The Lord is My Shepherd
Aug. 20, 2017
As I was reading for my sermon on Psalm 23, I read that the eminent biblical scholar Water Brueggeman says, “It is almost pretentious to comment on this psalm…it is such a simple statement that it can bear its own witness without comment.” I agree. And so, rather than preaching a sermon, I decided to just let the psalm speak for itself—through the different translations you heard. I was not planning to preaching a sermon at all. But, then Charlottesville happened.
Quote from Time magazine article, Hate in America, Aug. 17, 2017. (pp. 42, 60)
Bias is a human condition, and American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. As a nation, we’ve made a lot of progress, but stereotyping and unequal treatment persist. When bias motivates an unlawful act, it is considered a hate crime. Most hate crimes are inspired by race religion, but hate today wears many faces. Bias incidents also tear communities apart and can escalate into actual crimes.
The good news is, all over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it—often in greater numbers and with stronger voices. In the face of intimidation and hate, silence is not an option.
Politicians are disappointed about President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protest and death of Heather Heyer.
But, others did speak up and speak out against the hate.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Fox News CEO Robert Murdoch condemned the hate rally and pledged millions of dollars to anti-defamation league.
Then I got an email from Uber condemning in strong terms the Charlottesville rally.
And so I decided that if Uber can speak up, surely the Christian church should.
I want to be sure you know where I stand and where our church stands—and that is against hatred of all kind. We follow Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, who preached love—love of God and love of neighbor.
Since Charlottesville, people of faith are asking what they are called to do and say. Many Presbyterians have joined the discussion about how to respond to faith; what to say and how to move beyond words to action.
More than 400 Christian ethicists have signed a statement saying that racism and white supremecy are a “Christian problem.” The signers include Presbyterians.
Rev. Dr. Brian Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary:
It is the violence that has brought us here. The violence of hating others because they are different. The dangerous and excluding visions of groups like the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists threaten violence both spiritual and physical. That violence and its effect has robbed Charlottesville of its sense of peace and security, taken Heather Heyer from all of us, and resulted in the deaths of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates. We can hope that Heather’s mother, Susan Bro, was right when she said at Heather’s memorial service: “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.”
We can hope that the continuing spirit to resist the type of evil that marched in Charlottesville last weekend is indeed magnified in each of us as we talk together, pray together, and seek together the vision that Martin Luther King, Jr. so often called the beloved community. We must raise our voices even when we think we have little to say. We must move our political representative even when they seem reluctant to move. We must stand when it comes our turn to stand.
Presbyterian Women issued this letter: “We urge all people to find ways to bridge the issues that divide Americans rather than widening the gap of distrust and misunderstanding. We support our brothers and sisters in Charlottesville, Virginia, who are standing up for justice and peace. We encourage everyone to be steadfast and immovable in the fight against discrimination, prejudice, and hatred. If we truly have faith in Jesus we will not treat some people better than others, but we will strive to love one another equally through the love of Jesus Christ. We lift our prayers to God.
Slide show—The Lord is my Shepherd—Charlottesville with the music “We Shall Overcome”
Prayer by Jill Duffield, Editor, Presbyterian Outlook
Sweet Jesus, what has happened to your beloved world?
What darkness is on the loose when those who hate their neighbors pray in your name and ask for your blessing?
You have told us, O Lord, what is good: to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with you, and yet there are those among us who wield machine guns to intimidate and chant vitriolic rhetoric to terrorize, and ram cars intentionally into crowds to kill.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
We have no hope save in you. We have no hope to stop the violence and stem the racisms and cease the destruction, save in you. Save us now.
Prince of peace, you tell us to pray for those who persecute us and love our enemies, but right now, in this moment, those prayers are not readily on our lips. Help us. Intercede for us.
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you even if, in this moment, they are colored with anger and weariness and questions about your presence during the storm.
What next, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, when we are right in the middle of the chaos and the killing and the carnage? We know that justice will roll down like water and that crying and death will be no more someday, but we need to know what to do this very day.
This very day you have made. Creator God, Living God, God of the new thing, the very good thing, show us where to be and what to do and how to be the light and the salt and the leaven and the love you call us to be.
Precious Lord, take our hands, lead us home to the place you prepared for us and give us rest. Put us beside still waters and overflow our cups with grace upon grace until it spills into the streets and washes away the evil in our land. Wash us and we will be clean. Made new. Clothed in our right minds. Together.
All powerful and promise keeping God, make it so. Sweet Jesus, make us so.