So. I wrote a sermon today in record time. Two hours. Granted, it needed to be a very, very short sermon (like, three to six minutes), and I’d been thinking about the day and the readings for the entire week, but I think I wrote it so quickly because I am finally taking the advice of rakaiagirl who has pointed out that if I attacked my sermons with the same verve and enthusiasm that I attacked my fic, my life just might be transformed.
And tomorrow, assuming that I don’t forget to go to chapel when I need to (who knew Anti-Racism Training could be so engrosing as to lose track of time???), I’ll be giving that sermon at noon, probably to a mostly empty seminary chapel. Why will it be empty? Because the training is running through chapel, of course. Oh well. These things happen.
And so, this is the day on the church calendar that we remember John Chrysostom. Cool dude, damn fine preacher, made Patriarch (head Bishop) of Constantinople in 397, died in his second exile for preaching sermons that pissed off people in power. The two readings for the day are the calling of Jeremiah the Prophet (Jeremiah says, “Um, God? I’m just a kid.” God says, “You’ve got another think coming if you think that’s gonna stop me. I’ll give you the words, just go out there and say them.”), and a passage from Luke that is Jesus waxing eschatalogical (of The End) and pointing out that major persecution is in store for people who dare to walk in his foot steps and speak out his good news.
There is an anti-racism training that is going on today, continued from yesterday, and I am taking part in it. If I have learned one thing about myself, it is that all of my anti-racism training in the past (which seemed extensive, before yesterday), has been comparatively quite shallow. We have, in our short time together, begun to explore some of the depths from which racism comes, the depths, the formative moments, the assumptions, the fears, the obliviousness, the privilege, and the power. And we begin, in our second half, to see what it is we can do about the racism that is around us, that is within us.
Did you know that in October 2002, the House of Bishops issued a pastoral letter on racism? They affirmed racism to be a sin. They themselves confessed to their own individual and corporate racist tendencies. And, every single ECUSA Bishop agreed to a covenant in which they would, personally as baptized Christians and vocationally as sitting Bishops, “transform [their] lives through reflection, meditation, prayer and action”. And the pastoral letter goes on to list the very specific ways in which our Bishops have covenanted to this transformation. And how they will encourage others to do the same. Preaching, you might be interested to know, is among those covenanted actions.
And yet, this is not always an easy message. This, this challenge for all of us to go deeper, this challenge for those in the majority race and ethnicity to examine how their own privilege comes at the price of other’s oppression, this challenge for those who are aware to continue to speak, and to continue to hold the dangerous position of prophet, this challenge to take the issue beyond race, and into all facets of humanity in which some abuse power over another, this challenge brings us to our Gospel today, to John Chrysostom.
Through the lips of Luke, Jesus says some disturbing things, images no less poignant in the issues of today for the fact that they were said within an eschatological framework at the time. They will arrest you, persecute you, throw you in jail and bring you before judges. Why? Because you have preached the Gospel. Because you have given the Good News to the oppressed, the marginalized. Because you have followed as faithfully as you could in the footsteps of Jesus. And the servant is no greater than the master. And in the two thousand years or so between this servant and the master, others far greater than we have risen up, preached the Gospel, and been dragged down again to be persecuted, vilified, killed. Martin Luther King. Perpetua. Paul. Martin Luther. Sojourner Truth. Pelagius. John Chrysostom.
And this is the day in the church calendar that we remember that particular man, the man who became the Patriarch of Constantinople in 397, the man who was so eloquent that they called him Golden-Mouthed, or Chrysostom. He had a short and tumultuous episcopate, partially because of his ascetic personal tendencies (apparently he sold off all the gold and beautiful furnishings that were handed down as a part of the episcopate, to help the poor), and partially it was short and tumultuous because he would not keep his golden mouth shut, and eventually angered the Empress. But he continued to speak out, and he died in his second exile.
And down through history there is a discernable pattern: Speak, and they will try to silence you. But the Word you speak, if you choose to speak it, did not come from you. It is a gift from the Eternal Spirit of God. It existed before you, and it will exist after you. It needs to be spoken by you, but when persecution comes, as it has for some, and will for others, when it comes in order to purchase your silence, remember: No one can truly buy away the Eternal Word from your lips, it was a gift to you, and can be neither bought nor stolen from you, but only given by God.
And now, I’m gonna write fic.