This is the manuscript for my sermon for Sunday, September 6. The text is Psalm 146. This Sunday, the Bishop Eaton asked ELCA churches to join with churches of the AME for "Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism." We used a form of the confession and prayers that were provided as resources, and I included that theme into my message.
This psalm starts and ends with a word we don’t say often enough, hallelujah.
So, say it with me, hallelujah.
Shout it with me, HALLELUJAH!!
Hallelujah comes to us from Hebrew and is the joining of the words “Praise” and “God.” Saying hallelujah means to praise God. So let us praise God, hallelujah!!
But what are we praising God for?
The Psalter tells us that we should hymn to my God while I breathe, singing a holy song as long as we are alive. In this instance, we are celebrating that God is not human or mortal, because people offer no rescue. (Their) breath departs, (they) return to the dust.
Next Sunday, we reenter the Narrative Lectionary, beginning with the story from Genesis 2 of God creating humanity by breathing life into a clump of dust and earth. The Psalter reminds us that we came from dust, and we will all return to dust. Because of that, the psalter writes that we shouldn’t put our trust in princes or other leaders to deliver us out of our troubles and problems. When we die, on that day (our) plans are naught.
While we hope that we will have a legacy, that we will live on in what we have done and said, we have no guarantee that we will. We have no control over anything once we have died.
Instead, the Psalter says to put our trust in the God of Jacob, the creator of heaven and earth and all that has been created. That one line, Happy whose help is Jacob’s God, his hope—for the LORD his God, (is the) maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and of all that is in them, tells us that the Psalter is putting his trust not in what will parish, but in that which is eternal.
This psalm reminds us of what we are to do for what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. How do we show our love? By saying Hallelujah, by praising the Lord our God, the God of Jacob, our hope, the maker of heaven and earth and of all that is in them. Hallelujah!!
We also show our love to God with what Jesus called a second that is like it, a partner commandment upon which hang all the laws and the prophets. That commandment is you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says that besides loving and honoring God with all we have, we are to love our neighbor with the love and care we have for ourselves. But we quibble over who is our neighbor and what does it mean to love others like we love ourselves.
I’ve recently really come to appreciate how Jesus clarified this in his Farwell Discourse in John’s Gospel. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Here there is nothing to quibble over. Love one another as I have loved you. Care for each other, help one another, comfort those in need. We are to help and heal and provide and protect and support and shelter and love one another.
And Psalm 146 gives us a list of how the LORD has loved us.
(The LORD) does justice for the oppressed. (The LORD) gives bread to the hungry. The LORD looses those in fetters. The LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD makes the bent stand erect. The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD guards sojourners. Orphan and widow He sustains.
If you take a look at the list of how the LORD loves us, you will notice something about those on whom the LORD loves. They are those who are not doing well. They are oppressed, hungry, in chains and in custody. They are blind and crippled. They are travelers and refugees, widows and orphans. They are righteous – but is this those who follow God, or those who are innocent or are in the right?
Some of you may be wondering why we confessed our sins of racism and prejudice earlier. Some of you may not have felt you needed to do that. There might be a couple of you who are upset about that.
You may think that you haven’t done anything, said anything that would be racist. That may be true. But if you have ever referred to a group of people, or thought of a group of people as “They” and “Them;” if you have generalized about a group of people with a certain generality, that “they are all …;” if you have taken the actions of one person and you use that as an example of a whole group of people; then you have been racist. Or sexist. Or intolerant. Or prejudiced. And for all of those, we must confess our sins.
But more than that, we live in a society that favors white males. Gentlemen, if that upsets or offends, honestly ask your wives or sisters or mothers or daughters. We think there are things that are “men’s work” and “women’s work.” Want an example? When is the last time we had a man teach Sunday School? When have we asked men to bring a dish for a funeral luncheon or a potluck?
I’ve seen racism that has been a part of the system. I saw my black classmates treated differently than I was. I saw them have to deal with different expectations than I had to deal with.
I use that example because in our communities, there is not a lot of racial diversity. But we all tend to differentiate people, us and them. Those who are like us, and them.
When we were preparing to go to Detroit, I had people talk to me, asking if I thought it was safe to take our teenagers there. Some people were afraid of the reputation Detroit has as a violent city. Some people were afraid because Detroit has the largest population of people of Arab descent outside of the Middle East. People were afraid of Them.
It is easy to make people afraid of Them; it doesn’t even matter who They are.
They aren’t like us. They don’t have OUR values. They don’t care about their children. They want to make us all like them. They corrupt our children. They want to take our jobs. They don’t deserve what they get. They just don’t get it.
We want to draw lines. You’ve heard me say it before. You’ll hear me say it again. We draw lines with people, those who are like us and those who aren’t. And standing over with Them, those whom we choose to exclude, is the LORD. It doesn’t matter if why we feel They are different; their skin color, where their ancestors came from, who they worship (if anyone at all), who they love, whether they work or not, how many children they have, where they live, what abilities they have or don’t have, what their education level is, what language they speak, how they speak, what they wear, how clean they are, and so many other things that just do not matter. We use these differences that don’t matter and make them the matter of being different, of being Them.
And the LORD is with them. Because we don’t want to be with Them.
And that is the sin that we confess. That is the sin that God forgives us for, each time we commit it.
And that is the sin that Christ commands us to repent from. Because the one another we are commanded to love as Christ has loved us isn’t just Us. The one another includes Them.
We are commanded to do justice for the oppressed, even if the oppressed are one of Them, even, and ESPECIALLY if we are the ones doing the oppression. Especially if we are benefiting from the oppression, and people not being treated fairly and justly.
We are commanded to give bread to the hungry, even if the hungry are one of Them, even and ESPECIALLY if we think that they are hungry because they don’t work to earn their daily bread, or are lazy or are taking advantage of the system.
We are commanded to loose the fetters and chains of those who are captive or enslaved, even if they are one of Them, even if we think they are getting what they deserve. We are commanded to love those who are doing what is right, even if it is one of Them, even if we disagree with what they are doing. We are call to demand justice.
We are commanded to help and heal the blind and the bent over, even if they are one of Them. We are called to care for those who suffer and struggle.
We are commanded to guard the sojourners, travellers, refugees and immigrants, even and ESPECIALLY if they are one of Them. We are commanded to sustain and support, to provide and protect the widows and orphans, even and ESPECIALLY if they are some of Them. It doesn’t matter if we think they are breaking the rules or taking advantage of the rules, we are commanded to help those who need help.
For separating rather thank uniting; for dividing rather than providing; for dismissing rather than assisting, we confess our sins, no matter how reluctantly or resentfully we do it.
For all that we have done that we should not have done, and for all that we have not done that we should have done, we are forgiven, and called to repent and to do as Christ commanded. We are called to love one another as Christ has loved us, to do the things we give praise for in this Psalm.
For His mercy and compassion, for His forgiveness, let me hymn to my God while I breathe. Hallelujah.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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