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Cultivating: Community

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You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Cultivating: Community, HERE.

Sitting down last Monday to begin my sermon for today on Luke’s story of Jesus’s approach to Jerusalem, my heart stood still. I read the sentence again: “If you only recognized the things that make for peace!” The words caught my breath. I rolled the phrase over and over in my mind. Where do you even start with these words of Jesus, when the daggers of white supremacy have pierced the hearts of so many people of color in the United States for all too long?

Over the past few months, I have been participating in an ecumenical racial reconciliation group in Dane County. We are reading the book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American’s Church’s Complicity in Racism[1] by Jemar Tisby. Beginning in the 16th century with the transatlantic slave trade, Tisby offers a survey of Christianity’s complicity in multiple systemic, racial injustices in the United States through the Revolution, Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, and the Civil Rights movement. Along the way, he highlights moments when… if churches… church leaders… faith communities… had responded with courage instead of complicity, things could have turned out differently.

And I heard Jesus weep once again. Could it be? Could it be that the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem might have also have turned out differently if people… community leaders… religious elite… had recognized the things that would make for peace? If they had realized the presence of God—who was right there with them? 

And Jesus weeps. Jesus weeps because humanity has an addiction to systems of violence. We have ravaged the Earth. Harmed our neighbors. Our institutions dehumanize people who are poor, the children and families at the southern U.S. border fleeing poverty and violence, our siblings who are incarcerated. The list goes on and on. We have built systems which act as if they can silence God… act as if they are a god… through imposing paralyzing fear and destroying lives.

Thus, my heart stopped. My heart skipped a beat last Monday as I wondered what it would take to make for peace today. I was still trying to wrap my head around the news out of the Atlanta, Georgia following the death of the eight people who were killed at area spas six days earlier.[2] Seven women. Six of whom were Asian American. Whatever the underlying motivation of the man who perpetrated the killings was, the Asian American Pacific Islander community in the United States has always experienced racism—verbal and physical attacks which have only increased exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic.[3]

With all the world’s challenges pressing on my heart and Jesus’s words echoing in my soul, that same day another mass murder happened in Boulder, Colorado. Another. Mass. Murder.

And Jesus weeps.


Beloved, what can we do so things turn out differently? What can we do… what will we do… to step out beyond the comfort of complacency and act courageously? 

Because, as we read from the author of Luke today, we know the Good News does pour out, radiating from the Divine. It is a Jesus thing, yet so much more. The Gospel is a story, a movement, a transformative response to Jesus’s lived revelation. The Great Hope the world can be different. IS different. Fear and despair can be transformed. If only we recognize the hope and peace which abounds—and be courageous in love.

That is why Jesus tells the Pharisees he cannot quiet the Good News. He says, “I tell you, if this crowd was silent, the stones would shout out!” (Luke 19:40). The Word had taken on a life of its own. A God movement which flows beyond Jesus, into the disciples, and through time to us… so that even the stones… the very Earth herself… shout out! God’s love ripples out into the world. Into ALL.

What was hidden has been revealed. We are each a witness to a God moment which is unstoppable even as systems and empires grumble and endlessly try to crush it. As we retell the story and enter Holy Week, we remember that they even attempted to kill the Good News.

I believe this release of the Spirit people experienced when they encountered Jesus in the 1st century was a spiritual tsunami. A joy-filled, hands raised high, parade invoking, dust stirring recognition of God’s love for all. And the world desperately needs that love. WE need that love!

Jesus shows us God is active in lives. Our communities. God rides in unexpectedly. Mounted on waves of joy and the voices of the oppressed—speaking uncomfortable truths which will not… and cannot be… quiet.

Entering Holy Week this year, I also believe we are in the midst of a new spiritual tsunami. And… I believe resurrection is imminent. A restoration of God’s Beloved Community.

And yes… you’d be right to ask me, “Pastor Kris, do you really see this happening?” To which I say… grab your palms… THESE palms (our hands!)… and look around. As a congregation we have been faithfully walking with Jesus towards a hoped-for return to Jerusalem. A return home, to the center of our own community. Along the way:

  • I see hoped for transformation happening in our faith community’s response to the death of George Floyd last year. Members and friends—YOU—listened, and prayed, and responded to our family and neighbors in the Black community. We have had a Social Justice Team emerge, and lead us into a 5-year financial commitment to support a local partner the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness. In this first year, when we hoped to raise $10,000 for the Foundation, you… Memorial UCC… responded by joyfully and generously giving over $17,000!
  • I see Jesus here… once again… washing feet—and clothes—and providing tissue and toilet paper, personal hygiene projects, and lotion, as we support the Good Neighbors Personal Essentials Pantry. At the end of worship today Nancy Baumgardner will be sharing an update on this ministry and how they have continued to respond to the needs of people in our community.
  • I watch restoration burst forth in our advocacy for the Earth. From the beautiful grounds on which our church is located, to the solar panels on the roof of the building, the Green Team continues our dedication to re-imagining what restoration of the Earth can look like at church… and in our homes.

This is an ancient movement. A deeply ingrained story which cannot be quelled. A courageous outpouring of love and hospitality through which things can, and will, turn out differently.

So, look around. Can you see it? Can you see God’s presence? 

I challenge you this day to go forth waving your palms. THESE palms. YOUR hands.

Say YES! to having joy-filled palms and taking loud, bold actions.

Hear God’s call to Go. Do. Praise.

Know deep in your heart that rigid, entrenched systems cannot not stop this tsunami.

No one, no fear, can silence a God movement.

And for THAT we give thanks and praise!

~ Pastor Kris

Reflection on Luke 19:29-44 offered March 28, 2021

[1] Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American’s Church’s Complicity in Racism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019), 29.

[2] Kate Brumback, “Man Charged with Killing 8 People at Georgia Massage Parlors,” AP NEWS (Associated Press, March 18, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/georgia-massage-parlor-shootings-leave-8-dead-f3841a8e0215d3ab3d1f23d489b7af81.

[3] Christine Hauser, “Asian-Americans Were Targeted in Nearly 3,800 Hate Incidents in the Past Year.,” The New York Times (The New York Times, March 17, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/17/us/hate-crimes-against-asian-americans-community.html.