“Undivided” by Larry Rawlings

May 16, 2021

The following is a transcript of the sermon given by Larry Rawlings, who invited three Seekers children to join him. The names of the children have been anonymized for their privacy.

LARRY: Good morning everyone. A couple of years ago, we were fortunate to have an amazing little fellow join our congregation for a while named DS – his nickname I believe is Parsley – and DS is here with us today. DS is going to be ringing the chime for me as I have some other children assist me today. So can we put DS on the screen and have him ring the chime for the first time? Good boy.

I’m going to start off with a prayer:  Lord, may everything we do begin with your inspiration,  continue with your help to reach perfection, and follow your guidance. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

DS, ring the chime again. <chime> Good for you.

Now, EK is going to do a reading for us. These boys came to us – they’re twins – about seven years ago, when they were about five years old. They were a challenge for us. They were energetic little boys who liked to run around and play hide and go seek and go to the playground. I’m not saying this to embarrass them, but the most uncomfortable time for me with these guys was when they would go to the bathroom and they were not able to pull their pants up, and they come out in the hallway, and here’s this black guy (me) pulling up the white boy’s pants.  We still had the farmers market going on then, and in my mind everyone who walked by saw this, and I was so embarrassed for a long time. I kind of outgrew that.

EK is going to do the first reading.

EK: In this church, we laugh a lot. We try our best. We are patient most of the time. We tell the truth. We support each other often. We hug often. We make mistakes. We never give up. We always forgive.  We keep our promises but always have fun. But above all, we love.

LARRY:  DS, ring the chime again. <chime>

Okay, EI is going to do a reading.

EI:  In this church, we believe that black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real, love is love, kindness is everything, the gas pumps will open again, and COVID will be a part of our past.

LARRY:  Okay, DS, it’s time again, go ahead.  <chime>

EK:  Don’t worry. God is never blind to your tears, never deaf to your prayers, never silent to your pain. God sees, God hears and God will deliver you.

LARRY: DS, ring the chime again.  <chime>

LARRY:  EI, the second reading, please.

EI:  Everything in this world is temporary.  Life changes, people come and go, and the seasons never last.  So no matter what you’re going through right now, always remember that your present situation is not your final destination.  Don’t give up.  Put your hope in God.  You will overcome it all. 

LARRY:  Alright, DS, this is the last time for you.  Ring it hard. <chime>  Thank you.

So, it’s hard for me to do a sermon without giving you guys a police story. This past winter, I had a four to six minute incident with the Takoma Park Police Department, and not a word was said between the two of us. It was dark, it must have been about 7:30pm, and I was on my way to Aldi’s. I’m coming up New Hampshire Avenue near Erskine Street, and they had stopped a black guy and he was handcuffed on the sidewalk, making lots of noise and kind of acting obnoxious. I was kind of keeping an eye on him, and I actually crossed the street and went to the other side because I was on the same side of the street as these guys, and I just watched this whole thing and went about my business, and I went to the grocery store.

When I came out of the Aldi’s the police were gone, or so I thought.  As I was going down New Hampshire Avenue against traffic, towards the Takoma Park area, I noticed that a police officer was in the merging lane with all his lights off, and initially I thought that he was just doing that to catch speeders or people that were not abiding by the traffic laws. I thought nothing of it. I went down to Sligo Creek area and I crossed the street with traffic, and that same police officer turned his car around and went against traffic to the same side that I was and went to the top of the hill. I didn’t notice that he had gone to the top of the hill, but as I got to the top of the hill I saw him pointing downhill on the same side that I was on, I realized that police officer had been watching me. And for what reason? For no reason at all. I had done absolutely nothing. But he was trying to catch me, for some reason he had his eyes on me, he thought I was up to something. I was up to nothing, I was just going to the grocery store, minding my own business.

That’s just an example of what minorities sometimes have to go through, you know, with dealing with the police department. I had done absolutely nothing. I said nothing to him. He said nothing to me. Had I been out there filming this incident because they don’t like folks to film incidents anymore, I could understand him keeping an eye on me or wanting to start some trouble. But I had done absolutely nothing. That’s just one of those stories that I wanted to share with you guys. No words exchanged. I could sort of have some ill will towards the police department because of it, but it’ll be one of those situations I’m going to kind of let go.

As the Black Lives Matter movement begins to fade, nearly one year after protests that rocked America’s cities and helped propel Joe Biden’s rise to the White House, activists aren’t the power players they envision themselves to be.  The Biden administration has neither granted them a meeting months after they requested one. The issues that brought black activists into the streets and the national spotlight have not gone away. Far from it. Police continue to kill black and Latino Americans at a higher rate than white Americans. We are the people who elected Joe Biden. It’s time he started acting like it. 

In the midst of this very sensitive, ongoing issue of race relations, just for today: Choose to be motivated. Choose to make a difference. Choose to listen more than you speak. Choose confidence over lack thereof. Choose to be useful, not used. Choose to listen to your intuition, not the random opinions of others.  Choose self-esteem and not self-pity. Choose your dreams over your fears. Choose prayer over worry.

In recovery we say, “a sick mind cannot fix a sick mind.” Training, training, training. It will probably be decades before this country can recognize a noticeable change in regards to police shootings and race relations.

 But I say: Don’t be less white. Don’t be less black. Don’t be less Asian. Don’t be less Hispanic or less Mexican. Don’t be anything less than what God made you. And please stop falling for the constant race-baiting narratives that flood the news and social media. We are all just people, unmasked, unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid, uneducated.  

I’ve had both of my shots. But, sadly, among my black friends, the list grows and grows of the number of people who refuse to get vaccinated. I put their names among the uneducated and stubborn. There are people that believe it is only affecting whites and not the blacks. When confronted in these conversations, I remind myself that people are often unreasonable and self-centered, but what I have to do is forgive them, anyway.

If you are kind to people who may suspect you have alternative motives, just be kind to them anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Just go ahead and succeed, anyway. If you’re honest, people may cheat you; be honest, anyway. What  you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight. Just go ahead and build, anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Go ahead and be happy, anyway. The good you do today, people often forget tomorrow. But what you want to do is to still do good, anyway. Give the world your best. The best that you have will never be enough. Just give it back to them, anyway. The final analysis is between you and your God, it was never between you and them. Amen.

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