Sunday, November 13, 2016

not one stone

Re-posintg a sermon passed on to me, from Rev. Frank J. Alagna, Holy Cross, Santa Cruz Episcopal Church. He concludes where I have been thinking: Our most urgent task is to ready our selves for non-violent resistance. My own homily for today, same readings, will follow (already posted on the hermitage blog too).

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Not One Stone Will Be Left Upon Another – All Will Be Torn Down

Last Sunday I preached a sermon about our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to affirm the priorities of the Kingdom of God and to advance what is right, good and holy in the public square.  This past Tuesday the nation, at least in the majority vote of the electoral college, made a choice for what is wrong, bad and clearly unholy.  

Let us be clear that there is no ambiguity in the gospel about those things that are counter Kingdom.
- assaults upon women, their dignity and their rights;
- racism and all forms of discrimination against any minority group;
- the scapegoating of any of God’s children;
- violence and any and all encouragements to violence,
- nativism and isolationism that would disengage us from the global relational mutuality which defines our shared humanity;
- a failure to care for the poor, the sick, and not to welcome the stranger among us or at the gate;
- a disregard for the care of our environmental home;
- and putting government at the service of self-interest and corporate greed rather than at the service of the common good. 

There is no ambiguity in the gospel that all these are wrong, bad and unholy and an election does not change any of this.   

Obviously there are some good people who in good faith actually believe that this man will affect changes that will improve their tomorrow.  But on Tuesday did we not also see a staggering number of people in this nation project their dark side and invest leadership in a man with no  demonstrated character and most certainly a false prophet?  

False prophets are those demagogues who appeal to popular passions and prejudices and stoke fear, identify scapegoats, inspire hatred and incite to violence.  This was clearly the strategy of the president-elect.   His words were chosen to orchestrate what was a cacophony of sheer ugliness.  It should come as no surprise that on Thursday the KKK announced plans to hold a parade and victory rally in North Carolina.

Can we be so naïve as to believe that the winner will dance to a tune other than the raucous song that he has been singing on the trail for the last two years?  Personal change that we desire does not come easy.  I assure you that a character that has been fashioned over a lifetime will not be changed by an election to public office. We just don’t work that way. History knows elected popes who have been despicable reprobates.

Recently a good Pope named Francis, warned against false prophets.  He identified false prophets as those, “Who exploit fear and hopelessness, who sell magic formulas of hatred, cruelty, selfish welfare and an illusory security that seeks safety in physical or social walls - walls that enclose some and banish others.” 

The Pope went on to say that there come to be two imprisoned groups,  “Walled citizens, terrified on one side,” and  “the excluded, exiled, and even more terrified on the other.”  Francis concluded by asking the question,  “Is that the life that our Father God wants for His children?”  He ended his address with the admonition, “Dear brothers and sisters, do not be fooled."

The man who was just elected to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world has never served anyone’s interests but his own during the first 71 years of his life.  And he makes no apologies for this. 

It is an accepted truth of psychology that the best indicator of future performance is past behavior, and in this case the strength of this prediction has been amplified with promises to remake this nation in his own disfigured image.  The demagoguery displayed in this race for the White House can only persist and intensify.  And given his party’s newfound majority in congress there will be few obstacles or checks to its advance.   

While Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”  And while He identified the archenemies of God and of God’s children, Jesus never instructed His disciples to, “Love the demons.”  Rather Jesus admonished His disciples to, “Resist what is evil.”   And He charged and empowered them to drive out demons, to expel and exorcise them.

Demons have no rights in God’s reign and Jesus showed them no respect.  Jesus always commands them to depart.  At one point in the gospel story, a legion of demons were expelled into a herd of swine and driven over a cliff to their death in the sea below.    

So what do we do in the face of what is and what will continue to be a renewed assault on the Kingdom of God and its priorities. 

We first of all must realize that this is not something new and that we have been here before.

In this morning’s gospel Jesus speaks prophetically about the destruction of the temple.  For His audience, the temple was not just one of many places of worship.  It was the only place of worship, for it was the only place on earth where God deigned to dwell. And so for the believing Jew, the destruction of the temple represented utter and complete destruction and terminal desolation.  No temple, no God, no hope.

The human family has known and undoubtedly will continue to know experiences of unimaginable destruction that reverberate to a place of desolation and that would vanquish and gut the human spirit.  Such is the experience being registered by too many these days. 

In our lifetime, too many of these spirit desolating episodes have commanded our attention - From the Holocaust, to the Stalinist purge of the Ukraine, to the Cambodian killing fields, to Bosnia and to present Syrian disaster.

Jesus did not promise us a demon free world, but He certainly did entrust us with the ministry of exorcism and the power to affect the expulsion of evil forces.

So how do we exercise this ministry in the present hour?  

Well, our only response cannot be fear, certainly not capitulation to the fear that engenders paralysis and despair unto death.  Disciples of Jesus do not choose nor live by fear but rather by faith.

Nor can we merely quite our troubled souls with calls to prayer.  Not that we should not pray, but let our prayer be grounded in reality.  Let us not pray that by some miracle, wisdom will enter the mind of a fool, nor that by some miracle right judgment and good behavior will come forth from an adult addicted to his adolescence.  What we should pray for is the grace of repentance and conversion, for without these this one who presents himself as a public reprobate will never evidence wisdom or be capable of right action. So pray that this man will be moved by God to face and own his sinfulness which has been so visible in the distasteful, disrespectful and disgusting words and actions he has directed against so many, and will seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the many he has hurt and the many more he intends to harm.   

Moving forward he will be the commander and chief of an army of allied haters who will happily participate in victimizing innocent men, women and children because of their race, religion, nationality, citizenship status and sexual and gender identity.  When this brand expresses itself let us remember that we have no obligation to listen to hateful speech, nor to make room for hateful posturing, nor to tolerate hateful actions.  Hate must always be stopped dead in its tracks.  Hate has no rights.  Hate deserves no space.  

Gracefully neither fear nor pious platitudes about prayer are our only options.

I do agree with our bishops that we have an urgent task as a church to listen, to hear, and to understand the pain of those who caste their vote because of the perceived and experienced unresponsiveness of the  establishment to their economic plight, and to seek reconciliation and unity with them.  However, I do not believe that this is our most urgent task in the present moment.  Our most urgent task is to ready our selves for non-violent resistance to the point of civil disobedience before bad things begin to happen to good people and victims begin to pile up.

We have in our span of years have known this witness and seen its effectiveness in the likes of Blessed Martin Luther King and Father Daniel Berrigan and those who walked, marched and bore stripes with them.

If there were ever a time for action, now is that time.  Do we really want to wait for the mass arrests and deportations of our Latino sisters and brothers?  Would that be wise or loving on our part?  Do we want to wait for the introduction of stop and frisk policing on our city streets?  Would that be wise or loving on our part?  Do we want to wait for an escalation of sexual violence against women on our campuses nurtured by the locker room banter and the example of predatory sexual behavior set by the next commander and chief of date rape?  Would that be wise or loving on our part?  Do we want to wait for the start of the third world war and the bodies of our grandchildren becoming carnage or do we put our own bodies on the line now for disarmament on our streets, in our schools and in our world?  

This is not a normal transition in government and we must refrain from the inclination to treat it as such.  We cannot consign those who have been clearly targeted for bad treatment: Latinos, Blacks, gay people, Muslims and young women to the shadows.   We have precious little time to seriously attend to their legitimate fears.  And we cannot normalize a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. 

And if you think you are too old to engage in active, non-violent protest and civil disobedience - Think again.  Can you think of a better way to spend whatever is left of our fading breath and failing bodies than as a living sacrifice for the Kingdom of God?  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who suffer for justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Rev. Frank J. Alagna
Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church
November 13, 2016