In the wake of the horrific happenings in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday August 12, I understand that some pastors changed their sermons entirely. In other words, they discarded what they had initially planned to say to their congregations in order to address the events of the day before. On this occasion it appears that what is usually understood as a term for ministerial laziness was actually justified and I am sure required considerable work – a Saturday night special. I decided against throwing away what I had planned to preach to our congregation on Sunday, August 13. Instead, I incorporated the demonstrations in Charlottesville of racial and ethnic hatred into my already planned remarks. One reason for this decision is simply that I need time to process happenings such as these.
Now that over a week has passed since the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazi groups espoused their warped understanding of the world, I am satisfied with my initial remarks that emerged from the pulpit of First Baptist Ahoskie. Thus, I would like to record a summary of the main points for our further reflection as well as for preservation.
The text for Sunday, August 13 was Romans 10:5-15 and the sermon title was “Happy Feet” (because I do not believe anyone has beautiful feet!). I suggested two things that Sunday as related to the events in Charlottesville the day before. First, we must all confess before God the sin of racism. Even though none of us were among the racist groups demonstrating, like the demonstrators themselves we are participants in the human condition. The people espousing such hatred look like us. They have eyes, ears, legs, arms, etc… What we saw in Charlottesville represents the lows that we human beings have the potential to descend into without an adequate embrace of the good news of Jesus the Christ.
Next, I proposed a reality that greatly impacted me as I watched the violence in Charlottesville – there are potentially severe consequences to neglecting our participation in the church of Jesus the Christ. As the church, we put forth the message that if we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and if we believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead we shall be saved. Thus, the best way to combat racism, hatred, and violence is with the Prince of Peace himself. And it is the church of Jesus the Christ – and no other organization – that holds this message. Indeed, we have happy feet!
Furthermore, as white folks living in the south (and most of us raised in the south) racism continues to be in the air that we breathe. How long has it been since you heard a racial slur or joke? Unfortunately, the answer might be “yesterday” or “last week”. Thus, if we are not consistently gathering together for the worship of God and instruction in the teachings of Jesus, the risk that racism and hatred will manifest itself in our own lives is greatly increased.