“The revolution out of which our tradition came has not ended…”

The revolution out of which our tradition came has not ended; it is accelerating. The movement of those forty million Europeans to the North American continent was only the beginning. There is not place on the globe today that can stand secure and changeless. It is all changing. It is changing before our eyes. No one can predict what will happen to global culture in even the near future. If you have come out of the pilgrim tradition of the children of Israel, from Egypt to the promised Land, and have used that magnificent opportunity only to become a Philistine, then take heed. Do you live comfortably behind high walls and bronzed gates, and worship regularly at the altar of Baal? Are you pleased with the prospects of Social Security and a special pension plan, or the apparent security of America’s nuclear deterrent and the overwhelming power of its society and technology? If that provides comfort, then live in fear and trembling, because it will all be taken away from you as surely as the security of our forebears. I proclaim it.

-Zenos Hawkinson in a sermon in 1978. Hawkinson was a history professor at my denomination’s college and he was addressing a people with strong immigrant memories.

“…the black church has trained her members to live biblically and hope-fully in a foreign land.”

From Slavery to Reconstruction, from Jim Crow to Donald Trump the black church has trained her members to live biblically and hope-fully in a foreign land. Her preaching has been faithfully biblical. The miseducation of the neo-evangelical black student fails to learn names like Charles Adams, James Perkins, E. K. Bailey, A. Louis Patterson, E. V. Hill and C. L. Franklin. Some in the academy make black preachers to be mere entertainers, jesters of the cultural court. This is both dishonest and irresponsible.

There is this implicit abhorrence for social application of the gospel in the critique of the black church. The witness of black preaching is that our submission to the authority of scripture demands that we engage societal injustice. The black church has not historically engaged in social justice in lieu of the gospel. It does so because of the gospel. My generation will have to give an account for our strange silence in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This is the first time that the black pulpit has not been at the forefront of the moral conversation of systemic injustice against black people in America. The witness of Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, M. K. Curry, Jr., Dr. Martin King, Jr. and countless others is that they edified the church through the exposition of biblical propositions. They taught America to live according to our ‘professed’ Christian ideals.

-My friend, Pastor Charlie Dates, wrote this wonderfully direct and, apparently, necessary apologetic for the Black Church on his church’s blog. While I’m deeply committed to the multi-ethnic church, I am also a happy defender of the African American churches in this country for theological and historical reasons. In fact, without the witness and theological articulation of the churches, our multi-ethnic church would very quickly default to the whiteness of our majority culture.

Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me | Ta-Nehisi CoatesTa-Nehisi Coates has written a book that is beautiful, tender, and painful. Readers will wince for reasons that will depend on how they’ve experienced this country’s obsession with race. Between the World and Me ought to solidify Coates’ as our generation’s James Baldwin, something I’ve been saying for a couple of years though that comparison is way more credible coming from Toni Morrison. The book comes out tomorrow and there are already many thoughtful reviews; don’t be fooled by how many of them are glowing, bordering on fawning. Critical hyperbole aside, it’s simply a book that deserves many reflective readers.

One of the interesting things about Coates is his complete lack of religious faith. He was raised outside any faith tradition; Afrocentrism was the closest thing to religion given to him by his family. In this way he differs from Baldwin who grew up with a mean preacher as a father and who could engage with Christianity and its racist American expressions from firsthand experience, if from an agnostic’s distance. Because Coates writes comfortably within his atheistic vantage point there are natural points of reasonable confusion when he considers Christianity. Take, for example, his reaction in New York Magazine to the public offers of forgiveness offered by members of the murdered church members in Charleston to their loved ones’ killer. “Even the public forgiving, so soon after the slaughter, seemed unreal. ‘Is that real? Coates said, watching the service. ‘I question the realness of that.’”

Coates’ question about the authenticity of this forgiveness is understandable and he seems to wonder about it sympathetically. He’s not angry at these grieving families, just confused about their motives and intentions. In the same interview the author contrasts President Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and its push toward grace with Coates’ own, less hopeful, outlook.

Coates’s writing takes an almost opposite position: that religion is blindness, and that if you strip away the talk of hope and dreams and faith and progress, what you see are enduring structures of white supremacy and no great reason to conclude that the future will be better than the past.

James BaldwinHere Coates begins to sound very much like Baldwin, whose fatigue with American Christianity was on full display in his 1962 New Yorker article, “Letter from a Region of my Mind.”

Thus, in the realm of morals the role of Christianity has been, at best, ambivalent. Even leaving out of account the remarkable arrogance that assumed that the ways and morals of others were inferior to those of Christians, and that they therefore had every right, and could use any means, to change them, the collision between cultures—and the schizophrenia in the mind of Christendom—had rendered the domain of morals as chartless as the sea once was, and as treacherous as the sea still is. It is not too much to say that whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being (and let us not ask whether or not this is possible; I think we must believe that it is possible) must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.

The confusion and disinterest Coates’ shows toward religion generally and Christianity particularly can be chalked up to his distance from it, though I imagine he’s had more than enough exposure to America’s versions of Christianity. Baldwin is harder for Christians to explain away because his knowledge was personal. He wrote with an insider’s knowledge and what he’d seen wasn’t pretty.

There are many reasons to read Between the World and Me and probably even more to dig deeply into the Baldwin canon. But for Christians of all races these authors need to be listened to especially closely for the precise ways they reveal our deficiencies. What sort of deficiencies? Broadly speaking we might read these non-believing prophets for their ability to spot our hypocrisy. But we already expect this, don’t we? Perhaps more helpfully is how Baldwin and Coates reveal the weakness of our supposedly supernatural faith. Forgiveness and hope are central to Christian faith- there is no Christianity without divine forgiveness and eschatological hope. Yet for Coates, and undoubtedly many, many others, the beliefs that appear so radically central within Christianity have been displayed to those outside the Faith as little more than coping mechanisms, excuses to avoid dealing with the real world.

So which are they? Life-altering beliefs about the universe and its Lord or spiritual distractions to make a difficult life slightly more tolerable?

Christians, most of us anyway, want to believe the former but Coates and Baldwin won’t let us off so easily. I’m thankful for this. Their criticism is an invitation to a faith that is deeper and more true than what has often been expressed in this christianized and racialized country.

“What we believe on the inside can never be removed from what we do on the outside.”

Yesterday evening I attended a poster show hosted by Iraq Veterans Against the War. I went with a friend who is a veteran and who has worked with this group for a long time. The posters were well done but this particular one caught my eye.

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Close-up of a poster from a show hosted by Iraq Veterans Against the War.

A portion at the bottom of the poster read:

Joshua was trained as an Aribic translator and worked as an interrogator at Abu Grahib prison from June 2004 to January 2005. During an interrogation in Abu Grahib, a 22-year old self proclaimed jihadist suggested that Casteel was not following his own Christian faith. “He said I wasn’t fulfilling the call to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies. When posed with that kind of challenge, I had nothing I could say to him. I absolutely agreed with him. My position as a U.S. Army interrogator contradicted my calling simply as a Christian.”

Joshua Casteel died from lung cancer a few years ago, likely from his exposure to chemicals at burn sites during the war. I am grateful for his costly witness to Jesus.

Self-Care Isn’t Enough

In the small part of the world I inhabit it’s rare that a week goes by during which I don’t talk with someone about self-care. The church I serve has more than its fair share of teachers, social-workers, therapists, and grad students. These are people who are moved by their neighbors’ pain and have given much of their lives to work of mercy and justice. The work they’ve chosen is demanding and the obstacles they face are entrenched and seemingly endless. I ask them, Are you taking care of yourself? Are you getting rest? We talk, in other words, about self-care and whether or not they are prioritizing it in the midst of difficult vocations.

But it’s not enough.

Which isn’t to say that self-care isn’t important. It is. The concept reminds the individual that her life matters- all of it, not just the bits that are affirmed for their efficiency or productivity. Self-care is also empowering as the individual claims the responsibility and right of ensuring that she is not marginalized, taken advantage of, or made invisible. There continue to be many places where self-care is a radical act, where a person’s value and agency are not foregone conclusions.

Self CareThe way we talk about self-care is  a relatively recent development, a fact that hints at why I don’t think the concept can bear the weight we’ve placed upon it. As best I can tell, prior to the late 1980’s, when the literature uses “self-care” it is describing populations of people who weren’t considered capable of caring for themselves. From a cursory search, it seems that people talked about self-care as something to be taught to less-capable others- children, the poor, and the mentally handicapped to give a few examples I found. The care in these examples related to the basic functions of life and was a obviously different from the way we think about self-care today.

Beginning in the 1990’s – again, as best I can tell – the meaning began to shift to include medical concepts and was then applied to those working in the social services. This is the beginning of how we think about self-care today, where an individual takes responsibility and control of his own mental and emotional health.

One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter is author Anne Lamott and a regular theme for her is self-care. Because she’s Anne Lamott it’s radical self-care. Here’s one from this past September: “Maybe I have 20 years left. I plan to love God, help His or Her children, radical self-care; try to save the earth: march, & register voters.”

Lamott, I think, captures how we feel about self-care, that it is necessary for sustaining our call to good work and that it is a responsibility we alone can bear. But is self-care as important as we’ve made it to be? And are we capable enough to take responsibility for our own mental and emotional health?

Sabbath, in contrast to self-care, has a much longer history, though it’s one even Christians forget. (I won’t pretend to speak for Jewish people here, whose relation to the Sabbath is much longer and more intentional than it is for Christians.) Within an individual-centered society it’s probably not surprising that caring for one’s self eclipses the practice of a corporate pace of rest and care. Yet it’s actually for the ways that Sabbath challenges our individualism that I think it offers a more life-giving, humanizing path for us, especially those called to the helping professions.

To begin with, Sabbath is grounded in the physicality of specific practices. There is nothing theoretical about sabbath-keeping; it happens when we stop our work and, as Eugene Peterson has written, start our play. For most of us, Sabbath will be marked weekly by ceasing our productivity and joining with others in our congregation as we worship and serve one another. It will be normal for us to rest and feast with the knowledge that others are doing – or not doing – the same thing. In the Sabbath we have a day, a full twenty-four hours, that is God’s gift to us. We are not meant to grasp for moments to care for ourselves. No, each week is meant to begin with a day during which, through specific practices and routines, we experience God’s care for us. In his essential book about the Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel repeatedly points out the way this day functions as God’s gift to us: “The seventh day is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere.” Our abstaining and feasting practices, experienced weekly, are the doorway to this palace in time where are free from time’s tyranny.

I hinted at it in the preceding paragraph, but another attribute favoring the Sabbath deserves to be called out: Sabbath is for the community and with the community. Of course, as is hopefully already clear, the day benefits the individual but, unlike self-care whose very name limits it to the individual, Sabbath is meant for the good of a people. This is more important than might be immediately obvious. After all, one of the attractions of self-care is that I get to decide what will be refreshing for me. Nothing wrong with that; I do it all the time when the kids are in bed and Maggie is at work when I sit contentedly in a quiet home with a book or a movie. But if I’m relying solely on myself for the care of myself I’m guaranteed to let myself down. I will too regularly choose to overwork or I will choose entertainment that sounds appealing but leaves me emotionally fatigued rather than rejuvenated.

But because Sabbath is practiced with a community, my rest will be characterized by acts and habits that I wouldn’t choose for myself but which, over the centuries, have proven rejuvenating for our humanity. Self-care involves choosing something that, though I may overlook or neglect it, will feel good to me. Sabbath, in contrast, involves submitting to a day with others that many times I don’t think will feel good to me. I couldn’t tell you how many times I, a pastor, have been told by someone after a worship service, I didn’t want to come today but I’m sure glad I did. That’s Sabbath. We choose to trust that this very old way of being together is the best thing possible for us, and for me.

Sabbath is harder than self-care, mostly, in my experience, because its practice requires my submission to God’s idea of what is best for me. But it’s harder in the way we need it to be. After all, there are good reasons and hard experiences that make it necessary that we are cared for. We need something with a bit more backbone, a bit more history, and much more fruitfulness over the generations if we mean to continue our work with joy. I’m not strong enough to care for me. Thankfully, there is One who is, and the Sabbath is where I’m reminded of this simple and necessary truth every single week.

Dear White People: Repent!

On Facebook & Twitter I recently made the following statement: “To my white brothers & sisters: our participation in the â€Ș#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement begins with our repentance & confession.” A friend read this and asked if I could suggest any resources for repentance. I’ll suggest one such resources at the end of this post, but I want to start by filling in my original statement just a bit.

During the past few weeks I’ve wondered about how white people can participate in protests, marches, and movements for justice on behalf of black and brown people. This is worth thinking carefully about since the white protestors, like myself, are complicit in and beneficiaries of the very systems responsible for the injustices targeted by the protests. A white person presents at least two challenges in these settings: his presence is a reminder of the privilege and prejudice that makes the protest necessary and his formation within a white supremacist system makes his participation in a movement to dismantle such a system… complicated.

Despite these very significant challenges, there are good reasons for white people to join the struggle for justice for black and brown people. James Baldwin saw this in the early 1960’s:

White people cannot, in generality, be taken as models of how t live. Rather, the white man is himself in sore need of new standards, which will release him from his confusion and place him once again in fruitful communion with the depths of his own being. And I repeat: The price of the liberation of the white people is the liberation of the blacks- the total liberation , in the cities, in the towns, before the law, and in the mind.

Black Lives Matter Protest in Bronzeville (photo credit: Esther Kang)
Black Lives Matter Protest in Bronzeville (photo credit: Esther Kang)

Here’s what I take from Baldwin about white protestors participating in BlackLivesMatter: We must begin by acknowledging our own profound need, by the way our privilege and unacknowledged power has corrupted our hearts. We come to this justice movement not as innocent bystanders or righteous saviors. We come as desperately needy persons, not to assuage our guilt but to confess our sin and need. For many of us, the act of protesting is a quite literal repentance- we are turning away from our sins of commission and especially our sins of omission and we are turning back to our Savior and the priorities of his Kingdom.

In my original statement I wrote that a white person’s participation in the movement begins with repentance. And while it does, repentance must also be ongoing. In our discipleship to Jesus we are regularly being shown new (to us) habits and assumptions that require our turning away. This will be especially true for those of us whose society has affirmed our assumptions, desires, and fears. As we continue to follow Jesus it becomes clear that the affirmation we received as members of a dominant culture is no longer so quick in coming. The ethic and assumptions of the Kingdom of Heaven are often greatly at odds with those of our country and its privileged citizens.

Though it is ongoing, this repentance will also be specific. White Christians who are becoming aware of the destructiveness of whiteness as a social construct can feel ashamed of being a white person. This person wants to apologize in general terms for being white. But such general shame and vague repentance isn’t helpful. After all, no one chooses their race or ethnicity. Neither do we choose the history and social realities associated with them. And while the social construct of whiteness continues to wreak havoc in America, there is nothing inherently wrong with a person’s white skin.

So our ongoing repentance must avoid vague generalities. We must instead repent like Zacchaeus who, when made aware of his sin by his proximity to Jesus, repented of particular sins: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” The history of race in America – a history so many white people are ignorant of – provides many specific reasons to repent: economies and institutions built on slavery; discriminatory housing policies; stolen wealth and land; education inequities; mass incarceration; cultural stereotypes promoted by the media. These are barely the tip of the iceberg and the connections to these large themes and one’s own complicit privilege are not immediately obvious to many white people. But follow Jesus long enough with an eye to reality and the connections will come and along with them the need for particular repentance.

Black Lives Matter protest in Bronzeville (photo credit: Esther Kang)
Black Lives Matter protest in Bronzeville (photo credit: Esther Kang)

To be fair, many white people have been Christians for a long time and are as blind to the need to repent as are many of their non-Christian peers. Without going too deeply into it here I attribute this blindness to church structures that are more determined by our country’s racialized assumptions than by any Biblical ecclesiology. In too many cases our churches exacerbate our privilege and prejudice rather than calling them out and calling us to repentance. Segregated white churches eliminate the possibility of reconciliation across cultural divides, one of the bitter fruits being white people who never submit relationally to people of color whose experiences and perspectives would provide new rationale for specific moments of repentance.

Intrinsic to Christian faith is dependance on God’s grace and mercy. Confession, repentance, and forgiveness are not exceptional or occasional practices for Christians; these are the very basic practices of our faith. I point this out to say that, in theological theory at least, white people ought to welcome the opportunity for ongoing repentances as a normal and natural characteristic of their faith development. I don’t mean that it’s easy, but no one who reads the Gospels closely expects discipleship to be easy. Good, but never easy.


As for resources for repentance, I think the Psalms are always the starting point. In recent weeks our church has turned to those psalms that were written during times of exile. These often speak to both the need for deliverance and the need for forgiveness.

Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. [Psalm 79]

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt. We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud. [Psalm 123]

The beginning of Nehemiah also is a great example of a man with cultural privilege repenting of a previous generation’s sins. This is tough for people who know too little of our history and value too much our individuality, but Nehemiah shows us why such wide repentance is necessary and good.

Preaching After Ferguson: “I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

I’ve had a few requests asking about how our church worshipped yesterday, taking into account the non-indictment from Ferguson. Below is a lightly-edited version of my sermon. However, the most impactful part of the service were the testimonies given by eight members who told us about their responses to the news. After each person shared the church responded by praying a portion of a psalm.

Update: The podcast is now available and it includes the testimonies shared by eight members of our church.

Advent: Lament and Longing

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the season that reminds us of the time when God’s people were awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Our passage, Ezekiel 34, was written during that waiting time: Babylon had conquered Judah; Ezekiel and others had been carried into exile; The Temple had been destroyed. Advent reminds us of the longing and laments these people felt as they prayed for God’s rescue to come.

Advent also reminds us that we await our Messiah’s return. We share with those ancient exiles the bitter awareness that life is far from what it should be; we share with them the hope for the Messiah to come and make all things right. Because things are not right.

When Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18 year old, college-bound, African American man with no criminal record was gunned down by a white police officer in Ferguson, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When the young man’s body was left in the middle of the street for four hours in the August afternoon sun, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When law enforcement responded to protests with tear gas and military grade weaponry, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When a town like Ferguson can be 67% African American and yet 93% of arrests made by the mostly white police force are of the town’s black citizens, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When Michael Brown’s personal life and motives are picked apart by a media looking for some reason to justify his killing, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When the same state that ruled against the enslaved Dred Scott’s legal suit challenging his enslavement in 1847 releases video showing Michael Brown stealing a few cigarettes as justification for his death, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When a grand jury meets for three months under the direction of a county prosecutor with close ties to the police department and a history of racial bias and decides not to indict the police officer who killed Michael Brown, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When a black man is 21 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a white man, we are reminded that things aren’t right.

When so many American citizens question the innocence of these slain men while conveniently overlooking our nation’s pathological robberies: we took the first nation’s land before taking their lives; we stole black bodies from Africa and placed them within a white supremacist system of cotton fields, Jim Crow laws, systematically designed ghettos, and money-making prisons; our towns and tax systems benefits from undocumented brown bodies who do the work we’re unwilling to do for wages we’d be offended by… we are reminded that things aren’t right.

Oppressive Shepherds and Opportunistic Sheep

In response to their new situation in Babylon, the exiles wanted to know what they were to do. Their king was dethroned, they’d been sent into exile, and now the temple was destroyed. In response to so much trauma and suffering, what were they to do? I was texting with a friend this week about the news from Ferguson and, at one point, he replied, “I’m not doing enough.” Like the exiles, we want to know what to do. But the Ezekiel passage doesn’t tell us what to do. Instead Ezekiel makes clear that nature of the injustice suffered by God’s people and it tells us what God will do about it.

Verses 34:1-16 are directed to the shepherds, those in positions of power and leadership. Woe to you writes Ezekiel. God is angry with them for what they’ve not done as well as the ways they’ve abused their power.

You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

As a result of their unjust rule, the people are scattered, wandering, and being devoured.

Verses 34:17-31 are directed toward the sheep, the people. Some of them, according to Ezekiel have taken advantage of the unjust system created and maintained by the shepherds. Ezekiel charges them: You’ve eaten your fill then trampled the pasture so others can’t eat; You’ve muddied the water so others can’t drink; You’ve abused the weak sheep and driven them away.

And what will God do about the wicked shepherds and opportunist sheep?

 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

This is pointing toward Jesus, the Messiah anticipated by the exiles and their descendants right up until that surprising night in Bethlehem. But look closely and see that the metaphor of shepherd is closer to a righteous judge.This shepherd will remove corrupt leaders. He will judge those who have benefitted themselves through an evil system.

What Will You Do When The Shepherd Returns?

The exiles awaited this “one shepherd” to come. We await his return. So how will you respond when this good shepherd and righteous judge returns? There will be many who great his return with celebration and relief. There will be some, like the shepherds in Ezekiel 34, who will be terrified because their opposition to this return king has been unmistakable.

And then there will be others of us who are like the fat sheep in this passage and like the goats in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:31-46. In response to the righteous judge this group will respond, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ Those within this group know there is something wrong with our world. We know, on some level, that game is rigged. We know that our nation resembles a democracy to some and a kleptocracy to so many others. But because we generally don’t feel the wickedness of our society we are quickly distracted. We choose to invest in the small circle of our insulated existence rather than the lives of the overlooked and oppressed.

And here is the truth according to God’s word: the judge will pronounce sentence on those powerful people who oversaw the unjust system AS WELL as on those who quietly benefitted from the unjust system.

Which group do you fall within? If you’re unsure, imagine for a moment that Jesus returned today. Imagine the realization that the good shepherd and righteous judge had come to make all things right and new. What would you feel? Would you run to greet this shepherd and judge, knowing that your salvation and vindication had arrived? Would you run the other way, knowing that your day of hollow and wicked rule had come to an end? Or would stand frozen in uncertainty? Unsure of what the Messiah’s return means for someone as middle of the road, as under the radar, as inconspicuous as you? As me?

Jesus In Ferguson

As much as we want to know what to do in the aftermath of Ferguson, as much as the exiles wanted to know what to do in the aftermath of their desolation, Ezekiel is more interested in what God will do. And what God does in the face of such evil is to send us a shepherd, a servant, a prince, his only Son.

And the trajectory of Jesus’ life makes it very clear to us where he would stand in the streets of Ferguson:

His motives are questioned and his reputation slandered.

His body is dehumanized so that his execution could be justified.

He dies in the afternoon sun, a spectacle meant to remind the onlookers who holds the power.

In life he is marginalized and in death he is brutalized.

Are we talking about Michael Brown or Jesus? Yes.

Are we talking about 12 year old Tamir Rice or Jesus? Yes.

Are we talking about John Crawford shot in a Wal-Mart or Jesus? Yes.

Are we talking about Marissa Alexander, imprisoned for firing a warning shot at an abusive husband yet unprotected by the same stand your ground laws used by others, or are we talking about Jesus? Yes.

This is what God’s salvation looks like. We start with what God does, and because of what God does through Jesus and because of HOW God does it through a broken and bruised body, we in turn must look at the black and brown lives that are continually being broken and bruised, not in spite of how our society works but precisely because of how our society works.To paraphrase Ta-nehis Coates, a society structured around the dehumanization of black and brown people is having its intended effect.

And Jesus, the Bible makes clear, stands with those on the receiving end of our society’s violence.

I won’t wrap this sermon up cleanly or neatly. All we have done this morning is acknowledge the reality experienced by so many in our world, a reality we walk back into now. There very well may be things for you to do. But start instead with what God will do and ask yourself how you will respond on that day. How will you receive the returning shepherd and judge? Will you run to him in relief and joy? Then do so now, carrying with you every emotion and thought that you’ve known this week. On that day will you run the other way, knowing that your days of vapid and abusive power have come to end? Or might you be like the fat sheep or the surprised goats, frozen in uncertainty?

The possibility for a joyful reunion exists for all of us, but it requires that we embrace the cross of Jesus and all of its implications.