Julie Kae Sigars
It’s a dark and stormy night.
Well, not stormy, but it was raining.
And it is very dark, almost midnight.
And some of the streets were not main streets.
And I just dropped my son off at a warehouse in the rain for his first job that doesn’t start for another hour.
Nothing says that this is the right place for him to be.
And he is all alone. And he wants me to leave.
And I think I might be terrified.
I pull around the corner and spy on him.
Someone else is there, and they are waiting together.
OK. I will leave.
He texts me that a little group has formed. They are in the right spot. All shall be well. They will wait together.
Later I get the text I really need: They are inside. All good!
We need other people, most of the time, to have courage to do what needs to be done. Sounds like church.
This has been a dark and stormy week. Each day has reminded us of terrors that we thought had been put away.
But of course, they haven’t.
You might not have heard about that one.
The clergy presence was there in Charlottesville on Friday night. Meeting and praying before the march that was scheduled on Saturday. Church needed to be there. Our prophets insisted upon it. Justice and Wisdom must be heard on the streets.
The thing is… words matter. Presence matters.
And folks needed to prepare.
He sent the disciples off, on a boat, and he went up the mountain, alone, to pray. When he was done, it was late at night, and everybody else had gone. The boat was far off, getting tossed in the wind. Jesus, who had spent his time in prayer, was done praying and ready for action. He began to walk on the water to the boat.
This prayer-filled messiah was frightening to the disciples. Could it be a ghost?
No. Do not be afraid. I AM.
And here comes Peter.
Ask me and I can also walk on water.
Come! says Jesus, and Peter begins his walk.
Robin Jaunt poem
Boldly I step out of the boat toward the
Ripples radiating behind me with each step
Fish watch in amazement…
I’m walking to Jesus on the water!
This is so cool…
The Shining light beckons me
I’m wrapped in His Light
Floating on and on…
Lighter than sea foam in the wind,
Dancing from wave to wave…
My eyes wide open…I’m bold.
Why is that rooster walking behind me?
Are my feet getting heavy? [end of poem]
That rooster…Peter’s betrayal.
We all have betrayal in us.
And as we chose to “Come” and walk to Jesus,
on this day, I wonder about the betrayal we carry as church
to being silent in view of the deep historical racism of our nation.
It was only two years ago that I heard someone say, “I do not think we should call racism a sin.” In a church ecclesial meeting. Back in the “Oh, we are post racial” days.
In my early life, all I heard was, “This will take time. Black people need to be patient.”
Well, no, this is on us. It is our work. WE should be impatient.
How many times have you read, “Really? In 2017? This is happening?”
To which people of color answer. Yes. It always has. You haven’t wanted to see it. It feels better to think we are “over racism.” But black and brown bodies have never been safe. Never. In the history of our nation. And many times, with the support of the Southern Church. Which is why it is always a shock to many of us when white supremacists, and white nationalists, claim to be Christians.
And friends, it is time for that to be called out.
So here is what I heard in our readings for today.
Joseph and his brothers lived in a system of scarcity. If someone had something, that meant someone else did not. So Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph over his brothers meant that in the long run, they might get less through inheritance, and honor. So even though Joseph was a bit forward with sharing his dreams, it only made things worse with his family. Favor AND Arrogance. So problem solved by creating an event that got rid of him.
But here is the deal. Joseph had these dreams that seemed to be all about who had power over who. But (because they are our stories; we know what happens next, and next…) the dreams also show that through Joseph, there will be enough…ENOUGH for everyone when famine hits the land. An early, “I have a dream” event. A calling. For Joseph. And those who are angry that someone may get something, a coat with sleeves, or honor, they themselves are rescued, are freed from starvation.
In my historical studies, I have read several times, that one of the biggest griefs of the former confederacy after the Civil War was over the idea that a black man, a former slave, received the right to vote.[ Support of slavery was based on the idea that Africans were less than human. Giving former slaves the right to vote implied an equality to whites. This totally upset the white supremacy ideals of the Confederacy.] The ways that was handled brought the worst of our history out in the open: lynching, KKK, doing everything to make black American men and eventually women, afraid to vote. Put up statues in the town squares to remind the former slaves and children of former slaves, that these were the people that were valued. These were the heroes. The ones who wanted you to remain in slavery. And don’t you ever forget it. And if that didn’t work, expand the prison system, the 14th amendment to take that right away from them. Voter suppression is still with us and is growing as we speak.
Justice is calling us to the streets…
From the Belhar confession:
that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream; that the church as the possession of God must stand where the LORD stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
The Belhar Confession is part of the polity of our church. It is part of our confessions that we say will form and inform how we are to be church and how we are to be in the world.
And what of Jesus, walking on the water? I see Jesus, walking on the chaos of life, man and God, done his work, prayed to his creator, was filled for his work. He sees the trouble the disciples are in, he walks to them, and invites them to come. Share in the rough ride on the waters. Peter jumps to the challenge, and then has doubts. So human. Thanks be to God. And Jesus seems to challenge Peter on his doubts. But remember, when we are fearful, or facing our death, doubts may happen. Even Jesus called out on the cross, doubting the presence of God.
But Jesus, baptized, and walking wet, called into a cosmic world changing mission, turning the world upside down, knew who and whose he was. Just like we do. We are children of the waters of life. We are God’s own. And remembering who and whose we are, we can jump into that chaotic water, the crazy world, and live.
My facebook friend, preacher, professor at Austin Seminary laid down this challenge:[Margaret Aymer Oget]
Jesus doesn’t calm the wind when he’s walking out to his students in the boat.
Jesus doesn’t calm the wind when he commands Peter to come to him.
Jesus doesn’t calm the wind when he saves Peter from drowning.
Jesus stands in the middle of danger, on the water, with the wind blowing and commands his students: Take courage. I am. Fear not.
Preachers, Christians. In the face of the winds of white supremacy and racism, with the seas of church decline roiling beneath your feet, we are still commanded to walk on water, crying out for rescue when we need it.
In the face of “make nice” culture and fear of offending, we are still required to face into the winds with the truth that racism is sin. We are still commanded: Take courage. Jesus Christ is Lord. Fear not.
Preach the gospel.
Make it so, my friends. Make it so.