Edmund Pettus 2020 07 26 Sermon by Pastor Mark Brocker
Last sunday, you may be wondering if all evangelical lutheran pastors have such superpowers let’s find out. I wish i could be on the deschutes river still here. I wish i could be on the top of mount hood still here. I guess all evangelical lutheran pastors do not have superpowers. In fact, no human being, i know, possesses superpowers, but that does not mean we are powerless today. We want to focus on what it takes to put the god, given power we’ve been given into action in the last 10 days. Three stalwart leaders of the civil rights movement have died. John lewis, c.t vivian and charles evers, charles evers, was the brother of medgar evers civil rights activist, who was assassinated in june of 1963 in mississippi. C.T vivian was a pastor in atlanta, georgia, an author and a close friend and lieutenant of martin luther king jr. As a young man, john lewis became connected with the civil rights movement and he was only 23 when he delivered one of the keynote speeches for the 1963 march on washington. He was a leader in the settlement of montgomery non violent marches across the edmund pettus bridge on bloody sunday march 7, 1965 armed alabama police, fractured his skull and injured a number of other unarmed protesters from 1987 until his death. He served in congress as georgia’s. Fifth district representative today, a military honor guard is carrying his body up across the edmond pettis bridge.
For the final time now, in early july, shortly before lewis’s death, a new documentary entitled good trouble was released, chronicling his life and work from good trouble.
I learned that as a fifteen year old, he was inspired by the example of roosevelt parks and the montgomery bus boycotters. He attended high school, dressed up in a tie and carrying a bible out of concern for his well being his parents, who were sharecroppers, warned him not to draw attention to himself so as to avoid getting into trouble through involvement in the civil rights movement. He learned that there is a difference between bad trouble and good trouble. His philosophy he explained was that when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just you need to get into trouble. Good trouble, lewis engaged in thousands of protests in his life. His first arrest was in february 1960.. He and his fellow protesters sat at a whites, only woolworth’s lunch counter in nashville tennessee, where angry white patrons beat them and pride them from their seats. When the police arrived, they arrested the protesters, not the attackers lewis was arrested. A total of 40 times prior to being elected to congress. He was arrested five times while he was serving as a u.s representative. Now, martin luther king jr, john lewis and other civil rights leaders were masters at getting into good trouble. They exemplified the wisdom of scribes of the kingdom referred to by jesus in matthew, 13 52.
. These scribes were skilled in bringing out of their treasure. What is new and what is old, king and lewis appealed to the best in our faith, tradition and in our nation’s tradition and then masterfully applied it in new ways to the current situation, from the sermon on the mount they drew on the treasure of jesus’s teaching.
On non violent love in matthew, 5, 43, 44 jesus instructs his followers. You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But i say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute. You lewis emphasized repeatedly how important it is not to give in to hating those who are persecuting him in occupying lunch. Counters protesters were trained to keep on loving those who were denying them service. King asserted to those who persecuted them that we will wear you down with our capacity to suffer, and then he spoke of a double victory. He said the first victory is to refuse to hate one refuses to adopt the attitude of one’s persecutors. Instead, one returns love for hate. The second victory is to transform the hearts of the persecutors in the process of practicing non violent resistance. We might suspect that someone like lewis, who experienced so much persecution at the hands of his fellow americans, would not have been very patriotic, but that was not the case. He had a deep love of his country. He is quoted in good trouble as saying love.
Your country, like you, love yourself early in the documentary he shares his greatest fear that one day we wake up and our democracy is gone. Louis treasured, the core principle in our declaration of independence that all men are created, equal lewis, was fully aware, as he states in good trouble, that we as a nation have miles to go in putting this principle into practice.
In a sense, he devoted his entire career as a protester and public leader to making equality of all people a reality in our land like a wise householder, he strove to bring out of his treasure what is new and what is old as a public leader lewis. Also exemplified the wisdom of solomon in our bible reading from first kings, 3. Solomon prays give your servant, therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil for who can govern this. Your great people, god perceived that solomon, truly had the well being of the people in mind. In asking for wisdom, he did not ask for long life. He did not ask for riches. He did not ask for god to destroy his enemies, so god granted solomon a wise and discerning mind. John lewis was a public servant concerned for the well being of all people, and thus god granted him a wise and discerning mind. Now, in addition to wisdom, courage is also crucial when it comes to getting into good trouble. Representative, jim clyburn of south carolina has described john lewis, as the most courageous person i’ve ever met, lewis once asserted that it may be necessary to get a concussion so that the conscience of the nation is awakened.
As mentioned earlier, on bloody sunday in selma, alabama lewis got not only a concussion but also a skull fracture. What transpired on that sunday did awaken the conscience of much of the nation one of lewis’s most profound quotations in good trouble is when you lose your sense of fear, you are free.
It is no accident that, over and over again in scripture, the people of god and followers of jesus are exhorted not to be afraid. The hymn of the day following the sermon is, god of grace and god of glory. The final line of each verse begins with the words grant us wisdom, grant us courage. According to the hymn, we need wisdom and courage to face this hour and to live these days in a time of deadly pandemic, serious political division, impending climate catastrophe and racial unrest. We need people who are willing to get in trouble to address such issues. Wisdom and courage are vital. My hunch is that few. If any of us are prepared to protest hundreds of times or to get arrested 45 times, but perhaps a time will come to protest as it has for the moms and dads who have joined racial justice marches in downtown portland, calling for federal law enforcement to leave The city, a young african american documentarian, from augustana lutheran in portland, was picked up and held overnight this week by federal forces without charges he was beaten and his camera was smashed. This needs to end lewis now did not think of protesting in the streets or getting arrested or detained as our only options to resist injustice but, as he says, toward the end of the documentary all have been called to do.
Something lewis emphasized that the vote is still the most powerful non violent tool in our tool kit.
Another another simple, but effective tool that many have used here at saint andrew is writing letters to our elected leaders. Now, evangelical lutherans are part of what is called the protestant church. Protestants are by definition, protesters the time of the reformation, martin luther perceived that certain teachings and practices in the church needed to be changed. So he got himself in to good trouble. His actions and teachings triggered the formation of a new church, the protestant church. Ironically, his intent – was not to form a new church, but to reform the church. He grew up in like a householder. He sought to bring out of his treasure what is new and what is old. We believe that the church is always reforming. We are constantly bringing out of our treasure the best of our tradition and asking what it means for us today. During this pandemic, we have not changed our core belief in god’s love for us or our core values of god, care, earth care, community care, neighbor care and self care. But we certainly have had to make a significant number of adjustments in the life and ministry of the church. We’Ve had to try some new things and hope they are for the best. Now last sunday in the children’s, sermon donna read the story. Poverty is nerfed when it comes to getting in good trouble.
Pobody is going to be nerfed if we expect perfection in a time like this, we are destined to despair.
Toward the end of the documentary, lewis warns us don’t get lost in a sea of despair. The challenge is to take seriously whatever is just true and loving, while being humble enough to acknowledge our limitations and imperfections. This is not the time to give up on our nation. This is not the time to give up on our church. Our nation and our church are still worth getting in good trouble for in lewis’s final words in the documentary.