Just because a brown kid is getting a chance to go to school doesn’t mean that she’s taking a White kid’s place.

And we can’t just make these proclamations in the echo chamber of our social media. We have to talk to real people, in real time, face to face. We must speak up, in our work place, in our families and where ever we see those demons rearing their ugly heads.

Because friends, the hate speech and intimidation is growing.

Just this week, a clergy colleague in Silver Spring came across two teenagers berating an elderly Latina, calling her names and telling her it was time for her and her kind to get out of their country. The priest approached them shouting “Stop it! What is wrong with you?!” and the boys ran away.

This is what we’re going to be facing in the days ahead. And some of it will even be coming from people out there calling themselves Christians.

But Jesus himself told us that you will know followers of Jesus by the love they show. You know Christians by how they care for others. You know Christians by the way they offer food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty.

Today, I don’t care who you voted for and I don’t care why. What I care about is the witness that we, the people of St. Margaret’s, are called to make in this world.

We cannot afford to stand silent. To do nothing in the face of this kind of hate and ugliness is not of God.

We also cannot afford to rely on our own power in this endeavor. These demons cannot be defeated by the force of our will. We can only do this with God’s help.

And we have to start with prayer, real prayer for ourselves and for our nation; prayer for those who are being persecuted and their persecutors.

We have to start here, in our community reaching out and talking to our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just on Sunday, but in the days ahead. Check in with your fellow “Margretians,” (especially the Black and brown ones), listen to one another, pray with and for one another.

This day, St. Margaret’s Day, is when we, the members of St. Margaret’s, traditionally gather together and pledge our commitment to support the church. And I want everyone to know that a pledge is commitment based on your current circumstance. I realize many of you work for the government and have no idea what your future holds; I get that. And maybe the pledge you make will have to be adjusted for a future circumstance, you lose a job and can’t give all you’d hoped or (on the plus side) you get an unexpected bonus and can give more.

This is my pledge card, and I will fill it out. I’ve pledged $5,800, which about 6.8% of my pre-tax salary.

I understand all of the economic uncertainty in our hearts and minds, and I still want you to pledge. I believe that everyone can pledge something to support the vital work that is ahead of us.

And I want you to make another pledge today. I want you to flip this card over and write another pledge on the back; a pledge about what you will do to witness to the Gospel this year. Maybe it is a pledge to serve our homeless neighbors at Charlie’s Place; maybe it is a pledge to go to that black or brown person you know (a little) and invite him or her to dinner at your house, because you never have before; maybe it is a commitment to revisit our sacred texts and educate yourself on how they speak to our lives; maybe it is a pledge to lead or participate in more prayer with your faith family; maybe it is a commitment to figuring out how we progressives might be less disparaging and disdainful of our less educated brothers and sisters, our rural siblings, our isolated and provincial citizens, and all those who have disproportionately suffered under a system driven by power and greed.

I’ve said to this congregation many times that the witness of this community is too important for us not to do all in our power to keep it vital. We must change and adapt to meet the needs of the world we live in. We cannot afford to let our church, like so many Episcopal churches, go the way of the dodo. We must evolve, adapt to our current circumstances and live.

The world we live in is so divided. The demons are rallying.

And St. Margaret’s Church, Dupont Circle, was made for a time such as this.