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A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?

Can you believe it?

It’s unthinkable.  Incredible

Just Imagine it.  Of all things to think or say:

The Lord has a controversy with us.  His People.

How can that be?

What have we done or forgotten to do to find ourselves sued in the

court of the Lord.

How absurd to say or think:

The Lord has a controversy with his people-,

And he will contend with us. –About what will he contend with us?

What have we done or forgotten to do?

The text of our reading says so

II.

But here and now the script of our writing says

It’s all about neighbors and being neighborly in our neighborhoods.

Some White.  Some Black. Some Jews.  Homosexuals.  Even Muslims

and Latin Americans, with and without papers.

 

The Lord proposed the land would be peopled with Blacks

But some did not want any Blacks around their town

So, to the surprise of many, the Blacks got angry and asked for all

their Black stuff back saying:

Gimme back George Washington Carver and all 300 plus of his

creations from the lowly peanut, along with all 175 plus products he

developed from the sweet potato.

The United States Army used many of his products during World War I.

Gimme back Dr. Charles Drew and all his work on blood plasma,

and founding blood banks.

Gimme back Jelly Roll Morton, Duke, the Count and ole Nat King

Cole!

Meaning there’s no jazz and blues and gospels to play and Elvis to

immitate.

Gimme back all the Black stuff

But the Lord proposed and we disposed as we saw fit

And then strutted on off in our own way.

Leaving ourselves the poorer for all the black stuff, shoved and

argued away.

O my people, what have I done to you?  In what have I wearied you?

 

It’s just unthinkable.  Of all the things to think or say:

The Lord has a controversy with us.  His People.  Here in America.

How can that be?

What have we done or forgotten to do to find ourselves sued in the

court of the Lord

How absurd to say or think:

The Lord has a controversy with his people,

and he will contend with us. – About what will he contend with us?

What have we done or forgotten to do?

Yet the text of our reading says so.

 

But, here and now, the script of our writing says

It’s all about the neighbors and being neighborly in our neighborhoods.

 

The Lord proposed the land would be peopled with Jews.

But some did not want any Jews around their town or in the

neighborhood.

So, to the dismay of many, the Jews got angry and asked for all their

Jewish stuff back saying:

You can’t have our holy books; and they named them according to the

Tamakh, their Holy Bible:

Not a one of the books of The Torah – not Genesis, Exodus or Leviticus

Not Numbers or Deuteronomy.

Not a one of the Writings – not Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of

Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra &

Nehemiah or Chronicles.

Not a one of the Prophets – not Joshua, Judges, The Samuels, The

Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel or any one of The Twelve.

 

And while we are at it, we are also taking back Jesus who was born

a Jew, raised a Jew, and died as a Jew before he was made out

to be a Christian.

We will call later for all the Jewish philosophers and scientists,

including Albert Einstein.

 

But the Lord proposed and we disposed as we saw fit.

And then strutted on off in our own way.

Leaving ourselves the poorer for all the Jewish stuff, shoved and

argued away.

O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you?

 

Can you believe it?

It’s just unthinkable.  Of all the things to think or say:

The Lord has a controversy with us.  His People.  Here in America.

How can that be?

What have we done or forgotten to do to find ourselves sued in the

court of the Lord.

How absurd to say or think:

The Lord has a controversy with his people,

and he will contend with us. – About what will he contend with us?

What have we done or forgotten to do?

Yet the text of our reading says so.

 

But, here and now, the script of our writing says

It’s all about the neighbors and being neighborly in our neighborhoods.

 

Again, the Lord proposed the land would be peopled by homosexuals

But some did not want any queers around and about their town.

So, to the shock of many, the homosexuals got angry and asked for all

their queer stuff back saying:

For openers, give us back Socrates and Plato, key figures in the

history of western philosophy; in school I learned that all of

Western philosophy is but a footnote to Plato.

Over two thousand years of philosophy goes, when we take back

Plato!

Give us back that old general, Alexander the Great

Give us back all the plays written by the Pulitzer prize winning

Tennessee Williams!

Give us back the novels and writings of Virginia Woolf, Gertrude

Stein & Willa Cather!

Give us back all the poems of Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson.

W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen;

Give us back the insights and ideas of the economist John Maynard

Keynes;

We taking back everything Leonard Bernstein composed – including

West Side Story

We also taking every musical composition of Cole Porter – including

“Night and Day”

and “Begin the Beguine”

Give us back Bayard Rustin and the 1963 March on Washington that

he organized,

meaning Martin Luther King, Jr. can’t deliver his famous “I Have a

Dream” speech there,

and thousands won’t think that it’s his best and only speech!

But the Lord proposed and we disposed as we saw fit

And then strutted on off in our own way.

Leaving ourselves the poorer for all the homosexual stuff, shoved

and argued away.

O my people, what have I done to you?  In what have I wearied you?

 

III.

 

What then should we do on the flip side of the vocal and not so subtle

hints

About our neighbors and being neighborly to those who may differ

from us in some way?

What should we do in the face of arguments that say

Some – Muslims or Mexicans who are already here, with or without

papers,

Are not welcome in America?

In our City?  Our neighborhood?  Our church?

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God

on high?

Shall I come to God with burnt offerings

Shall I give the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

 

The Lord has a controversy with us.  His people.

And Micah says the Lord has already told us

“What is good; and what the Lord requires of us.”

But we have forgotten to remember what we were told:

And it’s not some intricate theological argument

Or complicated theological doctrine that we’ve forgotten.

 

Or some philosophical disquisition.

It’s something very simple:

 

And that is to be found running to faithfully perform

the work of justice in our neighborhoods, while

Living out loving kindness among ourselves and in extension to

others who are our neighbors – near and far.

All while walking humbly with the Lord who makes it all possible

and holds it all together.

 

Amen.

Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart grew up in the oppressive Jim Crow South, and became a minister in the white-dominated United Methodist Church’s New England Conference.  His latest book, BUT FOR THESE, which concludes with the above homily, pays tribute to the people who helped him to “daringly become whosoever I could.”  A unique blending of prose and poetry, the book also describes the highs and lows in his commitment to enable others to become whosoever they could – in a Christian denomination wherein racism and homophobia were — and remain — pressing issues, and addressing them can presents risks, as he discovered.  In 2000, under Rev. Lockhart’s pastoral leadership, Boston’s Union United Methodist Church became the first predominately African American United Methodist congregation to fully welcome LGBTQ persons.  In 2016, he received the Distinguished Alumni/ae Award from Boston University School of Theology.    

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