Active Love

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When my kids were little and we lived in Alabama, our Target store has those red balls out front.  Presumably, the are meant to keep a car from running into the glass front of the store, but in our world, they presented an opportunity.  Maybe today, we could make one of those big red balls move.  We would push and push and push, but never did we move them, even a millimeter.  In physics, the definition of work is force exerted over a distance.  No matter how much energy we might have put into pushing against those bright red spheres, there is no work done because nothing ever moved.

This is the image that came to mind as I read Jesus’ words to Judas (not Iscariot) this morning.  “Those who love me will keep my word,” Jesus says.  Love is verb.  Love, like work, requires action.  It requires movement.  No matter how many times we may say, “I love you,” it doesn’t really mean anything unless we actually show love in how we live our lives on a daily basis.

This week, I’m at the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, GA.  I’m here with 20 or so other clergy, one from every diocese in Province IV of The Episcopal Church, on a Justice Pilgrimage, seeking together ways to confront the sin of racism in our lives, our church, and our nation. Jesus says, “Those who love me will keep my word.”  It isn’t enough to say, “I love my neighbor,” but rather, we must find ways to actively show that love.  We must exert the force of that love in a direction.  We must see movement toward healing the deep wounds that slavery, Jim Crow, and the prison industrial complex continue to create.  There is plenty of force working toward division.  Our task, as monumental as it may seem, is to turn that tide and to begin to see progress in the right direction.

It is 6:45 on Tuesday morning.  This pilgrimage runs until 3pm on Friday.  My brain is already exhausted, but as a follower of Jesus, who, when push came to shove summed up the requirements of discipleship as “love God and love your neighbor as yourself,” I don’t have the option of giving up.  None of us who truly wish to follow Jesus and who pray “thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” have that option of just going through the motions, pretending to push that stone up hill.  Like my children out front of Target, we must continue to push, with every ounce of being, against what might feel like an immovable object, knowing that with God’s help, nothing is impossible.

The sin of racism won’t be healed quickly.  As we learned yesterday, it’ll be 2111 before Americans of African decent will have been free in this country as long as they were enslaved, but our call is not to finish the work necessarily.  Our call is simply to come alongside God and to use the power of love to move the needle, if only an imperceptibly small amount, toward reconciliation.

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Keep ya head up

In 2011, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the songs that in shaped rock.  The Guardian has called it one of thousand songs that everyone must hear.  And it has been running through my mind all week as I’ve read the Gospel lesson from Luke that is appointed for Advent 1C.  Tupac Shakur’s “Keep ya head up” is a song dedicated to black women, an anthem for the many who have been subjugated, violated, and treated as less than by men.  The album from which it comes is not a title I can share on this blog, but the song itself is quite clean, so I offer you the music video, should you be interested.

While it is the chorus, which features a sample from The Five Stairsteps “O-o-h Child” that has been my earworm for the week, the verses actually have something to say about apocalyptic vision that Jesus offers the crowd in Sunday’s lesson.  I’m especially drawn to these words:

It’s hard to be legit and still pay your rent
And in the end it seems I’m headin’ for the pen
I try and find my friends, but they’re blowin’ in the wind
Last night my buddy lost his whole family

It’s gonna take the man in me to conquer this insanity
It seems the rain’ll never let up
I try to keep my head up, and still keep from getting wetter
You know it’s funny when it rains, it pours

They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor
Said, there ain’t no hope for the youth
And the truth is, there ain’t no hope for the future

And then they wonder why we crazy
I blame my mother, for turnin’ my brother into a black baby
We ain’t meant to survive, ’cause it’s a setup
And even though you’re fed up

Huh, ya got to keep your head up

Read more: 2Pac – Keep Ya Head Up Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The world of East Harlem in the 1970s, the world in which Tupac was raised, was not that far removed from the vision that Jesus offers for the end times.  Fed up with racial profiling and police violence, the Black Panther Party, of which Tupac’s parents were both active members, was, at times, at war with the powers-that-be.  Much later in life, and now on the other side of the continent, Tupac wrote “Keep ya head up” in a situation in which not whole lot had changed.  The deck was still stacked against young African-Americans born into the poverty.  The men often took to the hustle to make enough money to eat and pay the rent.  Violence was a daily part of life.  Women, especially as featured in this song, were often left to raise children all on their own, either because the father was dead, could’t afford a baby, or had moved on to… less fertile pastures.

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Having come out of a world that seemed like the future was absolutely hopeless, Tupac Shakur chose to write a song about keeping your head up.  As Jesus looks upon a world that seems hellbent on its own destruction, where power and might are the only things that seem to actually mean anything or hold any value, it seems just as odd that he too might tell the oppressed and the downtrodden to, in the words of Tupac Shakur, “keep ya head up.”  Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus does.  For neither of them are these words meant to be platitudes, but rather, they speak to a deep truth that even when all hope seems lost, even when you’re fed up, the only real option is to keep your head up.  Keep striving for justice, for mercy, for righteousness.  Keep speaking truth to power.  Keep claiming your own dignity and worth.  Keep your head up, because the redemption of the world is drawing near.

Not one stone left

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my affinity for the late Bishop Mark Dyer’s assertion that every 500 years or so, the Church goes through an extensive rummage sale.  Basically, his thought was that it takes about 500 years for habits to fossilize, for people to begin to look around, wonder why we’re doing what you’re doing, and begin to make changes.  He thought that the 21st century of the Common Era is going to be such an era.  In my work in this area, I’ve focused mostly on the liturgical and theological innovations that need to get pulled out of the attic and sold at rock bottom prices.  Today, that is changing.

As I write this post, I’m sitting in Houston’s Hobby Airport having just finished a three-day conference on racial reconciliation and discipleship in the missionary age.  In a room filled with 40 of some of best young-ish leaders in the Church, we did some of the hard work of naming the Church’s, and our own, complicity in the structures that benefit whiteness, and began to imagine ways of making disciples that weren’t built upon the false construct of Western Hegemony.  As of right now, I have no idea what I am going to do as a result of my time at Camp Allen, but as I read the words of Jesus to his disciples in our Gospel lesson for Sunday, I’m pretty sure that we need something stronger than a rummage sale.

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We need to get to a place where not one stone is left upon the other.  See, it isn’t just that America was built upon the backs of slaves, but so too was the American Church.  In my research for my DMin thesis, I was made to read American Jeremiad, which looked at the sermons preached on the ships brining pilgrims to the American Colonies.  Preachers talked of America as the City on a Hill, as God’s plan, as a new Eden.  Meanwhile, in the holds of some of those same ships, slaves were locked in darkness, pulled from their land and forced into labor in the name of that City on a Hill.

The Church’s role in the doctrine of manifest destiny, its slave-owning past, and its unwillingness to look deeply at that history are probably more than enough for us to tear the whole thing down, look carefully at every stone, its origin, its impact, and its future.  Only when we’ve taken full stock of our roll in American’s racist foundations, will we ever be able to move forward into our mission of reconciliation.

I’m grateful for some time to spend in prayer, study, and conversation on weighty matters like racial reconciliation, and I pray that God might use my time at Camp Allen to change my heart and my ministry – to break it down, brick by brick, so that it might be rebuilt in grace and love.

Racism has no place in the Kingdom of God – a sermon

You can listen to this sermon on the Christ Church website.


Racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy are evil, they are sinful, and they are from the devil.  They are lies straight from the pit of hell, and I can say this with full confidence because each of these things seek to separate human beings into us and them, in and out, right and wrong.  Our Prayer Book teaches that “the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”[1]  This is the mission of the Church because it is the mission of God, the dream that God has for the creation he saw living in perfect harmony at the end of the sixth day of creation and declared it “exceedingly good.”[2]

From that moment forward, the devil has been sowing seeds of division among God’s good creation.  First, it was to separate humanity from God through the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Then, he began to tear down human relationships through pride, envy, and deceit.  When Cain killed his brother, Abel, the first fruits of sin had come to harvest, and in every generation thereafter, God has been hard at work trying to help us restore the unity that existed in the very good beginning.  In the fullness of time, the Father sent his only Son to live among us.  God took on human flesh, and in so doing, took within the Godhead things which God had never known.  Through the full humanity of Jesus, God experienced human pain: a scraped knee, a hammer to the thumb, a nasty splinter.  God experienced emotional pain: the stress of the temptation, the worry of that first miracle at a wedding in Cana, the deep sadness of the death of a friend.  God experienced the fullness of our human existence, up to and including, suffering and death.  Hard as it might be for us to believe, in every new experience, the Godhead learned something that God had never known before.  Harder yet to believe is that by living in a specific time and a specific place and as a particular person with race, creed, color, and nationality, God even learned from the depravity of human sinfulness

The devil has been hard at work, trying to separate us from God and each other, since the very beginning.  He uses individual temptations, to be sure, but often, the devil’s best work is done through the systems and institutions that human beings naturally create.  As a first century Jewish person, Jesus was born into one of those systems, just as we were born into our own system of beliefs, assumptions, and ways of looking at the world as twenty-first century American Christians.  In our Gospel lesson this morning, we hear a story about the power those systems can exert, even over the Son of God.  After Jesus tells the crowd that it isn’t what goes into our mouths that makes us unclean, but what comes out from the heart, the story immediately turns to Jesus and his disciples leaving the safety of Galilee for the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon.  There, Jesus encounters a woman of Canaanite descent who desperately wants Jesus to heal her demon possessed daughter.  After initially ignoring her pleas, Jesus engages her with these difficult words hear, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Matthew presents us with something of a problem.  Canaanites no longer existed by time Jesus walked the earth, but by naming the woman as a Canaanite, Matthew cues his readers that this woman represents all the enemies of Israel: Canaanites, Babylonians, Egyptians, Samaritans, you name it.  In this story, this woman stands in for all those whom any human system, be it first century Judaism or 21st century America, looks at as outsider, unclean, and less than.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.”[3]  I think this story is as close as Jesus ever got to succumbing to temptation and falling into sin.  Such is the power of systemic evil.  The pressures of the system into which Jesus was born were nearly too much for the Son of God.  Racism is evil, it is sinful, and it is of the devil, even when it comes from the lips of our Savior.  In that moment, when Jesus calls the woman descended from the ancient enemy of Israel a dog, the devil is there tempting Jesus to allow the system of separation, prejudice, and enmity to continue.  Jesus is tempted to keep his eyes closed to her suffering, to ignore the cry of another human being, and to relegate her to the dog pound.  Also present in that moment however, was the power of God’s reconciling love, and God’s love, my friends, is always, always, stronger than the devil’s divisive hate.

Through the Canaanite woman, God the Father confronted the systems of racism, sexism, and fear.  By opening her mouth to challenge Jesus, God once again opened the Kingdom of heaven to the whole world.  It is because of this encounter and others like it that Paul could later write, “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all of [us] are one in Christ Jesus.”[4]  In this encounter, Jesus learned something about his ministry, God learned something about the insidious nature of the devil’s influence within human institutions, and we learn that there is power in confronting the racist, sexist, and classist systems of this world.

Let’s be honest.  Saying racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy are evil is the easy part.  What’s harder is taking a hard look at the systems we love, like this great nation or our beloved Episcopal Church, and asking how these institutions continue to perpetuate the evil of separating human beings from God and from each other.  Harder yet, is the task of looking at ourselves, and being honest about how we allow this evil to continue through sins known and unknown; things done and left undone.  This isn’t about white guilt, but rather the hard realizations that we benefit from systems over which we have no control, that our silence for fear of upsetting someone else perpetuates those systems, and that our fear keeps us from overcoming the devil’s efforts to divide us from each other and the reality of God’s all-encompassing love.

As it was for Jesus, coming to terms with the reality of our own complicity in racism will not be easy.  It requires first that we see the sin within ourselves, admit it, repent of it, and seek God’s forgiveness.  It will mean leaving our comfort zones to name racism, hate, and prejudice when we see them.  We cannot move beyond the sin of racism in silence, but we must we willing to speak out on behalf of those who for centuries have had their voice silenced.  I say all this not to condemn anyone for where they are, but because, I’m afraid, this is where I have been for too long.  The time to rest in relative comfort because racism doesn’t affect me personally is long over.

The dream of God for unity among human beings, God, and all that God has created will not come into being through violent rhetoric, through fist-fights, or through war.  Violence does nothing more than take Jesus again to the cross.  Instead, the mission of God has already been won through the life of Jesus, in which God took upon himself the fullness of our human condition, the death of Jesus, through which God showed the violent work of the devil to be an impotent farce, and the resurrection of Jesus, by which all of humanity has been restored to right relationship.  We who live as a people of the resurrection must take seriously the reality of that victory, and work with intention, compassion, and love to achieve God’s dream of unity not only for ourselves, but for all God’s children: male and female; Black, White, Hispanic, and southeast Asian; Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

Saying that racism is from the devil is the easy part.  God is calling us to move beyond easy and become active participants in the restoring of all people to God and to each other in Christ.  May God bless us with the grace, power, and courage we will need to answer that call.  Amen.

[1] BCP, 855

[2] Genesis 1:31, my translation

[3] Hebrews 4:15

[4] Galatians 3:28

Staying out of Politics

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THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH
To all who read this diploma
Greetings in the Lord,
Steven John Pankey
a very worthy young man, an alumnus of this University who
has conducted himself uprightly and who has duly and lawfully
completed the course of study leading to the degree of
Doctor of Ministry
We the faculty and Senate have by unanimous consent advanced to this degree
and have given and granted to him all rights, privileges, and honors which in
any way pertain to it.

One of the great privileges that comes with being a highly educated, white, middle-class, Christian in 21st century America is the ability to ignore, by and large, what is happening “out there.”  Several years ago, I gave up watching the news for Lent, and it was freeing.  No longer did I have to carry the stress of the 24 hour news cycle.  No longer would I be addicted to the adrenaline rush of a breaking news alert.  No longer would the vitriol of talking heads impact my life.  It was as delightful as it was sinful.

The reality is, my life isn’t much impacted by what happens in the news.  My retirement is far off, so the daily fluctuations of the stock market aren’t my concern.  My health insurance is really good and it is mandated that my employer pay for it.  My children go to an affluent school with plenty of resources and have never known what it means to be in want.  It doesn’t much matter what happens in the world around me, and increasingly, I’m realizing how privileged a way this is to live.

The same is true for my preaching as well.  Ever since I listened to a Convocation sermon at VTS that blamed George Bush for Hurricane Katrina – not the aftermath, but the very storm itself, at least that’s how I hear it – I have subscribed to the school of thought that says politics have little, if any, place in the pulpit.  My congregations have been mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly educated folks.  They have run the political spectrum from Tea Party Republican to Bleeding Heart Democrat.  They have, with few exceptions, been quite content for me to not get into those topics which make us uncomfortable.  Additionally, I take seriously my call to minister alike to young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor, and so I work hard to teach people how to think theologically and come to their own discerned conclusions.  I preach the text first, and only with great caution consult the newspaper.  In light of current events, however, I’m beginning to see just how privileged a posture this is as well.

As a preacher, I don’t need to make direct claims about the President of the United States, that’s beyond my constitutionally protected (OK, IRS statute protected) status.  I do, however, realize that I can’t stay out of the political system in which we live and move and have our being.  I have to be willing to name sin, no matter where I see it, and right now, that sin that needs to be named is racism, a topic which some see as political.  I need to name it, not for my congregation, for my blog readers, or so I can look good on social media, but rather, I need to name it for myself so that I can bring it to the cross, repent from my silence that perpetuates it, and begin to be transformed so that I can be a part of the transformation that God has begun in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As I wrote on Monday, if ever there was a week to deal with this, to venture into that which some will consider politics, this is the week to start.  I continue to pray for you, dear reader, as I hope you will for me.

The Challenging Call to Preach

Being called to preach the Gospel is a noble and dangerous calling.  As the Letter of James says, “teachers will be judged more strictly.”  This is especially true on weekends like the one America just experienced.  After an unplanned rally of torch wielding white nationalists marched through the bucolic campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the whole nation seemed on edge.  By early afternoon on Saturday, the simmering pot had boiled over.  One woman was dead, twenty others injured as a man, now known to be a white supremacist, ran his car into a crowded street of counter-protesters.

On social media, there were many who called on preachers to immediately scrap their sermons and preach against racism.  Many preachers did just that; throwing out sermons that had been prepared to talk about Peter and Jesus walking on water, in order to name the sins of racism, white supremacy, and violence.  I applaud those preachers.  Others took a harder look at their texts and made changes to name the power that fear has in our lives.  The text explicitly invited that reading, and I applaud those preachers as well.  Still others chose to do nothing.  They preached the same sermon on Sunday morning that they had planned to preach when they woke up on Friday.  I don’t begrudge these preachers either.  These topics are weighty and with less than 24 hours to make changes without time for critical thought and fervent prayer sermons dealing with them could have easily caused more harm than good.

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True, but what does one say next?

That pass runs out this morning, however.  Sunday’s Gospel lesson and a full week to study and prayer leaves no wiggle room for the preacher to avoid the topic of racism, violent rhetoric, and hate.  The challenge will come when the preacher names the sin of racism in the context of a story in which Jesus, whom Scripture and tradition tell us was without sin, makes a clearly racist statement.  He calls the woman of Syrophoenican descent a dog, and there is no way around it.  What are we to do?  I think the task is two-fold.  First, we have to talk about the reality of systemic sin.  It can be true that Jesus the Christ lived without personal sin while also being true that Jesus the first century Jew lived in a culture of systemic sin.  His response to the woman was perhaps as close as Jesus ever got to allowing the sinfulness of the system in which he lived to flow into personal sin.  We need to say that.  And then we need to be willing to say that Jesus learned something in that encounter, and that he grew beyond the closed-minded racial system of his time to see that the Kingdom of God is much wider than even his human will could have imagined.

Episcopalians will likely stop there.  We are very comfortable with talking about systemic sin, but this Sunday will also require us to talk about individual sin as well.  We need to talk about how we as individuals perpetuate racism in our own lives.  We need to talk about how the words that come from our mouths show the sin in our hearts.  We need to be clear that the way forward in our society isn’t through anger, hateful speech, or violence, but through love of neighbor.  We need to be willing to say the unpopular thing, that the sin of the man who organized the “Unite the Right” rally is on par with the sin of the man who threw a punch at him on Sunday morning.  The Church, if we are to have a distinctly Christ-like voice in the struggle toward a more just society, must distance itself from violence, must be willing to admit that Jesus meant it when he said that if we are angry with another we are guilty of murder, and must be able to move beyond partisan politics to offer a vision of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus would have us help him build.

It will be a challenging week for Lectionary preachers.  Moving beyond emotional immediacy toward a considered, theologically sound, sermon will not be easy, but it is our call as preachers, and the Gospel lesson demands it of us.  You will be in my prayers this week.  I invite you to pray for me as well.

Open our eyes, Lord

The audio can be heard on the Saint Paul’s website.  Or you can read here.


I don’t remember much about the first few months of life for either of our girls. As many of you are aware, life gets complicated with a newborn in the house. Between washing bottles, never ending loads of laundry, being generally in awe of the miracle of life, and a total lack of sleep, it is hard for the human mind to create long term memories in those moments. They say that is why women decide to go through childbirth more than once, they honestly can’t remember how bad it really was. All joking aside, one of the random things I do remember from those early days is the pediatrician telling us that babies have to learn to see much like they have to learn to walk. It takes time for them to learn how to use their eyes: how they move side to side and up and down; how to make them focus on something close; how to be translate what they are seeing into near and far. It takes almost two full years for a baby to learn to really see the world around them. As I read the Gospel lesson for this week, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the process of learning how to see the world doesn’t end at age two. In fact, I am more and more convinced that learning to really see is a key piece of spiritual development. I think that is what Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisees in this parable about Lazarus and a rich man.

There was a rich man. Usually here I would try to remind us that compared to the rest of the world, we too are rich, but that isn’t what’s happening here. This guy wasn’t middle class American rich. He was Richie Rich rich, Warren Buffet rich, Saudi Royal family rich. Jesus tells us he wore purple clothes. These days, purple shirts are sold everywhere. You can get a purple polo from the Rescue Mission for less than $2. There was a time, a long time in fact, when purple clothing was exorbitantly expensive. The dyes used to make a purple shirt were hard to come by and the color was even harder to set. This man, who wore purple, was exceedingly rich, and more than likely a member of some royal family. Not only did he wear richly colored fabrics, but Jesus says this rich man had access to linen as well. Like purple dyes, linen was (and still is) very expensive to obtain. To say he was well dressed would be an understatement. Every day this man was dressed in a sixty-thousand dollar Italian suit while he feasted sumptuously. The Greek here literally means that he “made merry brilliantly”, or to use a more modern phrase, this guy partied hearty every day. Every day was Super Bowl Sunday and every meal was a Thanksgiving feast for this rich man in well-made clothing.

As he would go back and forth from his mansion, the rich man would pass through a large gate. Plopped down near the gate was a man who was exceedingly poor. Lazarus was his name, the only person to have a name in one of Jesus’ parables, it means “God has helped,” but it doesn’t seem like God had helped Lazarus very much. While the rich man wore purple and linen, Lazarus was covered only in sores. While the rich man feasted sumptuously, Lazarus coveted the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. While the rich man’s life was full of business partners, servants, and family, Lazarus’ only companions were the dogs who licked his sores. Back and forth the rich man would go. At the very least he had to have noticed the stench of Lazarus. Occasionally, he would have had to shoo the dogs away. He’d likely stepped right over him a time or two. The rich man knew Lazarus was at his gate, but he made the choice not to see him.

The rich man spent his life building a chasm between himself and Lazarus. One day, they both died, and suddenly, that chasm that had been growing for years became fixed. The rich man was stuck in Hades while Lazarus was carried to heaven. We come to realize the active nature of the rich man’s ignorance of the plight of Lazarus when immediately he calls out to Abraham and asks for Lazarus, by name. It wasn’t that he had never noticed Lazarus at his gate, but he chose not to see him. The rich man had seen Lazarus, he even knew his name, but instead of seeing Lazarus as a human being, the rich man saw a smelly, beggar who was covered in sores. Lazarus didn’t fit into the rich man’s well-manicured life, and so he ignored him. His sin wasn’t things left undone. His sin was a thing he did; he actively and purposefully chose not to see the poor man at his gate.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus defines his ministry during a sermon in his hometown of Nazareth. After his baptism and forty days of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus went throughout Galilee, empowered and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. He preached in Synagogue after Synagogue until he finally arrived back where he grew up. There, in the Synagogue at Nazareth, he preached from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” In Luke’s Gospel, more than the other three, the ministry of Jesus is about seeing, about having compassion, and about caring for the poor. The rich man had failed at all three, and as the flames licked his heels, he realized, too late, the error of his ways.

“I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house – for I have five siblings – that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Here, I think, is where we find our place in this story. We are the rich man’s siblings, still on earth, still making choices about who we see and who we don’t see every day. Because they don’t fit comfortably in our lives, it is easy to ignore the homeless children who make up as much as 10% of Foley schools. It is easy to bypass the poverty-fueled drug problem in the historically black neighborhoods around here. It is easy to disregard the modern day slavery that keeps our Latino brothers and sisters packed into trailers tucked deep in the woods. Alternatively, it might be those we do see that cause us the most consternation. When we see those people who challenge our comfortable lives, how do we choose to see them? When we see a black man with his hands raised on a road in Tulsa do we see a man who needed help, or, as the police helicopter pilot called Terence Crutcher, do we only see “a bad dude”? When we see protests over more unarmed black men dying at the hands of police officers, do we see a people crying for justice or thugs hell bent on violence? Jesus is very interested in who we see and how we see them.

Abraham denied the rich man’s request to send Lazarus to his brothers and sisters saying, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them, and if they don’t, they won’t even be convinced by a man who has risen from the dead.” We have Moses, we have the prophets, we even have one who has risen from the dead who calls us to have our sight restored – to see those who the rest of the world ignores as beloved children. Spiritual maturity comes as our eyes come into focus and we learn to see those who are inconvenient, those who are disturbing, and even those who might be frightening. We learn to see Christ in them. We learn to see them as beloved of God. And when we learn to see, we learn compassion, we learn to care, and we learn to love. Open our eyes Lord, and teach us to really see the world around us. Amen.