Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday's sermon

6TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST—Emmanuel, Killingworth

            Today we heard the story of Mary and Martha. Martha is fretting, doing chores, cooking and worrying while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and absorbs his wisdom. Martha comes to complain and ask for Mary’s help and Jesus tells her, “Mary has chosen the better part.”
            I won’t ask you to raise your hands, but in the honestly of your heart tell yourself if you are more like Martha or Mary.
            I bet I’m talking to a bunch of Martha’s here today!
            Most of us, most of the time, are fretting like Martha, working on many tasks, not taking time to call out our Mary side and listen quietly to the ‘still, small voice of God.’
            That’s what we need to do, especially in these times: sit and listen for the wisdom of Jesus.
            I’m going to tell you about my upbringing a bit, because it will lead me to what I want to say later.
            I grew up in the southern most county of West Virginia, McDowell County. If you’re from there you say ‘MACK-dowell’ instead of Mac-Dowell. There were about 100,000 people in an area larger than Rhode Island—about half Black and half White.
            Though half the people in my little town were African American, I knew only two of them by name: Gene Kelly, who worked in my uncle’s grocery store and his wife, Delia, who was my uncle’s housekeeper and cook. But many of the Black adults and a good number of the kids knew my name since my two uncles owned a grocery store, a dry goods store and the Esso station and my father sold them insurance.
            I was never in a classroom with an African American until my senior year of high school though it was over a decade after Brown vs. The Board of Education. The next year the two separate school systems were going to merge, so Gary District High sent 6 students to be in my senior class: three talented male athletes and three very smart females to smooth the way. They weren’t allowed at the prom, so I didn’t attend either.
            I was good friends in college with a young man who graduated from Gary District. He would introduce me to his friends by saying, “Jim and I went to different high schools together!”
            And it wasn’t just race. When I was leaving Anawalt Junior High to go 12 miles down the road to Gary High, our Principal addressed the 9th graders. (Anawalt was almost completely Anglo Saxon, and Black of course, but almost no people of other ethnic origins.) Principal Ramsey told us (please excuse the language but I want you to hear what he said): “The Hunks and Tallies and Pollacks down at Gary aren’t going to accept you. You will be shunned.”
            A man with a Master’s Degree told 14-year-old kids that!
            It was a dark and racist time for me growing up. Which brings me to another place—today our country seems to be moving back toward those time instead of toward more diversity and more inclusion.
            Attacks against Muslims and Jews are way up from 5 years ago. Hate crimes are increasing. White Nationalists and Neo-Nazi’s are bolder and more public now. Immigrants and even ethnic people born in this country are more fearful than they had been. Human beings fleeing, in most cases, for their lives are separated from they children and held in cages along the southern boarder.
            I’m not talking about policy disagreements. In a democracy, there are always policy disagreements—it is a sign of the strength and health of the democracy. I’m talking about the violation of basis human rights—rights all of God’s children should expect in ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’.
            Martha work is needed to correct all this—but Mary work is needed more. We need to sit with God and ponder God’s wisdom and wonder how things have gone wrong. Before Martha gets to work, Mary must drown out the rhetoric and the noise and ponder the will of God, seeking guidance for the work to be done to insure ALL PEOPLE a part of the Dream of this great and good land.
            So, let your Mary side ponder our plight so her wisdom can guide the work our Martha side has to do.     Amen.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.