This message was shared Sunday 7/9 at Urban Sanctuary 10 a.m. 80 S. 5th Street.
I am grateful to be with you today! What a gift to have this place and this people to show up for each week. In this time I find that I need a faith community like ours, like a drink of water after a long desert hike. I need that refresher infused with love and hope. Our time together reminds me that not one of us journeys alone, even when it can feel that way.
Last Sunday morning I did what I have learned many people find preferable to attending a religious gathering- I stayed in my pajamas for hours, I channel-surfed, had too many cups of coffee, felt sad and angry at the news and then went on with my day.
I was attending the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, a Protestant Denomination, and this gathering happens every other year- this time in Baltimore, MD. I go when I can because I love spending time with my minister friends and I love being inspired and more fully equipped for spiritual leadership in this time and I love remembering that I am and that all of us are part of something bigger.
This week Dana, the pastor of First Christian is gathering in Indianapolis with the General Assembly of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, another Protestant Denomination.
While I was in Baltimore I had the privilege of hearing Disciples of Christ minister, Rev. Dr. William Barber speak. He has started a campaign called Repairers of the Breach which brings together clergy and lay people from different faith traditions, with people without a spiritual practice but who share the moral principles at the heart of the great moral teachings with the goal of expanding a “school of prophets” who can broadly spread the vision of a nation that is just and loving. Dr. Barber reminded those of us gathered what we might remember from one of the main stories in the Christian tradition- Pentecost and in Pentecost, in new movements, there is disruption.
In Pentecost, when people can hear each other in new ways and when something new can be born, there is disruption. And he said that what we need right now is a Political Pentecost where we can have a higher-level conversation, this disruption needs to bring us to a different place. America doesn’t have a right or left problem he said, it has a heart problem. We must claim the deep moral language of faith.
He sung out to the room, “We can no longer use the language of Caesar,” “It’s too puny to challenge the extremism we are facing now, things that are wrong and just plain mean. We must claim the deep moral language of faith, and silence is not an option.
“We’ve got to recover straight talk so that we can call what’s happening today exactly what it is. We can start with this extremist health care bill. You know what that is. It’s sin!”
Dr. Barber is magnificent and brilliant and loud and fierce. I believe the Spirit speaks through him; it is a prophetic word for our time:
We must claim the deep moral language of faith. Silence is not an option.
It would be easy for some of us to remain silent, shielded by modern comforts and illusions of security, or the privileges that come with particular gender expressions and cultural heritage.
But what if Dr. Barber is speaking to us? We must claim the deep moral language of faith. Silence is not an option.
So today we are exploring the art of protest as part of our spiritual journeys.
I don’t mean protest in that narrow sense of the archetype of an angry marcher, although this is a season where righteous anger might bring us somewhere new. But what I mean by protest is that older sense, that root sense, from Latin protestari- to “declare publicly, testify.” To protest to is to bear public witness, to protest is to choose something other than silence.
I believe it is part of our commitment as people aiming to following in the footsteps of the one who asks us to love a new kind of world into being, we must counter Empire with our protest because protest, is the commitment to be public about what we are for.
People of faith and conscience throughout history have paid a heavy price for taking this spiritual commitment to heart- when silence was no longer an option for them.
You might have heard of Banksy. Banksy is an anonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director of unverified identity. Some people believe Banksy is a collective of artists, instead of on individual, but it’s all a guess. Their satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique. Banksy’s works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.
And before Banksy it was Picasso. ‘Guernica‘ was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1937. The title ‘Guernica‘ refers to the city that was bombed by Nazi planes during the Spanish Civil War. The painting shows the horrors of war and as a result, has come to be an anti-war symbol and a reminder of the tragedies of war.
Protest, is the commitment to be public about what we are for, when silence is not at option.
I believe it is part of what we say yes to with our baptisms, with our intention to live what we say we believe. This is what Jesus modeled for us. He lived the art of protest because protest is the commitment to be public about what we are for. He went public with the harm caused by those committed to the imperial system. He went public with his efforts to bring outsiders in. As Cornel West said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
Protest is the commitment to be public about what we are for…even when few seem to understand.
I believe we are compelled, however we are able, to be public about humility and hope, justice and peace. Jesus tells us right here in the Gospel of Matthew- To you whose burdens of injustice the world fails to hear, God is with you!
This story you heard that Alison read is one that is situated after Jesus receives a letter from John the Baptist who is writing from Prison. Scholars believe that around the time this was written, this Matthean community would have been a minority movement in post-70 Judaism. Jesus seems to be lamenting that no one understands what he is saying, that no one in his “generation” is able to fully hear him. He is misunderstood; the movement is struggling. The world fails to comprehend the burdens of inequity and injustice! Jesus compares himself to John and waxes poetic with patriarchal language about his relationship to the Source of Life and then he says, “Come, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, come…
To you whose burdens, whose burdens of suffering, of loneliness, of loss, to whose burdens of injustice the world fails to hear, God is with you!
As William Goettler writes, “Rest is not offered to the strongest and the most powerful. Rest is offered to those who have been made weary by a world that fails to comprehend the burden of injustice. The yoke is made easy by the heavenly powers coming to the aid of those whose ways this worlds fails to understand.”
We must be public about what we are for…even when few seem to understand. I believe we are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and go public with the harm we know is being caused by those committed to the imperial system. We are called to go public with our efforts to bring outsiders in.
This is more than just our feet in the streets. This is being public with what we are for, which means we protest anger, with our compassion- a public demonstration of generosity and humanity. We protest fear with our music and our potlucks- public demonstrations of the dignity of all. We protest hate with our friendships across political and religious differences- public demonstration of possibility. We protest political and economic silos with our poetry and and our art- public demonstration of the beauty of life.
The truth is that we are here because of those who came before us. We are because they marched and called and struggled and prayed and ate around tables with room for all. They went public about what they were for.
We are benefactors of spaces and places because of people of faith and conscience who claimed their role as protesters. Protestants. Speakers of truth. Keepers of hope.
The art of protest is part of our spiritual journeys. We must claim the deep moral language of faith. Silence is not an option.
Let us not be afraid of the art of protest…
 From the notes of Eugene Eung-Chun Park in Proper 9 Feasting on the Word: Year a, Volume 3