Can anything good come from this shit-for-brains president?”

Martin Luther King Sunday – John 1:43-51 – Epiphany 2B

Audio only version here

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” WOW! All over Christendom, where-ever the Revised Common Lectionary is used, preachers were busy preparing their sermons on this particular Gospel reading, when the most powerful man on the planet caused us all to hone in on these words: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” I can assure you that the sermon that I had planned to preach this morning, was nothing like the sermon, I am compelled to preach. Dr. Martin Luther King is quoted as saying that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I must confess that I was not exactly articulate when I first heard the hate filled comments of the man whose name sticks in my throat. For the sake of decency, I shall not quote my own reaction, which can be expressed with the letters W T F followed by a question mark. But decency does not come easily to the current president of the United States. Watching this sorry excuse for a man, sign a proclamation declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day, brought tears to my eyes for all the wrong reasons.   The hatred expressed on Thursday by a president who holds the futures of so many hopeful immigrants in his hands makes it clear that Dr. King’s dream is not yet realized.

Yes, many of us have come a long way. Some of us can still see Dr. King’s vision. Some of us have lived that dream. But we all received a real slap in the face that ought to wake us up to the reality that we have a long way to go before Dr. King’s vision can be embodied by all those who seek justice and freedom from poverty. Slapped in the face by a man who has ridden his own racism to the pinnacle of political power, we must awaken our sensibilities to the positions of privilege that we enjoy as a result of the legacy of tribalism that continues to enslave our world in systems of abuse that perpetuate fear; fear the enemy of compassion, fear the enemy of justice, fear that leads to hatred; hatred that divides us from one another and robs us of our humanity.   

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Indeed, how can anything good come from Nazareth? The soon to be disciple of Jesus, asked a question born out of the very tribalism that continues to haunt us. In Jesus’ day, Nazareth was what number 45 would call a “shit-hole”.  Nazareth, where Jesus was from, was located in Galilee, a hick-town in the Roman occupied backwater of Judea. Judea was characterized by its Roman occupiers as a real shit-hole, and Nazareth was a hot-bed of radical terrorists bent on overthrowing the established order. Nothing but trouble came from Nazareth. Nothing and nobody from Nazareth could be trusted.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nazareth, a shit-hole of a town, in the back of beyond. The last thing anyone in Jerusalem needs is a bunch of Nazareans coming into town to stir up a whole lot of trouble. The juxtaposition of this particular Gospel reading with the comments made in the White House on Thursday is tragic in and of itself. But add the memory of Dr. King to this horrendous outpouring of hatred and perhaps we might, just might, be able to shed some light on the darkness that has descended upon our world. Dr. King insisted that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And while it is so very easy to hate the spewer of racist venom who wields more power than anyone else on the planet, Donald J. Trump is also our brother and we, my dear sisters and brothers, we are called to love even this sorry excuse for a human being. And while it is so very tempting to respond to his venom by asking, “Can anything good come from this shit-for-brains president?” two wrongs won’t make it right. As easy as it is to assume that Trump is beneath contempt, my hatred of Trump will not shed the kind of light that drives out hate, only love can do that.

So, how do I learn to love Donald J. Trump? I confess that a big part of me doesn’t want to learn to love this despicable excuse for a man. But bear with me for just a moment as I try to explore some things that Mr. Trump and I share; indeed, some things that I suspect we all share with Mr. Trump.

Let’s begin with the disciple Nathanael’s question:  “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” I suspect that each of us have asked a similar question at some point in our lives. As a child, I lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was trained to believe that people from certain areas were worthy of my suspicion, simply because they inhabited Roman Catholic neighbourhoods. Later when we immigrated to Canada, I was taught to believe that people who came to town from reservations were lesser beings. I was taught to suspect that the people who lived on reservations, were lazy, no-good, drunks, who spent their lives freeloading off the government, and that nothing of much worth ever came off a reservation. As I grew to adulthood, I was taught to be suspicious of everyone who wanted to come to this country who was not British. My parents didn’t teach me this; this I learned in the playgrounds of the various schools I attended in both Ontario and British Columbia, where I learned to label fellow students as, “pakies and rag-heads” because they came from countries that our brother Mr. Trump would call “shit-holes”.

Take a moment. Look into your own lives. Do you remember the way people used to talk about our First Nations sisters and brothers? Do you remember the way people used to talk about immigrants? Most of us, I hope had enough compassion not to say these hate-filled things but if we are honest with ourselves, I suspect that the fear behind these hate-filled words, infected us to the extent that we became at the very least suspicious of people whose origins we did not share. Continue reading

Prayer – Epiphany Sermon Series – 2: Pray to a Super-natural Deity or a Panentheistic God?

PrayerSermon series pastorDawnThree years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer. I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of three years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the Second sermon in the series. I shall repost the seven sermons in the series over the course of the Season of Epiphany.

Prayer #2 – Pray to a Super-natural Deity or a Panentheistic God? preached on Epiphany 2B, 2012 – listen to the sermon here

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, The Flowing Light of the Godhead by Mechthild of Magdeburg, John 1:43-51 – Our worship began with the singing of the old song, I Come to the Garden Alone.

Last week we began a sermon series on prayer. We are spending the season of Epiphany exploring what it prayer is like after you give up the idea that God is some grand-puppeteer in the sky. We spent some time exploring the description of the Voice of God that we find in the Hebrew Scriptures. In ancient Hebrew the Voice of God is described as the Bat Cole. Which translates literally as the daughter of a sound. Our English bibles translate the Bat Cole, the daughter of a sound as the Still Small Voice of God. It is sometimes translated as “the thinnest silence.” I asked you to spend sometime during the week, listening to the Bat Cole that emanates from deep inside of you. Today, I want to talk about what it means to listen.

What does it mean to listen to the voice of God? What does the voice of God sound like? How do you know that the voice you are hearing is God? What are you supposed to do if you think you hear the voice of God? I’ve been thinking about these questions all week long and I’ve got to say that these questions have driven me more than a little crazy. Earlier in the week, a colleague sent me a recording of televangelist Pat Robertson talking about his latest message from God. It seems that God has told Pat Robertson exactly who the next president of the United States is going to be. God has also, rather conveniently told Robertson not to talk about it. So, Pat’s not saying who it will be. But he is saying that God has told him that the current president; that would be Barak Obama, “holds a radical view of the future of the United States that is at odds with the majority” so the nation should expect chaos and paralysis.”

It strikes me as all too convenient that God just happens to hold the same views as Pat Robertson, so I’m not about to listen to the voice that he hears. But then, how do I know that the voice that I hear is God and not just me impersonating God? To hear Pat Robertson tell it, he hears a clear voice and has no doubt that it is God doing the talking. I on the other hand have never heard a clear voice. In fact I’m pretty sure that if I stood up here and told you all that God spoke to me in a clear voice, you’d begin to wonder about my sanity. I mean hearing voices is a clear signal that something has gone terribly wrong and we have all sorts of medication for that. So, if hearing voices is symptomatic of mental illness, then why in the world would we bother listening for the voice of God?

Before we can even begin to understand what the so much of the Christian tradition means when they talk about listening to the voice of God, we need to take a step back and look at what we mean when we say the word god. Throughout the Jewish and Christian traditions you can trace two very distinct ways of understanding and talking about God. The first and most familiar way of understanding God is as a supernatural being. God is described as a sort of person, a supernatural person. The term supernatural describes it all, super means beyond the natural. God is understood as a being beyond the capabilities of most beings. God is personified; given the characteristics of a person; only it is as if God has the powers of a super-hero; someone far greater than we can even imagine. Continue reading