Justice and the Kingdom of God

This past Sunday I had an opportunity to preach at Lighthouse Mpls Covenant Church where my wonderful friend, Dee McIntosh is the pastor. Check out the sermon in this video:

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Tired: The Cries of a Weary People

Tired.jpegI can see it in your eyes
The fear which clouds every thought

I can hear it in your words
The anxiety laced in everything you say

Fear of life itself
And all of those who walk about it
Anxious over the notion that someone somewhere just might
Take you out.

It’s scary, I know.
I feel that way too.
Every time a cop car pulls up behind me, I feel my heart sink further into my chest.
When I walk by strangers on the street, I wonder where there is malicious thought behind that half-baked smile
Or if someone aims to destroy at a park
in the mall
at church
in a school

And the government,
It’s a whole different kind of beast
Claiming to be for the people
It destroys the people 
Through lies and deception
Greed and destruction
Each of us – Black, white, Muslim and Jew – tremble in fear and trepidation with every passing moment.

And It’s only been 7 days!

It’s not supposed to be this way
Living in a constant tension between fight or flight
War exists but we were not made to live in a constant state of it
Resiliency is for the birds
We are dying
We are killing ourselves
Fear and hatred both incapacitates and alienates us
Aren’t you tired?

Aren’t you tired of that gnawing, aching feeling in the bottom of your chest
Aren’t you tired of living in between, with one foot in the grave and the other trying to walk around and feign sanity in the midst of destruction
Aren’t you tired of waking to fight to breathe, to exist in polluted air

Or of walking amongst corpses.

We are wounded people. Each of us deeply scarred.
Will we ever find a way to walk back towards each other?
Can we undo what has been already done?
Can we repair the foundation and rebuild a society that is strong, beautiful, loving, and true?
Or is this our final resting place?

This Advent: Christ Is Here – May He Be Found In Us

Candles.jpeg
As we finish off leftovers from Thanksgiving, we usher in another season of advent. And if you are like me, you too have also been wondering what this season means in light of the current political moment. Getting wrapped up in the typical holiday festivities and cheer is tempting – I want my children to have good memories about baking cookies, decorating the Christmas Tree, and of course, opening presents early Christmas morning. And at the same time, this moment demands a level of reflection and responsiveness that is not found in glasses of thick Eggnog, fragrant Christmas wreaths, or even Candlelight Vigils capped by melodic choruses of Silent Night.

Whether we appreciate it or not, this season of advent has already taken on a different meaning. So many people in our nation alone, are hurting and genuinely afraid of what awaits them after this season comes to a close. Our friends throughout the world also wonder the same. Coincidentally, the end of advent coincides with the beginning of a new presidential administration which has already made great promises to hurt and harm the marginalized among us – all for personal economic power and self-aggrandizement it turns out. How will this new administration affect the lives of the already exploited among us? Will they be deported, forced to go back to lands that our nation’s foreign policies have decimated? Will they be forced to put their names of a government registry because of their faith, once again scapegoated for this country’s crimes against humanity? Will they be killed without cause and vindication, either by police or those robbed in hoods of the heart? Will they be sexually harassed without their perpetrators ever seeing their day in court, forced to carry to full term babies born through such evil acts of rape and incest? Will they lose the little bit of land that they have managed to hang onto for all of these years, called trespassers on property that rightfully belongs to them? These are the fears that govern the hearts and minds of the vulnerable among us. What does the advent of Christ mean in such a time as this?

If we are paying attention to how things are unfolding around us while simultaneously studying God’s Word, we would understand that in a time just like this Christ came down. It was during a similar moment marked by intense marginalization and colonial rule, that Jesus was born. And fortunately for us, this Jesus was not born into prestige, resources, or any semblance of power. He was born into a community that had little clout which was being held captive by an empire that thirsted on the perpetual exploitation of not only His people, but other vulnerable communities within its reach.

So when the Bible says that Jesus identifies with our weakness, it means this quite literally. Like many of us, Jesus was an undocumented refugee. Like many of us, Jesus was born out of wedlock to parents who didn’t have enough money for a decent room at a respectable hotel. Like many of us, Jesus was a social outcast because of his ethnicity. Like many of us, Jesus lived in a despotic police state. Like many of us, Jesus did not have rights to free speech. Like many of us, every move that Jesus made was watched. Like many of us, Jesus was considered threatening to the ruling powers of his day to the point that they felt compelled to silence Him.

Advent then, has never been about Jesus identifying with the powerful; it has always and will forever be about Jesus living in absolute solidarity with the vulnerable and weak. This is what the incarnation is all about: the Son of God taking on human flesh and the utter finiteness of that human flesh in a world built of destruction. He could have easily been born to a family of means or during a time when the Jews were in a better political situation. Instead, he chose a family who had access to little resources in a time when His people were prisoners in their own home.

Jesus is rightly called Immanuel, God with us. God with us in the struggle, God with us in the righteous work to affirm the humanity of those who are under threat of losing it every day. He sees the fight we are up against for survival, and instead of standing away from it, He enters into that fight at the deepest level. He’s more than an ally because the same chains that bind others, He has allowed to bind Himself. Working on behalf of our liberation, He also works on behalf of His own, declaring to Himself the same salvation that He pronounces on the world around.

Jesus is not only with us, He delivers us. He does not simply fight for fighting sakes, He actually breaks the chains that keep us all imprisoned to an imperial system hell bent on our demise. He does this subversively, allowing Himself to be imprisoned, beat, and ultimately executed by empire. Rising from the dead, He proves that He has ultimately defeated and conquered them all. Every hint of power that satiates on the oppression of the weak, He destroys. Every idea that insists that it is Lord over creation, He makes irrelevant. He heals the sick. He raises the dead. He brings utter and complete liberty to those who cry out for rescue, proving that He is not only LORD of all, but Savior of all too.

Reflecting on the life and ministry of Jesus in this context gives me hope. For advent has never been about the wreaths and Christmas Carols. Though nice, it has always been about remembering what Christ initially came to do so that His actions would be found in us. And today, we desperately need to have His actions magnified in us – for how else will we stand and protect the rights of our brothers and sisters, our very own selves even, unless we commit to modeling our thoughts and actions after His? This moment necessitates that all of those who are called by Christ, those who say that they are His, to stand for truth and righteousness, forsaking all evil that claims supremacy and that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ – even if that evil exists within our own selves. 

On this day, may the very image of Christ be reflected in us as we likewise enter into the struggle of the oppressed. May God be magnified in us as we fight for the rights of those are at risk of losing them for the sake of material gain. May the Kingdom of God draw a little closer to this earth as we pronounce salvation for those who suffer and grieve in this present moment. To them belong the Kingdom, to them belong the Kingdom.

Jesus, may you come ever so quickly!

A Christian Response? Use Your Voice

What is the Christian, well human, response to the election? In this video for MennoNerds, I talk about just that. My hope and prayer is that as a community of believers we will become more prepared to do the work of shalom, justice, in the coming weeks, months and years ahead.

Jesus, come quickly!

Update: I Am Not My Hair – Reflections from a Disappointed Consumer

Several weeks ago I shared my frustrations about a recent visit to Target in Shoreview. I had gone in to buy some hair products for hair, and came to quickly realize that there was not much of anything there for people who looked anything like me, regardless of whether they had permed hair or natural hair. I was absolutely in rage.

However, I did something constructive about my frustration. Instead of just venting about it, and sharing my anger with you all, I took my concerns to someone who could do something about it – management! Granted I did not believe that they would do much, especially when they asked me to fill out a customer complaint card. Even so, I said what needed to be said, and even shared that I felt that there lack of products that catered to the needs of my ethnicity, made me feel like I did not belong.

To be honest, I promised myself that I would never go in the store again. But it is difficult to honor such a promise when it is the closest thing to your house, and it is snowing, and you have to get back home quickly. So a few weeks after this whole ordeal, I found myself in Target again. Since I was there, and almost a month had passed since my last visit, I strolled down the hair product aisle. And low and behold, what I saw was like Christmas to my eyes. Hair products for my type of hair lined the shelves of the aisle from top to bottom! Hallelujah! And I am not talking about cheap products with so many cancer-filled ingredients. No, they had Kinky Kurly, Shea Moisture, and so much more.

Still, they did not have the quantity of products that other Target’s carried, but they had just enough to make this girl smile as I was leaving the store. And it made me realize, even though I already knew, that things change when we open up our mouths and communicate what we are experiencing, instead of holding those things inside, hoping that the world will get a clue.

Advocacy rocks!