What I am about to write will probably not sit well with a lot of Christians but it must be said. My prayer is that love can overcome the hatred and bigotry which is taking over this country. I’ve never been afraid to say what is on my mind and I am not about to start.
I’ve been saying the phrase “It’s Time” for quite a while. I finally asked myself “Time for what?” The answer was not hard. In the previous years of publishing Nikao News the writings were about goals and vision and this will not stop because God has given everyone a purpose whether we realize it or not.
In recent days I have seen more hate among people calling themselves Christians. Hate because of skin color, gender, size, sexual orientation, you name it. How can any of us say that we are followers of Jesus Christ when no one can see Him in us.
In several confrontations, I witnessed the beating of people because they were gay. I cried over a young man by the name of Matthew Shepard who was beaten because of his sexual preference. I asked myself did anyone ever get a chance to talk to this man about Jesus Christ? How about his mother? Did anyone care? People calling themselves Christians invoked this tragedy. When will it stop?
Being a Christian, I know what God’s word says about homosexuality but this does not give me nor anyone else a reason to take out our bats and start swinging.
Stephen Covey, the author or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks a lot about “Seek first to understand then to be understood”. Did anyone ever try to understand? When will it stop? When will Christians take a stand and stop letting hate groups rule the world?
Why won’t we allow our light to shine? (Matt 5:16)
Another young man was murdered this week because he was African American? When will it stop?
A young mother murdered her daughter. When will it stop?
A young man was murdered when he was walking home. When will it stop?
I love God with all of my heart and sometimes I can imagine the rain as His tears. It has got to stop! Who cares how big church ministries are when people are dying in the streets.
The one thing we must always remember is that God is love!
Let me remind you what love is. According to I Corinthians 13:4-6, love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Think about it! When you decide to confront any group because they are different from you remember I Corinthians 13:1. Without love you sound like a clanging cymbal. Who wants to listen to that?
If you can’t talk to anyone with love then shut up!
I have included with this article a sermon entitled The Widow’s Mite from Dr. Michael Cordle of St Mark United Methodist Church. Read it and weep, but after you finish crying, decide to make a change! Decide to make a difference.
The Widow’s Mite
Our scripture this morning comes from the Gospel of Luke, eighteenth chapter, beginning with the first verse: Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about humankind. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary’. For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about people, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for God’s chosen ones, who cry out to God day and night? Will God keep putting them off? I tell you, God will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Let us pray – may these words today, O God, carry a special meaning and offer us the hope for justice Amen.
Growing up in Rome, my Father worked for Georgia Power. There was an African-American man who worked at the power company with my dad whose name was Walter. Walter was kind of unusual for the people who worked in that area, and at that time – Walter was a college graduate. But Walter always wore coveralls – khaki or tan ones that zipped up the front with the Georgia Power symbol on them. Walter’s responsibility was to keep the floors and bathrooms clean, empty the trash, wash the windows – Walter was a janitor. I remember asking my father one day why it was that most everyone in that department didn’t go to college and had a desk job, but Walter went to college and was the janitor. Knowing no other answer, my dad looked at me and said, “Son, that’s just the way it is.”
That widow, who we heard about in the scripture, had injustice laid down upon her life and could have said, “You know, that’s just the way it is. I’m single, a woman, and a widow. And here’s this judge that doesn’t fear God and has no respect for humanity. Yes, that’s just the way it is.” Let’s again recall how the widow was so persistent in not giving up hope, and going to the judge, saying, “I want justice. Injustice cannot prevail.” Finally she wore down the judge – evil, non-God fearing, a pitiful human being – and he said, “OK, I will give you your justice.” Now, Jesus told that parable, I believe, to remind those people who were being persecuted of a story of hope and justice. That same message fits us today when injustice is alive & prevalent. It is a lesson in that we too cannot just roll over. The church cannot roll over and say, “That’s just the way it is.” This week, there was a murder. So, what is so unusual about that? Here in Atlanta, people are murdered almost every day. Yet this was a rather unique murder because a young man was killed, from all that we can understand, simply because of his sexuality. Matthew Shepard was killed because he was born gay. We, as a church, as the people of this country, have got to decide if we’re going to just say, “That’s the way it is.” Or, can’t we can find within our souls, consciences and spirits enough courage to say, “God help us, justice is all that is really right.” Now, how do we feel? I know how we feel, how I feel – we’re angry! Not angry enough for violence and vengeance, but we’re angry. Anytime a person is being treated less that they should – if they’re a woman, if they’re physically challenged, if they’re a person of color, if they’re older, if they’re children, if they’re transsexual, or gay, or straight – as long as temples are being bombed and black churches are being burned, and as long as people are leaving bombs in clinics and clubs and Olympic venues, we need to be angry.
We know the passage in the New Testament where Jesus turned the water into wine and try to sort of ignore it here in the Bible Belt. We also like to dodge that documented experience in the temple when Jesus got angry. We say, “Well, Jesus was angry because they were selling in the temple.” Some thirty years ago, I was a youth minister. The youth had planned to sell doughnuts between Sunday School and church to support their activities. It seems so innocent now, but thirty years ago that was taboo. People were fussing about the youth selling at the church and the issue had to go to the Administrative Board for approval. It passed by a narrow vote. I remember this very wise woman who stood up and said, “Why do all of you think that this passage (that someone had referred to) is about selling in church? It’s not about selling, it’s about taking advantage of people while at the church (temple). That’s what was wrong.” She was correct. People were selling sheep, oxen, and pigeons to be used to seek forgiveness, which wasn’t necessary. They were gouging and over pricing and Jesus had seen enough. He went in, turned over the tables, grabbed a whip and symbolically said, “Get out of the temple. This isn’t what God’s house is about – to take advantage. It is not for injustice.” Jesus was angry! Yes, as a nation, we ought to be angry – at the church that was to hurtfully demonstrate at Matthew’s funeral and at the individuals who beat and burned him. Whenever there is injustice, we should be angry. We should not just say, “That’s the way it is.” We should be persistent as was that mighty widow who kept working with her anger and sense of fairness until justice came about.
The second issue for us is “What is our response?” Jesus said, through that widow, that we are not to give up heart. We are to continue to respond with hope. For some of you, it might be that time in your life where you have to decide to push open a “closet” door. That may be your response by saying, “This is who I am.” We all have to decide who we are and when we’re going to make certain choices in our lives. Only we can know when that time has come, but this might be that window when we elect to respond. Then there are others of us – and let me be clear – those of us who are straight, and it is our turn to respond also. You remember the Simon and Garfunkel song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that has the line “Sail on silver girl, sail on by, your time has comeŠ” For some of us, our time has come to say, “This is wrong!” We must have the faith and commitment to say so! Now, we’ve got to understand that when we do this, there will be a price. I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “the cost of discipleship”. I remember a few years ago, when we opened the doors here. See, we ministers know nearly everything about one another and we just love to Gossip. The rumor among my brothers and sisters, but mainly, I must admit, my brothers, was “Well, since he’s done that, he must be gay, and this is his latent thing.” I remember getting phone calls here that said, “Why in the world are you there. You know your little girl is going to become a lesbian. It’s going to rub off on her. You know that she is going to be molested. You just know it’s going to happen. And what will you do now that you have a new baby boy?” None of us like hearing unkind things said about us or our children. Yet, those of us who are straight and have the courage to do what we should do, know what people are going to call us? They’re going to call us, to our backs, “fag lovers”. That’s going to happen.
However, I am totally committed to believing that if Jesus were here today, that’s what they’d call him too.
Whenever there was injustice to women, to people who were enslaved, or children, or people who were physically challenged, Jesus stood up for them. Now, you see, it is our turn to stand up for what is just. When we chose to stay here, when we chose to join Saint Mark, we did it intentionally. When people say to us, “You belong to Saint Mark?”, say, “Absolutely.” When they ask “Why did you join that church?” Tell people why!
A sad chapter in the history of our faith was when that disciple, that person of power, Peter, not once, not twice, but three times denied Christ, his faith and his calling. Sometimes in the church we have the “Peter syndrome” – we just deny. We’ve got to go beyond that. We chose to join and stay here – to be here. We did not open the doors of this congregation just because we wanted to improve our choir. We didn’t open the doors to Saint Mark because of extra, disposable income to restore our windows. We didn’t open the doors of Saint Mark to all people because we wanted to have the prettiest receptions in the North Georgia Conference. We opened the doors of Saint Mark because we knew that it was the right thing to do under
God’s direction. That was then our response because we were people who wouldn’t give up, who had heart and hope. And you know, there is still hope.
Last week, a retired minister called me. He was being very sweet and kind and said, “I know this situation is painful for you and your congregation, but I’ve got it figured out. It’s all generic.” I think my brother was really wanting to say genetic, but he was correct in his understanding. It is genetics that decides our color, our gender, our sexuality, our eyes, and even our bad knees. We understand this. Thank God other people are being enlightened, too.
Yesterday, Julie decided it was one of those “honey-do” days. I had not planned for such, but she had done so for me. So, as I was taking Susan Elizabeth to a birthday party for one of her little friends, Julie said, “While you are waitingŠ” I already knew what I thought I was going to do while I was waiting, but she said, “Here’s what I need you to do. First, get the oil changed in my car, then get the tire with the nail I ran over last week repaired, and finally I need you to pick up and drop off some dry cleaning”. So, being a wise person, I did exactly what she suggested. I dropped off Susan Elizabeth, went by to get Julie’s oil changed, and was sitting there ferociously and obviously, re-writing my sermon for today. I am in Cobb County (pause), and suddenly this good ole boy comes in, looks at me and says, “What are you doing?” I said, “Well, I’m re-writing a sermon.” He asked, “What about?” I said, “About justice about Matthew Shepard.” He commented, “Oh, that’s the boy that was killed in Montana.” I said, “Wyoming.” He agreed, “That’s right.” And then this good ole boy looked at me and said, “You know, I don’t know any of them people, and I don’t like them people, but what happened out there ain’t right.” I thought to myself, “You know, there’s hope.”
There is hope when he understands that when injustice is alive, it ain’t right. For all of us who chose to come here and to be a part of the family of Saint Mark, we have got to be part of that same response. Each, in our own way, as long as there are jokes and harassment, as long as people are being fired, as long as people are being murdered, we’ve got to be the people who respond. In whatever way people are receiving injustice, we must respond by adding our voice as people of faith and say “It ain’t right.” Then Jesus gave us that last little part in the passage that reminds us that when we see injustice, we’ve not only got to hold on with our heart, but we’ve got to pray. It’s kind of easy to be angry and to think about our response, but when it comes to praying about this, it really is difficult. I pastored a church once where there was a woman who strongly disliked me. Now, I understand that there are always going to be people who don’t like us, however, this woman was in a category of her own. I usually know why people don’t like me, but I could never figure out nor get her to tell me why she despised me. I tried to write her and talk with her; it didn’t work. So one year during Christmas I decided to give this woman a present. What I did was to pray for her every day during Advent. Now, I feel a need to tell you that to begin with I didn’t enjoy this daily chore. I didn’t like praying for this woman because I basically didn’t like the way she treated other people, I didn’t like the way she was so cruel and I didn’t like her feelings toward me. By Christmas, I had completed my task. I must confess that by Christmas Day, this woman didn’t like me any better. What had occurred was that I changed. By praying for her, I changed and I felt better about the way I saw and perceived her. I think that’s what we’ve got to do as individuals, as a congregation, and as a nation – we’ve got to pray. We’ve got to pray for forgiveness and grace for those two men who killed Matthew Shepard. We’ve got to pray for the state of Wyoming and we’ve got to pray for the people of that church in Kansas who have the audacity to shout such horrid words and to bring those hurtful signs. We’ve got to pray for them! We’ve got to pray for Matthew’s family and we’ve got to pray for our nation. We’ve got to pray whenever we see injustice. We can’t give up hope. Instead, we have to be the people who pray and persist and are willing tohang in there. We must do our part to make a difference. I never met Matthew, but I would be willing to guess that he was handsome, had artistic abilities, was personable, and was the kind of person that you and I would enjoy inviting to Saint Mark. However, the blessed news is that God knows Matthew Shepard, and that’s the most important thing for any person who is being persecuted to hold onto – to be aware that God knows them. God also knows us and can help us with our anger and the decision of what to do in response and to hear our prayers.
Today in Wyoming, there is silence. Matthew Shepard’s heart is silent. We have to be among those people who make sure that that is the only silence that is heard. We have to be a part of those people, under God’s wisdom and grace, that in all situations where there is unfairness, prejudice, bigotry and injustice – that we make sure that the silence is awakened and that silence does not win. We must have the persistence of the widow’s might. We can never live again with the words, “That’s just the way it is.” Injustice to a Matthew Shepard or to any of God’s children is not an option for persons of faith-for the family of God.
Dr. Michael Cordle
Saint Mark United Methodist Church
781 Peachtree Street, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 873-2639 FAX
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