On Sunday, I made a mistake in my sermon. As part of a list of bad news in the world, I said, “A white teenaged vigilante travelled from Illinois to Wisconsin with an assault rifle and killed two black protestors is on trial in Kenosha, WI.”
I was wrong. The white teenager shot three white people. The three victims (Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz) were white. The teenager on trial killed Rosenbaum and Huber. Saying they were black was my mistake, and I hate to have given any inaccurate information.
My misstep ended up highlighting the point I was trying to make. I was talking about the bad news that monopolizes the news cycle and the challenge of finding hope in this broken world. As if on cue, on Monday, two people emailed and two people called the church. They all complained about my error. They called me a “liar” and one person said, “You’re going to rot in hell for this.” After a little searching, we found that someone pulled the 14 second clip of my inaccurate sentence and put it with the words, “Liar! Liar!”
Neither the callers nor the people who emailed are members or regular attenders of the church. From what we can tell, none of them had any previous connection with UBC. But, their anger demonstrates the division in our country. The vitriol shows the deep feelings people have and the need for us to find ways to share God’s love in this polarized moment.
I will try to do a better job of verifying the facts before saying something. The point of last Sunday’s service was being able to talk to God. We looked at Hannah and saw someone who could take her problems to God. The beautiful part of this story is: God listened. When my error distracts anyone from hearing this important message, I need to apologize and commit to doing everything I can to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.
Addressing current events, especially divisive ones, sounds too political to some people. However, when we avoid anything with a whiff (or stench) of politics, we compartmentalize Jesus and risk a disingenuous reading of the gospels. Almost everything Jesus did had political connotations. His first words in Mark, “The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1.15), were political. We might not see it, but Romans would have heard his speech as a threat. Elsewhere, he addressed taxes and authority (Mark 12.13-17). He didn’t limit his critique to Rome. He told Jewish political leaders that they made God’s house into a “den of thieves” (Mark 11.17).
Sharing love and inclusion in a world of pain will bring push back. When someone feels threatened or cast aside, their fight or flight instinct with kick in. People like the Illinois teenager who traveled to Kenosha, WI, need God’s love too. There’s a reason he felt like he needed to protect businesses, even though they say they did not ask him to protect it. What led him to this moment? It reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37).
When we read Luke 10.25-37, we focus on the good person who stopped to help the injured one. We can also ask what happened to make the thieves start thieving. In this divided moment, we can ask, “What makes people resort to violence and feel the need to carry an assault rifle?”
We have work to do. For my part, I will try to be more accurate when referencing current events. I will also commit to double my effort to apply the gospel to our world. Recently, we have been trying very hard to reach new people. In an ironic twist, we appear to have succeeded this week.
Looking forward to your replies 🙂