Tag Archives: christian response to trump

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Christ: A Stranger in the United States

Christ is always coming toward us as a stranger.  Soon, we’ll read post-resurrection texts and included in those will be a  passage from John’s Gospel where Jesus stands upon the shore, peering out to the lake where his disciples –soon to be apostles—are fishing as some kind of cathartic exercise in response to despair.  They will see a figure on the shore but he is shrouded by fog and distance, unrecognizable until that distance is closed by their urgent race to the shore. They leave their boats again to run to him because while they cannot see him, they can hear him.

John’s Gospel begins by saying that Christ came into the world and the world, though made by him, did not know him.  He came as a stranger. He was perceived as a stranger both by his own family and neighbors and the Romans who killed him.  Christ is always coming toward us as a stranger.

That truth is likely why we end up with the admonishment from scripture to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” since you might unaware end up entertaining angels …or the Christ. Certainly we see this in the famous story in Luke’s Gospel about two disciples on the road to Emmaus who have no idea that the person journeying with them is the Risen Christ. He remained a stranger to them for their entire journey until at table, he blessed bread and then their eyes were opened. That is, they recognized him.

Once you are recognized or known, you are a stranger no longer.  This should be the point, or at least a point, in any religious response to the world and its residents:  close the distance, recognize one another as brothers and sisters.  The stranger who arrives in your midst may be the Christ coming toward you.  You should treat him or her as such.  Yet the early Church lived as strangers in the world—perhaps this is why the Gospels depict Jesus as a stranger and why the scriptures encourage kindness toward the stranger.  Hebrews 11 says that these people of faith “confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth..”  That word “foreigner” gets variously translated as “alien” and “exile.” But it has the sense of illegal aliens, persons who arrived in a foreign country and sojourned there.

Many Christians –not all of course—feel especially alienated in the United States at this moment in history.  The Senate is about to have its remaining leg of bipartisanship removed by a man who single-handedly obstructed the Constitution and stole a Supreme Court seat; the Attorney General is about to roll back civil rights by obstructing reform of police departments across the country, this despite the fact that extrajudicial killings of African-Americans is a travesty in this nation and Gov Scott of Florida is reprising the role of Pontius Pilate with a vengeance; laws to protect the water and air are being rolled back despite the facts of and danger of climate change and a renewed effort to deny healthcare to the elderly and poor and sick is under way.  For Christians who believe in the Prince of Peace, who extol justice and protection of the stranger and immigrants, who believe the bible teaches stewardship of the earth and “creation care,” who know that the stranger Christ was brought into line by the police and soldiers of Pilate, this is madness that resembles the horrifying world of early Christianity.  Christ is a stranger in the United States.

My encouragement to you as we move toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week is to recall what Jesus told his disciples, “In the world you have tribulation but take courage.  I have overcome the world.”  This Sunday, close the distance and cross the threshold of recognition so that we may no longer be strangers to one another and so in the coming days, we might work together to shelter as many as we can from the coming storm.  ~ See you Sunday.

 

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Where is the Gray Wizard? Or, You Shall Not Pass!

So I was thinking of ghosts past on Monday evening,  after getting a notification on my phone from the New York Times that the President had fired the acting Attorney General.  I remembered Richard Nixon in particular.  Then Tuesday morning, I listened to a song from the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings: The King Returns. This in turn reminded me of my favorite scene in that entire trilogy.

It is the scene where the Gray Wizard, Gandalf, defied and shouted to the menace that sought to destroy him and his company of brave hobbits: “You shall not pass!” and as he pronounced that, he drove his staff into the stone pathway. Where in America is the Gray Wizard?  Where is the Republican statesman who will stand up to a presidency that is, in the conservative columnist David Brook’s words, “an ethnic nationalist administration?”   The cowardice and silence of the adults in charge is deafening.  Senators? Congresspersons?  Where are you? It is time to save the nation now. Come out, come out wherever you are.

Monday night in my world religions class at Howard University School of Divinity, I explained the significance of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha (soul force) for Martin Luther King’s non-violent resistance. You can read Dr. King’s explanation in the essay that appends his book of sermons, Strength to Love.  But I told my students, the present may now compel us all to relearn the idea of satyagraha.  Indeed, little did I know that the President would fire the acting Attorney General a few hours later.  The People must now face this nefarious threat to its democracy.

I know that some would accuse me of being political but I am speaking pastorally at this point because the reality is, the country is being  unraveled by a cruel man, a nationalist and bigot of the first order.  Not challenging him may lead to untold suffering and God forbid, death.  This President—remember this—this President did not confer with anyone in Congress about his executive order that deceptively established a religious test for immigrants and turned back refugees seeking safety.  You must ask yourselves then, with whom will he confer when he is tempted to send a nuclear device flying into and crashing a civilization?  Steve Bannon. That is the answer and that answer should rouse decent political leaders on both sides of the aisle to recoil in revulsion and then to stand up and draw a line and tell this President, YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

For Such A Time As This

Protective ShepherdThe first thing one must do when faced with risk is to be awake to the fact that one is at risk.  Then plan,  not how you will save yourself, for while that is a natural and human response it is not a humanist response and certainly not a Christian one.  You must plan to save others.

Read Esther chapters 3-4 in which Mordecai, understanding the threat to his people plotted by Haman, urges Esther to advocate for her people because she has the ear of King Xerxes, Haman’s boss.  Mordecai tells her, “you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”   This story illustrates my point:  you must plan to save others, not just yourself.

A Machiavellian prince has arisen in our land.  In this time, be alert to those around you who need protection, advocate for them and if necessary, hide them from brutality.  Work for justice and as you do, do so as a peacemaker. For such a time as this, you may have been appointed.

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The Foundations Shook: A Sermonic Response to the Election of Donald Trump

Pastor Bledsoe will preach on Sunday, November 13th a sermon entitled, “The Foundations Shook,” based upon the scripture of Isaiah 6:1-8 when the prophet, confronted by the death of his king and an apparent darkness and foreboding faced by the people, was surprisingly confronted with the reality of God.  An excerpt from tomorrow’s sermon:  ”You and I are about to step off into a Machiavellian period that would make Orwellian politicians blush.”  What is to be our response?

Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, the writer of Hebrews wrote.  Come to worship, embrace one another and let us find a response worthy of God’s people for this time in which we live.   Remember, we worship now in our interim space at Jefferson Middle School Academy on Seventh Street, directly across from our church building.     ~See you Sunday

“I am an ally. I will stand for your right to be who you are. I am safe.” Join me in wearing a safety pin to declare to others at risk that we stand with them in these perilous times.

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