Sermons

VicarSharonRichterSermon for Christ the King Sunday-

Do Not Be Silent
By Vicar Sharon Richter -

 

Today, I have my bags packed.
 
In seminary we practiced delivering a “bags-packed sermon.”  That’s a sermon made necessary by dangerous un-Christian events, but that, though rooted in the gospel, may offend some people. A preacher delivering such a sermon has decided that the message is so important that it is worth the risk of being fired. I’m not even a pastor yet, and I’ve preached two bags-packed sermons. I’m preaching another one today.
 
 I have my bags packed, and I’m going to say some words you might not want to hear.  So, fair warning. If you want to leave now, you have time. The words won’t crop up for a little bit.
 
 Let’s begin with the reading from Colossians 1 that we just heard.
 
“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
 
 We have good reason, today, to be grateful for that.  And we must look to God to continue to rescue us from darkness through Christ our King, who is a light shining in the darkness.  A light that the darkness shall not overcome.
 
 Last Tuesday, we elected a new president, and on Wednesday many marginalized people who had been vilified and mocked on the campaign trail began to express fear and anger. Pastor Shafer preached about that last Sunday, and I wrote a prayer to speak to many fears.
 
 But, myself, I was relatively calm. Prayer and meditation can do a lot for a positive attitude. Yes, I thought, this will be bad for illegal immigrants and the environment for sure. And Obamacare is toast.  That may be fatal for some people. 
 
But I thought that the man himself cannot be as extreme as his campaign rhetoric. Surely he said those things only to attract fringe voters.
 
 My thoughts were supported by the 60 Minutes interview you may have seen.  The president-elect and his family seemed sane and serious, backpedaling on some campaign threats (or promises, depending on your point of view). “Gay marriage is settled law, and I’m ok with that,” Trump said.  He seemed disinclined to pursue “locking up” his opponent.
 
 He even turned to the camera and told his supporters to stop harassing minorities, immigrants, the disabled, gays, and women. “Stop it. It’s disgusting,” he said.
 
 But here’s the thing. He can’t stop it.  Only God can stop it.  By repudiating “political correctness,” Trump has erased common decency for that fraction of his supporters who are already inclined to say the kinds of things he said for political gain.  And I do know that most Trump supporters are not in that fraction. Most are decent people.
 
Still by uncorking that dusty bottle, he let the genie lose into the world to prey upon us all. Now we see some people of all political persuasions doing and saying disgraceful things they would not have done and said even two years ago.
 
It’s big, it’s ugly, and it’s violent. That genie has been waiting for 40 years to get out.  Black people have always known that genie was in there.  They have seen it more than anyone else, leering at them, taunting them through the fragile glass of the lamp.
 
That genie is called Racism.
 
But, lest we think it is only Racism that has been let loose, think of those who refuse to accept a duly elected president.  Would that have happened five years ago? Think of peaceful demonstrations that have been infiltrated by violent anarchists.  Anarchists have been as much empowered by the campaign rhetoric as racists.
 
So this genie has many names: Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Antisemitism, Homophobia, Misogyny, and also Anarchy.
 
But this genie also has an eternal name.  The genie’s name is Satan.
 
I was naïve to think it was going to be okay.  Here’s what has happened in the last week, in my life alone:
 
My husband teaches at University of Pennsylvania. Last week a group of white students in Oklahoma sent 150 black Penn students racist cellphone messages signed “Daddy Trump,” with calendar-dated “daily lynchings.” Photos of real lynchings were tagged “I love America.”  My husband’s students were targeted.  They can’t stop crying. The FBI is investigating, but the Satan-genie is laughing.
 
I have seven godchildren, and all of them are African refugees who fled the monstrous civil war in Liberia. The older ones have seen a lot of death.  But now they are hard-working citizens.  Three days ago a driver leaned out his window and called one of my godsons a monkey and told him to go back to Africa. The genie doesn’t have to just leer anymore.
 
quote doNotBeSientLast Friday, my daughter and her boyfriend, who is half Korean and half black, were in a bar in south Philly, a diverse area that is 50% white and 50% minority. A drunk woman being kicked out of the bar knocked my daughter to the ground with a right hook to her eye.  She said, “Trump you, nigger lover.” Charges are pending, but the Devil-genie is dancing a jig.
 
 Now, some of you are thinking, well, she has an interesting life.  So let’s bring it on home to Santa Monica.  You all know of the anti-Semitic Facebook posts we only two weeks ago repudiated in a public letter.
 
And many of you know Pastor Jim Boline, of St. Paul’s Lutheran just across town.  We share in the Westside Youth Co-op with his church. He’s gay, and he’s married to his longtime partner. He is a wonderful pastor and a fine man. Last Sunday night, he was minding his own business at an ATM machine. An unknown middle-aged white woman very deliberately walked up to him and called him a HMMsucker.  I’m sure you can replace the HMM word.
 
 The Satan-genie is out, and it is gonna get a lot worse.  Neo-Nazi groups and the Ku Klux Klan are supporters of our new president, and even if he repudiates them, they are still seeking enactment of their wishes, and will still support him. They are meeting in Washington this weekend. Their memberships and donations are suddenly surging.  This is not an accident, and it does not bode well.
 
What is happening in this country is an avalanche of ugly.  The incidents I told you about happened in liberal cities. What’s happening out there in rural America?
 
As Christians, we cannot be silent. God “has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Christ our King.  Whether you voted for the Democrat the Republican, the third party, or didn’t vote, Christians now have the responsibility to testify to the truth and the light.
 
 What is the truth? Where is the light?
 
The truth is that Jesus Christ IS our Lord and King. He is the light that we, ourselves cannot generate.  We only reflect his light. And we must reflect it.
 
Christ was crucified to redeem the sins of all, even those who are temporarily in the thrall of Satan. We believe God is God of all, including the immigrants, the marginalized, and those of other faiths.  He is also Lord of racists, homophobes, and anarchists.
 
It is up to us to speak the truth. We must protect the abused and bring light to all abusers, of every political persuasion. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power
Christ the King can defeat Satan only when we speak out. We are the tools through which God works. “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power.”
 
In the name of God almighty, and for the glory of Christ our King, I implore you, and I implore the church and all its leaders: DO NOT BE SILENT.
 
 


Amen

 

 

Vicar Sharon Richter
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California


Do Not Be Silent
Sermon for Christ the King Sunday
Written by Vicar Sharon Richter
Nov. 20, 2016
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California

 

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