In today’s gospel lesson we witness the apostles’ transition from students to interns. They have abandoned their former lives as fisherfolk and tax collectors to learn from Jesus as he engages in the work of proclaiming the good news of God’s love across the region. In what may have been one of the most terrifying moments of their lives, Jesus commissioned these twelve apostles to the work of preaching, teaching, and healing.
Jesus gives the apostles some parting instructions:
Today’s gospel lesson is a stark reminder. Much like these twelves apostles, we too have critical work Christ is calling us to do. What if at this very peculiar moment in human history, the Church has finally heard Christ’s call to take the deep dive into the work of dismantling racism?
How does that idea sit in your body? Maybe you find yourself leaning into the possibility or completely unsure what that even means. Maybe you find yourself pulling back, sorting through a list of ten other things that seem more important. Maybe this work seems downright uncomfortable, and you’d prefer to discuss when exactly our buildings will be reopening.
Yet our choice to engage or not engage in this critical work, is one only afforded to those with the privilege of being born with white skin. A privilege that even Jesus of Nazareth was not privy to. When we put on our glasses to take a closer look at the deep rooted systemic effects of racism, we start to see how systemic racism touches every outreach ministry and social justice issue the Church seeks to address.
Studies have shown that racism and inequality have a disproportionate impact on people of color when it comes to education, health care, gun violence, climate change, and much more.
Some might suggest that we only need to be kinder and more inclusive--this idea that All Lives Matter, and we need to do a better job at making sure we are actually valuing all. As Linda Oppenheim suggests in a message to parents trying to engage in the work of teaching their children to be anti-racist says:
“The problem with strategies based solely on inclusivity and diversity is that they assume a level playing field for all. Anti-racism recognizes that racist beliefs have permeated our culture and created systemic problems. Rather than just talking about it, anti-racism asks that we actively work against it.”
Much like those early apostles, we have been called to do some work that may be downright terrifying. Engaging in the work of learning how to be anti-racist is a seismic shift, and we will need to take it one day at a time. We have to begin this holy work by looking within ourselves and examining our privilege; of listening closely to our black and brown siblings, while also amplifying their voices instead of our own.
Like those early apostles, it would be best if we did not carry our own baggage into this movement. We have to recognize that we will meet resistance--within ourselves and with our neighbors. Doing the work of addressing systemic racism could result in conflict within our families and circle of friends.Yet Jesus was clear with the apostles, and remains clear with us--the Holy Spirit will be with us as we take this deep dive. Guiding us, giving us the words, and making the journey with us.
This work is overwhelming. Yet it is the work we have been commissioned to do in our baptism. This work is at the core of our calling to spread the good news of God’s love, and we cannot have one without the other. It is imperative to the good news of Christ that we take the time to do this work.
To that end, we are going to make some shifts in our liturgy during Ordinary Time. Today, we are going to remind ourselves of what it means to follow Christ by renewing our baptismal vows. Next week, we will pray a Litany of Repentance and other weeks with Spiritual Communion we will share in Prayers of the People with Confession--all of which address systemic racism. On weeks with Morning Prayer or on Healing Sundays, we have incorporated a collect Molly has written to ask for God’s guidance and strength as we do the work.
We know that praying shapes our believing. Our hope is that by shifting our prayers to address systemic racism, we will find the courage, strength, and wisdom given by the Holy Spirit to do the work Christ is calling us to dive into. You’ll hear more about this in a newsletter article Molly has written that will come out on Thursday, and I will post links of anti-racism resources with this sermon.
Let’s begin this work, right now, by renewing our promises to Christ and one another in the baptismal covenant. Amen.
Read a letter from Rev. Heather (June 4) with a lengthy list of resources we can use in doing the work of anti-racism.
Join the new group Western Mass for Black Lives--Solidarity & Action.
Meet our preachers
Lay Preacher, Faith Community Nurse
The Rev. Jane R. Dunning, Priest Associate
Coffee with Clergy
Do you want to get together to talk about your spiritual life or learn more about our community? Contact us and we will find time to get together.