Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011
Rev. Dr. Merritt's Sermon for October 16 - Community and Friends Sunday
A Message of Liberation
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
October 16, 2011
Pride Community and Friends Sunday
I want to say again, good morning to all of you. You’re looking great as always. And today let me say to each of you, HAPPY PRIDE! We have so much in our lives for with to be thankful. We have many things to be proud of. One of the subjects that bring joy to my heart and make me want to sing and shout is the whole field that Biblical scholars call “Liberation Theology.” I’m very happy to have specialized in that area during both my Master’s and Doctoral work, and I’m glad on this Community and Friends Sunday to share with you this message that I have entitled, “A Message of Liberation.” Would you pray with me?
God, we thank you for creating us in your image, just the way you mean for us to be, out, proud and deeply committed to spreading the good news of your Gospel of Liberation. Guide our time together this morning and make the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts pleasing and acceptable to you. AMEN.
In Marcus Borg’s commentary on this morning’s Gospel reading, we are asked again, “What belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar? And is Caesar is Hitler, or apartheid, or communism or (unbridled) global capitalism? What is to be the attitude of Christians toward domination systems, whether ancient or modern,” whether far away in other countries or right here in our own back yards. The coin in ancient Rome bore the image of Caesar indicating that money was what was owed. However, each person, every one of us, bears the image of God, so we are the render unto God our whole selves; our bodies, our minds our spirits and our activism.
Dan Clendenin wrote on his blog, Journey with Jesus, “At issue is not merely my economic relationship to the government, but my existential relationship with God….Paying your taxes is simple. However distasteful, you hold your nose and write a check. Rendering relative honor to that subordinate Caesar is the easy part, and perhaps even necessary. As a friend of mine once observed, civilization is expensive, and taxes pay the tab. But absolute allegiance to an ultimate God, rendering our entire selves to God without preconditions or limits, without hedging our bets, demands a higher order of magnitude. That takes a lifetime.”
I am not at all surprised to see people camping out in the streets these days. I have been expecting that to happen for a few years now. Many times I have said and written that if the oppression of the poor or the least of these didn’t stop or at least slow down a little bit, people were going to be marching in the streets. You see I remember those childhood images of Martin Luther King Jr and his followers marching in the street. They used non-violent means to demand an end to discrimination and oppression based on the color of a person’s skin. I was there when then Governor Jeb Bush signed an executive order ending Affirmative Action in the State of Florida. I mean I was really there, marching in the streets with them. It is a fact that sometimes our words just are not enough and we have to do something more than that. We are called to stand up in the name of equality, we are called to get in the streets in the name of justice, we are called to stand in the State House and in the Halls of Congress and demand an end to it. It seems to me that we are in a time like this right here this morning.
I’m for the people who are occupying Wall Street. I’m for the people who are occupying Washington and New York, and Boston and Gainesville. You see, many of us have seen this before and we know this is what it takes to bring about meaningful change. We’ve seen the few, and I mean the few, bad cops out beating peaceful protestors with night sticks. We’ve seen nonviolent people senselessly sprayed with pepper spray. We’ve seen people threatened with rubber bullets and fire hoses and tazers and yes indeed we have seen activists’ bodies found lying in the ditch and hanging from trees and sometimes even from crosses. Still, my sisters and brothers, I want to sing, “I shall not be, I shall not be moved. Anchored in Jehovah God, I shall not be moved. Just like a tree that’s planted by the water, I shall not be moved!’ You may wonder why I’m so sure of that. Well, first of all, I AM, and here’s the reason why.
In the Hebrew Bible book of Isaiah, including the part that we read this morning, I hear that God is on our side. God is on the side of the underdog, God is on the side of those who experience injustice. God is on the side of the poor and oppressed. As a matter of fact, as we study all of scripture, we learn that God actually prefers people such as this over the high and mighty. When God tells us, “I will go before you and level the mountains,” we can believe it. Why? Because God is a person of God’s word. God tells the truth and follows through with is. When God says, “I will go before you and open the doors before you,” just get ready because those doors will be opened. God means doors that we’ve been locked out of, doors that have been slammed in our faces, doors that have held us back will not just be cracked open a little bit, but they will be flung open in the name of God and we will walk through those doors in victory that comes from nonviolent persistence. God says, “I will give you treasures that have been hidden in secret places.” I’m up for a little Godly treasure, how about you?
Finally, God tells us, I have called you by name. You are mine. God says I have tattooed my name upon your heart. Ring the bells, shout from the highest rooftops, YOU ARE MINE, says Yahweh God, this God, our God, creator and lover of all the universe.
I love Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened.” That’s what Liberation Theology is all about. It’s about asking for our brothers and sisters and for ourselves to be treated with equality and justice for ALL.
My sisters and brothers, God is on our side. This is our calling as a proud people, and people called out by name, a people with the very name of Yahweh God tattooed for ever on our hearts.
I’m so proud of you for being here, for supporting our shared ministry, for showing up in the community, for spreading the message of God’s inclusive love with everyone, no exceptions. Lives have been changed here, people have been inspired to live here, and people have been inspired by the Gospel of Liberation preached, taught and lived in this place. Knowing that does my heart good. May it be so today, tomorrow and on out into eternity. Happy Pride, my sisters and brothers.
God bless you. AMEN.
Isaiah 45: 1 – 7
Thus says Yahweh to the anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand God has grasped to subdue nations before him and strip rulers of their robes, to open doors before him— and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, Yahweh, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am Yahweh, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am Yahweh, and there is no other.
Matthew 22: 15—22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the Emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s. ”When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
©James Edward Merritt, 2011