ORGANIZING COMMUNITIES THAT CAN HEAL! Second Sunday in the Time of Pentecost
Today, is the birthday of Alberto Segura our brother and faithful member of this church who is incarcerated and facing deportation. We pray for him and promise to do whatever we can to reunite his family. Today after the sermon, we will baptize the son of one of our original members of our church and our struggle. He came to us under the oppression of both the criminal justice system and the immigration system. He has gone on to become a well respected and productive person in the struggle – free of both of these wicked systems. One of the God Parents today is our esteemed attorney, key to the legal defense of many here who are fighting deportation, who also came early to our community and continues to be an important part of it. So it seems this is a good time to reflect on the community of faith we have built and the challenges we face.
It is also significant that we will conduct a baptism today. Today will be a baptism of water and the Spirit. The Baptism of Jesus, which we relive every year, was a baptism in fire – and yet a baptism that he lived to prepare his disciples, followers and those he came to call his friends to organize the very communities of faith and resistance which we depend on today.
In our faith, we live the gospel story each year. We have come through the amazing ministry of Jesus: His prophetic birth, his announcement that the Kingdom of God could exist on the earth between the willing and faithful hearts of human beings, his confrontation with hypocrisy and injustice, his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection and his final instructions to his disciples to continue his ministry. The disciples were in hiding, fearing they would meet the same fate as Jesus on the cross. Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come on them. On the day of Pentecost, they did indeed receive the Holy Spirit. They went out among the people preaching that the Romans had crucified an especially innocent man, a faithful son of God. Three thousand accepted baptism in resistance to the Romans and the Temple police, repenting of their indifference to the injustice done to one of their own.
On the second day, the disciples again went out among the crowd. Peter heard a crippled beggar, sitting outside the gate that led to the Temple, calling to him. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said,“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Now Jesus had done many miracles during his ministry, healing many who were sick or blind or crippled. This was the first the disciples had done since his crucifixion, in front of the crowds of people in Jerusalem. If you read carefully, you will see that the people who were healed by Jesus were also people who were excluded from the society, marginalized, discriminated against. Often when they were healed, Jesus told them to go and take their rightful place in the Temple society. He not only healed them of their afflictions, he healed them of their inequality. Although not citizens of Rome, they became citizens of the Kingdom of God through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit –and they could not be denied their rightful place.
When Peter healed the beggar, who had been kept outside the gates of the temple, the temple where you could worship with others in equality and dignity, where you could get work, he told him, “Get up and walk” and the man walked skipping and jumping into the temple from which he had been previously excluded!
During this season of Pentecost we will see the disciples struggling to form the community of faith Jesus had called them to form – and to prepare others to form these communities. For the people they were teaching by example, would soon be dispersed to many countries in the empire. There they would be treated as criminals, without the protection of citizenship, and they would need the power of the faith communities about which Jesus had given his life to teach us.
Many people call themselves Christians today. Donald Trump calls himself a Christian and he attacked the Pope for suggesting he was not. Yet the story of the birth of our faith in the Bible has a special meaning for us. It is a spiritual history of forming communities of faith to give strength to people who have been dispersed to live in a nation, that especially now, has turned to hatred against them. Jesus said that these communities would be in the world but not of the world.
Even in the time of Jesus, there were groups of the faithful that lived apart – or tried to live apart from the world they lived in. They hid away in the desert and practiced their faith without ever coming into contact with the struggles of their own people. This was not the Way Jesus taught. Yet he also did not teach his disciples to become politicians, part of the political process of that day. He taught that they could draw on a special spiritual power by living as a community in the presence of God, the creator, the Almighty God – even while they lived among the people and the society of that day.
That is the power we seek in our community today, the power we seek to renew again this year. Today we seek the power of healing, the power to heal.
Yesterday, we held a service at our Hermosa center to celebrate the work of the Youth Health Service Corps in that community. Our young members there had learned about Heart Disease and Diabetes – but they had also learned about the twenty year death gap, the inequality in health care that steals life years from our community which wealthier white communities enjoy. Their work is closing that gap – and the youth health service corps will spread to more and more schools and communities across the city in the next year. We will not just sit and complain while Trump and the Republicans take health care away from millions. NO. We will organize to get the health care we need by direct action, person by person. We will not compromise away the lives of those we love waiting for a political solution. That is not the way change is made! Change comes from demonstrating what is righteous so that the people will make that standard their demand.
As they confront both sickness and inequality, they bring healing. Their power to do that comes from this community of faith. You see a community that lives in the presence of God, that each year renews its strength by walking the Way of Jesus and his disciples, can do what the political structures cannot. It can mobilize an army of young people motivated by righteousness and love of their families and their people to do what the institutions are not able to do.
Yesterday, we also called on the young people there to form the Wave. “The Wave” is the movement of U.S. citizen children with undocumented parents. A wave begins far out in the ocean and only becomes visible as it nears the shore, when it becomes powerful beating against the sands. The Wave we seek to inspire has its leaders right here in thi church with Britzi and John and Saul. They can access the power of this community, of a community that lives in the presence of God but also in the world. With that power they can bring the five million U.S. citizen children, the one million dreamers, and their friends to the door of the White House and to the courts. They will come with the power of the Kingdom of God and they will defend with us each family that is threatened with the wickedness of separation by those who would “Make America White Again!”
What gives them that power? What gave the families the power to mobilize millions to march in 2005 and 2006? What gave Elvira in a little storefront church on Division Street the power to define the struggle of the undocumented as a struggle for family unity all across this country, changing the way the issue was understood and winning the majority of people to their cause?
You see the world works through compromise – compromise with racism and greed and corruption. Yet in the presence of God, of our creator and our judge and our redeemer, there is no compromise. What is right is right. What is just is just. What is true is true.
As we face these deportations we are reaching out to those we have meet over the years to help us. Recently we talked with a good Christian brother in Texas and asked for his help in Miguel’s case – help he is bringing. Yet what he said sticks with me. He said, Miguel deserves to be free. He is free in God’s eyes. We just need to claim that freedom that God gives.
We can heal. We have that power if we truly follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples. We can claim what God establishes. We can heal each other. We can heal the scars of inequality, of disease, of criminalization, of incarceration. We can heal the violence among our young people that springs from the way they are disrespected and abandoned – because we can invite them into a community in which they have the respect and love that God gives each of his people.
We are called to struggle to build a community that does not compromise on the righteousness that God requires – and does not compromise on the love and forgiveness that God gives us freely. The more we answer that call, the more we will find in ourselves together the power to heal.
When the disciples healed the paralyzed beggar, they told the people they did so – not in their own name – but in the name of the one whom the Romans and the priests had crucified, in the name of his innocence, in the name of his faithfulness – and in the name of his relationship with God. The power to heal, to overcome injustice, to defend our people, our families, the ones we love, is waiting for us to claim it, in the name of Jesus, in the name of all those who are innocent in God’s eyes yet persecuted in the wickedness of the world.
Today Peter speaks to us. “I have neither silver or gold – but stand up and walk!” Today the disciples speak to us through the ages, telling us what Jesus taught them. Form your community of faith, your family of families, your army of your next generation. Put out despair and discouragement and defeat from your life. Walk out of compromise with selfishness and greed and self-importance and idle gossip and accept the bond with each ther and with the powers of Heaven that God offers you today. Accept the mission to make disciples among all the peoples. Accept the power of the community of faith Jesus died to give us. “Go and baptize in the Holy Spirit! Love each other as he loved you! Stand strong together and don’t let the world corrupt you! Live in the presence of God who is here, now, with you – telling you to claim the power!
Amen? Amen? Amen!
Now let us gather the family and the God Parents and this child who we baptize today, as Jesus commanded us to baptize, to form together the community of faith and resistance he prepared us to form! In the baptism of this child, binding together families, let us all be bound together as one family of families!
The Holy Scriptures for the Second Week in the Time of Pentecost
L. Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
P. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
L. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
P. His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Acts 3: 3-10 Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Acts 3: 11-15 Peter Speaks to the Onlookers
While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
Acts 3: 16-19 “Repent, then, and turn to God”
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord