You can view Pastor Kris’ reflection, Go Boldly… and Remember, HERE.
Beloved, our gathering here… today… is really important, so I ask you to pay attention. Notice where we are in God’s story—God’s call to action. For understanding where we find ourselves in the timeline of Jesus is vital.
Throughout the summer, for the next three months—13 weeks—the assigned Bible readings will walk us through the book of Matthew. And of course, like all good stories we will begin this study into the life of Jesus, at… well… at the beginning, right? Of course!
Yet, this new day dawns and we find ourselves not at the beginning—but at an end. If you are wondering what I mean, take a look at your bulletin. Look at the Bible passage. This morning we are not at the beginning of the story. We didn’t start off by reading Matthew, chapter 1. No. Instead the lectionary cycle (our 3-year calendar rotation of Bible readings) has us start, at the end.
In fact, what we read from Matthew 28 was not just any old part of the final chapter, but verses 16-20 of the chapter are the very, very, very last verses of the chapter itself. We are living into the last paragraph. This is where Jesus stands with us and says, “Go. Go… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
There is nothing more.
This end comes in the midst of turmoil. Jesus has just been killed. Jesus’ death was at the hand of the state authorities. His death was publicly witnessed. It was a slow, agonizing death as he gasped for air. The earth has been shaken. Scripture tells us “The earth shook, and the rocks were split” as he died (Matt. 27:51; Matt. 28:2). Hearts broke open. Jesus’ family and friends were grieving. Women gathered at the graveside. They began to tell stories. Raw words of loss and dismay. The disciples got together soon after. What emotions were they experiencing? Terror? Were they despondent? Overwhelmed? Dazed?
We don’t really know. The story in Matthew leaves off with Jesus’ call to go… and remember.
What did the people who knew Jesus, follow Jesus, do next?
And does that question really even matter?
I think a far more important question is, what will we… do next?
Friends, we have been through a lot together the past few weeks. We have lost a lot due to the presence of the coronavirus. We have learned a lot about what it means to Be Church, and that Church isn’t defined by the walls of a building.
But beyond Church, what does it mean to be the Body of Christ? In a moment, we will celebrate communion – Remembering Jesus’ presence with us. What does it mean for us as Memorial United Church of Christ be a part of the Christ’s Body as a healthy, loving, vibrant congregation, when parts of the wider Body are hurting? Wounded? Dying?
We are living in historic times. Times which challenge… and should challenge… our faith. You might have noticed the title of the sermon in the bulletin, Go Boldly. “Boldly” is, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, to be “fearless before danger.” To be “willing to meet danger or take risks.” (Merriam-Webster’s kids’ definition). To be audacious, daring, emboldened, and gutsy (synonyms).
Now I will be the first to admit it is hard to be audacious, daring, and bold as we watch the images cast on the news. I, as a person who is white, could easily stay in my comfortable home in my familiar neighborhood and not “go there.” Yet today, that is exactly what Jesus pushes back on in his call for us to “go.” For us not to be complacent. For us not to be still.
That “go” is our Great Commission. To go, to listen to the stories our siblings who are black tell us, no matter how unsettling the hearing may be. To be Love in Action. My friends, we… especially those of us who are white, cannot turn away. For way too long our family, friends and neighbors who are black have had a perpetual knee on their neck… from slavery to Jim Crow laws, to mass incarceration. We are not at the beginning of this story. But maybe… just maybe… we can be a part of the end.
In these difficult spaces of listening, I am 100% sure that there are good people in these systems, including good police officers. I know good people who are, and have been, working to change things from within. But our current systems also perpetuate institutional racism—and that must change. Now.
I also know in the rush of our emotions, the fear and anxiety, anger and shame, fatigue, burnout-ed-ness, there is—as the earth shakes around us—hope. Renewal. Rebirth. Belden Lane points out that in Jesus’ commission to Go! “a company of the future is formed, new rules are adopted. Jesus repeatedly leads people into hostile landscapes, away from society and its conventions, to invite them into something altogether new.”
Today is… something… altogether new. I believe this faith community, Memorial United Church of Christ, is poised to be an active part of the change.
What say you Church? Are you, are we—ready to go boldly? We have done good work. We have participated in sacred conversations around racism, white privilege, and the Doctrine of Discovery. Many of you have completed Nehemiah’s Black History for a New Day course, including myself. The Bible verse I hear you, the members and friends of this congregation reference most often is Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does (God) require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (NRSV).
I have been in conversation with… or more appropriately listening to… my clergy peers at the African American Council of Churches in Madison. The Rev. Dr. Alex Gee said this week we… those who are members of historically white churches know what “to do as followers of Jesus to change the world” and challenged us with the question, “how will you be a part of the solution?”
The charge to which our siblings who are black are calling us to is allyship – to be white allies in the deconstruction of racism. To take concrete steps towards real change. Things we can do now include:
- Continuing to education ourselves on issues of race but to also to
- Move beyond prayer and conversation into action… and we know how to do this. We know how to get involved in our communities. Purposefully connect with community groups who are diverse. Seek out and shop at stores owned by black entrepreneurs, eat at (or get carryout from) restaurants run by people of color. Engage in city and county policy discussions as people of faith. Call our representatives. Write editorials in our local papers. Vote.
- And… give financially. The reality of the racial wealth gap in the United States means we have an opportunity for generosity, to help support community partners and people of color.
This day the church building remains closed, but our commitment to be Love in Action beyond the walls knows no bounds. Jesus’ call to us to “go” is a bold one. It is a push, a shove, an urgent charge. This is a call at an edge. The brink. An end.
We do not know how this story turns out, for we are the story. The Body of Christ. May Love overcome fear, and may our prayers be Love in Action.
Grace and Peace my friends.
on Matthew 28:16-20 offered June
 “Boldly.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boldly.
 Lane, Belden C. Solace of Fierce Landscapes Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. Cary: Oxford University Press, USA, 2014.
 Schaeffer, Katherine. “6 Facts about Economic Inequality in the U.S.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, February 7, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/07/6-facts-about-economic-inequality-in-the-u-s/.