Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunday Sermon

Advent 3 Year B 12\14\08
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
By Rich Gamble

Imagine how the world would be if you were queen or king. How would you order it? Most of us flawed humans would order the world in such a way that we would prosper and the people we liked would prosper and we would be able to keep our hands on the throne. Now that is exactly what we are taught to do with power. Use it to prosper and help those connected with us prosper and make sure that we retain the power so that things continue to go our way. In the world of the Domination System which we are taught is ultimate reality, this is called success.

If we really let it, the alternative reality of this poem shatters the hold of the Domination System on our way of understanding the measure of meaning of success in our lives. God here takes the side of losers.

Now if you are one of the losers mentioned in the poem: the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the prisoners, this is good news; but if you are not one of those folks, then this poem constantly reminds you that no matter where the wheel of fortune takes you it’s the losers who have God’s ear, and it makes you think differently about success.

Ultimately success is found in aligning yourself with the values you think are most important. So success in the world of the God of this poem (and this poem reflects much of the sentiment of the Bible) is aligning yourself with the losers; who, with God on their side and all of those who honor this God as well, means that the losers really aren’t the losers after all. The losers are the winners and the winners are the losers.

That is what the reference to “the year of the Lord's favor,” is all about. It is a reference to the Jubilee that event that is supposed to occur once every fifty years when debts are forgiven and land goes back to the original owners. One day you are a loser in life’s game, poor, in debt, with no work, and no assets and then comes the year of the Lord’s favor and bingo bango you are out of debt, you have a job as a farmer, and you own the land you farm free and clear. You are a big winner. Now if you have all sorts of people who owe you money and you have greatly expanded your land holdings then the year of the Lord’s favor is no favor to you. One day you are leading a life of opulent leisure and the next day you are sweating behind a plow on a piece of land that is no bigger than anyone else’s. You are a big loser.

This poem and one of two primary trajectories of the Bible turns the Domination System on its head and calls us to live in that reality today and not wait for those with all the power and wealth to decide one day to give it all away.

The poem doesn’t describe the reality found within the Domination System which the world sees as the only real alternative for civilization. The poem describes an alternative reality which comes to pass as we live in it. We make the path by walking it.

My natural inclination is to talk about this in terms of economics because in America in the 21st Century the dollar is a primary source of meaning for our social order. But it is important to understand that there are other ways that this alternative reality is experienced.

One way was the way this church chose to go before I was pastor. At some point the church went through a process and declared itself Open and Affirming to people who were Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered. In most churches, to go through the process means to study, pray, and then a vote. The vote is to be open to the presence of members of the GLBT community in our community, but more than that it is a vote to be affirming of them as they are and not expect that they will have to hide who they are to conform to the majority.

Often the process creates divisions among those who are supportive of the GLBT community and those who believe that such persons are living contrary to the will of God. Generally when a church goes through this process some folks leave. It can be painful to take such a stand for a church and often people wonder why do it, why pursue a process which is going to cause hurt feelings and division.

Well you see the people who say such things are the winners. They like the way things are and don’t want to shake up the world. But just as this poems says, God is all about shaking up the world and taking the side of those who are oppressed and imprisoned. Sometime that prison is the prison of being forced to hide who you are.

It is good to restate and confirm that stand taken by this church years ago. And it is important to state that it is the belief that this church is open to and affirming of our gay lesbian, bisexual and transgendered sister and brothers. And we do this because of our faith in God revealed in scripture like that today.

In general our faith calls on us to stand on the side of those that the Domination System oppresses.

The Domination System supports belief in God and also uses the Bible. They would say that God is in control of everything and God wants each individual person to conform to the majority expression of the gender they were given and if they fail to do so, they are standing in contradiction to God. But the God they refer to is the God of Domination, who wants to force people to conform to way things are rather than transform the way thing are to a more just and loving world.

In terns of economics that means to transform our economic system to accommodate those who are poor. In terms of political systems it means to transform our politics to accommodate those who lack influence. In terms of our social systems it means to transform those systems to accommodate those who are oppressed because of who they are.

This poem calls us to be on the side of a revolutionary God whose love is manifested by dramatic transformations of the systems which shape our world.

The ways we participate in that revolution of compassion and justice are many and varied but it begins by our commitment to treat each person who finds themselves among us with support and love.

Then all we have to do help the world do the same.