If You Want Peace, Work for Justice

Progressive Christian Social Action

“If You Want Peace, Work for Justice” or

“The Things that Make for Peace”

A sermon preached by the Reverend Sharon Delgado on June 7, 2020, at Nevada City United Methodist Church

Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “And the tears you shed, my grieving one, they are sweeter than the laughing of one seeking to forget, and pleasanter than loud voices in jest. Those tears shall cleanse the heart of hating and teach the one who sheds them to be companion to those of broken heart. They are the tears of the Nazarene.”

There are a lot of tears in our readings this morning, which makes sense.  We are going through a painful time. Jesus knew pain well. According to Luke 19, as he was heading into Jerusalem during that last week of his life, he looked out over the city and wept over it, saying to the people, “Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes.” He also told them why disaster was coming: because… “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” There is a direct relationship between peace and our recognition of the presence of God.

God is present with us, even in this time conflict, violence, upheaval, and sorrow. God is with us even in our tears. The time of our visitation from God is now.

Our responsive reading this morning was selections from Jeremiah 8:18 though 9:24. Jeremiah was the  Hebrew prophet who also wept over Jerusalem and Judea and what was coming upon his people. The hymn that we sang this morning, “The Balm of Gilead,” is based on Jeremiah’s words. That balm was a medicinal ointment made in the region of Gilead that had curative powers, and it has gone on to mean spiritual as well as physical healing. When we sing that hymn, we can feel that healing power and presence of God.

But in Jeremiah’s lament, he cries out to God: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?” He goes on: “O, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people.” A heart-rending cry, and we’ve been hearing some heart-rending cries today.

Throughout his long life, this prophet called his people to repentance, especially the leaders.  He told them disaster would come upon them if they didn’t turn around. He did not like this role and he complained to God. He said, “O Lord, everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ The word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.” But he can’t stop speaking in God’s name.  He said, “If I say, I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

That fire that spoke through the prophets was the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation, the same Spirit that animated Jesus’s life, the same Spirit that came upon the disciples at Pentecost. That same Spirit speaks through our prophets even today.

People have called Jeremiah “the Weeping Prophet” and pointed to him as a precursor of Jesus, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, then went into the city and directly into the Temple, where he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and drove out those who were conducting business there. Jesus’s words are straight from Jeremiah, who had challenged the leaders of the Temple in his day, saying that they had turned God’s house into “a den of robbers.”

This has been called The Cleansing of the Temple, but it was really a symbolic nonviolent direct action directed against the idolatrous and unjust economic system. It was through the Temple that taxes were collected and tribute sent to Rome. No wonder tax collectors were so despised. The religious leaders enforced this system. They collaborated with the Roman occupation of Jerusalem to keep stability and peace, a peace built on domination, violence, and oppression. They were afraid that Jesus’ popularity would cause disruption… and it did.

After his action at the Temple, the religious leaders were more convinced than ever that they had to do away with Jesus. But they couldn’t get near him in the Temple to arrest him because he was surrounded by so many people, and “the people were spellbound.” Another version says, “All the people hung on his words.”

I found myself spellbound the other day. Pastor Dave had just called and told me about the death of his cousin, and he asked me if I could preach this Sunday. I love to preach and it’s my calling and if I don’t it’s like there’s a fire shut up in my bones.  That’s why I write.  But I knew I had a full schedule the next few days, so I told him I would pray about it and get back to him within a couple of hours.

Then I saw the news about the police using tear gas to clear the park and the yard of St. John’s Episcopal Church of protestors, including twenty clergy and laity from other churches who had come to support the peaceful protesters and bring them water and snacks.  They all got teargassed and driven out, like a reverse cleansing of the Temple. Then the president stood on the church steps for a photograph holding up the Bible. I was speechless, not a good place to be if I’m thinking about preaching.

Then the screen shifted to the Episcopalian bishop of the area, Bishop Budde, speaking out about this, and I was spellbound. I am tired of hearing the gospel distorted and mis-used. Her words were like balm, not just for challenging what was going on but for speaking a positive word about who we are called to be as followers of Christ.  She spoke truth, and I hung on her words.  It was like a visitation from God, so I called Pastor Dave and told him, “I can do this.  God just gave me a way.”  Here are her words:

“The president just used a Bible and one of the churches in my diocese as a backdrop for a message that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for.  To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police to clear the church yard.  I am outraged….

“The president did not pray when he came to St. Johns; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country….

“We of the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in his Way of love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.”

In just a few minutes, we will celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, remembering that final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. It’s a time to celebrate his continuing presence among us and our reconciliation with God, with each other, all members of our human family, and with the whole community of life. It’s also a reminder that as Jesus’s followers, we are called to be agents of reconciliation, because true peace is not based on domination or violence or oppression, but on relationships restored.

God is with us in our pain as well as in our joy.

God is with us in the upheaval as well as in times of calm.

God is with us when we challenge lies and distortions as well as when we hear and recognize and speak a word of truth.

The time of our visitation from God is now.

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.

Lent: Going Deeper

Progressive Christian Social Action

Lent:  Going Deeper

This post was published at the beginning of Lent in 2017 as “A Lenten Call to Resist.”  It is the first post of a Lenten series that offers a progressive Christian understanding of Jesus’ life, death, and post-death appearances.   The links to the other posts in the series are below.

We enter the season of Lent at a time of peril in our nation and world.  People are rising up, some emboldened by the presidency of Donald Trump and the ascendancy of the alt-right, and some determined to stand in the way of injustice and oppression in all its forms.  Christians have a particular responsibility, since without the high turnout of white Evangelical voters Trump would probably not be president today.

As Christians, where we stand politically has a lot to do with how we understand the meaning of Jesus’ death.  “The word of the cross” is at the heart of Christian faith.  We might prefer going from the glory of Transfiguration Sunday to the joy of Easter without reflecting on the drama that leads to Jesus’ suffering and death.  But as Dorothee Solle said,

“Naturally one can develop a theology that no longer has the somber cross at its center.  Such an attempt deserves criticism not because it bids farewell to Christianity as it has been, but because it turns aside from reality, in the midst of which stands the cross.”

The execution of Jesus was not a one-time thing.  Christ continues to be crucified as today’s ruling Powers enlist human beings in their service, subject the most vulnerable to abuse and oppression, wreak violence around the world, and plunder the earth for their own gain.  Our goal during Lent is to remember the path Jesus walked and accompany him on his way to the cross, to fully surrender to God as he did, and to act in solidarity with those who are being crucified on the cross of Empire today, as he was so long ago.

My blog postings during this season focus on how people who seek to follow Jesus can throw off despair and complacency, expose disempowering and hate-filled teachings that claim to be Christian, and reclaim the gospel (good news) as a force for peace, justice, and the healing of the earth.  If you follow this blog, please post your comments.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

This series, A Lenten Call to Resist, includes the following posts:

Resisting Cultural Possession

Rejecting Theological Sadism

Jesus Was Not Born to Die

The Subversive Jesus

The Suffering God:  Where Humanity is Crucified

Creation Crucified:  The Passion of the Earth

Conventional Wisdom:  The Wisdom of This Age

God’s Restorative Justice

Good Friday:  Contemplation and Resistance

Holy Saturday:  Following Jesus

Resurrection:  The Mind of Christ

Beale with crosses

Good Friday at Beale, 2015

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 

#MeToo–I Didn’t Tell Either

Progressive Christian Social Action

#MeToo—I Didn’t Tell Either.

No one wants to tell about their own sexual assault, but I feel compelled to do so in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is being viciously maligned for speaking out about being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh so many years ago.

These years of Donald Trump’s presidency will go down as a dark and shameful period in our nation’s history.  A known sexual predator holds the highest office in the land. (We’ve all heard the Access Hollywood tape.)  Now he has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and he continues to stand by Kavanaugh while insinuating that Dr. Ford is lying because she waited so long to tell her story, saying, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents…” This same theme is being reiterated by other Republicans and across the internet: the implication that she is lying because she didn’t tell years ago.

This most recent incident has convinced me that I, too, need to go public with the story of my rape as a 16-year old, and why I didn’t tell.  The perpetrator was 18.  He was the son of my divorced mother’s boyfriend, a man whom I loved and trusted and who taught me how to drive.

I began dating this man’s son. One night he (the son) raped me in the back of his van. I struggled. I fought. I said “no” and “stop,” but he didn’t stop. He hurt me. What I didn’t do was scream or call for help. Why? Shame, shock, embarrassment, disorientation, bewilderment? I’ve asked myself many times.  I was stunned, and I had no mental or emotional category that could help me make sense of the experience. Because I did not call for help, I thought I had “let it happen.”  I felt guilt, shame, and self-hatred. I blamed myself.  I didn’t even call it “rape” in my own mind, until years later, when I learned more about what rape means.

This was not my first experience of sexual assault or harassment, nor would it be my last. But Dr. Ford’s story has reminded me of how traumatic for a teenager a sexual assault can be and how hard it can be to come forward. It took a lot of courage for her to come forward recently when she heard that Brett Kavanaugh had been nominated to the Supreme Court.

As a pastor and as one who seeks to live in the way and Spirit of Jesus, I am especially distressed that many white Evangelical Christians, over 80 percent of whom helped elect Donald Trump and continue to stand by him, support the GOP’s efforts to push through an immediate up or down vote on Kavanaugh, without an FBI investigation or other witnesses.  Reverend Franklin Graham, an Evangelical leader, said, “It’s just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh who has a stellar record–that somebody can bring something up that he did as a teenager close to 40 years ago. That’s not relevant.”  Or as another Kavanaugh supporter said, “What boy hasn’t done this in high school?”

Unconditional support for Trump and his nominee has descended into hateful and hellish attacks on Dr. Ford, maligning her character and motives and threatening her family and her life.  If she had known the extent of the hate that would be directed toward her, she may have chosen to not tell her story or to remain anonymous, as she had hoped to do.

I am horrified to know that my grandsons are hearing people say that assault and attempted rape is normal behavior for teenage boys. God forbid!  The teenage boys I have known understand that violence against women, including sexual violence, is always wrong. It’s not normal, and there’s no way to justify it.  I’m also horrified that my granddaughters are hearing it.  As one college freshman said, “Girls my age are watching, reading, and hearing these conversations. And it’s making us scared.

Women have come a long way since the years of my childhood, but violence against women and children is still pervasive.  The #MeToo movement and the broad challenge to Kavanaugh’s fitness to be on the high court because of this (and now other) sexual assault allegations are moving us forward.  But we still have a long way to go to end the culture of misogyny and rape.

#MeToo                                   #IBelieveHer

Read the Grass Valley Union article about our local demonstration.

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.

Introducing Love in a Time of Climate Change

Progressive Christian Social Action Blog

Love in a Time of Climate Change

final book cover

Hello Friends,

Today I am introducing my soon-to-be released book, Love in a Time of Climate Change:  Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice.  It offers a progressive Christian approach to climate change that takes climate science seriously.  It is based on the core teachings of Jesus about loving God above all and our neighbors as ourselves.

Its premise is that in this time of climate change, loving God must include honoring creation—God’s creation.  Likewise, loving our neighbors must include working to establish justice for our human family, especially those who are most vulnerable, especially those who live on the front lines of climate change, justice for our young and for future generations, and justice for all parts of creation.  For as Albert Schweitzer said, “Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, [humanity] will not find peace.”

This book also draws from the teachings and practices of John Wesley, a key figure in the 18th century Great Awakening and founder of the United Methodist Church, especially his focus on the themes of creation and justice.  The book introduces his teachings on God as immanent within creation and as revealed through creation, and explores the similarities of his thought with that of several contemporary process theologians.  Likewise, it presents his teachings on what he called “social holiness,” his actions as a social reformer, and similarities between his teachings and that of liberation theologians today.

But this book does not tell the readers what to think.  Instead, it demonstrates a process for exploring climate change from a faith perspective in a way that supports readers in thinking for themselves, examining the evidence, forming their own conclusions, and deciding what, if any, actions to take.  The book demonstrates an unfolding process of discovery based on exploring creation and justice, in the context of climate change, through the lenses of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

This process, creatively adapted from John Wesley, takes the Bible seriously, but does not insist that it all be taken literally.  It considers Christian tradition and acknowledges the good, but also shows the great harm dominant forms of Christianity have caused.  Readers are encouraged to think things through by using their God-given faculty of reason, to listen to their own inner voice, and to learn from their own experience.  In this way, readers integrate their understanding of climate change and its implications, including its spiritual implications, at a deep level, and gain insight that enables them to craft a faithful response based on their own understanding.

Finally, Love in a Time of Climate Change offers hope.  From the book:

“Honoring creation and working to establish justice cultivates hope in us as individuals and equips us to offer hope to the world. First, as followers of Jesus, our primary hope is that we can live in faithfulness to the loving will of God in all circumstances, as he did. The fulfillment of this hope is possible only if we live under the influence of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, our ongoing growth in faith, hope, and love is expressed by our lifestyle choices and acts of mercy and justice in the world.

“Second, we hope for the transformation of the world. I stress throughout this book that individual action is not enough to turn the rising tide of climate chaos. It will take many people working together to build a diverse and multi-focused movement that is strong enough to pressure policy makers, transform the system, and make possible the enactment of sane policies and practices that effectively address climate change.

“It may be that the magnitude of the challenge of climate change will motivate the dramatic ideological and systemic shifts necessary for changing direction as a species. As we entrust our lives to God we are empowered to join with others in the growing movement for climate justice and to carry a unified message of healing, love, and solidarity as we live into God’s future, offering hope amid the climate crisis that `another world is possible.’”

“God is ever present, always with us. Love never ends.”

To find out more, to read initial endorsements, or to pre-order, go to Love at a Time of Climate Change

Other blog postings from Sharon about climate change can be found here.

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.

Light in the Darkness of a Trump Presidency

On Our Way to Standing Rock

On Our Way to Standing Rock

My birthday falls during the darkest time of the year.  Then, almost immediately, the Winter Solstice is here.  We celebrate the dawning of the light and the days start getting longer.  Then comes Christmas, and we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the coming of the light of Christ.

Being someone who seeks to follow that light, it’s unfathomable to me that over 80% of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump for president. (See Christianity Today)  The values, practices, and policies that Donald Trump models and promotes are the antithesis of the teachings and example of Jesus.  It reminds me of a book called Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To.  I don’t apologize for Right Wing Christianity and I definitely don’t belong to that church.

For people who yearn for peace, justice, and the healing of creation, the election of Donald Trump has brought a new level of darkness.  But even the specter of Trump as president is not enough to completely blot out the light.

My friends and I arrived at Standing Rock on Election Day.  That night, we watched the election results on the TV in a hotel room at the nearby casino.  The reality of Trump’s election hit us hard, along with all the people in the camp.  But I was glad to be with like-minded people and engaged in positive action during that time.

I believe that perseverance in the work for justice, even and especially during the hard times, will help us move as a people in the direction of the light.  The struggle has been hard, but it looks like it’s about to get harder.  I am still glad to be surrounded by people who have been praying and working for justice for a long time, and by those who are new to the struggle.

As the darkness of fear descends upon people who are vulnerable, those of us who care will stand in solidarity with them, for if we stand by and allow our brothers and sisters to be sacrificed, we become part of the darkness.  As hate and discrimination become the norm, we will stand in resistance to cruel policies and act with compassion.  As lies pervade public discourse, we will seek truth and open ourselves to the guidance of Spirit.  As greed and selfishness become conventional wisdom and national policy, we will share with the poor and stand with the dispossessed.  As the darkness of despair settles in, threatening to paralyze us with apathy, we will rouse ourselves, become more fully human, and take actions that embody hope.

Like many others, I have seen and seek to follow the light in my daily life.  I know that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  I still believe that we shall overcome someday.  Each day that we walk hand in hand we help make it so.

 

To find out more about a Jesus whose mission was to bring “good news to the poor and release to the captives,” and to “bring down the mighty from their thrones and to raise up the lowly,” see a previous Christmas blog:  The Revolutionary Stories of Baby Jesus.  Or take a look at Jesus, Resister, Part I or Jesus, Resister, Part II, or just about any of my other writings

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 Find previous blog postings about Christmas.

 Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock.