Violence Begets Violence

I can understand a church’s desire to protect its’ people. We’ve seen far too many massacres at churches (or anywhere, for that matter).  But, despite that reality, threatening more violence in reaction to violence doesn’t even remotely approach having anything to do with the teachings of the faith.

When relating the story of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene, Matthew 26:52 tells us that when a disciple sought to defend Jesus from those arresting him:

…Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

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Sermon: Making Room

…when we walk out of this church, the question of whether we are going to face the issue of racism and race-based injustice is a choice we can make, because we are all white. And, unlike our black brethren, we can choose to forget about it. … King said “the time is always ripe to do right.” And so I say “yes, the time is always ripe; but are we willing to do right all the time?”

martin_luther_king_cover.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoMy self-image as a strong supporter of Civil Rights crashed in ruin one Sunday morning, in the Spring of 1996. At the time, I was a member of an African American church in Virginia, and their sound technician. (…But please don’t tell our worship team that!) That morning, as I was setting up, a young woman, maybe 16 years of age, came in with her friends, and sat down in front of me and my sound board. She then leaned forward in her chair, so that I could not miss what was printed on the back of her orange t-shirt in big block letters: “I WASN’T EDUCATED IN NO F***ING WHITE MAN’S SCHOOL”.

I must apologize for even hinting at such language here. But it is important for this morning’s message to give you a good sense of what that moment was like.

Obviously, this is not one of my lighter sermons. So, let’s take a moment to pray…

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Hoping for a Future

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Some thoughts on the tension between Certainty and Hope, inspired by’s book “The Prophetic Imagination”…  

“I have a dream!” said the Preacher.

A dream implies hope: hope for a better life, for redemption, or justification, or perhaps vindication.  Hope is the conviction that the future holds the promise of better things to come, that the future is a better place than the present.

And the Preacher, representing a people who had endured centuries of oppression, terror, bondage, and worse, gave voice to their hopes that hot afternoon, more than 50 years ago.

“I have a dream!” he said.  And yet, the hundreds of thousands who first heard those words had little else but those words.

Hope flourishes in the forgotten corners of human existence, in those places where certainty either does not exist, or where the only certainty to be had is dark and painful.  Hope flourishes where human voices are not given the chance to speak, where human hands are not allowed to build a future for themselves, and quite often where those with power and wealth have done all within their power to eliminate the future.

Stop! …Say that again?  Eliminate the future?

Yes.

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A Prayer Inspired by Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Pastoral Prayer Delivered at First Parish, Lincoln, MA on January 16, 2011.

From his jail cell in Birmingham in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” and that we all have to repent not merely for the hateful words and actions of some, but for our own silence.

He said that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; but comes through the tireless efforts of those of us willing to be co-workers with God, and that without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of stagnation.

So, we dedicate ourselves to walking with those who find themselves in the abyss of despair, our brothers and sisters who have found that the trials of this world and the sorrows created by the choices of others can no longer be endured, alone.  In particular this morning, we remember:

  • The vast numbers of people in many lands who have recently lost homes and loved ones due to natural and manmade disasters;
  • Those experiencing the effects of illness, injury or disease in themselves or in those they love;
  • Those who have lost jobs and homes; and perhaps their own sense of hope and self-respect, in these difficult times;
  • Those mourning the loss of loved ones or are themselves recovering from the violence of those who have forgotten their humanity;
  • Those suffering from oppression and injustice, and are unable to speak for themselves.

Today, tomorrow and in the weeks and months ahead help us rekindle the light of faith and hope in those we meet and minister-to.  By helping them to walk, they are helping us to run.  By helping us to run, they themselves are becoming agents of change and hope.

God, we honor your presence here today, and rejoice in the many ways you walk with us, and are a constant companion in our journey through life.  We ask for your grace, inspiration and strength as we seek to do the same for our fellow human beings, and so enable them to see you working through us.

Amen

Copyright (c) 2011, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or getting) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given (via mention of my name on your site, or a link back to this site).