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A Good Fit - July 5th, 2020

July 5th, 2020

A Good Fit

A sermon preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli for Foundry UMC July 5, 2020, fifth Sunday after Pentecost. “Living As If…” series. 

Text:  Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

It has become very clear over the past couple of weeks that many of us are feeling a deep weight and weariness in the wake of all that has happened and is happening in our world. And today we hear Jesus say, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” I want to swim into this invitation like cool water on a hot summer day. But notice: as soon as Jesus says, “Let me help you lighten your load,” he invites us to pick up something else: “Take my yoke upon you…” What’s up with that?

Well, let’s get clear about what a “yoke” is. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. Yokes were carved carefully to fit the animal who would be using the device; a carefully made yoke would rest well on the shoulders and wouldn’t bind or blister. The Greek word for “easy” (chréstos) can also mean “well-fitting.” The well-fitting yoke was used to make carrying a burden or pulling a load easier. And the yoke allowed two animals to share a load, thus lightening the load for both. The Judeo-Christian tradition uses the metaphor of the yoke to describe the way of God revealed through the law and the prophets.  It is also a word used to describe the teachings and way of life of Jewish Rabbis—that is, the way a rabbi interpreted and practiced Torah, the law, was that rabbi’s “yoke.” A disciple of a given Rabbi would take on the “yoke” of that teacher.  

In both the literal and figurative sense, a “yoke” is something you put on, that you wear. And think for a moment about things you wear that don’t fit well…they’re unflattering at best and really uncomfortable at worst. Ill-fitting or inappropriate shoes can cause blisters and over time can affect your whole body alignment causing strain and pain. In the same way, ill-formed, ill-fitting yokes do damage. If I put on a yoke that was made for a body with much broader shoulders than mine, think about what that will do to my body. If I take on an interpretation of biblical law that is ill-formed—say lacking careful study or grace—just think about how that will affect the shape and health of my whole life. If I am yoked with someone who is pulling in an opposite direction from me or if I’m unwilling to move when the person with whom I’m yoked is trying to move, we’re both going to get hurt. If the yoke is well fitted for me but ill fitted for the person with whom I’m yoked, even if we’re traveling the same path, my way will be easier than that of my partner on the journey, though we will both struggle more than is necessary. The bottom line is that yokes—both literal and the law—can either do damage to those who “wear” them or can provide help and freedom from carrying burdens too hard to bear alone.

Jesus invites us to put on his “yoke,” the way of life he taught and embodied, a way of life guided from start to finish by the great commandment to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourself. This, Jesus says, is the yoke that’s “easy,” that’s a good fit for our most human shape. Jesus’ embodiment of love that preaches good news to the poor, healing for the wounded ones, freedom for the captives, mercy, compassion, and peace for a bruised world, gentleness, humility, and justice in our relationships with one another, is the yoke we are all made to put on. I have heard folk describe the yoke Jesus offers as an exclusively “me and Jesus” or “God and me” situation—that is, the yoke is about Christ helping us carry our load. I don’t disagree that’s part of the promise. But here’s the thing: Jesus’ yoke—Jesus’ way of life—binds us to one another, commits us to one another, connects us, yokes us. It’s never going to just be “me and Jesus” because whenever we invite Jesus into our life, he brings all his friends with him.

I have been ruminating on the juxtaposition of Jesus’ invitation to take on his yoke and this weekend when our country observes Independence Day. On the one hand, you could say that Jesus’ way of life, his yoke, is about liberation, about freedom so it’s a happy coincidence to get this text in the lectionary on this day—plus the bonus of Jesus giving us permission to rest, to chill. But a couple of things give me pause. The story we have traditionally told is that Independence Day is a celebration of our freedom from tyranny, our commitment to “liberty and justice for all.” And the words penned at our founding are beautiful and the goal lofty. They would seem to align with the vision of care and right relationship that Jesus taught. But the truth is that the liberty, the freedom, the justice, was for some, not for all. The yoke of Christ was severed from the beginning. 

Over the years I have come to more deeply perceive the irony of a national celebration of “freedom” first celebrated in 1777 when one in five people in the colonies were African human beings who were enslaved by white people. Frederick Douglass in 1852—well before passage of the 13th Amendment that ended slavery—brilliantly denounced the national celebration of July 4th saying:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Then a hundred years later Langston Hughes wrote a poem with the refrain “America never was America to me.” He wrote:

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Hughes, of course, was African American and in this poem he speaks not only for his community, but also for poor whites, indigenous people, immigrants, and all who hope in the dream of America yet find “only the same old stupid plan / Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.” And fifty years since Langston Hughes passed into the next life, we find ourselves in this moment. Some would argue there is much to honor from our past and also much that’s changed for the better. Both are true. But our present moment has blown the lid off the injustice, suffering, and rage so many of our neighbors continue to experience in their lives. Poverty, systemic racism, homophobia and transphobia are still rampant in our country, placing crushing burdens upon beloved children of God. Pernicious interpretations of religious texts, twisted applications of biblical law, and greedy, unjust civic laws and policies create a reality in which some are free, expecting and enjoying every opportunity life affords, and others can’t drink the water from their tap, can’t go for a run, can’t answer their front door without fearing for their lives. Some in our land suck up all the air leaving others with no air to breathe.

Our Gospel for today begins by Jesus highlighting the fact that some people are determined to judge and reject anything that might challenge them to perceive something new or to change. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were called names and rejected, even though their practices and message were very different. Different approaches didn’t reach those who were challenged by the message of the Gospel. If people don’t want to hear it, they won’t. And we sadly see this right now in many ways related to safety protocols for COVID-19, systemic racism, skewed narratives of American history and more. To be asked to acknowledge the suffering of the most vulnerable and oppressed, sacrifice some comfort to protect others, accept that part of our past and present as a nation is marred by racist violence and greed, is perceived by many as impinging upon their freedom. No matter how lovingly or authentically it is shared—whether in protest, movie, data and studies—if folk don’t want to hear it, they won’t.

But, Jesus says, “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” And wisdom made her home in Jesus and guided Jesus’ teaching and actions. And Jesus offers his “yoke”—an offer that is heartily received in Jesus’ time and in our own by those weighed down with the burdens of injustice and systemic violence. Jesus comes alongside the downtrodden, the sick, the disinherited, the oppressed and says, “You matter. Let me share the load, carry your burden, journey with you. You are not alone.” 

And the offer of a well-fitting yoke is extended to everyone. Jesus wants all of us to put on a way of life that does no harm, a yoke that doesn’t do damage to others or to ourselves. That is our work—each and all of us in our own way. We are called to set down hurtful things that have creeped up around our shoulders and into our thoughts and hearts. That stuff is ill-fitting, heavy, and shreds our soul. We are invited instead to pick up and put on the yoke of Jesus who says, “Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

Be gentle and humble with others in this time when there is so little grace margin in the world. Be gentle and humble with yourself. And trust that Christ will help you do the hard work needed for the living of these days. And it is hard work. The “yoke” Jesus offers is not an “easy” life without any burdens or challenges. Rather it is a yoke that is well-fitting, that doesn’t do harm when we put it on, that binds us to Christ AND to one another, so that the burdens we bear become lighter because they are shared. 

I believe the heart of the teaching today is that true freedom in human life is not found in independence but rather in interdependence. We are created for interdependence and the yoke Jesus offers is fitted with that in mind. It connects us to God and each other in love, in compassion, in mercy, in grace and helps us pull together toward the Kin-dom vision that’s our goal. And that means that your suffering is yoked to me and my suffering is yoked to you. As Paul taught, if one member of the body suffers all suffer together with it (1 Cor 12:26). God gives us grace to help one another carry the burden, to ease the weight, to lighten the load one for another. Your life is bound up with my life and my freedom is bound up with your freedom, your safety is bound up with my safety and my good is bound up with your good. No one is free until all are free. 

Many of us are weary today. Many are carrying heavy burdens. And the pain of the world can seem too much to bear. But the good news is we are yoked to one another and to Christ. And together we press on to freedom. Thanks be to God.

You, Me, Us - Summer Guest Series: Rev. Dr. Kevin Smalls - June 28th, 2020

June 30th, 2020

You, Me, Us

Foundry United Methodist Church's Summer Guest Series continues with a sermon from the Reverend Dr. Kevin Smalls. June 28th, 2020

What Peace? What Love? - June 21st, 2020

June 22nd, 2020

What Peace? What Love?

A sermon preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli for Foundry UMC June 21, 2020, third Sunday after Pentecost. “Living As If…” series. 

Text:  Matthew 10:24-39

Last week Foundry received a powerful call from Rev. Kimberly Scott to live as if our loved ones are at risk, to recognize that God has placed us where we are today to be part of building up a new world. When Rev. Scott repeated the call to live as if our loved ones are at risk, I found myself thinking our loved ones ARE at risk. The question is: Who do we count as our loved ones? Who is our neighbor? Only our blood kin? Only those we know well? Only those with whom we agree?

Today, the lectionary gives us what folks in my Thursday night Bible Study widely agree is a not-so-favorite passage of scripture. And, I get it. It’s full of all sorts of confusing and triggery words and phrases. “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” “Whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” “Do not think I have come to bring peace, but a sword.” “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” And what’s all that business about finding and losing life? It’s a lot! But, honestly, the more I’ve read and prayed with our text this past week, the more I realize that these lines of scripture are the sermon Jesus might give if he were to show up at the podium at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Black Lives Matter Plaza today.

Matthew chapter 10 begins with Jesus calling together his disciples to give them authority over unclean spirits and power to cure disease (Mt 10:1) and to proclaim the good news of the Kin-dom (10:7). Jesus then sends them into the world and communicates clearly that some folks will not receive them, will not acknowledge their authority, will not welcome their message (10:14). And worse, they’ll likely get beaten up by those in power and “dragged before governors and kings” (10:17-18). We hear in verse 25 “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!” In other words, the disciples who do what Jesus does in the world, aren’t going to get better treatment than Jesus himself. And, remember, Jesus wasn’t out of the manger before the agents of empire were trying to kill him. He hadn’t started to walk, much less talk, before his parents were forced to seek asylum to save his life (Mt 2:13 ff.). And we know that trend continued throughout his life. Even still, Jesus didn’t back down or pipe down but simply continued doing what he had been sent to do. And he was firmly in the prophetic flow of his ancestors like Auntie Esther whose story we heard last week. 

Following Jesus, being called to do and to speak and to love as he does, is risky. It is costly. If your Christian faith isn’t making you shift in your seat, re-examine your priorities regularly, sacrifice some time, energy, or money, try something that feels uncomfortable, make space literally or figuratively for people who make you twitchy, and risk losing something for the greater good, then, well, something is missing.

Let me interject here—as I know we are all weary and in various stages of grief for so many reasons right now—our faith—of course!—is a source of comfort and encouragement. God’s grace and peace is always available for us.

But any kind of “peace” that is pretending there is nothing wrong is not peace. “Peace” achieved by proffering a bland niceness wrapped around simmering resentment, aggravation, dismissiveness, and hatred is not peace. Any “peace” that avoids difficult conversations or avoids naming or changing things so as not to make people angry or uncomfortable is not peace. These and other things are not peace, they are denial, avoidance, and lies. Jesus taught in the beatitudes that peacemakers are blessed. I don’t think he was talking about denial, avoidance, and lies. It’s a different kind of peace that Jesus reveals to us. The next beatitude is instructive: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:10) You see without righteousness, right relationship—justice—there is no peace. No justice. No peace. “Peace” without justice isn’t peace, it’s pretending. //  And understand: the point is not to seek persecution or to stir the pot just to stir the pot. 

Jesus wasn’t persecuted because he disturbed the peace in an already peaceful world; Jesus was persecuted because he disturbed the injustice of an unjust world. And he did that in order to make real peace. Jesus comes to disturb anything in the world that keeps people from knowing the fullness of their dignity, value, power, and belovedness. This means—for just one example—that sometimes a gay child will have to challenge the teaching and beliefs of his father and mother in order to live in freedom and in love. Jesus comes to disturb any system or mindset or attitude or practice that would systematically deny anyone their freedom, safety, and daily bread. Sadly, I’ll bet you can come up with myriad examples of that in our world.

All of this leads me to imagine Jesus marching down 16th Street, NW in Washington, DC, stepping up to the podium—after spending some time with the folk who are sleeping on the steps of St. John’s Church—and then stepping into a certain kind of prophetic speech, a cadence meant to unsettle and to make a point. Strong language, hyperbolic utterance, hard words tumble forth such that we are left with little doubt that they’ve landed and done their disturbing work. What is getting shaken loose in these words? What is Jesus trying to get through to us? 

That there are more important things in life than our own comfort or ease. That we are made for more than looking out for #1. That going along to get along may have its place in small matters, but doing so when some lives are treated as they don’t matter may cost you your soul.

The Greek word translated “soul” in verse 28, psuché, is the same word translated “life” in verse 39: “Those who find their life (psuché) will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Psuché can also be translated as “breath.” Our soul, our life, is breathed into us by God. And Jesus teaches our life is precious, valued—every hair of every head is counted!—and meant and sent to do healing and life-giving things. We were made to love—to love God and to love neighbor. That is the life purpose breathed into everyone. But, this life can be diminished, denied, even lost. 

Think of how much true life is lost by those who think they’ve “got the life” and have it all figured out: those who focus only on their own advancement and comfort and are willing to do anything to get it, those whose “smarts” fuel a cynicism that blocks any vision of a new world, much less motivation to work for it, those unwilling to take attention away from managing their own stuff long enough to realize the folks they’re saying should pull themselves up by their bootstraps don’t have boots, folk who don’t bat an eye at the thought of thousands of lives lost to COVID-19 if it means boosting an economy that already benefits those who can comfortably avoid infection as they enjoy the pool at their second or third home.

God breathes life into us and sets us in creation and in community to live with and for one another. We have been given a Kin-dom vision for life together that breaks down walls of hatred, tribalism, prejudice, selfishness, and greed. We are given authority and power and grace from Jesus the Christ to live and to share that vision and that life with love, with boldness, with compassion, with courage. Jesus isn’t preaching that we shouldn’t love our parents or that if we mess up we get a star taken off our “worthy” chart. One of the ten commandments is to honor father and mother—and there are plenty of ready examples of God’s unfailing compassion and mercy and love in scripture as well. What Jesus is preaching is that the love and the way of life to which we are called requires something of us that may lead to conflict even within the communities that have raised and formed us: our families, our church, our circle of friends, our nation. 

Jesus is preaching that we can live a thin peace that doesn’t “rock the boat” and in the process lose the life we were created to live, the life that is willing to sacrifice something in order to participate in the work of love, compassion, and justice. Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor who initially supported, then opposed the Nazi regime in Germany was imprisoned for 7 years in concentration camps. He wrote the following—with some additions to fit our moment: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.” [Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out—because I was not an immigrant. Then they came for the unhoused, and I did not speak out—because I was not unhoused. Then they came for LGBTQ people, and I did not speak out—because I was not LGBT or Q. Then they came for black people, indigenous people, and people of color, and I did not speak out because I was not a person of color.] Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. Beloved, our loved ones ARE at risk and we are receiving message after message to do something about it.

We are being called to rise up in this moment of Spirit-breathed, Spirit-ignited revolution in our city and our nation and in our world—the Pentecost revolution that ignites God’s dream. Today we are given authority and power by the grace of Christ to let go of our fear and find ourselves as agents in the revolutionary dream of God’s all-embracing love unleashed in the world. That will take many forms and each of us will need to discern our particular role. 

What are you willing to risk for the sake of the dream? What kind of peace will you pursue? What love will you share and with whom? What are you willing to risk for the sake of others? What are you willing to lose in order to live the life you’re made for? Are you willing to live as if more than your life is at stake?

Summer Guest Series: Reverend Kimberly Scott - June 14th, 2020

June 15th, 2020

Foundry's Summer Guest Series starts with a guest sermon from Reverend Kimberly Scott

For Such A Time As This-
I. It is indeed and privilege and honour that I stand before you today…For Such a time as time…A few months ago, I could imagined I’d preaching for you today Foundry…The Day following my Ordination as an Elder in Full Connection of the Desert Southwest Conference….Had some one told 10 years ago that would be standing in a virtual pulpit/ anyone virtual pulpit today I wouldn’t have believed…
Preaching, teaching and being a leader CHURCH in the was never on my bucket list church….But God, has been up to something for such a time as this….
A time in which so much of our lives have been put on hold due to COVID 19 PANDEMIC ….A time in which LGBTQIA folks in the UMC are faced with the reality that their promise land has seemingly disappeared over the horizon, and in now out of site…
AT a time such as this that our history, our past has seeming become our new or a renewed reality……. I know this your PRIDE SUNDAY, but it would be socially irresponsible to NOT
You see I understand that there are some of you, who you assumed you’d lived through worst season of racial tension, discrimination, injustice and inequality in this country…
I recognize that some of lived through the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights, Woman’s Lib and Gay and Lesbian Right Movement…
AND there is at least one, generation of persons gathered here today who truly grew up believing they lived in a color blind society…
Some of us thought systemic racism and homophobia was dead in this country with the election of Barack Obama,
AND then there’s unfortunate reality that some gathered here today have seen the CHURCH at war with itself all your life due issues of colonialism, racism, sexism and homophobia….
In other words, some of us have been waiting for TRANSFORMATION to come in in our streets, in the church and our world for way too long…
We are sick and tired of being sick of creating new hash tags…
So what is our call as faithful followers of a Jesus Christ who died so that all might be set FREE?
What is our call as those who claim to serve a Jesus who died to set the oppressed free and so that through his Body humanity might live into the reality of the REALIZED Kin-dom of God?....
I don’t have all of the answers but today text situates us in life of Esther to aid us finding our way forward…For Such A Time as this
II. The text: For Such a time as this
Although most of us have heard or are familiar with the famous quote for such a time as this, from the book of Esther..
Due to the fact that Esther rarely makes the lectionary many don’t know the full or context that makes that statement so profound.
So let us start with who Esther is…
She is a young Jewish woman, orphaned due the death of her parents. Fortunately, she is adopted by her cousin Mordecai.
Mordecai serves as a courier within the Kings royal court…
At this time in Bible History the Jews, God’s chosen people, are in exile. Jerusalem was conquered, its people taken in chains into Babylonian captivity.
So the Jews of the diaspora have, settled and made their homes in Susa, and they are living as a recognized religious minority in the heart of the powerful Persian empire….Thus living on the margins…
Thus, as an orphan and a Jewish female, Esther is a nobody among nobodies in this minority community.
With her true identity kept secret, Esther first appears in the story as one of the young virgins brought into the king's harem, by her cousin Mordecai to be a possible replacements for Vashti, the banished wife of the Persian King.
After a year living in the harem being trained, Esther pleases the king and is eventually crowned queen.
Remember All this takes place while Esther keeps her Jewish identity thus her relation to Mordecia secret (Esth 2:10, 20).
Meanwhile Mordecai he has won favor by serving the king faithfully and even preventing an assassination attempt.

Somehow Mordecai’s Jewish heritage becomes known to an enemy by the of Haman. Haman is also a favored member of the King’s royal court.
Yet, he is jealous of Mordecai and his standing with the king.

Mordecai get into a power struggle with a Haman Mordecai refuses to bow before Haman, and this so infuriates Haman.

Haman decides not only to put Mordecai to death, but also to slaughter his entire people. And he secures the king's permission to do this.

Our text today in Esther 4 picks up right after Mordecai has learned of Haman's plot and he is distraught.

In this distraught state, weeping, and dressed in sackcloth and ashes he shows up at the palace gate wanting to inform Esther of what’s taken place.

After going back and forth with a messenger, Eventually Mordecai reveals Haman’s plot to exterminate all the, Jews…
And pleads for Esther to beg for the Kings mercy to spare her people’s lives

As was read in our text…When Esther first learns of Haman's plot and the threat to her people, her reaction is one of reluctance, helplessness and hopelessness.

She tells Mordecai she could not approach the king without being summoned, and she could possibly face death,

and besides the king has not summoned for me in thirty days, implying that she has fallen out of favor.

Yet, Mordecai's is persistent and send on one last plea:
“Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews.
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish.
And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?’” Esther 4:13-14 (NASB)

III. What is this story about…
Well right away we learn that the leaders of the Persian empire/ Haman, had an agenda… A racist agenda to exterminate all the Jews.

We might now a little bit in this country about racist agenda to exterminate a group of people…

We know a little bit AS Methodist about homophobic agenda to exterminate queer people from the church….

So we should be able to place ourselves inside this story…

FOUNDRY….I need you to place yourself inside this story….
FOUNDRY….I need you to place yourself inside this story….

Esther you are facing the genocide of yourself your people…You are being given a difficult task…..

1. To choose action or to choose to be SILENT when your people needed her the most.
2.Esther you’ve got to choose rather to confront your husband/spouse, the King, the power be,
risking death simply by entering a room without being asked or to do nothing and continue to live a plus life as the Queen Esther.
3. Esther you can choose to plead with your husband/spouse the king, to stop this ethnic cleansing or to do nothing.
4. Esther you can save yourself and your people or you can do nothing.
So secondly this is narrative about choice and free will?
God always give use Choices right……Since the beginning….

Now..When we reflect on Esther’s life, who she was, where she had come from and then read 13-15 it can easily come across as Mordecai scolded her focus self-preservation
In others words we might take it as MORDECAI calling her out for being selfish..…
But listen….Let’s read the text again…
Do not think that because you are in the King’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.

More than any other thing the word that sticks out to me…Is the phrase…For if you remain SILENT time this….For if you remain silent this time

HERE Mordecai catches ESTHER’s attention by clueing her in to the bigger picture…the broader context of who she is..
He essentially say her, although it feels LIKE you have arrived-
You have not made it to your promise land because your in the King’s palace living a lavish life
DON”T forget …You are still a JEW..….
Mordecia is saying…Esther your LIFE is not simply about YOU…But about us……
You did not make it to this PALACE:
for yourself
or by yourself
or because of yourself..
So, don’t to comfortable yet…WE-a collective WE are not arrived at your promise land..
If you remain silent at this time and focus on yourself…Eventually relief will come to our people by you and your family will die….

In speaking these words to Esther…Mordecai draws her away from the needs of self and self-preservation
to a sense of connectivism and into to the UNBUTU spirit..
I am BECAUSE you are…
You are BECAUSE I am

He reminds her she had been CHOSEN for this TIME to set ASIDE her own interests, goals and desire
to let go of her own ambitions, and face their common foe full-on.
And how does Esther reply…

With that message Esther is inspired….No she is compelled to take control…To act quickly in this crisis to save her people in the midst of the threat of death…

She is obediently, faithful.. she is a team player….Eshter goes on to be the savior of her people….She was indeed call for Such a time as this….

She was called to risk her life and her legacy with no guarantees of a positive outcome. Just on faith and Goodwill…
That’s the “for such a time as this” Mordecai challenged Esther to accept.
And that’s the “for such a time as this” God also sets before you and me… So what do we learn from Esther?
So what is Esther teaching here?
First, this is call to not be SILENT when a CRISIS arise amongst our people..When we see harm being done..When injustice in present…In our world…In our churches…
Over the last week, we’ve all heard the stories about people all over the world reacting with protest, riots and marches due to the George Floyd case….
AND to BE quite I honest I really wrestled with my own response the first few days because quite frankly I was scared…
I was scared about being hurt, arrested, being in the wrong place at the wrong time….
And then across the screen flashed on a protestors sign….
Silence = Violence…. Silence = Compliance… …Riots are the voice of the unheard…..
And then the kicker…In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of FRIEND…
I instantly felt convicted like I should be doing something…I took it as my call to stop sitting on the sidelines and to become a part of the solution….
So wrapped up in Esther’s is a call, is Esther teaching us to use our voice to
…To give encourage us …To give us courage AND The power to speak FREEDOM for the captive…For the oppressed…
-Freedom is the call to a protect LIFE of via the ACT of love,

TO SPEAK words of FREEDOM is to BRING ALL TO A PLACE OF wholeness and abundance…

---The call to speak of freedom and speak freedom into EXISTENCE for others ,

challenges evil, destructiveness, oppression, violence, decay, and defeats death…..

AND this INDEED Good news!

-How do we speak of freedom in a world suffering?
- We must be A voices for the voiceless…To speak NEW truth to power..

Because next in our text, There ESTHER’s story models for us how to live OUT OUR CALL AND to put the community
and God’s Kin-Dom building work ahead of our self-seeking ambition..Imagine that…
God has given each of us a job/careers, resources, education and influence….
God has opened doors and given each of us opportunities for God’s Kin-Dom purposes.
God didn’t create us to just sit back and live a lavish life not focused on the world around us.
The more resources and privilege we have the more WE have that belongS to God…
As Luke 12:48 teaches to whom much is given much is required…
BECAUSE God placed us where we ARE today to literally be apart of building UP a NEW WORLD…
I had the privilege of attending the Iliff School of Theology at time when the late Dr. Vincent Harding was there…Dr. Harding assisted in the writing of many of Martin Luther King Jr. speeches….
IN his experience walking beside and working with KING he was inspired to write a song sung to the tune of we are climbing Jacobs ladder, titled…We Are Building Up A New World….That is the song I lead in with today before the prayer…
VINCENT HARDING charged us at Iliff to take seriously our responsibility at Building Up A New World…To take seriously our Kind-Dom building responsibility…
THUS…Today we are in the midst of KinDom battle…The enemy would love to have it’s way by distracting us and
having us be continue to be inwardly focused on the all things that matter to us…But God didn’t build us that way…
Esther could have easily continued to live the lavish LIFE in the King’s palace and let whatever happen to her people just happen…
But she would have most certainly have missed her Kin-Dom Calling and an entire nation would have been lost…
Instead an entire nation was grateful for how Esther responded to Mordecai’s REQUEST. Their lives were spared.
How many lives matter to you? Who’s lives truly manner to you… How have you shown it….
I answered my call to ministry at a time I was mad at God the church for all the harm I had a experienced and openly queer lay person who faithfully served the church….
But God said kin stop whining and crying about how horrible the church has been to you and God and be a part of changes the church, because are not the only one who has been harmed or being harmed by the church….
.And that’s how convinced me of my first for such a time as this moment…. To leave behind, my church, my family and my career…
You see as school counselor for 10 in las Vegas, NV I had witness LGBTQIA youth being harmed by due to the LDS, BAPTIST, CHURCH OF GOD upbringing to name a few.
I saw countless numbers of students in and out of treatment center, some end up runaways and others victims of suicide….
I know It is no mistake that the first Sermon God laid on my heart, An Untimely Commissioning to Speak, Just Might Save the Life of Nation or A People…With that sermon based on Moses calls story ..God was calling me new life of work….To save I believe a generation of LGBTQIA young people of Faith…….
FOUNDRY it’s not just by chance that less than a year AGO today I met your PASTOR and we would do some really HARD, UGLY, GRIMEY work together in our fight LGBTIA liberation in the UMC…..
It is not just by chance that the day after my ordination God has placed me an An openly QUEER/MARRIED, African American in before and placed it in my spirit to preach to proclaim For Such A Time as this because to the TIME IS Now….The time is NOW…My life, my ministry has been filled with taking risk…
Foundry you are being called to LIVE as IF your loved ones lives are AT RISK..
You are being CALLED to live as if you loved lives are at risk…
As if those nearest and dearest to you are the ones facing extermination …Extermination from the church because they are LGBTQIA….
As if those who are nearest and dearest to you are the one being fed the crumbs from the table of a crumbling church…
You are being CALLED to live as if you loved lives are at risk…
As if those nearest and dearest to you are facing or EXECUTION in the street because of the color of their skin..
So many black and brown lives could spared in the world today if today if we’d ALL choose to step up to service, to speak out against racism and police brutality And to fight for legislative and policy changes even if it involves sacrifice, of our money time, gift and talents…
So many QUEER and TRANSPERSONS lives and MINISTRY could be speared more of us would choose to step up the mic and SPEAK out,
Us their resources and political influence to find a way FORWARD to CREATE the church that JESUS died to build…
Finally…. Esther is teaching us here that our call to act is on God’s watch…God’s time not ours…
Esther got the call for Mordecai and responded urgently.. Was the call timely?
NO…In fact, it didn’t make human sense to Esther I’m sure.
She was sure she had finally arrived.. She was sure she had finally become SOMEBODY..Of high stature esteem and respect………
Yet Esther was obedient to the call… She used her privilege ..She sacrifice herself for the sake of others…For the sake of her people…
How many times have received a call to be apart of something that would have caused you to make a sacrifice and you said…
Oh no, not this at moment, this is terrible timing?
….Or perhaps this is not my time… OR I’ve done all that I can do…I’ll leave it to the next generation to figure out…
…We are just prolonging our collective suffering….We are prolonging the the Kin-Dom reality the God so desperately wants us to experience…
We are prolonging bringing an end to SUFFERING, INJUSTICE and OPPRESSION..…

We have been called to be the ones to free the oppressed recover sight to the blind..…

AND to bring about love, peace, and justice today for the transformation of the WORLD today in the hear now… Who are WE waiting ON to do our work for us?

Let us not delay the Kingdom building any longer….

We have been called….For such a time as this. Because the time is now……

Let us pray….

….We stand in awe of your timing, yet we have gathered together today embracing it…

Because as the song goes, all we have is now; To be faithful, To be holy And to shine lighting up the darkness.. For Such a time as this we were placed upon the earth
to hear the voice of God And do God will will…

For such a time as this we stand in awe Oh God for how you’ve readied us for your service , for how you commission us for your service at your pace.

… Oh God although the mystery of your timing seems to evade us, God in your timeliness and in your way you brought us here together from places near and fear, through many dangers seen and unseen, from many different life experiences, paths, cultures and social location and united as the Body.

Yet, we must also confess oh God we have left much undone…We have not adequality to proclaimed good news to the poor.

We have not adequately proclaimed liberty to the captives and allowed the blind to see,

We have not adequality free oppressed,

Continue to equip us in YOUR of work of Kin-DOM building…

Help us oh God continue to build your kingdom of justice, peace fueled the passionate love of you oh God, self and neighbor.

Empower us to see through your eye the inequalities of the world and in holy frustration be the change we want to see in our world.

Let us no longer allow for injustices and evils that that rob so many of their future.

Eternal God And above all, fill us with your Spirit and your Holy boldness…. That we might look to hours, days, and years ahead with hope, determination for such a time as this, because the TIME is NOW!

From Beginning to End - June 6th, 2020

June 8th, 2020

From Beginning to End

A sermon preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli for Foundry UMC June 7, 2020, Trinity Sunday. “Living As If…” series. 

Text:  Genesis 1:1-2, Matthew 28:16-20

In the beginning…to the end of the age. These are the first and last phrases in our two assigned texts for this day. And as we come together on this Sunday following the events of this past week I want to highlight what these words hold. They hold the promise of God’s presence in this world, God’s abiding presence with the whole of creation, God’s steadfast, tender presence with you and with me in the depths of our suffering and the soaring heights of our triumphs—from beginning to end, God is with us. God’s creating and re-creating love was and is and is to come. In the beginning, God created and Spirit blew across the waters, bringing life and flourishing out of formless void and chaos. And at the end, Jesus says, “I will be with you.”  Between the beginning and the end, we are commissioned by Jesus to do the work that he himself does—to proclaim the good news of God’s reign, to heal, liberate, and usher in new life (Mt 10:7-8), to baptize, to teach others “to obey everything he commanded,” and to do it all “in the name” of the God whom Jesus reveals most fully. Just as Jesus was the presence of God in flesh, so now we are given power to be Christ’s presence in the world.

The so-called “Treat Commission” we heard today may hang some of us up on certain words that drag around a lot of baggage, words like “authority” or “obey” or “commandment” or even the phrase “make disciples.” These things can conjure images of exclusion, authoritarianism, cultural theft, colonialism, forced “conversion,” and intellectual and physical violence done for the sake of making people conform to “our way.” And all this is due to the fact that the language and teachings of the Bible have been twisted and used to do violence in myriad ways over the centuries.

But I refuse to let the language and life-giving promise of our book be held hostage forever by such abuses. These verses from Matthew provide guidance for the living of these days. So let’s be clear right up front that in this text, the one with authority didn’t take authority away from anyone but has been given that authority from God, our Mother/Father who released him into the world and through the power of Holy Spirit who anoints and fills him. Jesus never used divine authority to manipulate or do violence. To “make disciples” is not to frighten or bludgeon people into some thin profession, but to help people know of God’s liberating love and how to practice the way of life Jesus taught. What we’re asked to teach others to obey are the commandments of Jesus, including the powerful and challenging teachings in the sermon on the mount, like the beatitudes, loving your enemies, and praying for those who persecute you. The parables and teachings of Jesus require careful, prayerful thinking and interpretation—not mindless box-checking. And the greatest commandment in the law according to Jesus is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself. (Mt 22) That, he said, is the heart of it all, the central teaching of our faith. All the law and prophets only make sense when interpreted through the law of love.

This is the “one beautiful law”—this and none other—that governs the lives of those who seek to share in God’s life. The law of love is upheld not primarily through warm feelings. It is not upheld through good intentions. It is not enacted through violence, control, manipulation, or showing off. The law of love is upheld through doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)

From beginning to end God has been with us, is with us, will be with us to help us to live and to serve, to pray and work for the Kin-dom to be ever more manifest on earth as it is in heaven with the law of love at the center. 

See how God has shown up in the past: God was with the prophet Miriam as she sang and danced her people’s march from slavery to freedom (Ex 20:20ff). God was with the people as they received the challenge from Moses and then Joshua to choose either life or death (Deut 30:15) and whether to serve the God of liberation or the idols of empire (Josh 24:15). God was with Esther as she defied the law of the land and challenged the king to advocate for the lives of her people (Esther 4:14-16). God was with David as he faced Goliath, with young prophet Jeremiah, with pitiful, tantrum-throwing Jonah, with Ruth and Naomi who had to get creative just to survive, with the women of Bethlehem wailing for their children slain by Herod (Mt 2:16-18). God was with the people who lined the streets as Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, hailing him as the one who comes in the name of the Lord. God was with those who have organized workers to advocate for equity and safety, with those who have fought in the courts for true justice for their neighbors, with the ones who’ve met in church basements and congregation halls for decades, training, praying, and mobilizing to care for the creation, the impoverished, the disenfranchised, and oppressed, with those who have preached and marched and sat in or sat down, who walked out or broke through for the sake of justice. God has been with brilliant scholars who provide critique and vision and with young leaders in the Black Lives Matter and other movements for change across our country, those whose blood, sweat, and tears have helped bring us to the moment we are witnessing now. Jesus was present with every victim of a lynching or murderous hate crime, knowing full well what it feels like to be so abused. See…….God has been with us from the beginning.

And God is with us as we march, as we choose, as we struggle, as we try to release our idols and resist empire. God is with us as we advocate for change that will protect the lives of black and brown people, as we stand up to aggressors and oppressors. God is with us as we cry out in lament and solidarity with all those victimized by racial violence and by injustice in our land. God is with us as we line our streets and kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor the life of George Floyd and to honor all lives lost and to proclaim our commitment to create a world that values human lives more than property, economic gain, or growth in the markets.  

God is with us in our bold acts of courage and sacrifice, and in every little act of love, tenderness, mutuality, or care. God is with us in the places where we get hung up, afraid, defensive, angry, or anxious. God is with us in the beautiful, complicated mix of human experience where—did you know?—we can hold many different realities, concerns, and ideas together at the same time! Human life doesn’t exist in either/or categories for is always both/and/and/and… For just one example, you can love and support friends and family who are in the military or police force AND advocate for change—even full-blown overhaul—in those institutions. God is with us in this beautiful mix where today, at one and the same time, we can be proudly celebrating our graduates AND deeply grieving or raging at the systemic racism that plagues our land AND being distracted or distressed by personal issues AND feeling hopeful and inspired by the ways that people in our city and across the nation and world are rising up to say that racist violence must end. God is with us.

And God will be with us in whatever happens next. God will be with us as we not only show up to share in public protest, but show up at the ballot box, respond to calls to organize and build public power for change, and participate in public actions that advocate for new priorities and policies that serve our most vulnerable neighbors and the common good. God will be with us as we pray with and for one another, deepen our awareness of the things that sustain white supremacy in our lives and organizations, (complete our Journey to Racial Justice survey), address the brokenness in our personal lives and relationships, do our part to dismantle unjust systems and to build a society truly founded upon the law of love. 

God will be with us when we hurt each other in the process of building a better world. God will be with us as we make mistakes. God will be with us as we struggle to know what to do. God will be with us as we keep trying. 

In God’s ongoing re-creation of the world, all the gifts of the people of God are needed: good thinking, deep praying, generous giving, wise visioning, strong leadership, loving agitation, thoughtful parenting, careful administration, strategic organization, inspired artistic expression, smart lawyering, spiritual and physical healing, patient teaching, loyal friendship, and every other gift we have to offer. God will be with us.

I want to say to beloved black and brown members of our family, I see you and have been praying for you and for wisdom to serve and to lead in ways that encourage, strengthen, and honor you as we continue to build beloved community in Foundry and beyond. Now is the time for me and others to not only imagine or dream or pray for a world where you are truly safe, free, celebrated, and honored but to ask for forgiveness for the ways I/we have failed, to listen deeply, humbly do our own work to become anti-racist, discern where we can make the most difference in the cause, and then get busy making it happen. This is my commitment and one I invite other white members of Foundry to affirm. //

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be: God creates, breathes Spirit into matter and calls it good, creating one beautifully diverse human family. God strengthens weak knees and binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted, is compassionate and merciful, scooping us up from the pit to save us. God continues to lift up and anoint every sort of person to participate in the ongoing work of making the world more gentle, more just, more whole, more in the flow of God’s amazing grace. May we be daily baptized into that flow, immersed in that grace, anointed by Spirit, to receive and invite others to share in God’s liberating life and love and to pour out our own lives in humble, loving service after the way of Jesus Christ. And may we do that as steadfastly as our God is with us: namely, from beginning to end.