May 4, 2014: Do not resurrect it.

Posted on : May 1st, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

My goodness but we’ve had a “Mr. Toad’s wild-ride” couple of weeks. Racism, Sexism and Homophobia have made their ugly way into our lives, but suddenly something different is happening in America. People are rising up and saying, “Enough!” To me, it is like the message of Christ’s resurrection is finally taking hold in our hearts and lives. Now to be sure, we are not done with racism, sexism or homophobia. They are deeply rooted in each and every one of us. That’s because prejudice has two roots. Prejudice is both personal and institutional.

I can have a personal prejudice against someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, religion or anything. That personal prejudice was most likely taught to me by my friends or family, or came out of a negative experience I had with someone who belongs to one of those groups of people. For example, I may have been taught to fear people with a V-shaped head. Whether true or not, I may have been taught that people with a V-shaped head are violent. That’s why they have a V-shaped head! Stay away from them at all costs, or you will get beat up. But then somewhere along my life journey, I may actually meet someone with a V-shaped head and discover that what I was taught was wrong. This person isn’t violent and doesn’t want to harm me. S/he in fact turns out to be a really nice person who I like and with whom I want to be friends. That person with the V-shaped head may introduce me to other people with V-shaped heads, and from that I may discover that what I learned about people with V-shaped heads was completely wrong. I’m no longer afraid of people with V-shaped heads. I may even become a voice of reason and try to educate my friends and family, sharing with them my experience and trying to convince them not to be afraid of people with V-shaped heads. That’s how we overcome personal prejudice.

But prejudice is also institutional. Institutional prejudice is when laws are passed that intentionally discriminate or remove power or equality from one group of people over another. It could be that social custom, tradition, religion, economics or any number of things bring about laws to protect the rights of one group over another.   An example of such a law would be that people with V-shaped heads cannot marry. The basis of such a law could be that in all of recorded history only round-headed people have been allowed to marry. Some may say their religion teaches that only round-headed people should marry. Others may insist that if round-headed people and V-shaped headed people marry the value structure of western civilization as we know it may collapse.

Where this becomes problematic for V-shaped headed people is when society gives privilege and benefits to those who are married. One group gets it; the other doesn’t. Changing individual hearts and minds doesn’t resolve this situation. The laws themselves have to be changed before the prejudice can even begin to change.

The Resurrection of Jesus is about both changing individual hearts and minds AND institutional laws that are used to dehumanize individuals and groups of people. And that is what we have seen this week in our public life. Racism, Sexism and Homophobia have been challenged both personally and institutionally.

For many years, in fact up until his death, we had a dear friend who was a member of our congregation “in heart,” The Rev. Howard Warren. Howard was the Director of Pastoral Care at the Damien Center in Indianapolis, IN. He was a radical activist for God’s inclusive love. He spoke out against prejudice and discrimination in any form. Whenever he would encounter it in religious settings, especially the Presbyterian Church of which he was a minister, he would always quote one of the most loved verses of the bible, John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s Only Begotten Child, that whoever believes in the Christ may not die, but have eternal life.”

Then he would add, “And please notice there is no asterisk above “the world.” God didn’t love the Caucasian world, or the straight world, or the male world, God loved the WHOLE WORLD – NO EXCEPTIONS!”

For me, that is the message of the Easter Gospel. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God has redeemed the whole world – no exceptions!

Easter Blessings to you,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Genesis 1

God creates humanity in God’s image and after God’s likeness

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light.

And God said “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.” And it was so.

Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness.” So God created humanity in God’s image. And God blessed them.

And God saw everything that God had made, and behold it was VERY GOOD.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them. And on the seventh day God rested. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work which God had done in creation.

John 3: 16-17

God Redeems (loves) all of humanity – no exceptions!

Yes, God so loved the world that God gave God’s Only Begotten Child, that whoever believes in the Christ may not die, but have eternal life. For God sent Jesus into the world, not to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved.

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