Antiracism in Eastertide

May 06, 2015

The Rev. Charles A. de Kay
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Evanston
Easter 3B, April 19, 2015

In the name of the Risen One.  Amen.

Good morning!

It’s wonderful to be back home with you all!  Thank you for coming out this morning!  It’s a great day to be take some time to come to the well to be renewed and to give thanks!

Happy Eastertide to you.  In the church, Easter – like Christmas – is not just a day, but a season.  We’ve been waiting for this all the long lent, and now it’s here!  So we’re celebrating for a season.  Our dear friends whom we only see on Christmas Eve & Easter morning, well, I think that they’re missing out. If you see them in the schools or shops or parks, let them know that we miss them.  And if you feel so inclined let them know what they’re missing out on!  No guilt trips, please.  Just a “wish you’d been there Sunday, it was really special!” would be great.

So, what have I got for you this morning?  Just more good news.  And wondering.  That’s all.

So, Jesus did indeed come back.  The author of Luke wants us to know that he was fully corporeal.  Eating and drinking, no ghost, no zombie, no monster, but a living breathing here-and-now person. 

And, as such, most people put Jesus on their top 10 list of dinner guests – if they could invite anyone from any time in history.  There are so many wonderful questions to ask!  Would he be on your top 10 list?  If he were to RSVP, what would you serve?  Where would the conversation take you?

And, as such, we imagine new insights into the character of this entity we call our God.  Our God is one of infinite possibilities.  Our God is one of new life.  Of new possibilities.  With our God, who loves us beyond measure – certainly human measurement anyway – all things are possible.

When we talk about drawing on Jesus when we are weary, drained, frightened, ashamed, beaten down, it now takes on new dimensions.

And, so, when we talk about Jesus’ promise of abundant life in the here-and-now, it becomes real. 

And, so, when all things are possible, we can boldly consider the promise of the Isaiah’s Peaceable Kingdom,

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.[1]    

When all things are possible, we can reclaim the hope of the world, in the words of Amos, But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.[2]

It’s a hope of Eden restored and transformed.  A new reality in which men and women truly live into the kind of sacrificial love for one another, friends and foes alike, where one would willingly lay down one’s life for one’s neighbor, but that is not necessary. 

I spent the weekend at an Antiracism Training, a training that has the audacity and the hope to imagine a world in which all people are truly treated equally – where the Baptismal Promises we make that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons, that we will respect the dignity of every human being – is lived out by everybody.  We who make these promises have our own roles to play.  But can you imagine it?  A world in which there is not just peace but an absence of violence?  A world free of bullying and even malicious gossip?

I’m struggling myself.

I’ve had my ideals and seen them crushed.  I’ve had great hopes and seen them dashed.  It can be hard to trust again.

But, I don’t know.  Consider with me their first principles.  The antiracism training speaks of a world battered and bruised by institutional racism of the false binary of white and non-white, which is suspended upon values of competitiveness, secrecy, scarcity, and either/or thinking.  The antidote is a community built on values of collaboration & cooperation, transparency, an abundant worldview, and both/and thinking.  Goodness, that sounds a lot like what we’ve been talking about around St. Matt’s for at least the last three or four years.  These have been the subject of conversations at annual meetings, vestry meetings and retreats, finance team meetings, vision meetings, countless conversations I’ve had with leaders and just about everybody who asked me what’s your vision for St. Matt’s?   When I saw these values – collaboration & cooperation, transparency, a lively sense of God’s abundance, and “both/and” or “win/win” thinking yesterday, toward the final hours of the training, I began to wonder… is this one way we might live into our call to be “Building Community in a Complicated World?”

Are we called to become a parish that strives to uncover and root out the racism that touches everything?  It’s systemic, baked into our nation from the time before we were a nation, and while tremendous progress has been made, especially in the 19 years from 1954 to 1973, we still have much work to do.  Is St. Matt’s being called by our God, for who all things are possible, to this ministry, perhaps to be a leader in our community, our Deanery, our Diocese?

I don’t know.  We have a lot going on already.  We’re rebuilding our infrastructure with the help of the first phase of Campaign 2026.  We’re investing in a new vision of Christian Formation for all ages.  We’re striving for a new rigor and transparency in our finances – our finance team just completed the first audit in a number of years.  We’re awakening to ways to provide opportunities for all to have rolls in our worship. We’re seeking culture change in how all of us interact with St. Matthew’s – trusting in the leadership and wisdom of the all the baptized.  It’s a new era of collaboration & cooperation, of transparency, of abundance, of moving beyond “either/or” thinking.

So, let’s talk about this.  What do you think?  Are we being invited to become an intentionally “antiracist community”?  As the training was about to end, we were reminded that such a transformation doesn’t happen overnight; this is a long-term vision.  It takes time to dismantle the soul-sucking systems of racial oppression, but it is possible.  For instance, discerning and skeptical students over the weekend ended up giving Chicago Theological Seminary a 5 out of 6, the highest possible grade on the Crossroads’ “Continuum on Becoming an Antiracist Multicultural Institution.” 

Is St. Matthew’s being called to explore this deep work of social justice?  Do we have a heart for this ministry?  I don’t know.  But I do wonder.  One thing’s for sure: We’ll find out together.

Our lesson this morning, however, reminds us that with God all things are possible.     As we ponder these questions this morning, I’m reminded of how on May 10, 1994, in his inaugural address after being sworn as in the first black president of South Africa, former political prisoner, Nelson Mandela quoted from Marianne Williamson, who wrote

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”[3]

In this season of Easter, may your light shine brightly!  And may St. Matthew’s be a holy place shining with the light of infinite possibility.  Amen.


[1] Isaiah 11:6.

[2] Amos 5:24.

[3] Marianne Williamson. A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracle.

 

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