NOTICE TO ON-DEMAND WORSHIPPERS
In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scriptures used and the message. Union Grove UMC in partnership with Southland Books & Cafe, began holding Second Sunday Community Church in January 2023. Second Sunday Community Church takes place at 3 p.m. ET the second Sunday of every month, meets in-person at The Bird & The Book, and is also live-streamed on Facebook. Holy Communion is offered at every Second Sunday service. If you are worshipping on Second Sundays online whether during the live-cast or through on-demand viewing, you are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.
God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Scriptures this morning come from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition.
MESSAGE – Resurrection Revolution
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
How many here watched the goings on in Nashville this past week, especially Thursday? Watching it, I was constantly reminded of the events that took place the first Holy Week, especially in view of all the other things that have taken place this year in the temple of the State. Just like happened in the first Holy Week, the leaders of the State Temple and Empire have pronounced judgments that demonize, dehumanize, oppress, and even attempt to eradicate certain minorities, and … just as Pilate and the Temple Leaders believed they had silenced Jesus by his crucifixion, the State Temple and Empire leaders believe they have managed to silence the voices of some 150,000 people.
Now, in the first Holy Week, Pilate and the Temple Leaders failed. Yes, Jesus died and was buried. But … other things took place when he died and while he was in that tomb. When he died, the veil in the temple tore in two … right down the middle … the veil … this massive curtain that separated the people from the presence of God … this massive curtain that only the high priest could go behind and then only once each year … split, allowing the people direct access to the presence of God without intercession of the priests. ALL people.
After he was buried and while he was in that tomb, Jesus didn’t just lie there on that slab. He did something … something big … something important. Jesus descended into Hell, broke open the gate, and emptied it. He took everyone that had been in hell to heaven. You might say, all hell broke loose!
Then, on the third day, when Mary Magdalene and another woman or two went to the tomb to anoint his body as was the tradition, they discovered the stone had been rolled away! The two angels they found there told them Jesus wasn’t there, and their first thought was that someone had stolen his body. But then he appeared to them, told them to go ahead of him to Galilee, and he would meet them there. Told them to gather and tell the others.
And they did, and the disciples gathered in that same upper room where they’d shared the last meal with him, doors and windows locked, voices lowered, fearful they would be discovered by the same Temple and Empire guards that had taken Jesus to be crucified. Closeted in that room, they waited.
And then Jesus was before them! No knock on the door, nothing. He was just there. Not as a semi-transparent ghostly figure, either. He was there. Alive. In the flesh. Right there with them.
That’s a lot to take in, isn’t it? Like something out of a science fiction or fantasy movie? Hard to believe? I imagine it was just as hard for them to believe. But here is why I believe it.
See, too many people focus on the birth of Christ who has to be born in order to get to the events of Holy Week, especially his death and resurrection. They miss all the stuff leading up to it … all those red letters … and they cherry pick the things that come after … the things written about in Acts. They miss them almost intentionally, I think, because here’s the thing … as Beatrice Bruteau wrote: “Jesus breaks boundaries in his own life and causes a lot of shock, and he tells other people that anything he can do they can do also. Follow me, be the light of the world, all of you. You can do it. The kingdom is at hand: you don’t have to wait, you can do it now. The power of God is vested in you – hidden in you, perhaps, but it’s there. Believe in it, let it shine.”
The boundaries Jesus broke so traumatized the Temple leaders and Pilate, that they crucified him to get him out of the way. He was a threat to their power, their control over the people, and therefore their financial security. No power of the people, no control of the people, no job. And they just couldn’t have that. So they killed him, thinking that would be the end of it and everything would return to normal. That would “Make everything great again.”
That’s kind of what’s been going on here in Tennessee and in other states as well. The Temple and Empire leaders have been working overtime to eliminate threats to their power, control, and financial security by enacting harmful, unjust laws, demonizing drag performers, dehumanizing transgender folk, banning books, curriculum, even “words,” and debilitating educators and healthcare professionals from doing their jobs. In another state, one judge has even decided he knows more than the FDA, overturning the FDA’s approval of a drug that’s been in use for 23 or more years. Yet other states are beginning to restrict travel for women who may be pregnant, are subjecting children to invasive “inspection” of their private parts, and there’s worse out there.
And Tennessee has just very overtly shown it’s racist nature by ousting two young, African American representatives who dared speak up for the people they were elected to represent.
The sky is dark, thunder and lightening are rolling, and it seems all hope is gone.
But … Palm Sunday is occurring on a more and more regular basis as people march in peaceful protest with cries of Hosanna and help us, hear us.
Jesus spent the day after Palm Sunday in the Temple teaching and flipping the tables of the corrupt. Look around … tables are being flipped more and more frequently and the corrupt are beginning to be held accountable for their actions.
Thursday saw two men tried and legislatively crucified. And what happened? The veil of superiority tore in two! The two men those Temple and Empire leaders thought they were punishing rose to even higher levels of importance and impact and, come Monday, will most likely be resurrected into their seats in Congress.
And the growth of the voices calling for change is growing louder and louder! People all over this country are standing up, taking notice, and speaking out. About everything. About every hateful, harmful act of the Temple and Empire.
Jesus spent his adult life teaching us how to live in the kingdom on earth, teaching us the real image of God, and reminding us that we are ALL beloved children of God. ALL of us, no caveats, no questions asked.
Jesus’s death and resurrection had a purpose beyond simple salvation. His resurrection started a revolution! That revolution has been going on for over 2000 years. It’s had it’s rocky points. It’s had some bad leaders that took it off course here and there, but the real Jesus revolutionaries … the folks that stick to what HE taught? They’ve never stopped fighting for love, for peace, and for inclusion of all.
And we can’t either. We need to commit to continue the Resurrection Revolution. We need to do whatever it takes to maintain our faith in Christ and what he taught us, our faith in God as we know him from He who walked among us. We may have our doubts now and then, we may get worried or frustrated or even discouraged, but we need to remember to take a breath and rise up to fight another day.
In his book Faith After Doubt, Brian McLaren describes four stages of the faith journey—Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity, and Harmony—through which we move repeatedly over the course of our lives. As we grow in faith, our specific beliefs become less important than the revolutionary love to which we are called:
“I have all kinds of mixed feelings about slogans. They often oversimplify and therefore mislead. But they’re pithy and memorable and therefore have some value. So, acknowledging my mixed feelings, I’d like to offer this pair of slogans to summarize the heart of our message so far:
Faith before doubt: it’s about correct beliefs.
Faith after doubt: it’s about revolutionary love.
In other words, the journey of faith through Simplicity and Complexity involves learning and perfecting beliefs. The journey of doubt through Perplexity involves questioning not only specific beliefs but the whole belief system approach to faith. Then, the journey into Harmony is a journey beyond beliefs into revolutionary love.
By revolutionary love, I mean love beyond: love that goes beyond myself to my neighbor, beyond my neighbor to the stranger, alien, other, outcast, and outsider; beyond the outsider to the critic, antagonist, opponent, and enemy; and even beyond the human to my non-human fellow creatures. In short, revolutionary love means loving as God would love: infinitely, graciously, extravagantly. To put it in more mystical terms, it means loving with God, letting divine love fill me and flow through me, without discrimination or limit, as an expression of the heart of the lover, not the merit of the beloved, including the correctness of the beloved’s beliefs.
Now I need at this point to make clear that I am not against beliefs. Beliefs are necessary. They are interesting. They are unavoidable. But belief, the act of holding a set or system of beliefs, is not the same thing as faith, even though we often use the words imprecisely and interchangeably. To explore the difference, let’s consider the insight of Alan Watts [1915–1973], a twentieth-century philosopher of Eastern religions who tried to capture the difference between faith and belief like this:
We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would “lief” or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.”
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: heaven and earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.
Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.
Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.
Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.
Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.
Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.
Rainbow colors come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.
Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on earth. In the rainbow space, we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colors of the world!
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