text size

No more Silence: Fighting Islamophobia with Faith

Top comments

{{ annotation.praises_count }} Likes
{{ annotation.creator_alias }}
{{ annotation.creator_score }}

There are no comments yet. Be the first to start comment or request an explanation.

sermon for Sunday, December 13, 2015 by Pastor Jonathan Zephaniah 3:14-20 Isaiah 12:2-6 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18 Advent 3, 2015 I believe there are a few thoughts that need to be shared this morning. I watched a video the other night of a public hearing in Northern Virginia. It was a hearing held by people of the Muslim faith who were opening a discussion with the surrounding community about the possibility of building a mosque there. In the video, several folks are shown shouting lies, calling the presenters terrorists, and threatening harm to those who would attend this future mosque. The organizers thought there would be some harsh comments. But what they were not prepared for was the clapping and cheering from the crowds who heard these hate-filled words. These words continue. Prior to World War II, the Lutheran Church in Germany was guilty of not speaking out enough about the hate filled speeches, the politically encouraged violence, and the fear mongering that led to the rise of fascism. During the last few weeks, several candidates running for President have stepped up to this line, but one in particular has tripped over it by insisting Muslims should no longer be allowed in this country, and those who are here should be registered or otherwise identified – going so far as to lift up the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II as a noble endeavor. This is racism, fascism and a lot of other “isms” and it’s very scary. This is America, where freedom is guaranteed for everyone. This is America where religious freedom does not mean freedom for Christians only, but for all faith traditions – for if any are denied, all are in danger. This is America and registering, restricting or labeling others based on religion is wrong. Please, let’s not be silent, let’s not be found among those who cheer for such things and let’s call for an end to such hate filled speech and rhetoric. These things are not only anti-American but go against everything we stand for and believe in as Christians, and as Christians of the Lutheran persuasion. I am reminded of the words of Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller: When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out. John the Baptist stands at the crossroads of speaking out or remaining silent. Many people come to him at the Jordan River and he welcomes them with a warm embrace: “you brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath that is to come?” Welcome to Advent, where the church quotes from those welcome you with insults. I remember a few years ago when Assistant to the Bishop, the late Chip Gunsten, wrote about why John the Baptist is not a nativity figure. After all, we hear from him twice during Advent. Yet, can you imagine the camel hair dressed figure with honey and locust juice dribbling down his beard, shouting at those who come to see the infant Jesus…perhaps there is a good reason he did not make the cut! John did not fit in and yet he worked hard to make sure others could and would fit in by proclaiming the coming righteousness and kingdom of God! John challenged the people who were unsure if they fit in to come, hear, see, and repent and turn around their lives for the sake of the good news. John challenged those who were peddling the status quo and announced to them that things were about to change in ways they could never imagine – even now the ax is lying at the root of the tree and I tell you God is able to make children from these very stones. We are children of the stones, and John has an important lesson for us this day. The Advent and Christmas seasons remind us that God always comes down and when God comes down, things will change…and most importantly, so will we! John the Baptist greets those who come to him: the everyday folks, the tax collectors, and soldiers. The ordinary folks are simply told to share from their abundance with those who have nothing: food and cloaks make this list. The tax collectors are told to collect no more than prescribed. The soldiers are told not to extort money or make threats. I’m struck by the simplicity of these changes. There is nothing big here. Nothing too extraordinary and nothing too hard to accomplish. In fact, we could say these are so general we wonder if John the Baptist has done anything here. Yet, for many of these folks, these were big first steps! Most people did not think about sharing with those in need, unless perhaps they were family. Most tax collectors were expected to collect more than they were prescribed. They were required to pay a certain amount and anything more than that was profit for them. The soldiers also made extra money by taking bribes, and extorting money. This was often seen as one of the perks of the gig. Yet John the Baptist asks these folks to be kind, avoid bullying, reach out to others, and be honest in their dealings with each other. Basically this is everything we learned in kindergarten! Is this really all there is? Can these simple actions really be a sign of the coming of Christ? For John the Baptist, at least, the answer is yes. Perhaps we should listen. What John the Baptist is really asking us to do is take a good hard look at ourselves. In a time when many people in this world are seeking ways to blame everyone else for their problems, issues, and failures, John asks us to look not at others, but at ourselves. What am I doing to cause brokenness? What am I saying to put others down or not build them up? Where am I seeing others causing brokenness and allowing it to happen? How am I, either by my actions, words, deeds or silence, how am I allowing others to put their friends and neighbors down, judge others wrongly, and refuse to acknowledge the complacency we have in this country, especially when it comes to violence. We all stand guilty before John. We are the brood of vipers John calls out for fleeing the wrath to come. We are guilty. Yet, we are also the ones John calls together to proclaim the good news to! We too can play a role in this coming kingdom. Though John the Baptist might not have been a good fit for a pretty manger scene, he can point all of us in the right direction today! All we need is just enough faith to see God at work in and through us and in the mundane and ordinary elements of our lives. John points to us as God is about to break into the world once again and declares: you too have a place in this kingdom! If you are in business, then conduct it fairly and with the whole community in mind. If you are at home with children, then raise them to love God by loving their neighbors and especially those in need. If you are a teacher, then teach the children of our future with patience and hope, looking for ways to encourage them to love learning. If you are looking for work, do so with honesty and integrity and do not forget to see the little things that you can still do for others. If you are studying at school, then challenge yourself to be a good student: learn, grow, play and allow yourself to be challenged so that you can make the world a better place. If you are caring for others in the medical fields, then remember to do so with the love and tenderness of Christ, in patience and understanding and also allow yourself to take a break! If you are driving a public bus or tractor trailer, then do so with an eye towards safety, earning the trust of others who assume you will watch out for them. If you are a farmer working the soil or tending the herd and flock, then do so with pride and care for the future, knowing that you are raising the food that others will use to nourish their bodies and souls. The good news is that John knows we need simple actions to begin changing ourselves! In a nation built on freedom, we need to proclaim freedom for everyone, no matter what their skin color, religion or creed. In a nation build on religious freedom, we need to support the freedoms of all faith traditions or we take away from our own. In a nation obsessed with violence and instruments of violence, we need to take a step back and help make pleas for calm and peace. In a nation that is on the brink of living only in fear of those who are different, we are called to embrace our differences and proclaim our oneness as children of God. Our faith, our hope and the promises of life, death and new life; the good news of forgiveness, grace and mercy, all of these come to us through the lens of the cross. That cross boldly stands at the manger scene proclaiming the future death that gives life to us all! John may not fit in that manger scene but because of what he did to point us to Christ, we all fit in that manger scene. We are the shepherds called from our fields and flocks to hear and see the good news. We are the wise people, coming from afar, bringing our gifts along with paying homage. We are the folks who look for ways in the everyday and mundane parts of our lives who ask: “what can we do?” Listen…the answer has most likely been given to you already. You too fit in and have the mark of the cross as we gather around the manger…for we too are children of God! “May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

read all comments

1 Jonathan Hamman = "7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people."
2 Michael McKissick = "Such a great reminder. This reminds me of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:3, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
3 Cary W = "Each of us, in the quiet, private places of our heart and mind, as well as all the things we do and say, effects everyone and the whole world on an energetic level.  When we are peaceful, loving and noble, we bring that to the world, and it changes, even if just a bit, for the good.  Anyone who is participating in any hateful, judgmental or aggressive vibe, is bringing destruction and violence to the world, and adding their life force to it's horrible manifestation.  We each are contributing to the Kingdom of Peaceful Heaven on Earth, or we are helping to usher in its destruction."