Book Review: Dear Church by Lenny Duncan

Let me start out by saying that I feel ill-equipped to offer much of a commentary on the topic of race. Yes, I have attended a multi-day anti-racism training and I have read various books on race relations, but I will never know what it feels like to be a person of color in the church or in our nation. I grew up in a predominantly white town and have lived for a majority of my life in predominantly white towns. The two congregations that I have served have each had one person of color as a member.

The congregations that I have served are exactly the ones that Lenny is writing to in Dear Church: A Love Letter From a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S. I know that to do anything I must stop and listen to those that have experienced discrimination and told to go back to where they came from. I can be present with them and attempt to be a representative of God.

Lenny’s call for a revolution will make many in the church uncomfortable and we will begin to hear the denials of racism stack up. I believe that everyone has at least a bit of racism within them and to begin this conversation we must repent of it. Lenny has allowed himself to become vulnerable in the sharing of his own experiences and his call to action. He is a pastor on the front lines that is truly willing to put his call on the line to do exactly what Jesus.

There are parts in the book that I do not fully understand and yet I am willing to listen and change my own practices if it means that I am able to preach a more inclusive gospel. As he states time and time again, Jesus loves everyone, and if we are to live into our true calling as Christians, we should too. This is a must read so that we can come to an understanding of where the church is today so that we can move into the future. If the ELCA, as the whitest denomination in the U.S., does not confront our heritage and enter the conversation, we vary well may not be around in the near future.

A Review: Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson

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I am honestly not sure where to start, therefore this will probably become more of a recommendation than it is a review. Dyson uses the format of a worship service to present a flowing oratory on the current state of race relations in America today. I honestly, believe that as a white heterosexual male my response is not worthy. What I need to be doing, as well as the rest of white America, is to be listening. Listening to our brothers and sisters that have walked the road that is foreign to our own upbringing.

I do not know what it is like to be a black man in America, and I could never truly find out. I have been pulled over twice for speeding and not once have I received a ticket. I did not pull out a pour me story or try to make excuses. Both times, my son was in the car with me. I understand how much different the outcomes of those situations could have been if I were a black man in America.

Unfortunately, that understanding falls on many deaf hears throughout the country. While God has created us equal, humanity has decided to divide. This is a sermon to wake up those to the experience of black America. I will never fully understand my brothers and sisters experiences, but I know that I can walk with them and listen. I can stand beside and with them, and do better.

This is a book that should be required reading in schools. Of all of the books that I have read in the past year, this rises to the top of the list.

Where Do Your Feet Take You?

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August 13, 2017

Romans 10:5-15

The selection from Paul’s letter to the Romans opens the possibility for us to discuss a dirty little word that scares us in the Lutheran church. It is a word that makes people cringe whenever they hear it. At times, it can make people uncomfortable and anxious. Well, maybe not all people, but the majority would agree.

So, are you ready for it?

Are you sure?

The word is EVANGELISM!!!

Believe it or not, even though the word is part of our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it still scares us. Are we really expected to talk to people about our faith? Do we really have to share about Jesus? Perhaps we think we are just comfortable sitting right here. If people want to come to our church, they know how to find it.

I will admit, I may be exaggerating just a little. However, most of the mainline denominations take the same approach to evangelism. Perhaps it is the word that scares us. When we hear evangelism, we are reminded of those in the greater church that have co-opted the word and call themselves Evangelicals. Our Lutheran theology is often very different and is focused on grace instead of hell and damnation.

To evangelize, means that we are going to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Within it, you can find the word angel. An angel is a bearer of good news to those in our bible stories. Who wouldn’t want to share good news?

That good news is present with us all the time. In Jesus Christ. I like the Message’s translation of Romans 10:8,

The word that saves is right here,

as near as the tongue in your mouth,

as close as the heart in your chest.

 It is this good news that we are called to share with all those we encounter. Paul is learning this as he continues his ministry and wonders what will happen with his Jewish brothers and sisters. Evangelism is not about conversion. As much as we think we can make people follow Christ, that is impossible. Evangelism is about sharing the good news of Christ. It is about introducing people to the hope and wonder that is found in the bible. It is about living into the mystery that guides our lives daily. Evangelism can look like inviting people to church. To come experience the word alive and well in this place. Evangelism can look like inviting a friend to help you go serve food to the homeless. Evangelism can take on the image of those protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. Ensuring that the love of Christ is for all, and making sure that those voicing hatred are not the only people being heard. Evangelism is about sharing our belief in the way that we know best.

Once we have that word of Christ on our lips and in our hearts, we can go out and share it.  It is a beautiful thing. As Paul concludes our passage, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.”

Those feet have a lot of miles on them. The feet of God brought the good news to Elijah in the silence, and in turn Elijah spread that good news to the people of Israel. Jesus’ feet brought good news to the disciples as they were anxious in the storm. They in turn journey forth to bring good news to others. Paul’s feet brought him to the many churches that were beyond the Jewish territory and people were encouraged to continue to spread the good news forward.

Where do your feet take you? Perhaps it is to speak up for the injustices in the world. To stand beside those in protest to hatred and racism in Charlottesville. It may be to spread love to those in your neighborhood. Your feet may even take you to social media to reach out to friends and family.

Are we expected to be perfect? Of course not. We are going to stumble while on our feet. Look at Peter, he fell face first into the water. Jesus was there for him when he cried out. Jesus is present for us when we cry out.