“Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
That line has always troubled me beloved—what does Jesus mean when he says this? I don’t think I quite understood it until this week.
He stood before the firing line with a paper heart held to his chest. They had trumped up murder charges on him; the powers that be wanted him dead because he was bringing people together and demanding fair wages. Labor Organizer, Joe Hill’s famous last words were, “Don’t mourn. Organize.
How those words resonated in my head this week as I read the Gospel over and over again and read this troubling line: let the dead bury the dead but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom.
Don’t mourn. Organize.
There’s no going back beloved. Only forward. Onward. No time for mourning, no time for lament or comfort. It is time to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Time to occupy Christianity.
Have you noticed that I’ve used that phrase a great deal lately beloved? Occupy Christianity…
Many years ago, I made a conscious decision to stay Christian because I love Jesus Christ. I believe in the Kingdom and its presence here on earth. And I wasn’t going to let others who enacted hate and control to co-op the name Christian. I was going to occupy Christianity with a vision of grace and love that I saw and continue to see in Jesus. That I continue to see in you beloved and in the Episcopal Church. We are called to Occupy Christianity in the face of growing extremes and divisions.
Our Christian faith is being coopted for the sake of power and culture over our culture. This is what it looks like to take Christ’s name in vain.
Onward now. Onward. Shoulder to the plow. No turning back. This reading from the Gospel today is inviting us to a commitment that’s quite scary if you ask me. Frightening because we are invited to be prophets for Jesus.
Prophets tell the truth even when it is uncomfortable. And right now, the truth is beyond uncomfortable—it is disconcerting and quite frightening.
One of the plumblines of democracy is how we treat women and their bodies. That isn’t my brainchild—that measurement comes from scholars who study democracy. How we treat women and their rights is a measurement of how democratic a nation is.
We are watching the rise of a toxic theology – a mix of racism, greed, nationalism, and a dead on no doubt certainty that there is only one golden ticket out of hell and that is through the blood of Jesus. That is no our theology beloved.
When I talk about occupying Christianity, I am talking about confronting the principalities and powers within our own religion. The extremism that is coming to a head in our time. We have no time to mourn. Onward! We have gospel work to do!
Neighbors to love, creation to care for, the marginalized and the poor who feel the effects of mighty political decisions far more keenly than we do because they have less access to resources. We are called to be imitators of Christ. Jesus who was poor and organized people to occupy justice and mercy. How are we called to be like that beloved?
I wonder how each of us will choose to occupy our Christianity.
I know beloved I’ve been promising to preach about growing our movement as the Episcopal church in Stillwater over the summer but golly, the headlines and Holy Spirit keep on popping up in ways that I simply can’t ignore.
I had it all worked out the sermon was written and then… well, I had to rip it up and start all over again because women’s health and bodies matter.
It was Karl Barth who once wrote preach with a Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
As we think about growing our movement because that’s what the church is—a prophetic movement that ushers in the Kingdom of God, I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that people are hungry for Jesus and what he shared. It is not Jesus that people object to as much as it the ways we choose to not follow him when we say we are Christian. This is a big obstacle in our way. Our own hypocrisy pettiness and fear of being prophetic.
But what if the answer is to occupy Christianity with grace, love and the very unepiscopal value of not being silent anymore about things that truly matter!
I remember some year back when Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected Presiding Bishop, comedian John Stewart quipped that Episcopalians everywhere politely cleared their throats—yes we are known for our decorum! But for God sake, it is time we occupy Christianity and not be silent anymore!
What if the answer is to be relevant by choosing to ask questions and have the hard conversations about things that really matter like supreme court decisions, caring for our creation, and loving our neighbors? Would if the answer is to be a movement of people whose behavior communicates love. Not just kindness but real love which is justice. That’s what people want from us. There’s no time for anything else right now.
So onward beloved. Onward. Shoulder to the plow.
Don’t mourn. Organize.