Jesus Transformed, Religious Liberty and Peeking at Sunday

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Jesus Transformed, Religious Liberty and Peeking at Sunday

Steven Biko, South African civil rights leader

The Centering Prayer from Sunday, 9 September (see quotation) was from a fallen South African civil rights leader, Steven Biko (1946-1977).  He died in police custody on 12 September 1977 from injuries sustained in his ar

If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

Jesus Transformed, Religious Liberty and Peeking at Sunday

Steven Biko, South African civil rights leader

The Centering Prayer from Sunday, 9 September (see quotation) was from a fallen South African civil rights leader, Steven Biko (1946-1977).  He died in police custody on 12 September 1977 from injuries sustained in his arrest.  He is considered a martyr in the anti-apartheid struggle.  He is famous for his “black is beautiful” slogan, which he explained meant, “you are ok just as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being.”

In the sermon, preaching from Mark 7:24-37, I refused to soften Jesus’ words in the first story: in reference to the desperate Syrophoenician, Gentile woman, Jesus uses vulgar words.  It would be similar to hearing the “n-word” in reference to Steven Biko or the “f-word” to a gay man.  It was a hard story to read; it is one of the harshest in all the gospels.

The liberating word, for me, however, comes in the second story.  A key is in the “connective tissue” of the geographical notation between the two stories; it doesn’t make sense if it was about the movement of Jesus’ “body.”  I posit that it notes Jesus’ spiritual journey.  In one of the most intimate of healing stories, Jesus puts his fingers in the ears of a deaf man, he spat and touch the tangled tongue.  It is as if they became one person; I contend that BOTH were healed.  As Jesus spoke the healing word, “be opened,” the Spirit spoke it to him (Jesus), too.  Jesus is transformed; his own internalized misogyny and xenophobia was healed.

Far from making Jesus “lesser” in my mind, the pericope (at least as I read it) makes Jesus all the more compelling to me.  Jesus becomes an exemplar of transformation.  As a student of the Jesus teachings, a subscriber to the Jesus vision and follower of the Jesus mission, I, too, am called to such a transformation.  Once again, the Jesus stories show me a way.

As an illustration, I briefly compared the Nuremberg trials that followed WW II and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that followed apartheid in South Africa.  The Nuremberg trials were primarily punitive in orientation:  we executed perpetrators until we couldn’t stomach it any longer.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused on restorative justice: victims were invited to tell their stories; perpetrators could seek amnesty.  The two events have a fundamental different orientation.  History can argue the merits of their effectiveness,but the goals could not have been any more different. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission sought healing, transformation, and a path toward a reconciled nation.

The truth really will set us free.  Jesus knew it, Steven Biko died for it, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission sought to practice it.

Let us regard our living together not as an unfortunate mishap, warranting endless competition among us, but as a deliberate act of God. Let us strive to make a community of brothers and sisters jointly involved in the quest for a composite answer to the varied problems of life. Let us open ourselves to Love and Light, so that the Lovingkindness of God may illumine every shadow of our hearts. (Steven Biko, alt., used as Centering Prayer)

One of my favorite reads this week was a submission on The Huffington Post:  How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty is Being Threatened in 10 Quick Questions.  (It has the added benefit of being written by a UCC minister, Rev. Emily C. Heath.)

Rev. Emily does a delightful job of “boiling down” many complicated threats to our religious liberty into ten “A or B” choices.  For example:

My religious liberty is at risk because: (A) I’m being forced to use birth control, or (B) I’m unable to force others not to use birth control.

It is not only humorous, but sifts out very salient and germane issues that are “real threats” to religious liberty.  It is certainly worth a “forward” to friends and a “like” on Facebook.

I’m preaching from Mark 8:27-38 this Sunday (16 Sept 2012).  As a pre-sermon tease, I raise the question:  what if we have missed “the message” of the cross.  In short, what if Jesus did not “die for our sins?”  Jesus asks the disciples, “who do people say that I am?”  They get it wrong; perhaps we have, too.

The Centering Prayer for Sunday (Saint Anselm, alt.) might help to bring us back to the “Jesus core”:

Bring to our awareness, O God, the troubles and perils of people and nations, the sighing of prisoners and captives, the sorrows of the bereaved, the necessities of strangers, the helplessness of the weak, the despondency of the weary, the frailties of the aged. In the awareness of those who suffer, O God, draw us closer to you. Amen.

As ever, I hope the sermon prompts and provokes both “heart” and “mind.”

 

Read more http://whereheartandmindmeet.ccuccatl.com/2012/09/14/jesus-transformed-religious-liberty-and-peeking-at-sunday/

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