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.” 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.”
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.” 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.” 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.
 BCP, 855
 Genesis 1:31, my translation
 Hebrews 4:15
 Galatians 3:28