RACISM 101a, how do we begin the undoing?

Micah 6:1-8 – New Revised Standard Version

“With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Undoing

How Do We Begin Undoing?
©Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

When I was in the 1st grade
I had two little friends.
I really liked them,
and played with them
every recess and at lunch.
They were black, but I did not know that—
they were just my friends.
My parents found out that
they were black and got very upset.
I was told that I had to tell them
that I couldn’t play with them anymore
because my mother said,
“they were not my kind.”
I didn’t understand, and felt sad,
but I did what I was told.
I remember that when I told them
I could see something change in their eyes,
and in that instant they went
from being my friends
to being my enemies.
I was brought up to be a racist,
but I refused.
It was a struggle.
It has many times been a painful process.
I once accused my parents of being racists,
and they became outraged, denying it,
vociferously proclaiming my wrongness.
I am not sure there are many racists
who will admit to being a racist,
or of acting in a racist fashion.
This is why racism is so hard to undo:
no one wants to own their racism.
It is still hard for me to own up to mine.
Yet, according to the information
I receive in the workshops I’ve attended,
racism is the state of our lives.
We all are racist to a degree.
It is not to be confused
with the kind of racism
that is vicious
and evil
and goes out of its way
to do harm,
but it is nonetheless insidious because
we are not conscious of it,
doing it and obviously being
a part of the problem instead of the solution.
There is no such thing as being “color-blind.”
The danger in denying our own racism
is that we will then act it out unknowingly
and harm others and ourselves through
our unthought-out words.
Racism is defined as
“prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism
directed against someone of a
different race
based on the belief that one’s
own race is superior,”
but it is more than that.
I would like to add my own definition.
Racism is when we look—
consciously or unconsciously—
at a person
of a different race than our own
and stereotype that person and discount
their validity as a human
based upon our own fear of that race,
our own fear of things and people
who are different,
or because we listen to and believe
gossip and false stories
about a particular race
told to us by people we think of as friends.
In this way racism becomes
cultural and endemic
to our personal meaning making,
to our culture and our institutions.
If you make assumptions about people
based upon their ethnicity
the assumptions are racist.
Thinking of a person of another color
as having a particular character flaw
because of their race,
is making a racist assumption.
In a very true sense,
if we think of our race
as special in any way,
and doing so gives us a feeling
of comfort or superiority,
we indeed are thinking and acting
in a racist fashion.
So, how do we undo the damage?
First we need to admit to it.
Second, we have to want to change.
Third, we must to be willing
to do the hard work of changing our
attitudes and thought processes.
We start paying attention to our thoughts and
the words that come out of our mouths.
We listen to what we say,
and think about how that might affect others.
We do not use race as a referent
when speaking of a person or group.
Always remember that the job of a Christian
is to do justice.
We are to love kindness
and to be kind.
Walking humbly
is looking at our own racism
and owning up to it.
It is to change how we think and speak
about others.
In a very real way
acts of racism
are acts that steal another’s humanity,
and when we steal another’s humanity
we are also losing
just a little of our own.

EASTER MORNING

John 20:1-18 — The Message
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.” Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home. But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?” “They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him, Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?” She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.” Jesus said, “Mary.”Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!” Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.

Easter Morning - 2019

Easter Morning

After death.
After several nights of pain
and inexplicable grief.
After watching a friend,
family member, mentor, leader
die,
the disciples’ expectations
were confounded.
The unspeakable,
was said —
He is risen!
The unthinkable
was thought —
The tomb is empty!
The ultimate loss
was itself defeated —
Jesus was returned.
But don’t you think,
and I do, that the
bitterness
of their grief lingered
on their palates
for the rest of their lives?
Take a second.
Think of your own losses,
the grief
you endure,
the sorrow
that sings you to sleep,
that one piece of joy
out of all the joy you feel,
that you continue to lament in your heart of hearts.
We hardly ever speak about our grief,
or allow it to show,
but it is, nonetheless,
real and present
to every one of us.
I do know that you
know this deep kind of grief.
I know you know
that I also
know this deep kind of grief.
I believe that grief
is at the heart of the idea of Resurrection
as more of a looking-back event
than the reportage of a current one.
I have come to believe
that the glory of the Easter Morning Event
was first
discovered by Jesus’
loved ones many years later
at Table
while breaking bread
and pouring cup,
and sharing
with each other,
and that they experienced the miracle of Easter
in their memories
and stories and healings and sharings
as they gathered together
in his memory.
The song says that we serve a risen Savior,
and we do.
We are told that Jesus lives,
and he does.
We gather together here to sing,
to break bread,
to pour cup,
to remember
that because Jesus rose,
and will continue to rise
for us,
and within us all,
we can make sense of our grief.
For in our memory there is life,
in our memory there is healing,
and our memory
is like a road-sign on
our road through life.
Because he lives
in our remembering
we will all live,
we will all rise again,
we will all meet again
those we love
as we share our stories and lives.
Family gatherings,
school reunions,
random moments of storytelling,
breaking bread and
sharing cup at Communion,
in memory there is life.
And, in memory
grief will not win the day!

COME TO MY TABLE

Christiane Swartz is an elder at the Geyserville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Geyserville, CA. She is, with the other elders in a monthly rotation to preach. She is also a seminarian at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, on a grant from the Disciples Seminary Foundation.

Luke 22: 14-27
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said,
“Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Annie Strawberry

“Come To My Table”

One of my favorite authors, Barbara Brown Taylor, said,
“The hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self- -to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control,
but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.”

How easy this must be
with your friends who follow you,
worship your very breath and
fall all over themselves telling people how awesome you are!
But what about the ones you know will not stand by you?
What about the ones
you know will get you killed??!
Jesus knew he was going down. He had lots of options, presumably.
He could have run away. He could have battled.
He didn’t.
He could have, (and from a human standpoint arguably should have)
at least offloaded Judas, who he knew for days was going to betray him.
But Jesus didn’t live our way.
He did not offload Judas at all!
Instead,
he LOVED him. He INCLUDED him. He FED him.
…Jesus was outrageous like that.
They weren’t even extraordinary, his disciples. They were just NORMAL.
They were ordinary humans, with ordinary, flawed, human impulses.
But Jesus loved them. He had spent his whole life preaching about abundance
and unconditional love.
Especially in a time of such ruthless scarcity,
human impulse is to hoard things like food, money, material goods, power.
The breaking and sharing of bread was
actually countercultural!

So in the face of darkness… Jesus threw a dinner party!

He invited his friends. He insisted on serving them. And he did so much more
than just share a meal.

Jesus’ whole life was symbolized in the act of
giving thanks,
breaking bread,
pouring himself out for others,
sharing.
It is remarkable to me
that given all the choices Jesus had on his last night,
he chose to simply love his disciples and
give them
what they would need to survive what they did not know was coming,
a gift that would be a life raft in the days to come,
and thousands of years later with the same
fervent
relevancy.
The gift of understanding that eternal life and heaven
was not
some distant far off destination,
but that the very act of sharing, loving and forgiving would bring us renewed life
here and now.
The gift of understanding
that this would be what was needed
to fight against darkness.
It was more than an act of love.
It was an act of utter defiance against the dark powers,
against the establishment,
against oppression.
With all the powers he could choose from,
Jesus went to the cross trusting the power of sacrifice and love!

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

And so communion
is the continual living of a story of changing and transforming the world
not with force
but with the breaking of bread.
It is the thing that happens when we invite friends or strangers,
share food, laugh with them, cry with them, hear them.
Something nurturing, something forgiving, something healing.
Maybe not like a bolt of lightning
or even like an “aha” moment,
but like breath,
a sigh,
a soft place to land.
Strength. Hope. Inclusion. A light to drive out darkness.
It happens here in this church.
It happens when we show up to a friend’s house feeling
war-torn and road-weary
and they put a glass in our hand
and something home baked in front of us.
It’s what I pray my family finds at the end of their day
when we drag them to the dinner table and they allow us
to share in their laughter, joys, sorrows.
In these places, we are gifted with Home.
We are gifted with forgiveness.
We are reminded that we are enough, and that in the face of
darkness, aloneness, suffering or fear,
we can
courageously and outrageously
just
choose
love.

I WILL LIVE WHERE I WILL CHOOSE

2 Samuel 7:1-14 New Revised Standard Version
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.” But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

In My House

IN MY HOUSE

I Will Live Where I Will Choose

This reading presents an interesting idea.
David wants to build God
a house for God.
God wants nothing
of David’s idea,
not needing a house.
David wants God’s house
to look like it is the
home of the God of
a conquering king.
God is satisfied
living in a tent.
The idea is that God’s desire
for where to worship God,
has nothing
to do with humanity’s need
for design, style, pomp, flair, beauty,
or bragging rights.
Entire cathedrals
have been built on David’s premise.
Super-structures
made of glass and gold,
brick and stone,
taking generations and
entire livelihoods to construct.

THE LIMITS OF HUMAN IMAGINATION

Genesis 17:1-7 — Contemporary English Version

Abram was ninety-nine years old when the LORD appeared to him again and said, “I am God All-Powerful. If you obey me and always do right, I will keep my solemn promise to you and give you more descendants than can be counted.” Abram bowed with his face to the ground, and God said: I promise that you will be the father of many nations. That’s why I now change your name from Abram to Abraham. I will give you a lot of descendants, and in the future they will become great nations. Some of them will even be kings. I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God.

I Can’t Imagine

The Limits of Human Imagination
Genesis 17:1-7

Can you name a few things that you
can’t quite
bring yourself to believe?
There are some people
who are totally credulous
and will believe
anything any friend might say:
that the Moonlanding was fake
and staged out
in the Arizona desert;
or the earth is flat;
that women are
not as smart as men
because their brains
are smaller.
Pick a nationality,
race, gender, social class,
and you’ve heard
some unfounded
and salacious garbage
about their character.
Rumors and gossip
always tell me
more about the individual
spreading them
than about
the ones at whom
they are aimed.
But here,
today,
we read about another kind of
unbelievable,
inconceivable
tale.
A story so implausible
and so far
beyond the imagination
the even the person
to whom it happened
found it hard to believe.
A ninety-nine year old
fathering a child?
Wow!
It was a promise kept by God.
It was beyond comprehendible,
but it came true,
and I am led to ask,
what promises has
God made to us?
what do we think of
people who claim
that God makes them promises?
Have we ever experienced
the unimaginable?
It is crazy, you know,
to think that God
would make us a promise.
It is still crazier
to think that God wouldn’t.
Can you bring yourself
to imagine God’s
promise of eternal life?
Can you imagine the healing
stories of Jesus
being real?
Can you imagine hope?
Can you even imagine
the consequences
of the sharing of
bread
and cup
at the Communion Table?
I think we should
be careful about the limits
we place
on our imaginations.

I AM NOT AFRAID!

Sun Through Smoke on Church Window:”The Love In The Air Is Thicker Than The Smoke On The Ground!”

Psalm 23 — The Message

GOD, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of GOD
for the rest of my life.

# # #

I am writing this
as the fires
burn Sonoma County in California
taking lives
homes,
treasures and keepsakes—
leaving us with a strong sense
that we can no longer be safe.
We have been afraid.
We have cried,
I packed twice
For imminent evacuation.
One friend was forced to evacuate
only to be forced to evacuate
from a second sanctuary.
No safe place.
Trauma.
One friend was up late,
Smelled smoke,
Grabbed his wife,
cat and computer,
And fled.
Two minutes later his house was gone.
My reflection this week
was a checking in.
Triage.
Pulse taking.
A naming of our terrors
and joys
in order to gain
a semblance of
order and
power-over our circumstance.
We sang comfort songs
to remind us
of hope.
We read Psalm 23
To remind us
Of hope and companioning.
We broke bread and poured cup
to remind us that
hope is possible,
joy exists,
brokenness can be put back together,
and that our spirits can be refilled.

# # #

How are things going
for you this week?
What’s happening on the front lines of your lives?
Do you,
like me,
flinch everytime you hear your
Nixle alert?
I don’t know about you,
But
I am so relieved
to hear the helicopters and planes
in the sky,
and yet my stomach rolls a little,
just a little,
when they fly over.
There is a T-shirt that reads:
“32/8
11/8
These are Difficult Times,”
and they are,
but these times are more than
a time signature joke
on a T-shirt.
These are truly difficult times,
in many ways,
on so many levels.
There are wildfires
burning in our hills and towns.
There is insanity
and bedlam in the halls of
Congress
and the White House.
Besides all that,
we have lives
we are trying to live
the best we can,
and for some,
that may not seem like our best
is enough.
What I’d like to do in this room,
at this time,
this morning,
is to just share,
vent,
cry,
pray,
with each other and
try to cope a little.
We all have fears,
joys,
hopes,
triumphs,
courage to share with each other
and I propose that we do that
at this time.
# # #

I know that there are a few folk out there who read this blog, and I thank you for your loyalty. I challenge you to also find a trusted someone with whom you can share your moments of dark valleys and fear and hopelessness. I promise that there is hope and triumph in the sharing. Blessings and as the mime on Facebook has so eloquently presented, “THE LOVE IN THE AIR IS THICKER THN THE SMOKE.” And the smoke is pretty doggone thick!

The Time Has Come For Love —

A DAY OF REMEMBERING

Isle of the Liminal — Where Remembering…

Exodus 12:1-14

Do you have any days
set aside
for remembering?
What are those days?
What is it
you remember?
The Exodus Story
is a story of a happening.
It is a story of remembering.
Altars,
cairns,
monuments,
holy days,
national days,
holidays —
all these are about happenings
and are days
set aside for remembering.
My birthday is August 9.
Cherie’s and my wedding day is May 1.
Shannon was born May 25.
Our son, Joel,
was born September 16
and died October 28.
My first Sunday at the
Geyserville Christian Church
was January 16, 1994.
Remembering is a vital part of living.
Sometimes it is not the date
that is so important
as is the place where
the thing remembered
occurred:
a first date,
the coming of an idea,
a place where many times
our hopes are wrapped like
little presents in our past memories
as gifts to our present.
At this table
where we share Communion,
where we eat and drink,
together,
in this time,
in this place
we remember another time,
another place,
another happening —
Jesus’ blessing of bread and cup and friends
at a meal that was itself
a remembering
of a long-ago meal in another time,
with another people,
in another place —
where we are told
time itself began.
What are the rememberings
you bring
to this time,
to this place,
to this table?
What has happened to you
that is sacred
enough
for remembering?
as gifts to our present.
At this table
where we share Communion,
where we eat and drink,
together,
in this time,
in this place
we remember another time,
another place,
another happening —
Jesus’ blessing of bread and cup and friends
at a meal that was itself
a remembering
of a long-ago meal in another time,
with another people,
in another place —
where we are told
time itself began.
What are the rememberings
you bring
to this time,
to this place,
to this table?
What has happened to you
that is sacred
enough
for remembering?