January 18, 2015: Black Lives Matter.

Posted on : Jan 15th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Alicia Garza tells her story about the creation of “#Black Lives Matter:”

“I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

“Black Lives Matter” quickly became an educational slogan, an organizing theme and a rallying cry for justice for African Americans by Blacks, Caucasians, Hispanics and Asians. But, like everything else that has to do with race in America, it also became divisive and volatile.

Two UCC churches, one in Brooklyn NY and one outside of Long Island, New York, hung “Black Lives Matter” banners outside their churches. They immediately became a focal point of controversy. One of the banners was defaced by adding the words “so support cops.”

Some people in the community saw this message as “anti-police.” The leadership in both churches say that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Just because we are saying black lives matter doesn’t mean all lives don’t matter,” said Gail Keiser, moderator and president of Sayville Congregational Church (UCC).

Why is it that in matters of race, and many other politically controversial issues we quickly become so divided? You’re either for one; or against the other. This is the political game that is played all the time in Washington.

Sadly, it’s not new. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul addressed this divisiveness in the newly forming (first century) Christian Church. There were two groups of people who hated each other – detested each other – yet they were both Baptized Christians. The hatred and divisiveness between these two “races” (those born Jewish and those born Gentile) was so extreme, it threatened to kill the early Christian Church.

The newly forming Christian Church in Ephesus was particularly fractured with this division. So the Apostle Paul wrote them a letter – as he did quite often with many forming communities of faith. Those letters apparently had significant impact on the lives and faith development of the people, because they were saved and became about 1/3 of our Christian “New Testament” scriptures!

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he names the “black and white” divide. Then he adds this:

We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do the good things God created us to do from the beginning.

Bear in mind that at one time the men among you who were Gentiles physically – called “the Uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the Circumcised,” all because of a minor physical change – had no part in Christ and were excluded from the community of Israel. You were strangers to the Covenant and its promise; you were without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the sacrifice (blood) of Christ. For Christ is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart.

In his own flesh, Christ abolished the Law, with its commands and ordinances, in order to make the two into one new person, thus establishing peace and reconciling us all to God in one body though the cross, which put to death the enmity between us.

Paul is hard to read. He’s very “wordy” (even way more so than I!). So I’ve condensed the essence of his message. It is simply this:

We are God’s work of art, created to do the good things God created us to do.

Christ is our peace, who broke down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart.

Christ put to death the enmity between us.

That seems simple, doesn’t it? So why is it so hard to put this into practice in our lives? What Paul teaches us is the same thing the members of Sayville Congregational Church (UCC) are saying: “Just because we are saying black lives matter doesn’t mean all lives don’t matter.” Just because we are saying black lives matter doesn’t mean police officer’s lives don’t matter. They do.

There is a similar issue here that we experienced in the struggle for gay and lesbian equality. In the early days of our civil rights struggle, many folks feared that if gay and lesbian folks were given equal rights, that would somehow take away their (heterosexual) rights. Nothing was farther from the truth, but that fear was reinforced all the time. That was the same message behind the anti-marriage equality folk. If we let gay and lesbian couples marry, it would surely destroy the institution of marriage – and even western civilization as we know it! Really? If anything, equal marriage has strengthened the institution of marriage.

If we could speak about getting rid of institutional racism, as we’re doing with institutional heterosexism, then all lives – including the precious lives of African Americans – would matter and be valued.

As we celebrate the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, let’s reflect on the Apostle Paul’s insight. How can we, in our own lives, work to ensure that “All lives matter, including Black Lives?”

More on Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Ephesians 2: 10-22

We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do the good things God created us to do from the beginning.

Bear in mind that at one time the men among you who were Gentiles physically – called “the Uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the Circumcised,” all because of a minor physical change – had no part in Christ and were excluded from the community of Israel. You were strangers to the Covenant and its promise; you were without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the sacrifice (blood) of Christ. For Christ is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart. In his own flesh, Christ abolished the Law, with its commands and ordinances, in order to make the two into one new person, thus establishing peace and reconciling us all to God in one body though the cross, which put to death the enmity between us. Christ came and “announced the Good News of peace to you who were far away, and to those who were near”; for through Christ, we all have access in one Sprit to our God.

This means that you are strangers and aliens no longer. No, you are included in God’s holy people and are members of the household of God, which is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. In Christ the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in our God; in Christ you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

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