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2015 05 03

Gospel Disruption
Easter 5
May 3, 2015
For First Mennonite Church of Denver
Vernon K. Rempel, 2015

Narrative Lectionary Bible Reading
Romans 1:8-17

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you.

For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish — hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.


Freddy Gray and...
Paul says
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

It is the power of salvation to
 Freddy Gray, Eric Garner, Michael Brown
  To scared officers
 to officers consumed by internal departmental dynamics
  to disconnected wealthy folk,
   white folk

all scared ones, self-protective ones,
 anywhere there is confusion or ignorance or prejudice
it is the power of salvation - the gospel is
 where there is pressing down of entire neighborhoods
  where there is generational PTSD

Paul says:
It is the power of salvation to everyone who has faith.
 He says:
  I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both   to the wise and to the foolish

Everyone
 We're all in this together

Paul is saying:
 I have found the gospel among Gentiles, barbarians,
  Jews, the wise, the foolish

Salvation for everyone:
Baltimore and Ferguson and Staten Island and Aurora and Aurora again and City Park and Whittier and City Park West, Cole neighborhood, north-east Denver

Later on in Romans, Paul says:
 For all have sinned...
  depraved heart murder is the charge in Baltimore
 all have sinned...
and then he also says
 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor   
 angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come,  nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all  creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God   in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are all in this together
 we all need salvation together
Barbarians, the foolish, the wise


Those lovely evangelicals
I attended a conference on Thursday
 called Race, Reconciliation, and Immigration

It was put on by Michelle Warren
 of the Evangelical Immigration Table
  among others.

And it was evangelicals saying that
 it is the character of God
  it is the beauty of Christ
 to understand the gospel
  that we are all in this together

Warren noted that she was not going to either
 throw politicians under the bus
  or pump them up

they are not our hope, she said,
 although she expends much passion
  seeking legislative reform

our hope rather, she said,
 and Danny Carroll said
  as he joined the voices of the conference
 is in the character of God
  who cares for the poor

John Perkins was the morning's feature speaker
 he danced around the stage at age 85
telling about his birth into sharecropper poverty
 and the power of the gospel in his life

And Noel Castellanos
 said that we are not here for a political rally
  to get us to choose sides
we are here to rally our hearts
 to do God's work

Evangelicals putting heart into politics
 Not taking sides but letting ourselves be on God's side
And who does God include on God's side - everybody!

Paul says:
The gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who has faith

All together
 barbarian, Greek, you name it, the foolish

The thing that's cool about Evangelicals
 really doing the social justice gospel
  is that they have often struggled
 to get over to it
  from a nationalistic religion that just
   talks about getting saved for heaven

Noel Castellanos said
 we evangelicals sometimes only work at
  people's celestial immigration status
 and the also need help with their
  earthly immigration status

It is the politics of Jesus.

Their spirit and tone reflects the wonderful
 simplicity that has integrated complexities
  into something new

It is social justice, but it is warm social justice
 it has all the evangelical heart stuff,
  love for God, love for Jesus
   and a startling message of care for the poor
  of seeking deep and long-term relationships
   with people who are different,
    people who are marginalized, invisible

It's warm and loving...
 There's plenty of idea Christianity around,
  of any kind.

Ideas about justice, ideas about salvation,
 about what's the right kind of church and so on.
  Ideas.

But that's cold soup compared to the warmth
 of the heart

We're not here for a political rally
 but to rally our hearts for God's work.

Not choosing sides, because God does not choose sides,
 but God has immense care for the poor,
  the immigrant, the incarcerated person of color
 and for the jailer and the king
  the wise and the foolish

So, the evangelical speakers said,
 must we also have this immense care,
  if we are people of God,
  
not as an idea, but because we live with this God
 we want to live with God now
  we feel God's influence in our analysis,
   yes, and also in our hearts


Whose side are you on
Marilyn and I were on a march for Arturo Hernandez
 a few weeks ago
One chant we kind of had trouble with was
 "Whose side are you on, now?"

And then we saw a sign we really appreciated:
 "Standing on the side of love for the immigrant."

Standing on the side of love.
 That is a side we can put our hearts into.
  Not the side of a political idea or an issue
but asking the deep background question
 what would love have us do with everyone
  involved in this picture:

the immigrant, their dear families,
 ethnic communities dislocated from their roots,
the judges, the politicians, the police on their motorcycles,
 ICE, a couple of church people trying to march along

what would love have us do
 if we're all in this together
  if God is on the side of everybody

The power of the gospel for barbarians,
 Greeks, elder brother Jews of Paul's day,
  the wise and the foolish

The sign had a web address:
standingonthesideoflove.org
 it's a Unitarian Universalist
  initiative with a great website.

On the side of love:
 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish....
 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

So we see that even mighty Romans
 the big book of Paul,
  the one full of theology
   lying right at the root of the church

there is this warmth of the heart
 that Paul has

He in effect says
 I've had help from everywhere on this.
I'm a debtor to Greeks and barbarians
 but the thing is, it's the power of the gospel
  for salvation for everyone who has faith.


Disruption
But now I want to take it one final step
 
Because for Paul, this gospel of love
 is not warmth as sentimentality.
  
Just by making the lists that he does:
Greek, Jew, barbarian, wise, foolish
 Paul is signaling that this will break hearts open
  will break entire systems open
   will come as a challenge to empires.

Paul knows that especially in Rome
 the contrast will become painfully clear:
he is declaring a Messiah, an alternate allegiance
 instead of honoring Caesar as Lord

This will be a problem
 it will be great, great love,
  but it will be a problem....

So here's the last thing-
 It will be disruption...


(From TED Talks To Taco Bell, Abuzz With Silicon Valley-Style 'Disruption' - April 27, 2015)
Linguist Geoff Nunberg
 was opining about the word "disrupt"
  this week on NPR

It is used satirically in the comedy "Silicon Valley"
 as the title for a tech competition - The disruptors!
  He points out that tech competitions
   often in reality include "disrupt" in their names

He writes:
"Disrupt" and "disruptive" are ubiquitous in the names of  conferences, websites, business school degree programs and business book best-sellers. The words pop up in more than 500 TED Talks: "How to Avoid Disruption in Business and in Life," "Embracing Disruption," "Disrupting Higher Education," "Disrupt Yourself.".

He notes that it was first popularized in the 1997 book
 by Clayton Christensen about how established
  companies fail when scrappy new companies
   turn out stripped-down versions
    of their products at a low price-point.

For eg. Craigslist, Skype, and no-frills airlines.

That was the original business disruption.
 But now it's a good thing.
  It's what angel investors want to see
   in tech innovations.
  name a tech conference "the disruptors"
   and they will come.

Nunberg continues by saying that
 it's not just details of a story like that
  which make a buzzword.
   It's the emotional resonance.

He thinks it was used of him
 when his kindergarten teacher sent home a note
  about his classroom behavior -- disruptive!

But now it's cool.
 Amazon and Uber are disruptive.
  But also Procter and Gamble and General Motors
 CNBC even called an iPhone case disruptive!
  (it converts the phone into a gaming joystick)

The emotional resonance is echoed
 in popular youth-culture shows like
  Hunger Games and Divergent.

In Hunger Games, the authorities are corrupt
 beyond belief and need to be disrupted.
  In Divergent, the young woman who is the hero
   doesn't fit into any group.
    Next there is an uprising!

And in both series, the key hero is female.
 That's disruptive of the James Bond narrative.

And such disruption brings us directly back around
 to Baltimore and all.
  Pressed down people will rise.
   It is their God-given dignity as humans
    that is at stake.

You may remember this Langston Hughes poem:
Harlem

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Hughes asked the right question
 with his poem in 1951
  and it remains the right question
   64 years later.

Disruption will happen, should happen
 to dreams deferred.
  It is the will of God that all God's children
   live in peace and unafraid.
    (Proverbs 3:24; Micah 4:4)

So disruption is a buzzword.
 It's already at risk of being tired
  (and of course that's the first time I've
   paid attention to it, when it's already aging out)

It may soon go the way of "thought leader"
 and "change agent", Nunberg suggests

But since I'm finally on the bandwagon,
 I want to use it for the gospel.

The gospel is full of immense love;
 and that love means disruption.

That love means saying we are people of Christ
 more than we are people of the United States,
  as much as this nation is a blessing.

That love asks clearly-spoken questions
 about homelessness.

Shirley Whiteside said on CPR  this week
 the thing that's not being talked about
  in our discussions of homelessness
   is that people do not have a place to live.

People do not have a place to live.
 Why in the wealthy world would
  people simply not have a place to live?

That's a gospel question.

It is love, not merely cold-eyed analysis,
 not an argument, but love,
  that asks

how so many people of color can be incarcerated
 and how jails can be for profit,
  motivated by quotas

Anthony Grimes - founder of Denver Freedom Riders
 told the story of a young man - Dante,
  who he ran into in Ferguson.

He asked him if there was anything,
 anything at all that he could help him with.

Dante said, I want a sheet of paper that lists my rights.
 Grimes asked - you don't want food, money?
  No, I just want something that shows
   that I have rights.

Young men like Dante are getting thrown into
 for-profit prisons all day long.
Grimes notes that corporations have found that
 it is more profitable for them to have Grimes
  in prison than out of prison.
And he said, we have to ask ourselves,
 where do we want Dante - in prison or out?

Can we incarcerate ourselves enough
  to find salvation?
 I think Paul would disagree with that.

One way to make new connections for action
 see the websites for
The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance
Together Colorado
The Evangelical Immigration Table
Mennonite Mission Network
Mennonite Central Committee
 
one small new connection can make all the difference

The gospel is the power of salvation.
 And the gospel is the love that Jesus
  demonstrated,
   and that lives in our hearts
  as the Spirit of Christ,
disrupting, opening prison gates, there for all people.

 

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