Sermon Highlights written by Shelton Radix
Some people think that the Church should not be involved in political situations. I come from a different school of thought where Jesus was very involved in politics and says to us Better be ready to put on your long white robes (from song “I Want To Be Ready” by Ben Harper)
We are children of the most high and Jesus was tried in his lifetime to teach us how to be ready at all times.
The theme of the Gospel is for us to be ready for we do not know when the thief comes; but more important we do not know when Jesus comes and says that it’s time to come with me. It is especially difficult for people who do not believe that they have accomplished everything they wanted to do.
When I was about to graduate from seminary we were told that we are going to be leaders of congregations and as leaders one of our responsibilities is to prepare people for eternity. We had to remind everyone that the time is short in which we had to accomplish the things we want to accomplish. As leaders we have to show people how to act in this limited time in order to leave a mark on the world. We were told we had to remember that people trusted us to lead them into the land of promise. Life is short. How will you end the journey that God has sent you on? How do you want to be remembered? What is your legacy?
How are we going to leave our mark in this world? How do we make it to the land of promise before we die? So many people have set out to accomplish things in history and went home before they left their mark. Maybe it is not up to us when we are called home?
In today’s Gospel Jesus says, 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.
Are we in the Kingdom? Whose kingdom are we talking about? Are we invited? It may appear that some of us are not invited to the kingdom. Are we allowed to live in this Kingdom? Is it for us?
In today’s world we ask ourselves this question when we look at the experience of God’s people. There are many people who traveled thousands of miles to come to this country seeking better lives, seeking the land of promise. America, for many, gives people the hope of that land of promise; we understand America to be the land of promise.
We live in a land of immigrants. On more than one occasion I have been challenged by others here in this country about my right to live in this country, and not by whites but by people that look just like me. I constantly remind them of this fact. Unfortunately even from members of the clergy.
Whose Kingdom are we talking about? In the past few years we have lived through Sandy Hook and Pittsburgh and now last week El Paso and Chicago. George Yancy, an American philosopher, teacher and author, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Dear God, Are You There?” This letter to God was written in response to these tragedies.
Immigrants and people of color are asking this question. Is the kingdom for me or only the rich and the corporate heads? Is it only for the gun owners and CEOs?
Yancy quoted James Baldwin, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”
In tragedies we question if there is really a God and why he allows these things to happen. Why can’t we have a genuine relationship with God? Yancy expresses these thoughts and quotes Karl Marx, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and other philosophers who question the existence of God and the futility of explaining why a man would drive 100 miles just to kill people in a town that is predominately Mexican in heritage and relations.
How do we go on? How do we exist after this? Where is the kingdom?
It takes Faith. Faith is not only about belief. It is about practice. It takes all of us to practice our faith. It takes all of our faith to understand how a human being, not a machine, can just kill other human. For all human death diminishes us and we must hold together in faith.
We must pray for the dark soul of this nation. We must pray and act. The Benedictine Monks have a Prayer, “Give us also the courage also to work to achieve the things we prayed for”. You have to pray and then take action, such as putting pressure on the people in Washington DC as well as reaching out to bring more people into the kingdom of God without regard to ethnicity, class or financial wealth. It is unreasonable that people should struggle all their lives only to die in this cruel and hateful/hate-filled way. We have work and prayer to do.
It is not only through faith but by our works that things will change. As devoted followers of Jesus we have to go out and work and share Jesus with everyone.
Cannon Jemmott concluded his sermon with this song:
The Rev. Canon Dr. Brian Jemmott serves as Canon to the Ordinary and Transitions Officer of the Diocese of New Jersey. Canon Jemmott joined the diocese in February 2016 as Canon Missioner for Black Ministries. A year later he was appointed by The Right. Rev. Bishop Stokes to his current position. Canon has been dubbed “The Singing Priest”.
Ordained a priest in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago in the Province of the West Indies on the Feast of St. Matthew, September 21, 1991, Fr. Jemmott has served in the Diocese of Atlanta since 1997 as a parish priest and in campus ministry. He was the rector of the Church of the Holy Cross in Atlanta since 2006. Fr. Jemmott earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Episcopal Divinity School in 2009. His thesis was titled, “Other Sheep I Have: Realizing God’s Kingdom Beyond the Margins by Celebrating God’s Diversity in the Black Episcopal Church.”