Psalm 8
JOHN 16: 12-15

June 7, 2020

I woke up on Friday morning alive but challenged because Thursday night before going to bed was really tough for me because of the news and the place of the news but I slept and woke trying to focus on the dandelions that would be the key element in my cooking lesson on PD@930 remembering I needed to be funny later to lift spirits but … And, Friday morning when I woke up there was a text from a young lady I love and admire … she shared how worried she had been about me on Thursday night.

Jessica McDermott is a cancer survivor … leukemia slammed into this young woman making her wonder if she would leave her child, still a toddler, an orphan … her man is Brett …. He’s a hero too … he served our nation in Afghanistan. Well Jess beat back the cancer and after that living versus dying battle she and Brett had twins plus she just happens to own SUNSET ICE CREAM, which is God’s special piece of heaven on this planet in Williamsport Pennsylvania.

Earlier in the week Jess had let me know that she had given her high school boy friend my cell number because that young man in central Pennsylvania was losing Jesus. His pastor preached and somehow thought that George Floyd’s 8 minute and 46 second video-taped death on the streets of Minneapolis as a knee closed out his life and others including police officers just watched was justified and that unarmed AHMAUD ARBERY was a burglar who was rightfully shot to death by that father and son team in Georgia who sped out in their pick up after the black jogger in shorts going through their Lilly White community … all set to put him down as their day’s trophy kill. Jess told me that she and Justin had both found Jesus at a summer camp but Justin shared with her last week that if pastors couldn’t handle and accept Jesus teachings but instead preferred to join the world’s hate and racism then perhaps church was a hoax, faith a cover-up, and Christ just a name in history. Jess thought I might be able to bring him back. And, Justin and I are talking and praying but he is struggling to understand Christians who hate. RACISTS who run churches.

On Friday morning Jess’s text to me started with “Are you alright?” … you see good friends somehow know when you’re hurting and struggling and I know she knew my answer would be no. She then wrote, “Before I went to bed I was watching the news and I thought that was you and I was scared to death … but then I realized he was much older.” The he she was referring to is Martin Gugino and I guess all white men with shaved heads look alike from a distance and if you missed the news … there on the steps of Buffalo’s City Hall … the hall of the people … steps I have walked on hundreds of times … 75 year old Martin had been pushed backwards by two police offices with their wooden bats in front of them … individuals now charged with assault. The two muscular officers’ shove toppled 75 year old Martin who struck his head on the cement steps where he lay bleeding from his head for literally the world to see. For a moment, Jess thought it was me.

It is PEACE with JUSTICE SUNDAY in the global United Methodist Church … been listed on the calendar long before COVID … long before AHMAUD ARBURY … long before BREONNA TAYLOR … long before GEORGE FLOYD … and long before MARTIN GUGINO.

The legal expert challenged Jesus by asking ‘’What must I do to gain eternal life?’ Church, I am not sure how often you have paid close attention to this lesson from Luke … but then I have heard voices from folks self identifying as Christians including those wearing the title Reverend who have clearly not been able to accept nor live out Jesus teaching in Matthew 25, which also addresses the issue of our resting places in eternal life … seems we get focused on those few words spoken to Nicodemus and ignore the truth that faith without actions is dead … not real. At times I truly wonder if the greatest challenge to people who have found Jesus is their reluctance to truly follow Jesus … perhaps it’s that His teachings aren’t easy … His demands contradict the world’s … church this morning on this Communion Sunday … on this PEACE with JUSTICE SUNDAY have you considered whether or not you can handle Jesus teachings in your life or if you reject them energetically because you don’t know them or don’t like them?

So we return to Luke … the question, which is answered in a way that fully explains what being born again is all about comes in a two part answer from Jesus, my Lord and Savior and I hope yours’ too. We hear Jesus say that if you “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind and … love your neighbor as yourself” you will “live and have eternal life,” according to Jesus. Have eternal life by loving God and neighbor but then the legal expert presses Jesus on the second part … ‘who is my neighbor’ he asks Jesus.

Jesus then shares the story of the Good Samaritan …He talks about the powerful and politically connected priest who just walks by the beaten, naked and robbed man near death on the Jericho to Jerusalem road. In fact, the priest crossed to the other side to avoid the man. Then a Levite, a man of power and wealth approached and he crossed over to avoid getting anywhere close to the bleeding and hurt man. Finally a Samaritan, and we know that the Jewish people considered them outcasts even to the point that Jewish people chose to go around Samaria just to avoid running into one. There are people in today’s world who lock their car doors when they see some people who are different than themselves … they avoid their neighborhoods or conversations with them too … the Samaritan came and cared for the man. Jesus declared that this ‘outcast,’ member of a despised group .. he was the one who demonstrated mercy and therefore was the BORN AGAIN guy … the SAVED guy … the one who got God’s teachings. The one getting heaven for eternity. Not the priest … not the Levite.

And, we watched as they marched past in their body armor with only an occasional glance down at the bleeding body of Martin Gugino not even looking down to see if he was alive as Mike Desmond, the reporter from WBFO where my radio career started, began screaming HE’S BLEEDING FROM HIS EARS … get an ambulance! Callously they walked by in formation and I am sure some would have crossed the street if they could have … no one rushed to push the knee off of George Floyd’s throat as he cried for his mother and screamed I CAN’T BREATHE … no one crossed the street to save him … not even the officers within arm’s reach who could have pushed the murderer off. And, now I hear voices attempting to say ‘so what if Gugino was 75 years old … he was an activist … a trouble maker … he deserved to be pushed backwards onto cement steps .. he knew what he was doing’ and, friends, I am hearing these words from friends of mine who call themselves Christians saying it was ok to potentially kill a 75 year old man with brute force because he was a verbal troublemaker… just imagine the nation’s reaction if Mr. Gugino was a black man instead of someone who on a quick glance looks like me.

THIS IS PEACE with JUSTICE SUNDAY and I need to ask you … before we take the bread and the cup … you need to consider … I need to consider … CAN WE HANDLE JESUS TEACHING and change for HIM and for GOD or have we chosen our sides in this life and therefore rejected the afterlife’s better location?

You might not know who Reverend Virginia Gerbasi is. Well, she is a fellow alumni of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. She is good friends with my friend Sara Shepherd. But this week she was shot at by a force of fully armed individuals firing rubber bullets that a week ago took out the eye of a young man in Dallas Texas … she was gassed outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church … a church of God … on the church’s patio where she and others had set up a rest station .. a place of peace in the midst of the demonstrations in the nation’s capital. She serves as the rector or pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown but she was there on Monday to care for others … care for the hurting … doing what people of faith are called to do but this past Monday a little past 6pm out they came firing and shoving those who were peacefully gathered … eyes tearing up from the chemical spray … throats contracting … bodies feeling the powerful sting of rubber bullets and pellets … people ran towards the church to get for water for their eyes … for papertowels and there was Reverend Gerbasi, a friend of a dear friend … a fellow alumni of my seminary … along with a seminarian trying to help but coughing and tearing up and the police came forward in full riot gear clearing the peaceful out. Overturning the medic’s table .. chasing volunteer medics there to care for the hurting …. All for a photo op.. God’s book held up in the midst of tear gas clouds.

And, what disturbed me most was hearing a fellow New Jersey-based United Methodist pastor declare that the fault lay with Reverend Gerbasi … that the chemical smoke that filled her eyes was from mysterious fires set by the demonstrators of which there are no photo’s rather than from the pepper balls tossed out by federal marshals and police. That pastor from NJ clearly is not ready to cross the street to care for the hurting because he liked the ‘photo op’ no matter who was harmed.

And, last night I sensed God’s Holy Spirit nudge … go to the last book of the Old Testament Dave. Go to the last words of the dividing line between Old Testament and New. Read them and consider them. So, this morning with Chelsea on my chest I read from the prophet Malachi on this Sunday of Peace with Justice …

“Look,” says the Lord. “The day is coming when all the arrogant ones and all those doing evil will become like straw. The sun of righteousness will rise on those revering my name, healing will be in its wings so that you will go forth and jump about like calves in the stall. Remember the words of Moses, ‘Turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to their parents.”

And, I flipped to the New Testament where Jesus said, “As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become the people whose lives are determined by the light. If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you belong to the world, the world will love you as its own. However, I have chosen you out of the world, and you don’t belong to the world. That is why the world hates you. I give you a new commandment; love each other. Just as I have loved you you also MUST love each other. This is how everyone will know you are my disciples.”

It is also Trinity Sunday and we heard Rich in this morning’s Gospel lesson share Jesus’ words, “When the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you in all truth. He will glorify me and take what is mine and proclaim it to you. Everything the Father has is mine.”

Friends, it is PEACE with JUSTICE SUNDAY but it is Trinity Sunday also and God the Creator’s love was so incredible that God made every human being in God’s Holy Image and then out of God’s love and grace gave us Jesus but we have the free will to accept this gift of love by loving God and loving all of our neighbors or we can reject it. Accept God’s love and the gift of the Holy Spirit will be there for you to nudge you in the direction God wants you to turn … perhaps even to open your Bible when you wake up like my experience this morning.

Come to the table and renew your faith … come to the table and be blessed … come to the table and be ready to cross the road to show love and care rather than to hold back because God calls us to stand up for justice and oppose all who do harm to our fellow humans all created in God’s Holy Image.


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