Home / Sermons / At Home

At Home

Posted on

You can view Pastor Kris’ reflection, At Home, HERE.

The images we have seen from around the world are powerful. The burned-out buildings. The smoke. The struggles.

Can we see a ray of hope?

Can we rebuild?

Can we heal?

Heart by heart?

And… can we do it now?

This week in the midst of a pandemic, in the controversial swirl of conversations on racism in the public and political spheres—we at Memorial UCC also began our summer “All Church” book read. When the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ first asked us to consider reading Chuck Tennessen’s book back in January, I don’t think any of us could have imagined the impact the title of the book might have on us today, June 14, 2020.

Did you notice? Have you paid attention to the title? It is:

Because We’re All Forever Earthbound: Stories for Building a Better Planet

Because… of course… we are ALL forever earthbound (unless you are one of the people who have reserved your spot for one of the multi-year trips to Mars).

Maybe even more impactful than the title of the book is the 2-word title of the first chapter we were encouraged to read this week: At Home

Tennessen’s book is a collection of articles originally written for a local newspaper, the Dodgeville Chronicle. These are stories designed to make us think about the world around us—especially in light of climate change and global warming.

But… we are also in the midst of a pandemic.

And conversations rooted in a whole host of ills, including, systemic racism, white nationalism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Here, at home—while worshiping in our homes—we are struggling with what we need to do to build a better planet. Christine Valters Paintner writes in Earth, Our Original Monastery, “We live in what we might call an age of forgetting. We have forgotten who we are in relations to everything else: the creatures, the plants, the mountains, the forests, the oceans, one another, and even ourselves…”[1]

I would add that we have forgotten who we are, as God’s children… God’s beloved. All too often, we forget the sacredness of each person. Each of us.

Thus, in Tennessen’s chapter At Home, the story which resonated for me was “American Patriots.” In the article, Tennessen compares the patriotic ideas of the American Revolution with today’s realities. He writes, “…the world in 1776 was very different from the one we live in today. Global population was less than 1 billion… Today over 7 billion people draw resources from a finite, shrinking planet…

…Professor Sallie McFague… Professor of Theology Emerita at Vanderbilt University… identifies Sam Adams and others (in 1776) as exemplifying qualities she calls the Individualistic Model. In this model the rights and desires of each individual are foremost. But in today’s world, she best characterizes true patriots as striving to fashion a livable future for everyone. Prof. McFague suggests something different; she calls it an Ecological Model…

This model has three basic ‘house rules’:

  1. Take only your share.
  2. Clean up after yourself.
  3. Keep the house in good repair for future occupants.

The Ecological Model doesn’t ignore the importance of the rights and desires of individuals, it just asks us to stick to the house rules.”[2]

Because we’re all forever earthbound, we need to tell the stories, and live into the stories, for building a better planet.

Which brings me back to this morning’s Bible reading. The good news that Jesus shares with us is that God’s kin-dom is here, and that it is now. But more often than not, we neglect to see it. One reason? One reason are the demons in our midst. Jesus references demons in the charge he gives to the disciples. In The Message, a paraphrase of today’s reading, we hear Jesus say?

“Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons” (Matt. 10:6, The Message).

One of the demons that has embedded itself in our lives is systemic racism. This insidious evil has become so entrenched in our culture, our educational system, criminal justice system, economic gaps, that we don’t even notice it. That is… if we are a person who is white, we don’t generally notice the racism in our country.

It is here, it is now, Jesus says the harvest is ready. It is time for something new. Gather it in! Look around. It is time for us to catch a glimpse of justice for our family members, friends, and neighbors who are black.

God’s kin-dom is here.

Paintner notes, “When we are committed to paying attention to the moment, we nurture our capacity to see the Holy active right here and now. We discover that the ‘kin-dom’ is among us now, and we live as if this were true.”[3]

Beloved, we need to pay attention. Thus, I offer you my own retelling of Matthew 9, verses 35-36. A parable for today’s world:

Then Jesus went out to the makeshift memorials. There was one in cities and villages around the world—They included the newly dug mass graves of those who had died from the coronavirus. There were also the graves of those whom were suspected to have died the virus, but for whom healthcare systems were so broken they were never tested. They were silent victims of the plague.

Everywhere Jesus went there were also memorials to people who had been killed on the streets at the hands of the state. The demon of systemic racism had purposefully intertwined itself into structures that oppressed people who were black. Jesus paused at the memorial to George Floyd. There was a beautiful image of George painted on the rough brick wall of a building. Other drawings in chalk were sprawled on sidewalks and the road. A growing stack of flowers and photographs framed the artwork. When Jesus saw the crowd that gathered there, he knelt with them. He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless—like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus watched as the crowd grew. Small groups gathered in seemingly unimportant towns and rural villages. Large protests happened night after night in the cities. Youth, elders, and families with children showed up. People of all faiths, all skin tones stood together. Kids made handwritten signs. A young boy who was black held a sign which read, “Am I next?”

People gathered on the streets wearing masks, each taking a risk during the pandemic to be in solidarity. The moment was growing into a movement.

Jesus looked around and said, “The kin-dom of heaven has come near. Dismantle racism, and the harvest will be plentiful.” Then he turned to his followers and said, “Look at the crowds. The laborers are now many! It’s your turn. Go. Be a part of the healing. Say the name of those who have died: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. Go. Cast out the demon.”

The images are powerful.

Do you see the ray of hope?

The image of what God is building?

Through us. In us. And with us.

Yes, the work ahead of us looms larger than large. Yet, when we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems in the world, today’s Word is good news. Watch for the laborers. They are us. We are not let off the hook, but we are also not alone in this moment.

Pay attention.

Nurture your capacity to see the Holy here. The Holy now.

We are sent out by Jesus to build a better planet.

The kin-dom IS among us.

Because… through God… we are all forever earthbound.

~Pastor Kris

Reflection on Matthew 9:35-10:8 offered June 14, 2020.

[1] Paintner, Christine Valters. Arth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2020. xi.

[2] Tennessen, Chuck. Because We’re All Forever Earthbound: Stories for Building a Better Planet. Mineral Point, WI: Little Creek Press, 2019. 25.

[3][3] Paintner, Christine Valters. Arth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2020. xi.