I don't know what you've been told...
An excerpt from a sermon I preached in chapel, 10.15.18...
In the midst of all of the ugly going on lately, I’m concerned about our responses. I’m wondering if in its misperception about how to encourage and nurture the faith and the faithful, the powers-that-be, decided that the best way to engage our holy/sacred text is to leave out the parts that don’t “feel good.” Psalm 139 is a great example. If this was a lectionary selection, the harsh or off-putting parts would be skipped. We might begin with verses 1-7, move on to verses 8-12, then to verses 13-18, skipping verses 19-22 and ending with verses 23-24 that we heard today. We’ve embraced Psalm 139 all but the part that speaks to our most humanness – the skipped part that is judgmental, selfish and unkind. The part that would lead us to believe our comfort is to know that we are standing on the side of God. And when we overlook that part, we may feel unChrist-like when we’d like to condemn others who believe they are standing on God’s side even as they spew out hateful things about what and who God has created in the beautiful diversity of persons that fill this earth.
So if I am to finish up the Psalm we’ve been contemplating for 3 weeks, here’s the actual more complete reading for today.
Psalm 139: 19-24 (NRSV/NLT conflated)
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murderers! 20 They blaspheme you; your enemies misuse your name. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
I don’t know what you’ve been told, but Christianity is not one big love-in.
Every moment is not a warm fuzzy pass-the-peace with a hug, meditate in the silence, look for the good in people, turn-the-other-cheek means allow evil to flourish, all I need to do is pray - kind of party.
Sometimes love means saying the more difficult thing, using the word “no” emphatically, and dying a little on the inside when who you’re talking to doesn’t find your response loving. It’s being able to see the bigger picture because we have a greater understanding of what we’re saying when we beseech God to search us and know us. Fierce love is not meek or mild it’s the kind of momma bear love that won’t let you get away with mediocre because that would dishonor our Creator.
I don’t know what you’ve been told, but those of us who are steeped in otherness; who are subsumed in the bonds of whiteness, heteronormativity, patriarchy and any other oppressive system, need to hear that skipped part of the psalm. We need to hear it to assuage our bitterness and to help us keep venturing forth into the harsh realities of the only world we’ve got. I need for God to search all of me and love me still otherwise, when I can’t stand no more, when all I want to do is scream and shake a fist (or worse) at those whose callousness produces unconscionable actions I might believe that I no longer fit into the arms of a nearby God who would not want to know that part of me.
I was told that God knew everything about me – from the inside out – my thoughts and actions. And even with this knowledge, God continues to anoint me.