June 21, 2020
Third Sunday after Pentecost
[The following is a transcript from the recorded sermon]
Good morning, everyone. I’ll be glad when this is over. I have to say right now, but I want to start off. You know what Jesus said? Jesus said, “You can’t hate people and love God at the same time.” I believe that is absolutely true. And so right now, can everyone just kind of take a moment of silence so that everyone can lower their expectations of me today, because it is what it is.
I believe that my good friend, Father Michael, said to me, “Every congregation remembers one thing that you said during your sermon. You’ve done your job.” And I believe that is true. And so today, hopefully, I must say a number of things that you guys will remember.
I’m going to start off with something a little bit quirky, something I got off the Internet. I didn’t see it myself, but it did happen. And it was on a game show, “The Wheel of Fortune.” And I’m sure at some point time everyone has watched the game “Wheel of Fortune” where you put letters on the board. You win lots of money. And so the category was “occupation.” And so that’s the category. Here was the answer. The answer to the public puzzle was “clam digger.” You can see all the letters on the screen here. But when the final contestant got the board, there was one letter missing.
So this is what he saw, “clam _igger.” And this contestant gave them the letter “n” and it silenced the whole audience. He was embarrassed. Pat Sajak was embarrassed and I was embarrassed for him. And I’m sure that all the black people in the country label this guy a racist because of an incorrect answer that he got on a game show. And I know nothing about this guy. We know nothing about this guy. But just because he gave a wrong answer on a game show does not mean that he’s a racist, you know.
Black people believe that white people are racist sometimes and they’re not. Sometimes white people are racist and they don’t even know it. And so that’s a pretty good segue to where I want to begin, because this part of my sermon, some you might think it’s also crazy.
Friends, maybe we should be thankful for the racists who drape themselves in swastikas and white robes. While their views are absolutely outrageous they make themselves easy to spot. They’re at least honest about who they are. It’s despicable as that might be, what seems to be more disturbing of racists these days is the one who’s clear in his own mind about their views, yet hides themselves from the world. The one who sits on the witness stand under oath and lies that a person’s skin had no influence over their actions. I hear some of those state that racism not being a big issue in the U.S. anymore claimed that there is no more evidence of racism in many of these acts of violence.
And the words make sense to them because the only evidence of the act being racist is that they would accept would be for the person in question to admit that, “Yes, I did that because they are black or Hispanic and I fear and hate them.”
I know that one of the greatest battles I have fought in my life and continue to fight is the battle to be honest with myself, to understand my motives, and to be honest with others about what I find. I beg each and every one of you to do the same, whether you’re black or white, Hispanic or Jewish, young or old.. Take a look deep inside. Just so be willing to and admit to any of the ugliness that you find. Figure out who you really are deep down inside. Do you have some bias that is to know and not to know. Be more afraid of hiding who you are and admitting it. Maybe a strong kind of compassionate soul would thank you for being honest, invite you to dinner, and help you see the love in the world instead of hate.
A friend of mine said fifty-five years ago, our cities were wracked by riots, sparked by police brutality against Black citizens they were sworn to protect.
But the anger that exploded then was not just about police. It was anger at the whole system and a host of the habitual humiliations inflicted by White people on Black. There was a whole civil rights movement. Saints were martyred. Laws were passed. Victory was declared. What really has changed? You can’t legislate attitudes out of existence. If you can’t say Black lives matter, then you have no right to say all lives matter because it’s the Black lives that are under attack. There have been so many teenage boy walking over Florida. Trayvon Martin was our wake up call.
Well, we hit the snooze button. Now more within a short two months, a young Black jogger in Georgia is hunted down and shot dead by White vigilantes. Young Black woman in Louisiana shot dead by police in her own home while serving a search warrant at the wrong address.
And now George Floyd is murdered. Yes, murdered by police on camera. The Black bird watcher, Christian Cooper, was very lucky in such part. Confrontation with the hysterical, white dog walker who probably didn’t regard a herself racist. And that’s a big part of the problem. We don’t recognize our racism.
To be black in America is to be at risk of your life, even from those who are protecting you. And White privilege means that you are not engaging in life while you’re out on a job or sitting on legroom or going birdwatching. The deep-rooted attitudes, the systems of racism are intolerable, is un-American, is un-Christian, un-Jewish, un-Muslim, un-Buddhist, too. It’s inhuman.
In the film The Network, Howard Beale tapped into the people were feeling. What we are seeing and hearing is “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take anymore.” Let’s not be distracted by the sporadic violence that has followed some of the protests. The protests are not the cause. If we don’t like the violence that has followed George Floyd’s murder, we must eliminate the root cause of racism. American racism has created an underclass, one of the most affected by the corona virus and by the economic shut down.
Aristotle writes, Poverty and inequality are the source of really revolution and crime. Jesus was patient, but not on a day in the Temple when he overturned the tables and drove out the merchants put the whip. There is a righteous anger to be expressed with human beings, images of the one God and a systematic abuse. The truth will set you free. But the truth is not always convenient. And freedom brings with it responsibility. It is not for us to rail against any irresponsibility of others. We want to live up to the beliefs and ideas and abandon a baggage of racism once and for all.
We need to protest and we need prayer and we look to us in our hearts. This is a good time to pray the Saint Francis prayer of peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is envy, harmony; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as a to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
And this is a good time to act. As Pope Paul said, if we want peace, work for justice.
In closing — I want to say a couple of closings here.
PUSH is an acronym for Pray Until Something Happens. So before you sleep at night, pray. When you wake up in the morning, pray. When life gets hard, pray. When you are happy, pray. If you’re sure, pray. We do this because God is always with us. Praying. Amen.
You know. I think about some of the stuff that has happened to me personally here and here in Takoma Park because I am a Black man. I’ve had a number of incidents. But the one that. Really troubles me the most happened at the Street Festival a couple of years ago. We had a booth all set up and I’m dealing with some asthma. And the person next door had a gas generator and I had some breathing problems. And I had to go home to my nebulizer. And I called Bill and I had to wait for Bill to come pick me up. And a White woman was with her two children. She saw that I was struggling with breathing and stuff. And she was just the kind as could be, with a strange Black guy, you know, struggle with breathing. I have looked like I was on drugs. I was almost falling over. And she stood there until Bill came. And so Bill came and took me home.
I lived next to the fire department on Carroll Avenue and my apartment was behind my landlady’s house. My house was in the back. You go downhill. And the steep slope is on top level, but the apartment’s kind of down an incline down the hill. And the police officers saw me walking to my apartment building and they yelled at me, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m going to my apartment.” And I heard someone else say to him, “there are no apartments back there.”
And so as the police started to walk towards me, I did come back to them and they said to me, once again, “Where are you going?” And I said, well, I was hardly able to talk, “I’m going back to my apartment.” And then someone else said, “you know, there are no apartments back there.” And I just turned around. I walked to my apartment and I did what I had to do.
But, you know, as a Black man in this country dealing with racism from the police, you kind of have to know how to interact with them and to make things go well and to cooperate. I know that there is some brutality towards the police, but a lot of what I see is some Black people being confrontational. You know, you have to sort of just comply with the police and you’ll be able to walk away from them. If you don’t comply with the police, you won’t be able to walk with me. And so I have to as a Black man in a society that we live in, I have to do then I have to do just to survive, even after humble myself sometimes not for that.
So. I want to quote Jesus a little bit here. He said, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you. And I pointed out that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain. That whatever you wish, ask it in the father’s name and give it to someone else.”
And with that, I say, amen.
The offertory today is a song that really touches my heart. You know it is Father’s Day. My grandfather died at 100 years old four years ago. And so there’s a song that is called “Patches” and a kinds of tells a story of my grandfather’s life. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man. He died about four years ago at 100, like I said. And when he died, half the congregation came to be with me on that day. For that, I’m grateful. Wherever I’m blessed. So thank you so much for listening to me today. Thank you.