A Revised Order of Service for Terence

Prelude
Community Welcome
A Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness

A Prayer of Lament for Those Who Cannot Breathe
by Rev. Prince Rivers
(Slightly adapted by Rev. Rob Martin)

Holy God,
a cloud of grief hangs heavy over my head
and I feel like I cannot breathe,
so give me the strength to pray.
I raise my hands toward the sky
and I lift my eyes to the hills
which is where my help comes from.
Lord,
when the names of people who have been
choked,
shot,
and assaulted
is too many to count
I know that not one sould has been forgotten by
mothers and fathers,
sisters and brothers,
cousins and friends.
They remember …
… laughs and smiles,
… dreams and struggles,
… talents and personalities.

Now these men and women are gone.
Father,
how long must we listen
to the cries and screams
as blood stains the sidewalk?
How many videos must we watch
before we begin to see a change?

Help me, God.
Help us.
Help the people of St. Paul, MN
[Help the people of Tulsa, OK
Charlotte, SC
Baltimore, MD
Ferguson, MO]
Help Baton Rouge, LA.
Help our nation.

Help us examine ourselves.
[Silence for examination]

Help those of us who are sad and angry
not to let these deaths be in vain.

We do not pray for vengeance,
but we do thirst for justice.
We hope for healing
between neighbors and officers called to protect and serve.
We long for the day
when young men will live long enough to be old men
and parents will not have to say Good-bye too soon.

[Our] hope is in you, God.
Deliver [us] from all [our] fears.
Oh God,
come quickly to help us.
O Lord,
come quickly to save us.
In the nameof the one who came
that we might have life
and have life more abundantly
[, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord].

Amen.

Gathering Song:
“Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life” (ELW 719)

Pastoral Greeting
Kyrie
[Congregation, please be seated.]

Psalm 146

Gospel Reading: Luke 16:19-31

Sermon

In 2007, David Kinnaman,
President of the Barna Group,
released a book interpreting a survey of young people,
ages 16 – 28,
about their views on the Church
and Christianity in general.

The study group consisted of young people
both within and without the institutional church.

Of those outside the church
91% reported that they find Christians to be judgmental.
85% reported that they find church people to be hypocritical,
and their biggest complaint
was that we no longer “look like Jesus.”

That was in 2007
so those young people are now 25 – 38 years old.
And the older end of the spectrum is now
a generation of people with young kids
whom they are raising with this negative view of Christians,
who fail to look like the One they claim to follow.

Now, this is devestating for the institution of the Church.
But that’s not the Bad News.

The truly Bad News is that,
we who have an interest in passing on the institution
seem to care more about how people view us
and how that view is causing people to stay away from our congregations in droves
than we do that we’ve forgotten what it means to look like Jesus,
what it looks like to FOLLOW Jesus.

“By this people will know you are my disciples,
that you are self-righteous and judgmental?
that you’ve faithfully carried on your denominational doctrines and dogmas?
that you have a really nifty theology?
that all your members tithe
and have an excellent intellectual grasp
of what it means that the Real Presence of Christ is in the Eucharistic elements,
properly distributed according to your local traditions?

NO!

By THIS people will know you are my disciples:
That you have LOVE for one another!

What is the greatest commandment?
“You shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and soul,
and mind,
and strength.”

And the second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On THIS, Jesus tells us,
hang ALL the Law and the Prophets.

The church
followers of Jesus
MUST be known
by our love of God
and our love of neighbor.

This is a radical stance
in a world where we are taught to be divided
into in groups
and out groups.
Where the our institutions and systems are designed
just for that purpose.
And much of the time, we don’t even realize our part in the game.

So Love of God and Neighbor is a radical stance
and it’s one that requires us to do a LOT of introspection.
I’m not talking about navel gazing
but rather introspection that causes us to see our complicity
and draws us to work for change
to work for justice
and to work for reconciliation
for the sake of God’s kingdom.

I know this is hard for Lutherans to swallow.
We have a phobia
an irrational fear
of kingdom work,
because we’ve been taught to be wary of “works righteousness.”

Sometimes it seems like the only time we ever paid attention in Confirmation
was the lesson on works righteousness.
We took that one to heart
and forgot just about everything else.
It’s a pity.

On top of this,
Lutherans tend to be a quiet people.
Ironic, I know,
since the reason that Lutherans exist
comes down to a priest who refused to be quiet.

But we have been quiet for too long.
We were too quiet in the 1920s and 30s
as the Nazi party came into power
with virtually no resistance.

We were too quiet until quite late
in the face of South African Apartheid.

And now we seem to be pretty quiet in the face of our OWN Apartheid:
systemic racism in the United States of America.

Why are we quiet?
Maybe we don’t recognize the reality.
Maybe we’d like to fall back on the luxury of waiting
until we hear “all the facts.”
And meanwhile, unarmed Black and brown men and women
are dying in the streets and on the sidewalks
and on their own porches.

That quietism is proof of our privelege.

What’s the matter? Don’t Lutherans get angry?
I can tell you first hand that we do.
When to pastor changes the liturgy at the last minute,
we get plenty angry.
When children are recruited to serve the already consecrated Communion elements,
we get angry.
When we are asked to sit together as a congregation
instead of sitting in our places of comfort during worship
oh, we get angry at that, too.

That’s the problem.
It’s not that we DON’T get angry:
We get angry about all. the. wrong. stuff.

I don’t want to drag on too long, so all you’re doing is hearing my voice.
In a minute I’ll close my mouth,
we’ll finish the service,
and then I’m going to invite you to stay
and begin the conversations that need to happen
about race in this country.

It’s going to be uncomfortable.
I can guarantee that.
And it will be long, hard work.

But I do want to say just a couple of things about our Gospel reading first.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus
is a very provocative story.
It can be
and has been
read as a cautionary tale about wealth.

It has also been read as a proof text for the existence of heaven and hell.

That’s fine.
I don’t care to debunk or discuss either of those right now.

But I do want to point out
that there is a clear message here from the lips of Jesus
about a fate that exists
whether you believe this relates to life now or an afterlife
for privileged people
who ignore the plight of those who are suffering in this world.

Check this out:
We don’t know the name of the rich man,
but the rich man definitely knows Lazarus’s name.
He’s aware of Lazarus’ presence
but is indifferent to his plight.

The only comfort that Lazarus has in this world
is that the dogs come and lick his sores.
But the rich man, who wears fancy clothes
and dines richly every day
can’t be bothered to care about poor Lazarus and his suffering.
Can’t be bothered with Lazarus at all
except until they’re both dead and in the place of the dead.
Even there, the rich man still can’t see Lazarus as anything
but a fetch-it boy,
a servant who ought to know his place,
which is to bring relief to the rich man.

In his indifference to Lazarus and his suffering
and in his desire to remain in his privileged position as a man who desires to live in comfort
a great chasm is fixed between him
and the place where Lazarus now resides,
namely, the bosom of Abraham.

Even his plea to Fr. Abraham is self-serving:
Send Lazarus to my brothers.
Not send ME to my brothers to warn them.
Not even send someone to tell my brothers to find their own Lazaruses
and serve THEM,
but serve ME,
serve my FAMILY.

The tragedy of the story
is that the rich man never sees his privilege
and that is what creates the chasm between him and the suffering ones.

Abraham’s reply to the rich man is just,
Look. Your brothers have the Scriptures.
They know what the Scriptures instruct them to do:
To act justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with God.

Or as Jesus put it, following the Scriptures
to love God
and to love one’s neighbors.
And not only the neighbors, but also the ones we perceive as our enemies.

Dear Lutherans,
Dear Christians,
Dear disciples of Jesus,
We already know what we’re supposed to do.
We already know what we’re supposed to prioritize.
Our scriptures tell us that.

If we don’t believe them
and if we don’t act on them
then neither will we be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.
Amen.

Prayers of the People

Offering [To be donated to the family of Terence Crutcher for unexpected funeral costs]

Anthem
“For the Least” by Wayne L. Wold

Holy, Holy, Holy

Words of Institution

Lord’s Prayer

Communion Hymns
“Son of God, Eternal Savior” (ELW 655)
“Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” (ELW 712)

Table Blessing and Prayer after Communion

Announcements

Blessing

Sending Song
“God of Grace” (ELW 705)

Brief discussion on racism

The Church’s Role in Resurrection

Well, I’ve been thinking provocative thoughts again.

This time, it was spurred on by a guy named Chris Hoke, who is a prison chaplain in the Pacific Northwest. I’m currently waiting for his book (Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders) to show up. It’s not really a how-to for prison ministry, but rather a series of testimonies by Chris involving his deeply relational work in the jail system. I’ve heard him reading chunks of it, and can barely wait for the book to get here. Crazy powerful.

In any case, what inspires Chris Hoke to do the kind of ministry he does and to recognize it as Church begins with Hades. In Matthew’s Gospel (16:18), Jesus says to Peter, “You are Petros, and upon this rock I will build my ekklesia” (Ekklesia is some kind of assembly, and we usually translate that word as “church.” Rightly or wrongly.) But Jesus also said, “and the gates of Hades/hell shall not prevail against her.”

Different translations approach the text a little differently. “Gates of hell,” “powers of death,” or simply “gates of Hades.” This isn’t an afterlife imagery for Jesus. Hades is now. Hades is the realm of the dead. We kind of need all of those different translations to give us an idea of the multiple connotations Hades carries. What’s clear: it’s about death. It’s bad. Jesus is against it.

So Jesus has commissioned Peter with imagining how the ekklesia opposes these gates/powers of Hades/hell/death. In 1st Peter, we have the image of Jesus showing up there on Holy Saturday (and in the Orthodox traditions, there are extended stories about this), busting down the gates and setting all of death’s prisoners free. It’s the conclusion of what Jesus’ resurrection does for us: We die a death like his, and we shall have a resurrection like his.

The big idea here is that Jesus has commissioned Peter with the task of moving the church, not toward heaven, but toward the gates of Hades, which shall not prevail against the assembly. That’s freaking amazing imagery, isn’t it?! It makes church so, so, so much more than coming to a building once a week (or even twice a week) to sing some old songs and “get our Jesus” in a wafer and a sip of bad wine, just so we can go home and forget about church again until next time. It’s a job! And it’s MORE than a job: it’s a COMMISSION!

“Go!” says Jesus. And the Lutherans say, “Here we stand.” Ugh.

Chris Hoke’s imagination is what we need. We are a Resurrection people. We’re not just people who have been resurrected (or just resuscitated), but rather we’re people who are called together (assembled) to storm the gates of death. Not in the hereafter, but NOW! TO-DAY!

Where we see the power of death, we need to go knocking down some gates. Or else we’re not the church that Jesus imagined and charged Peter with. We’re … something else. Maybe a really poor version of a country club.

In John 11, we read the story of Lazarus, whom Jesus brings back from the dead.  When Jesus arrives in Bethany (lit. House of the Poor), Lazarus is already dead. He’s in the realm of Hades, locked behind the gates. Jesus speaks his name and tells him to come out.

Then he enlists ordinary people to remove the stone – a hand-crafted artifact designed NOT to be moved, so that the barrier between the dead and the living may be kept intact. But Jesus tells them to move it. This part is critical, because if Lazarus is resurrected behind the stone, he’s still stuck in the realm of the dead, isn’t he?

So the people move the stone. But Lazarus is still wearing his smelly grave clothes, so Jesus tells these same ordinary people, “Unbind him.” And finally Lazarus is able to return to the realm of the living.

Chris Hoke sees in this story a great metaphor for the work of the church. If we are called to crash the gates of Hades and to roll away stones and to unbind the dead so that they may live, it’s important for us to see where the realm of the dead exists for people living today. For hoke, it’s the prison system, especially people confined to solitary imprisonment with no human contact, no human community (except where they are able to subversively build it themselves. There are stories in the book.).

Once people are out of the jail system, it’s like being called back to life with the grave stone still in place. Unless there are willing people who will move the stone and help unbind the death cloths, the prisoner will just die all over again, fall back into the realm of death. For Hoke, those stone obstacles are things like: getting a driver’s license, paying off debt and debt collectors, paying bills, finding a job with a prison record, finding transportation to that job so that one can work and pay all the bills. All of these things, unless someone is able to help move the stone (ordinary people), the prisoner will just go back to prison.

And unless ordinary people will help the revived identify and understand the ways in which they are tied up in a mummy’s clothes, they can’t really be unbound. The gates of Hades will keep a hold on them.

These things are what the church was commissioned for. Moving the stone, unbinding the dead, knocking down the gates of hell. But we need to know where these things are located. For Hoke, it’s the prison system. For Comunidad de Esperanza, for example, it’s the immigration system, the health system, things of this nature.

What do we, as the ekklesia at First Lutheran, recognize as the stones and the grave cloths in people’s lives? If we can’t see where the gates of Hades are, we can’t very well get there to stand against them.

What say you?