“Put Down Your Sword” – John 18:1-11

Sermon Context: Nall Avenue Church of the Nazarene, Prairie Village, KS.

There has been fear in recent days about the decline of religion in our culture, particularly around Christianity and diminishing attendance rates. There is a growing fear and trepidation. But it’s interesting religion has not gone away. In fact, spirituality in several surveys shows an increase. Though there may be a decrease in those who profess to be practicing Christians, there is an increase in those who would identify in some way as exercising some kind of “spirituality.” We have not gotten away from those practices and realities at all.

In fact, one of the prominent religious organizations gathers every Sunday in huge cathedrals. The faithful flock in and wear the liturgical colors. They gather for a time of worship and often their hands are raised in celebration and adoration of their idols. They have officials that work and walk the people through the four movements of the service. There is libation, drink and food, that they eat together. It is a place where families are gathered together and formed deeply by these liturgical rituals. “This is who we are!” There are even chants and song that talk about the life they share together in this place. It is powerful. If you have ever attended one of these worship services, you find yourself gripped by it. You get caught up in the fervor and the emotion of the moment. It is powerful. Very powerful.

The worship service is geared around something very damaging. The very thing it centers its life around is violence. There is a lot of violence in this place. Yet, the faithful gather to watch it every Sunday, to talk about their kingdom and their glory… and sometimes “the good old days.” Perhaps you would recognize this place as a place like Arrowhead stadium where the Kansas City Chiefs play football. It is a place of worship where the faithful gather every Sunday to sing songs of celebration, to proclaim there is only one kingdom. This is for the glory of the city, if you’re more of a Sporting Kansas City fan. There’s even a “Blue Hell!” There is life and death in these matters. There’s times of celebration and lament – all centered around competition, and winning, and being the best, and dominating the foe, putting them down. It’s a powerful liturgy.

I was brainwashed from a very early age. I didn’t grow up a Chiefs fan. I am a Cowboys’ fan. That’s a different kind of sinner. I grew up in the days of Tom Landry. So, I have been formed so that even when they have gone through their decline, I wonder each year if this will be the year they get the glory. Usually I’m disappointed. We are transfixed by this celebration of violence where men have become bigger and bigger, stronger and fiercer. They SMACK each other and we celebrate. It is like the days of the gladiator modernized with protective gear. We celebrate the ritual of violence against each other and it lets off the steam of our own desire for violence. I can celebrate the violence of others and relieve my own desire for violence.

Liturgies of violence deeply form us. This morning my 3 ½ year old daughter came into our room and exclaimed, “I got my laser beam! I’m going to find the bad guys!” She’s 3 ½ and she’s talking about bad guys! She doesn’t know “bad guys,” other than when she thinks mom and dad are the “bad guys” for correcting her. She doesn’t understand good and evil. She doesn’t understand the full complexities of life. She has been so deeply formed by television shows she has seen, the realities of our culture, that this morning she was talking about going and getting “the bad guy.” These liturgies capture our hearts, imaginations, and desires so quickly and at such an early age. They largely go unquestioned, unchallenged. Sometimes in the Church, the liturgies of violence are so ingrained in us we don’t question it but when we talk about being peacemakers it is questioned. We always have an excuse for not seeking out peace. “Yeah, but what if this happens?” “Yeah, but what if it’s against these kinds of people?” We’re quick to push down peacemaking, to question it. But the liturgies of violence go unquestioned.

We find ourselves in the midst of this story with Jesus and his disciples. Did you notice where they are? They have gone across the Kidron Valley and find themselves in a garden. Gardens are not where battles are fought. Gardens are places of respite, rest, wonder, and awe. We are reminded of something that is good and life-giving. Jesus would often go to these places for rest and prayer. He’d go to the gardens to escape, to connect, and to commune with God. He’d often take his disciples along with him to commune and pray with them. In Matthew’s Gospel, that is exactly what they have done. Jesus has taken the disciples and asked them to pray with him “for the hour has come.”[1] Every time he returns, the disciples have fallen asleep. The garden is a place of prayer and respite. So, we don’t expect chaos to erupt in the garden.

We can remember stories from scripture about other gardens, particularly the Garden of Eden. Do you remember God would come down in the evening and walk with humanity? God would walk and commune with them. There was something so good, and beautiful, and right there. Everything was in harmony. Relationships were working well. There was a connectivity to one another, not hindered by shame and hiddenness and brokenness.

There is a moment of betrayal in the Garden. Do you know the story? They were told not to eat the fruit from a certain tree in the Garden for doing so their “eyes would be opened.” There is a desire humanity will not deny. They take the fruit and eat it. Immediately, the realize they are naked. They experience shame and hide themselves. Yet, God comes to them in the Garden. The story follows humanity continuously moving east of the Garden, away from God’s presence. This movement away from God manifests as increasing violence in human communities.

Cain and Abel, two brothers, who should be out for one another’s welfare, begin to fight. Cain deceives his brother, takes him out to a field, and kills him with a stone. The story continues until we reach Lamech. Lamech kills a young man because the young man said something against Lamech. Lamech exclaims that if Cain would be avenged seven times, he would be avenged seventy times seven. Violence has exploded exponentially. It has grown from brother against brother to everyone being out for their own gain and against each other. Betrayal.

We should be reminded of these stories when Jesus is found in a garden and Judas enters the garden with betrayal on his heart. Judas has come with an ulterior motive. Judas comes seeking Jesus, not in the way of a seeking disciple. Judas has come to orchestrate Jesus’ arrest. Betrayal. The communion between God and Judas is being severed, torn. Judas wields violence against the Creator, against Jesus. Judas comes with a contingent of soldiers armed to the teeth, ready for battle. They have come to do harm. There is an authority placed upon these soldiers to arrest Jesus because the religious leaders don’t like what Jesus is saying and doing in the community. He has been talking about a Kingdom with a very different way of life than the kingdoms of this world. Jesus speaks peace to those who are not “peaced” people. He brings in outsiders and heals those who have been hurt deeply by society. People begin to get “up in arms” about this. They don’t like this Kingdom that looks out for the least of these. They don’t like a Kingdom that questions everything about how we have arranged our lives together.

Jesus comes as a disrupter. Not with a sword. Jesus does not come as conqueror using force. Jesus comes as one who pours himself out – who serves, who washes disciples’ feet. This is a strange king and a strange kingdom. Jesus proclaims a peaceable kingdom. This kingdom seeks out the good of the neighbor. For some, this way of Jesus is just too difficult. It calls too much from us. There is great risk in being a servant. There is great risk in loving people, especially our enemies. When you bow down to wash somebody’s feet, you expose your neck. To expose your neck to somebody, particularly an enemy, makes us vulnerable. Yet, this is the very thing Jesus does for Judas, bowing down and exposing his neck.

Jesus takes the bread at the Supper, breaks it, and hands it to Judas. Breaking bread in Jewish culture is like a peace treaty. To receive that bread is saying, “I’m looking out for your benefit and I trust you are looking out for mine.” Jesus gives the bread as a sign of peace. Judas takes the bread knowing that he will betray Jesus. Even though Jesus knows Judas’ intentions, he still extends the peace of God to Judas. Jesus knows that serving enemies is risky business.

Despite the risk, Jesus has an unarmed guard of disciples as they go to the garden. Peter has found a sword somewhere. He has no business with a sword. He’s a fisherman, not a soldier. When Judas’ group arrives, Peter may think this is the moment to rise and fight to establish Jesus’ kingdom. This is the moment! Peter said he would never abandon Jesus, even if everyone else does. He will be with Jesus to the bitter end! He pulls out the sword to protect everything he hopes and believes, to protect life and to secure it by all possible means.

Peter swings at the one person who doesn’t have a sword! He’s so brave! He swings at Malchus, servant and reporter to the high priest. Malchus has no sword. He doesn’t need it. He’s surrounded by soldiers. Peter spots the most vulnerable mark in the group and attacks. All Peter manages to cut is part of an ear. He swings with all his might, trying to protect, trying to hold on, trying to control the outcome… as we so often do. He is gripped by fear, not love. He is gripped by the narrative of redemptive violence – the narrative that violence can redeem, that violence is necessary. We believe violence saves. Peter draws the sword ready to protect everything. But redemptive violence is a myth. It cannot save.

Jesus tells Peter to stop, to sheath his sword. Jesus confronts Peter in his moment of standing up and tells him to back down. “Put away the sword.”[2] I totally relate with Peter. I imagined as a young boy that if my beliefs were ever threatened, I would stand up. I would be ready to accept whatever violence might happen and fight for everything I believed in. That’s a pretty natural response – to believe I can control the outcome and justify my violence.

I just can’t get around this Jesus character. He calls for some very difficult responses from us. “If you want to follow me, pick up a cross.”[3] Be ready to die, not take life. “Those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.” Jesus calls for some very difficult ways of living, risk-taking, entering so fully into this way of love that violence is no longer an option. I don’t know that I’ve been so gripped by Jesus that I can fully say I’ve cut myself off from these ways of violence. I know how effective violence can be to achieve my goals.

Peter knew how effective violence is. He observed how Rome utilized violence to assert their power. There was talk of peace but always under threat of the sword cutting down anyone who dissented, anyone who opposed the Empire. They used power to put down. Peter saw how effective it could be. There were also the stories of the Maccabees who defeated the Romans and kicked them out of Jerusalem for a time. Peter hoped Jesus would expel the Romans again. But Peter finds out that Jesus Kingdom doesn’t resemble the Roman empire’s way of violence.

My father once told me, “Don’t get into a fight. But, IF you do, fight to win.” I remember being told this as a young boy and being so deeply shaped by it. Of course, you can see I am not an intimidating figure. I didn’t seek out fights. But I found ways of utilizing violence to get things accomplished. My sister, who is a couple of years younger than me, was being teased in school. Understand that as a freshman in high school, I was a whopping five-foot-one and eighty-one pounds. I was all bone. If it was windy outside, I whistled because I was so skinny. I’m supposed to be the big, protective brother. So, I gather a couple of my friends who love to fight and are much more imposing than I am. We find her bully. My friends pick him up and pin him up against a locker. I threaten him. It was effective. It was powerful. Even though I was so small and diminutive, I felt real power.

There is an intoxication with violence. Power comes in all sorts of forms. It can be utilized against our spouse by the words we use. It can be against our children by constantly reminding them they don’t measure up instead of building them up. It is a violence that allows us to keep and maintain control over them. Or, we might think about someone breaking and entering and we want to protect ourselves or others in our home. The very first thing we go to is violence. We don’t ask this question: “When those moments come where fear and anxiety and chaos surround us, when I or those I love are threatened, how do I seek the most peaceful way?” How do I respond when I hear Jesus say, “Levi, put the sword away?” That’s risky.

Right after this scene in the garden, Jesus will be arrested, bound, beaten. He will be given a crown of thorns, mocked, spit upon. He will be dragged through the streets. He will be humiliated and, ultimately, crucified. The cross is a political sword. Jesus is pierced by the spear. Yet, the one who holds all power does not retaliate but absorbs that very violence in his own body and exhausts its power. The power of the sword has always been death. Jesus has conquered death by going and accepting the blows himself. If we believe Jesus isn’t simply wanting us to be good people, to whisk us away, but forms the church as a colony of heaven living in a culture of death then the call of Jesus is not just a pipe dream about the future. It is a call to lean into God’s way of life here and now. The cross is the establishment of that way.

The Kingdom is established in the cross in John’s Gospel. John’s Gospel is focused on God’s glory, but by means of God’s condescension. It’s ironic. God’s glory is a crucified savior. God’s glory does not return violence for violence, fire for fire, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. God turns it upside-down and exhausts the power of violence by conquering death, Death itself, through the power of the resurrection. New Creation life blows like a fresh wind.

In the resurrection scene, Jesus is in a garden again. Jesus is in a garden when he is betrayed and now is in a garden when he is resurrected. New Creation things are happening. He has gone into the garden where everything has been death and violence. Now, being buried into the ground, risen three days later, not taking the way of the world but going the way of the cross, Jesus comes out of the grave as a victorious savior. Never once having swung a sword, yet having been pierced by the sword, Jesus is not defeated.

Some are quite fearful in the Church and utilize violence as a safety mechanism, something that gives us security. In that regard, I’m not sure resurrection has fully gripped us. The power of resurrection that has broken into this dark world has not fully gripped us because for so many of us death is to be feared. We fear death and, therefore, we hold onto life with everything we can. When we hold onto things in great fear, violence is usually the outcome. Can we trust God cares for us so we don’t have to be gripped by violence? Even if the very worse should happen, God forbid, does God love us so deeply that God won’t let death be the last word over us? Do I believe resurrection power is not something off in the distance but is now working its way in me, doing something different in me, so I don’t have to perpetuate cycles of violence that escalate? Can I embody an alternative way of being like Jesus, even at great risk?

We meet at the Table every Sunday. We gather at the Table to eat a meal that recalls our crucified Savior’s unwillingness to take our violence and turn it back against us. Even having received our violence, Jesus takes it into his very body and then offers us his peace. The bread, the body, broken for our sake. The bloodshed as an atonement for sin. Jesus offers his very life in this moment at the Table and in consuming the meal we are receiving in our bodies and lives the way of Jesus – to be broken and poured out for the sake of our world. We are not to return hate for hate but return hate with love. We are to sow peace in places of discord. We receive this meal with glad and open hearts knowing it calls us into something deeper than retaliation, unless it is retaliating to evil with good, hatred with love, violence with peace – the way of Jesus.

This is my Father’s world

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the Ruler yet

 

This is my Father’s world

The battle is not done

Jesus who died shall be satisfied

And heaven and earth be one[4]

 

Though the wrong seems oft so strong, though the chaos seems like it might envelop us, yet we serve One who has gone headlong into the chaos, headlong into death, and has received new life and promises that same new life to us as those who embody the way of Jesus.

(Following Communion)

A story that captivates me is the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. They experienced the threat of violence and real violence. Firehoses, dogs, guns, bombs. There was real risk in the way of non-violence that King embodied. His witness is powerful because it confronted the chaos and darkness of this world through non-violence. We continue to celebrate his legacy because he embodied a different way of engaging the powers that surround us. It is a powerful reminder that violence may be effective for a short time, but love conquers all. “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”[5]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Harrelson, John 12:23, 17:1.

[2] Harrelson, John 18:11.

[3] Luke 9:23, my paraphrase.

[4] Ken Bible, “This is My Father’s World.” In Sing to the Lord: Hymnal, 7th ed. (Kansas City: Lillenas Publishing, 1993), 75.

[5] Martin Luther King, Jr., Vincent Harding, and Coretta Scott King, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1st ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010), 65.

“Stay Woke” – Matthew 26:36-46

Sermon Context: Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, KS. Opening chapel

My friend, Tiny, lives out in the country off a dirt road. His mobile home is perched off of the dirt road on top of a steep hill looking down to the road. David and I had been out to Tiny’s only a few weeks earlier. When we left, we jumped in David’s little Ford Ranger. Instead of driving down the driveway to the road, David drove down the steep but short hill onto the dirt road. Off we went back home.

Several weeks had passed and I was back out at Tiny’s house. I was driving my Chevy long-bed, extended cab with the cattle guard on the front. It was as pretty as it sounds. I parked in the same spot David parked, knowing the easiest way to pull out when I left. It was quite dark when it was time to leave. I hopped in my large pickup, popped it into drive, and headed over the hill. As the front end of my truck crested the hill, I noticed something different about the road. It was no longer a smooth transition down to the dirt road. I had not noticed a large ditch had been dug on either side of the road. It was too late to brake. The dewy wet grass and the momentum of my heavy truck nullified any traction. BAM! Headfirst into the ditch… Then, the walk of shame back up to Tiny’s house.

The Church has found itself in a ditch. We imagined the road would continue to be accessible by the old paths we once took. While we were sleeping, ditches were dug out and we failed to pay attention to what was altered. The ditch of diminishing authority, of moral failure, of social disengagement, or absent accountability. Our moral imaginations have become stymied and stagnant.

I would like to offer a title for consideration: “Stay Woke.” Stay woke. Rev. Otis Moss III talks about “staying woke” as a movement and call to “be conscious in an unconscious age.” Being woke is the clarion call to be aware of the cultural and societal frameworks shaping our lives and to rouse our collective energies to be more than passive observers.

For some of us, the phrase “stay woke” has a lot of political baggage. It may be the opinion of some that this phrase is unwarranted, too political, and too controversial to be used in Christian worship. Please know I hear those concerns. Yet, if we cannot talk about the pressing issues of the day, many may question the Church, “Why on earth do I need your Gospel?” I don’t recall who said it, but I think it bears repeating: “We must not socialize the gospel. We must gospelize the social.”

Politics certainly falls in the category of social. However, I don’t imagine that “gospelizing the political” will resemble a Christian nation-state, whose life is often rooted in tribalism, the myth of perpetual progress, and violence. Jesus’ ministry runs counter to these narratives at work around us. By “gospelizing the social and political” I mean we see all categories of life through a Gospel-lens, a theological framework. In other words, God makes claims on the ways we arrange our lives in this world.

We tend to think of theological concepts in doctrinal terms: holiness, sanctification, Christology, pneumatology, eschatology. These are all important terms. Might I suggest some equally important theological concepts for our consideration: incarceration, food insecurity, sex trafficking, consumption and capitalism, foster care, economic exploitation, red-lining, white supremacy, sexism, ableism. Each of these concepts imagines a theological construct of the world, envisions the “good life,” and arranges our desires to live out the claims those narratives entail.

Ghettos and projects are theological concepts. Tupac Shakur once wrote: “I wonder if Heaven got a ghetto?”[1] If we imagine there are no ghettos in heaven and Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we should ask why ghettos exist in the landscape of our cities. Ghettos are not simply unfortunate social realities, they are theological categories which dismiss bodies and entrap persons in social, economic, psychological patterns of despair and desperation. If the hope of the Gospel cannot address such social issues, one might also question the extent of God’s reign. The Gospel intersects the political and social and calls all systems of inequality and despair into question to account. But, are we woke to the realities our corporate lives, including within the Church, create among the most vulnerable among us?

The disciples follow Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. The gathering gloom hangs over the company. It is the same shadow that descends on the upper room as they remember the Passover. The long shadow is shaped like a cross. Though the disciples do not see it, they sense something is coming. Peter even boldly proclaims, “Even if everyone else falls away, I will NEVER fall away!” This is the claim of every disciple who initially follows Jesus without counting the cost of discipleship – to follow Jesus is a journey toward the cross.

Jesus leads his disciples to the Garden to pray and to keep watch. Like shepherds tending their flock, they are to keep watch, to pay attention while Jesus prays. Jesus goes a little beyond them to pray, to discern, to wrestle. With great anguish, Jesus struggles with the call he received in his baptism and confirmed in the wilderness – a radical obedience to the kingdom of heaven, regardless of the backlash. In this scene, there is no tempter’s voice boasting loudly like the one Jesus encountered in the wilderness. Now, it is the eerie silence and the deepening sense of isolation. Like the calm before the rushing storm, the Garden is deathly silent, save for the agonizing prayer which Jesus offers to the Father. Wading into the morass of public life does not bring one certainty, or unanimous approval, or remove the risk of violence, physical or verbal. Quite the opposite. Proclaiming an alternative word, a subversive way to the dominant narrative will likely lead us to places and seasons where we experience abandonment. The weight of obedience comes crashing in.

“If this cup may pass from me…”[2] Bread, body broken. Wine, blood poured out. Passover and paschal lamb. Exodus hopes. Homecoming promise. Powers dethroned. Baptized and liberated community set apart. In the dethroning of Egyptian and pharaonic powers, the first-born sons of Egypt die. The deathly practices of empires fall back upon themselves to their own destruction. But, now, when confronting the powers and principalities of this world, Jesus becomes the first-born son offering his own life in their place.

Jesus’ eyes are wide open in his prayer. He recognizes that confronting the destructive practices of this world agitates anger and violence in religious and political communities quite satisfied with the way things currently operate. The cross is the manifestation of that societal anxiety at work in our midst. The cross is the theological category of Rule of Law and social order which maintains privilege and peace under the threat and utilization of violence. Fear coerces and co-opts. Prayer may seem an unlikely, unproductive avenue for confronting deathly empires. But it is impossible to embody a Kingdom-kind-of-love when we are controlled by fear and anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong here. The prayer in which Jesus engages is no lightweight “thoughts and prayers.” This is no escapism that throws happy thoughts or sad face emojis at the deep wounds of the world. Jesus prays as one contending and yet submitting to God’s direction. “Not my will, but your will be done.”[3] Such prayer inevitably leads those who pray it to the places of deepest pain, broiling darkness, and festering woundedness in our world as embodied signs of God’s presence. Immanuel – God with us!

Jesus returns from praying to find the disciples are fast asleep. They do not recognize the hour. They cannot see the crash course with the cross to which Jesus is leading them. They are weary, exhausted, unable to maintain their watch. Jesus calls them to stay woke, to pray, so they might not fall into temptation. Yet, each time he returns, they have drifted off into the hazy, unconscious world of slumber.

This is not Sabbath rest. This is the slumber of anesthetized uncaring. It’s the drifting of idle unawareness. This sleep quarantines and cloisters, builds barriers and creates chasms, it ruptures relationships and silences suffering. This is turning of eyes, averting the gaze, so that we might not become too disturbed, distraught, or distressed by the suffering around us.

It is easy to be lulled asleep by the comfort of our own privilege. There are churches that refuse to recognize their privileged position in society because they are caught up in the game of church growth, numerical success, ecclesial ladder climbing, and survival. We are more likely to decry our loss of rights as religious institutions and clergypersons than we are to lament and confess our unwillingness to seek justice in our society and in our world. We are quick to play the martyr card unless, of course, martyrdom becomes a real option – then, we’re furious at our mistreatment!

Jesus calls his disciples to watch and pray so they will not fall into temptation. Jesus calls them to know the time and to be attuned to God’s call to be witnesses to an alternative Kingdom way. The way of the meek, the way of the peacemakers, the way of those who mourn and lament, the way of the merciful, and the pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and the poor in spirit… THE WAY OF THE CROSS!

Watch and pray that you might not fall into temptation. Stay woke and pray so that you do not fall into temptation by inoculating ourselves to the suffering around us, to remaining silent and passive. Stay woke and pray that you are not tempted to sleepily preach a gospel of privilege suited to the desires of itching ears rather than a Gospel that embodies a new way of life for all. Stay woke and pray to have eyes wide open to the destructive powers of this world and that you might not be tempted to avoid the cross.

Let it not be lost on us that all the disciples abandon Jesus when the cost of discipleship becomes too steep, when it is easier to go back to sleep than remain awake. It’s more convenient to preach a palatable Gospel than shake the world. We may make bold promises to follow Jesus and never fall away. But, we are the same disciples whose eyes become heavy with cynicism, exhaustion, anger, pride, privilege, or fear. We may think ourselves “woke” and yet are too often blind to our own complicity in the world’s brokenness. We lay sleeping, dead in our slumber, unable to keep watch.

Yet, time and time again, Jesus returns to the disciples to rouse them to “stay woke.” Jesus calls again and again. The voice of Jesus pierces our slumber to open our eyes and see again the world around us. When we have not kept watch, Christ has kept watch. When we were unable to drink the cup, Christ drank the cup for us! When we were unwilling to be broken and poured out, Christ was broken and poured out for our sake! “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”[4]

 

[1] 2Pac, I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto (Interscope, 2011).

[2] Matthew 26:39, my paraphrase.

[3] Harrelson, Luke 22:42.

[4] Harrelson, Ephesians 5:14b.

Resourcing Discussions Concerning Racism, Privilege, and Contextual Theology

I was asked to provide a list of resources I have found helpful in thinking and shaping issues concerning racism and privilege. I’ve added resources that also deal with contextual theology because we all read from a place, a position, a framework. Privilege is often assumed and is typically hidden from our eyes, especially when we benefit from those systems. As such, it is helpful to be made aware of our position and its underlying assumptions.

Many of these titles have been very formative for me. Some of the ones I will list have been good to read just to hear dissenting voices from my own. I don’t necessarily agree with every position taken in every book, but I have learned something from each one and therefore offer them as helpful starting points to further conversation and learning. I will also try to categorize each book so that they can be held together with other books that approach privilege, racism, and contextual theology through a particular lens (i.e., preaching, community development, etc.). Some of these resources do not deal with privilege directly, but I certainly see application and overlap. I hope these are helpful!

PREACHING

Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope by Luke Powery

Preaching as Weeping, Confession, and Resistance: Radical Responses to Radical Evil by Christine M. Smith

Toward a Womanist Homiletic: Katie Canon, Alice Walker, and Emancipatory Proclamation by Donna E. Allen

They Like to Never Quit Praisin’ God: The Role of Celebration in Preaching by Frank A. Thomas (A development of Dr. Henry Mitchell’s Celebration and Experience in Preaching)

Listening to Listeners: Homiletical Case Studies by John McClure

Decolonizing Preaching: The Pulpit as Postcolonial Space by Sarah Travis

Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World by Otis Moss III

The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence by Richard Lischer

The Liberating Pulpit by Justo Gonzalez

The Word Before the Powers by Charles Campbell

Preaching at the Crossroads: How the World – And Our Preaching – Is Changing by David Lose

Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art by Leonora Tubbs Tisdale

The Journey and Promise of African American Preaching by Kenyatta Gilbert

HERMENEUTICS/INTERPRETATION

Reading from this Place, Vol. 1 by Fernando F. Segovia (collection of essays)

Soundings in Cultural Criticism: Perspectives and Methods in Culture, Power, and Identity in the New Testament by Francisco Lozada, Jr.

Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning by Paul Riceour

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith

COMMUNITY DEVELOP/ PARISH MINISTRY

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… And Yourself by Steve Corbett

Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development by Wayne Gordon and John Perkins

The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Paul Spark

Theology/Ethics/Memoirs

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Night by Elie Wiesel

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr. (https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html)

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone

The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings

Naming the Powers by Walter Wink

Unmasking the Powers by Walter Wink

Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink

Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics by Willard M. Swartley

Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church by William Cavanaugh

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire by William Cavanaugh

Theopolitical Imagination: Christian Practices of Space and Time by William Cavanaugh

The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender, and the Quest for God by Sarah Coakley

The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics by Stanley Hauerwas (collected essays)

Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann

Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible by Willie James Jennings

MISSIONS

Missions and Money: Affluence as a Missionary Problem Revisited by Jonathan Bonk

Cross-cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission by Mary T. Lederleitner

Going Global: A Congregation’s Introduction to Mission Beyond Our Borders by Gary Nelson

Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore

Ministering Cross-culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships by Sherwood Lingenfelter

FICTION

Jonah’s Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

POP CULTURE

Decoded by Jay-Z (preachers should read this)

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz

DOCUMENTARIES/FILMS

“13”

“Schindler’s List”

“Le Chambon: La Colline Aux Mille Enfants”

“Of Gods and Men”

“Roots”

“The Mission”

“Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom”

“Selma”

“Mississippi Burning”

Sermons

(start around 30:38 mark)

Proclaim the Hope

The most devastating waves of hatred exercised in violence betray an underlying sense of fear and fatalism in those perpetrating such atrocities. I sometimes wonder what drives people to the precipice where they no longer see any hope for alternative ways to change their world than to destroy others. Perhaps many of these tragedies might have been avoided if the Church had better articulated its message of hope, if it did not so often succumbed to the same tragic despair that can no longer imagine new possibilities from dead ends? How devastatingly dull our witness is when it is incapable of offering hope to the hopeless. Salt that has lost its saltiness is thrown away and trampled under foot. May God revive the imagination of the Church for these days. May the Church and its disciples be light in the dark places.

 

Preaching When Words Have Lost Their Power

This is a blog I wrote for the Center for Pastoral Leadership at Nazarene Theological Seminary. Here is a preview of the work: “Preaching from a posture of Wisdom requires dying, which relinquishes the need for acclamation, control, power, violence, and conformity. Wisdom is the way of Jesus.”

You can find the rest of the article at the Center for Pastoral Leadership’s blog: https://cpl.nts.edu/index.php/component/k2/item/430-preaching-when-words-have-lost-their-power