Part 2 of 3.
Rev L. Peterson: Everything about Jesus is political.
Everything about Jesus is political.
Jesus turned over the tables of the money lenders. You know that story in the temple? Jesus healed on the Sabbath, like the story of the last time I was here. The woman bent, right? Even though he was disciplined for doing it. Jesus insists, let the children come to me, let the children lead. Jesus, even in the phrases of worry not, remember the lilies of the field, even in those seemingly very light passages, his insistence that we worry not is political, right? Jesus tells us to seek after the one lost. That’s political.
Jesus was killed by Roman authorities, crucified because they had found him guilty of acts of sedition. To be clear, sedition is conduct, act, speech that incite people to rebel against the established order. Everything about Jesus is political. Jesus was offering bread and cup. His life was changing lives. The last supper is political. The hope it leaves, the charge it leaves. Everything about Jesus, a being infused with God, a being inside of and a bearer of the life of God with us, the life of Incarnation, was political, is political. This Jesus, this political Jesus, this Jesus who disrupted the established order, this is the Jesus who becomes the head of the church, the cornerstone, the church that we gather in and as today.
Jesus breaks the rules and shifts the location of the sacred, pointing ever more, here, here, here, here, where body is, where you are, where the established order would call unworthy is. Where things and people are broken, Jesus says sacred is here, here, here. Where people are bent, where we are a mess. Everything about Jesus is political. Everything inside of the life of following in the ways Jesus draws us toward, now, today, and opens us and challenges us into, all the ways that Jesus calls us, all of it. All of it is political.
Political is people. Okay? Political is not Republican and Democrat. I don’t mean it that way. Political is not who you are going to vote for, for president or rather, it’s not only that, right? Political is how people organize themselves. It is politics. Politics is how we humans organize ourselves for the purpose of sustenance: food, water, shelter, pleasure, family, friendship, relationships, work. What we have to do, what it takes to make sure there is sustenance and pleasure.
Politics is whose bodies get to eat, and what, and who has to work, and how. Politics is what relationships are recognized and which are not. Politics is what resources, the gifts of Creation, the sources of our lives, that beloved creation–water, soil, air–are used and how and by whom. It is what lines are drawn and where and what get defined gets defined as holy and what as profane. It is how power is held, held over or held in common, how power is used, by whom, and to what end.
Every God-led impulse of Jesus was political. Every offer of love to forgotten people in disregarded places, every disruption of fear, was and is political. Everything that we would do, that we could do as people inside a life of faith … is that my mic?
Tech support: Must be.
Rev L. Peterson: Okay……..Ghosts.
Everything that we would do, that we could do, inside a life of faith seeking to follow in the ways of this radically God-led Jesus, dares being political too.
I know, right? There’s like a knocking. [laughter, murmuring] I know, right? It’s like no-no-no. It’s funny ’cause it’s not consistent, like it’s a … All right.
Okay. So why did I decide to talk about politics? So bluntly here? So the last time I was here, a couple of weeks ago, I said something that some of you found to be too political. I suggested, I challenged you as Elliott alluded to, to join with Greta Thunberg and the youth who have been growing a movement over the past year around the world. I invited you, suggested, encouraged you, challenged you, to join them in the worldwide climate strike happening on Friday, now this coming Friday, the 20th of September. So one correction, Greta is 16, not 12 like I was going off on. So she’s 16.
But I suggested that as a congregation, as a community who seek to follow in and live out the love of Christ, that you might consider the possibility-
Tech support: [inaudible 00:07:49]
Rev L. Peterson: Okay. It seems separated, my … It’s like it’s own …
Tech support: Can you hear it without it?
Rev L. Peterson: Should I try to just ignore it? Okay.
So I suggested … I got to put it up a little bit. Yeah. I suggested that as a congregation, as a community seeking to follow and live out the love of Christ, that you might consider the possibility that you could make a commitment to join in the strike. Furthermore, I suggested that you might make it a commitment in such a way that for any among you for whom…whose financial circumstances make it such that that one day of not working would be too much, that you provide the loss of income for that day for your brother and sister in Christ.
I suggested this because I believe in my heart of hearts that the good news of the love of Jesus, love of Jesus down in my heart, where? Down in my heart. Where? I believe that that good news is also at the very same time a love for creation. It is the realness of the God in whom we live and move and have our being. I suggested joining in the strike because the stories of our faith tell us how beautiful and good this creation is, that God has created us as a part of it. How lucky we are to be a part of it.
I suggested participating in this strike because the Jesus I know and try to love and be loved by would go down to the rivers and pray, to those quiet sacred places. Because we here on the Connecticut River, our lives depend on that river in ways that we barely recognize. Now, I heard that a couple of you found this suggestion to be too political. and I debated how to respond to that. So this sermon is where I landed on how to respond.
Audience member: [inaudible 00:10:14].
Rev L. Peterson: Well, I understand. Totally understand. But I decided … So I just want to be clear. I decided that I needed to name out loud that there was offense taken. Okay. But I’m not naming that to isolate. I don’t even know who … to isolate those voices. I saw this as an excellent opportunity. This sermon emerged from what I heard as an opportunity to speak to all of us, me included, about the deeper political roots and reach of our Jesus-centered faith that I think we forget or maybe we don’t really know. It is a root and a reach that maybe we have forgotten or just gotten too comfortable being pretty far away from.
Beyond those who voiced discomfort in the suggestion of a strike, I assume there are also others among you who are maybe intrigued by the idea but a little bit trepidatious about it, for whom the idea of striking is out of your ordinary. And I hear you. I get that. I don’t want to strike. I mean, I don’t want to protest. I do not aspire to be an activist. I would be perfectly happy sitting by the water with a book all day long, almost every day, in my own quiet solitude.
Except that I’m not actually perfectly happy there. Except that there is this love that will not let me go, that keeps insisting that I speak for those who have no voice and keeps daring me and asking me and requiring me to move what would be the quiet waters of the established order, to move them for the sake of love, for the sake of care, for the sake of creation and beautiful created beings. This sermon is directed for all of us. We all need to remember the deep political roots and reach of our Jesus, the center of our faith.
This sermon is to this church, this particular congregation in Springfield, right on the Connecticut River. This congregation of the United Church of Christ, this church seeking to follow in the God-led ways of Jesus Christ. This is for all of us because it is something we have to do as a church together, this shift into being willing to participate in the realm of what we might dismissively call politics. Again, not the Republican/Democrat politics, but that politics that comes out of our own falling further in love with Creator Creation. It is the politics that moves out of being loved by and therefore led by Jesus and all the annoying hard things that that love asks us to do.
I suggested joining the strike and I still do because Jesus guided us in a way of bending the rules sometimes, often times, in fact, for the sake of healing. And there is so much healing that is needed. It makes me cry. There is so much healing that is needed. And we know that, we who have found some hope in the love of Christ that finds us. We know what healing is needed.
There is so much healing that is needed. God’s creation is burning, melting, full of sewage. You know the sewage spill right here? Full of sewage and plastic, overwhelmed by our chemical waste and our quick and easy indifference. God’s creation is suffocating, full of the film of fossil fuels. This is fascinating. I have a song that I wrote about inspired by Greta, and the last time I sang it I cried. There’s so much healing that is needed. Right? Right? Forgive my tears. Be with me in them.
So the notion of striking does sound different. I know it sounds different than what we’ve become used to. What we’ve become used to hearing inside of our sanctuaries, our churches. Because I think we have become too comfortable hanging out in the church as a way of just upholding the things that are and have been. Silence is political, too. And participation in the established order is political, too.
I am sad, though these aren’t the tears about that, I am sad that the impossibly large faith of the political Jesus has been diminished by our church practices to merely a routine of comfort. The comfort is so we can risk. The comfort is so we can move. The comfort is so we can enact the love of Christ in the world and always come back to that love that finds us again and again. That comfort is not for good, all done, easy, peace out yo. Right? As much as I wish it was.
So toward the end here, I pray for all of us that we let the good news, the Gospel, the radical love of Jesus that finds us and showers us with a love we do not earn, I pray that we, each of us communally and collectively, we let that love just grab us, find its way into us this morning. We let it sink in deeper and deeper and that we listen and dare follow where it leads. Thanks be to God and to you. Amen.
Recorded on Sunday, September 15th, 2019
Location: South Congregational UCC Church in Springfield MA