Stand Up

In honor of MLK, 2018, and referencing the call story of the prophet Samuel. Video is publicly available on my Facebook page. I love this sermon, and I’m truly honored and humbled that it was delivered through my lips.

When I arrived at Holy Comforter I quickly appointed myself the Chief Mischief Maker. There are several reasons for this. The most visible is that I think Church should be fun. For all of us. Beautiful, meaningful, resonant, enlightening, and enjoyable.

And so I dance, occasionally wear a unicorn horn, and let the joy I feel in God come through my very being.

But that is not the only, nor even the main way that I am the Chief Mischief Maker.

When God called “Cara, Cara”, I had no idea what I was signing up for when I said “Here I am”. I wasn’t attending an Episcopal Church. I hadn’t read the Bible. I was so much like Samuel – I did not yet know the Lord, and the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to me.

But like Samuel, I heard and felt the call of God to the depths of my being. And though I was confused, and didn’t know what I was signing up for, I answered “Here I am.”

In answering the call of God I have had to get to know myself, my faith, and my culture incredibly well. Becoming a priest is a part of responding to my call.

Becoming the Chief Mischief Maker of the Episcopal Church, is how I live out my call.

Today, I am going to share something with you that makes me feel as though I am standing in front of you naked; that’s what it feels like to me to allow others to see my calling. If you allow yourself eyes to see and ears to hear, I will share with you the essence of my call. I will share the words I will be saying with my every breath, until my last.

What follows are the words the Lord has placed on my lips. What follows is the culmination of my life’s work. What follows is the essence of the priest I am called to be.

Before I share these words, you should know that there are things I will be saying today, things that will likely cause a reaction in some. White Supremacy; Racism; White Privilege.

While these words have become politicized, they are not intended as such. That equality is a political issue is not the point of this sermon, nor was it when Christ discussed how others were to be treated.

But there are times that you simply must speak truth to power. And on this day, the day before when we honor one of the greatest prophets of the modern era, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., truth must be spoken.

In August, it will be 55 years since Rev. Dr. King gave the “I Have a Dream Speech”. It will be 55 years since Dr. King stood in front of the nation and the world and said:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!…

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

It has been 55 years since Dr. King said those words. So much has changed in the last 55 years, but one thing remains the same:

It has been 55 years, and those words are still a dream.

Today, we claim to be colorblind, to live in a post racial society. These are words that for much of my life I bought into.

These are words that I stand before you today to say are not true. Claiming to be colorblind does not make us colorblind, nor does it make us less racist; to be colorblind means that we don’t truly see the person who stands before us.

Placing political affiliation over the content of a person’s character is not, in anyway, beneficial to us as a nation. Nor does it align at all with the message of Christ.

Ignoring the fact that this nation was founded on a premises of White Supremacy leaves us no choice but to deny that there are ramifications today for the descendants of those slaves and Native Americans whose sweat, and blood, and backs this nation was built upon.

There are ramifications.

Look around this room, this is a ramification!

We live in a society today that is more segregated than at any point since slavery was abolished. A college educated black man makes two-thirds of a white man with a high school education. Slavery has been abolished and replaced by the prison system. A system which is filled with 5 times as many black men and women than white.

5 times as many, despite the fact that blacks and whites commit crimes at nearly identical rates.

What this says to me is that there is a problem.

And I, like the vast majority of all gathered in this room, have stood up in this room, or a room remarkably like it, and said that I will persevere in resisting evil, and whenever I fall into sin, I will repent and return to God.

We have stood and promised that we will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

We have stood and promised that we will seek to serve Christ in all persons, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

We have stood and promised that we will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

These promises are found on pages 304 and 305 of the Book of Common Prayer. They are our Baptismal Covenant.

We have all promised to do this work, to have eyes to see and ears to hear. I know it is not easy to hear, it is even harder to say.

But it is the truth.

We, myself included, have benefited from a system built on the supremacy of people with pale skin over those with darker skin.

Our nation was founded on the idea that some humans are, simply put, less than human. And as such, being owned was in their best interest. This idea is an undercurrent in the freedom of being American, and it allowed the economic system on which this nation was founded to flourish.

Slavery is not uniquely American, but the racism that is currently running rampant through this world, is in part our creation. In fact, the Episcopal Church, then the Church of England in America, helped. The government decided it was in their best interest for races to be divided, at a time when there was no separation of church and state – the church was the state.

Though, of course, non-white’s could be Christian. But the church made it clear that Christianity did not in anyway change a slave’s status as being the property of a white man.

And at the same time, at the same time that this message of Christ was being distorted to justify slavery, it was also strengthening and giving life to those who were enslaved.

The message of Christ was first delivered to the outcasts, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. That message of radical love and acceptance by God, regardless of what humans say, that message resonated with the enslaved, just as it resonates today by those who are marginalized by our culture and societal norms.

2,000 years ago, Christ stood up and said that we must be more than what society says we should be. Actually, he said that we are more than what society says we are, and that we should behave that way.

We should behave the way God created us to behave. To follow God, not to follow man. We are to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Jesus. We are to seek and serve Christ in all persons. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to stand up, and actively pursue justice, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

There are no qualifiers on those words. This is what God calls us to do.

God is calling to us “Holy Comforter, Holy Comforter”.

How should we respond?

We can sit; go forward in life blinded to the realities of injustice. Or we can stand up, speak truth to that power, even if we’re scared, just as Samuel did to Eli. We can stay where we are, or we can say “Here I am!” And see where God takes us.

Who will stand with me? Who will stand with me to bring about the dream of Dr. King. His dream that people from: “every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black and white, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, [gay and straight], will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are [all] free at last!”

Stand with me. Stand up. Together, we can make Dr. King’s dream, God’s will for us, reality.