Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Homily by Annie Watson,ARCWP and Liturgy of Non-Violence at Mary Weber's House Church in Indianapolis

Priests Mary Weber,ARCWP and Annie Watson, ARCWP
“From Mike to Cecil”
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
August 9, 2015
Annie Watson, ARCWP
The story of David and his son, Absalom, is a sad story. Sometimes life presents us with choices we don’t want to have to make. In this case, David had to choose against his son, who had rebelled against his kingdom, although he loved his son.
David ordered his men to “deal gently” with Absalom, but as Absalom was riding through the thick forest his head got caught in some branches. Along came one of David’s commanders, Joab, who took three sticks and used them to kill Absalom.
When David heard about this he cried that he would rather have died than his own rebellious son. Regardless, he had to make a choice about what mattered the most: his son Absalom, or his kingdom. He chose the latter.
We don’t always have to choose sides, but sometimes we seem forced to do so by the social and political climate. A case in point is the current “conflict” between the “Black Lives Matter” and the “Police Lives Matter” movements. What are we to make of this?
Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. You remember the story. Brown was an 18-year-old African American who was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white Ferguson police officer.
What actually happened that fateful day remains somewhat of a mystery, although Officer Wilson was eventually cleared of any wrong doing. Nevertheless, the incident resulted in widespread protests, civil unrest, international attention, and a vigorous debate about the relationship between police forces and African-American communities.
We know that Michael Brown was not an innocent man. He had just stolen some cigarillos from a nearby convenience store and shoved the store clerk. A short while later he got into an altercation with Officer Wilson. He then tried to flee with Officer Wilson in pursuit, but at some point he stops and turns to face the officer.
We don’t really know what happened next, whether Brown was coming after Officer Wilson or not, or how aggressively. All we know is that twelve bullets were fired at an unarmed man. The last was probably the fatal shot. Whether Brown was holding up his hands saying, “I surrender,” is also not known.
People may have jumped to conclusions about that particular case, but now, all of a sudden, it seems like there has been an epidemic of police brutality against black citizens: Eric Garner, who died in a police chokehold, 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was killed by police while holding a fake gun, Walter Scott, who was gunned down from behind by a police officer after a minor traffic stop, Freddie Gray, who died from injuries sustained in a police van, and Sandra Bland, who was pulled over for a minor traffic violation, arrested, and died by suicide in her jail cell.

Because of these incidents, and others like it, like the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the incident at a McKinney, Texas pool party, and the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the “Black Lives Matter” movement has gained a lot of momentum.
No one can blame the African-American community for feeling as if their lives have been devalued. To ignore or downplay these incidents could be construed as racism, pure and simple.
Unfortunately, during the same period of time there have been several incidents of police officers being gunned down in cold blood. Most notably was the killing of Memphis police officer Sean Bolton, who was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop in early August of last year.
Some people used this incident, and others like it, to say “Police Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter. It is true that all lives matter, and yet we have a hard time staying on that point because we are often pushed to choose sides. We have a tendency to engage in “binary thinking,” which means we see things as either/or rather than both/and. We have a tendency to create false choices, what philosophers call the fallacy of a false dilemma or false dichotomy.
Another false choice has presented itself to us recently with the illegal slaughter of Cecil, the 13-year-old lion who lived in a national park in Zimbabwe. Last week, the image of Cecil and other endangered animals, was projected onto the Empire State Building as a way to bring attention to the issue. I shared the story on my Facebook page and waited for the inevitable response.
It came from a friend of mine who said she loves animals, but she would prefer to see “pictures of people who are dying at the hands of police.” I responded by saying that we don't need to engage in false choices. We can bemoan all cruelty, human and animal alike.
One important caveat needs to be expressed: Not all issues have the same amount of urgency at the same time. If there is a choice to be made in terms of what we need to focus on, it should be a choice based on the severity or urgency of the problem at the time.
In my opinion, the two biggest problems in terms of senseless violence in the United States today is police brutality against African-Americans and the almost weekly incidents of mass shootings that have become the norm since Columbine High School in 1999: Sandy Hook Elementary School, movie theaters in Colorado and Louisiana, shootings at military bases in Texas, Washington D.C., and Tennessee, the Virginia Tech campus, the church in Charleston, South Carolina, just to name a few.
These horrifying incidents may garner the most attention, and for good reasons, but at the end of the day all lives matter. On this, the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, let’s try to wrap our hearts and minds around the value of life in general. There is no need to choose sides if we are all on the same side.
Liturgy of Non-Violence
                                                        Liturgy of Non Violence
Quieting/ Centering     Taize Music: Let Nothing Disturb You
Let us begin:  In the name of the God of Peace, the God of Love and the God of Non Violence. Amen
 All: Opening Prayer: Beloved One, who are mother and father to us all, look upon your planet earth divided, help us to know that we are all your children, that all nations belong to one great family, and that all religions lead to you. Multiply our prayers in every land until the whole earth becomes your congregation, united in your love. Sustain our vision of a peaceful future and give us strength to work unceasingly to make that vision real. Amen (Helen Weaver adapted from Earth Prayers)
 Voice One: I hear a voice, the cry of a wounded animal, someone shoots an arrow at the moon, and a small bird has fallen from the nest. People must be awakened; witness must be given, so that life can be guarded. (W. S. Rendra from Earth Prayers)
Voice Two: 'Police have come.'
It was early one Saturday morning when Zhang Kai, a human rights lawyer, sent that text message to his friends. And then he went quiet. He is just one of hundreds of activists and lawyers who have been targeted in an unprecedented nationwide crackdown by Chinese authorities.
Another lawyer, Wang Yu disappeared in the early hours one morning. She sent her friends messages saying that her internet and power had been cut. Then, she said that people were trying to break into her home. She's now in police custody. So far, more than 225 people have been targeted. At least 22 are still missing or detained. (Amnesty International email August 5th, 2015) 
Voice Three: Guatemala, a country about the size of the state of Virginia, is today in a particularly heightened crisis of corruption, government upheaval, militarization and community resistance. In the 1990s, the government lowered royalties on mineral wealth to 1 percent. Successive governments have granted hundreds of mining licenses as well as rights to flood farmland for hydroelectric power. As community resistance has grown to these and other injustices, the military has turned on its citizens while ignoring or even supporting the drug cartels. (Sisters Global Report) Aug. 5th, 2015.
Voice Four: The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by any civilized standards, represented one of the moral low-points in human history. After all, by very conservative estimates, 135,000 people died from the atomic blasts — most of them civilians, the victims of the intentional targeting of cities. Think about that — these weren’t military targets, but cities full of men, women, and children, going about their lives, destroyed in seconds by the most destructive weapons ever invented.
Liturgy of the Word:
 Reader 1    First Reading: 2 Samuel 5-10, 15, 32-33
 Reader2   Second Reading:  Ferguson Prepares for Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death
Activists are set to mark the one-year anniversary of the high-profile deadly shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer with peaceful protests and vigils this week in Ferguson, Mo. The shooting death of Michael Brown sparked weeks of sometimes-violent protests in the St. Louis suburb, and contributed to a growing national debate over police use-of-force. The anniversary of Brown’s death is Sunday…..The Missouri National Guard referred to protesters in Ferguson last summer as “enemy forces,” according to documents obtained by CNN, bolstering claims the police adopted military tactics to react to protests over the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Let us pause in silence to remember Michael Brown, his family and friends, the city of Ferguson as well as Officer Darren Wilson and his family.( The police officer who killed Michael Brown)
Response to Readings: Litany of Nonviolence (Sisters of Providence, St. Mary of the Woods, In.)
ALL:  Provident God, aware of my own brokenness, I ask the gift of courage to identify how and where I am in need of conversion in order to live in solidarity with all of Earth’s people. Deliver me from the violence of superiority and disdain. Grant me the desire and the humility to listen with special care to those whose experiences are different from my own. Deliver me from the violence of greed and privilege. Grant me the desire to live simply so others may have their share of Earth’s resources. Deliver me from the silence that gives consent to abuse, war and evil. Grant me the desire, and the will, and the courage to risk speaking and acting for the common good. Deliver me from the violence of irreverence, exploitation and control. Grant me the desire and the strength, to act responsibly within the cycle of creation. God of love, mercy and justice, acknowledging my complicity in those attitudes, actions and words that perpetuate violence, I ask for the grace of a non-violent heart. Amen
 Reader 3   Gospel: Matthew 26:51-52
Homily: From Mike to Cecil All Lives Matter (Annie and Jimmy Watson)
Loving God, our human family is broken, our lives are shattered by violence, our cities are tormented with unrest and warfare, but you are with us as we reach out for solutions! Response
Merciful one, you know the anguish of hunger, joblessness, discrimination and hopelessness, help us reveal your love and justice to those who suffer! Response
May each one present find ways to confront racism, superiority and entitlement and replace them with love, mercy and justice.
And for what else shall we pray?
Let us pray:
We yearn to live in ways that are in keeping with the teachings of Jesus who taught us to treat others like we want to be treated. We yearn to witness through lives of serving the needs of others; especially those who are despised and rejected by the world. We pray for a fresh anointing because we want to be doers of the Word. We pray that the Spirit of the Living God would fall afresh on us so that we can grow into the church that we are supposed to be. Take our heads, take our hearts, take our minds and our souls and use them in accordance with your will for your world. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen. (UCC prayer)
                                    Preparation of the Gifts 
 Voice One:  On the night before he faced his own death and for the sake of living fully, Jesus sat at the Seder supper with his companions and friends.  He reminded them of all that he taught them, and to fix that memory clearly within them, be bent down and washed their feet. When he returned to his place at the table, he lifted the Passover bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying:
Take and eat; this is my very self.
 Voice Two: He then raised high the cup of blessing, spoke the grace, and offered them the wine saying:
Take and drink of the covenant made new again through my life, for you and for everyone, for liberation from every oppression.
Whenever you do this, Re-member me!
Prayer over the Gifts (All, while extending hands)                                                                                          Great Spirit of Creation, source of life and energy, You have blessed us with bread that nourishes, and wine that makes us glad. Sanctify these, our gifts, and all who partake of them. We make this prayer in Christ’s name. Amen.
 Voice Three: Preface:                                                                                               
God of life, you nurture and sustain your people.
You bless us with abundance; you gift us with your graciousness,
you know our every need.
In the birthing forth of creation you call us into being.
You gift us with health and wholeness; you sustain our every endeavor.
You feed your hungering people.
You call us to work for justice, to share our table with all creation,
to feed the needy at our door, to see nobody left in need.
For the blessing of your gifts, and the challenge of your call to us,
we join our voices as we acclaim your liberating love: Holy, Holy, Holy God of wisdom and abundance. Heaven and earth are full of Your love.  Hosanna in the highest. Blessed are all who come in the name of our God.  Hosanna in the highest

The table we share is adorned with the gifts of creation,
gifts given for all to share in equality and justice, a table where all are welcome,
and from which nobody is to be excluded.
As a Christian people we celebrate the open table,
proclaimed by Jesus our liberator and our friend,
a table of abundant life, inclusive love, and redemptive liberation.

 Invocation: ALL
In the power of the creative Spirit, Jesus lived life to the full.
We, too, are blessed in the power of that same Spirit,
which we now invoke upon all gathered here,
to celebrate the transformative energy
symbolized in our gifts of bread and wine,
given to nourish and sustain us into the fullness of life.

Voice One: Doxology:
This prayer we make in union with all God’s people, living and dead,
and particularly with those laboring for justice in our world.
May we all know the blessing of our loving God,
Creator, Liberator, and Holy Spirit, in whose power we gather here,
nourished and sustained, now and forever.  Amen.

THE PRAYER OF JESUS:  Our Father and Mother . . .
Voice Two:  Deliver us, God, from every evil and grant us peace in our day.  In your mercy keep us holy in your sight and protect us from all anxiety and fear.  We watch and wait; we search and find all the signs that You are continually with us, calling us to new life. 
ALL:  For the kindom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.  Amen.
THE SIGN OF PEACE   Jesus, You said to your disciples, “My peace I leave you.  My peace I give you.”  Look on the faith of all and grant us the peace and unity of your kindom where you live forever and ever.  ALL:  Amen.    May the peace of our nonviolent God be always with you.  ALL:  And also with you. Let us offer each other a sign of peace.
ALL:  Fountain of Life, You call us to spirit-filled living; guide us by your Spirit.  Fountain of Life, You call us to spirit-filled service; strengthen us to serve with compassion.  Fountain of Life, You call us to be Your spirit in the world, grant us peace.
 This is Jesus, who liberates, heals and transforms our world.  All are welcome at this banquet of love.   ALL:  We are the Body of Christ. 
Let us pray: We have been nourished by God’s word, by our prayers, by the presence of Jesus and Sophia. We are people of hope, we are people of action, we are people of promise. We will not be silent, we will find our voice, and we will not be afraid, we will join hands and hearts and stand in solidarity with all those who seek justice and peace.  And with God’s help, we will be the voice of justice in our time.
As we go forth to live the gospel and make a difference, let us say together:
When racism goes unchecked, unacknowledged, unrecognized,
We will be the LIGHT
Until #blacklivesmatter in all our communities, and in every place,
We will not be quiet.
When the Beloved Community is violated by violence and abuse of power,
We will be the Peace.
Until the hope of a new day of freedom is made real in our midst,
We will not give up
If we hear our sisters and brothers, our kindred and communities crying out, “I can’t breathe,”
then we must stay in the struggle; we cannot leave.
Through God’s grace, in God’s love, with God’s help,
we’re not going to stop until all people are free.  
Go into the world to fight for freedom.
Go into our communities to struggle for justice.
Go into the streets to work in solidarity.
Go into the boardrooms and courtrooms, police stations and council meetings,
            to make a way out of no way.
Go into each endeavor to love one another.
We have nothing to lose but our chains. ( UCC prayer)
Go now to be the Light, the Hope and the Peace that our world needs!
Song: We Shall Overcome!

No comments: