To the End of the Age

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(The Trinity by Kelly Lattimore)

Sermon for Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020

HL Holder-Brown

Jubilee Baptist Church

Genesis 1:1-28

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.

The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”

So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.

God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in their image, in the image of God they created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Sermon:

“To the End of the Age”

Decolonizing the Great Commission and the Creation Story

First of all, happy pride! If you’re here, and you’re queer, I am so thankful for you. The reason we celebrate pride in this month is because of the Stonewall riots that happened in New York in 1969. Because of the police who kept raiding the gay bars, drag queens and trans women of color said enough was enough and started throwing bricks. We specifically have Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major and so many other trans women of color to thank for that. 

The past few weeks, our country has been protesting the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and so many other Black people who have been murdered by the police and by White Supremacy, by hatred and racism woven into the fabric of our country that does not see everyone as full human beings. If this is your first time being enraged by what’s going on, welcome to the fight. We have a lot of work to do. 

(I’m going to mostly focus on the Great commission passage and interweave some thoughts about the Creation Narrative so hang with me as I connect these two stories.)

The creation story in Genesis has often been misunderstood by evangelicals as a way of explaining how Everything that now exists got here. It’s a commissioning, if you will, of the world and all that exists. This story is also one we have to reclaim. We are not here to use the Earth/Creation. We are here to work together with the Earth both human and non-human. The question is, how is this commissioning of the Earth and the humans taking care of the Earth allowing us to heal and move forward.

Moving on to “The Great Commission” in our Gospel passage:

This passage has been consistently used as an excuse to evangelize the nations for Jesus, which, in reality, means colonizing for Jesus. I’m going to go out a limb here and suggest strongly that this probably isn’t what Jesus, a Jewish person of color living under occupation in the Roman Empire had in mind. I’m going to attempt to reclaim and redeem this passage as a way to focus on Justice and Liberation.

I’m also aware as a White American living in a country that was founded by colonizing Indigenous people and enslaving black people that we have a lot of work to do to acknowledge our privilege and deconstruct how we think about the Church and the Gospel in order to change the world we live in. And coming from a religious tradition that split from a Denomination created because of their stance on Slavery (yes, I mean the Southern Baptists), I’m not going to shy away from that history. We have a lot to overcome before we are ready to live in a society that is Just and Good for all people.

In the Creation narrative in Genesis, God creates the earth and tells human beings to take care of it. Unlike how I was raised to believe, I don’t think the author/authors of Genesis wanted us to colonize the earth and “have dominion over it” by commodifying the Earth and the Earth’s inhabitants.

In a world where human beings so often use and oppress one another, let us remember how we are all connected to one another–The animals, the trees, the plants, the mushrooms, even the yeast in all your sourdough bread–all the people on every continent. We belong to each other and we are responsible for one another’s liberation. 

In the words of Kaitlin Curtice author of Native, “Indigenous Bodies are bodies that remember. We carry stories inside us–not just stories of oppression but stories of liberation, of renewal, of survival. The sacred thing about being human is that no matter how hard we try to get rid of them, our stories are our stories. They are carried inside us; they hover over us; they are the tools we use to explain ourselves to one another, to connect. We cannot take away the experiences of others, but we can learn from them. We can take them and say, What’s next to make the world better? What’s the next step in recognizing the sacredness of this place we’ve been given.” (Curtice 2020, 5 The Land and Water)

Curtice shares her own heritage as a Potowatami woman throughout her book and gives us a different telling of the Creation Story.  The beginning of the story goes like this:

“Before there was everything,

There was nothing. 

But before there was nothing,

There was Something.

Something Other,

Unbound,

Beyond,

Above–

Mystery.

No one could grasp it then,

And no one can grasp it now,

Not even with these realities

Coming among us

And creating

Something new

Day in

And day out,

Despite

Our dry and weary bones.

Because before us,

There was everything,

And before everything

Nothing was Something,

And Something was

The Beginning,

And we are

Just dust

From Its

Long,

Flowing

robe.”

As someone who exists in a world that has used this text in other ways, like to say, only certain genders exist in the world, I want to reclaim this Creation Story. As one where we belong and cannot obtain the Earth as a commodity or the Earth’s inhabitants–both human and non human, both male and female, other than male and female, and beyond.

Jesus told the disciples he would be with them until the “end of the age.”

I believe that there’s an end to this age and that Jesus’ message and presence will be with us as we do this work. This age of oppression, White Supremacy, Racism, and policing/murder of Black and Brown people. But the end of this age doesn’t come if we don’t fight for it. IF we are to “love as if a different world is possible…” we have to fight for a better world than the one we live in currently. In the words of Angela Davis, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” 

If we are to make disciples of all nations, let them be disciples who follow the way of Jesus who liberates the captives and abolishes laws and systems that do not bring life to everyone. If we are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it cannot look like it has in the past. 

The end of this age is coming, but we must work for it, knowing that Jesus is with us in this age and in the age to come. I know it’s hard to imagine a world where police and the military don’t have to exist because our communities take care of one another so well and we love our neighbors to the point of seeking justice for them. But it’s a start. We have so much work to do.

We are not here to recolonize, evangelize, or sanitize the state of the world we live in. We are here to create a world where equality and equity are for all people–not just White people. But we cannot do it alone. We have to do it together, because as Audre Lorde said: “The master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house.” We have to follow the lead of Black and Indigenous people of color in order to create a world where we are all free. We are not free until all are free…

To quote another activist named Lilla Watson from Queensland, Australia that has stuck with me: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Amen.

(This popular quote was crafted by a group of Aboriginal rights activists from Queensland, Australia in the 1970s. It is often attributed to Lila Watson, a member of the group, who insists that it was a collective endeavor.)

Lila Watson: https://www.rlmartstudio.com/product/liberation/

Benediction:

Lucille Clifton: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50974/wont-you-celebrate-with-me

Won’t you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

Amen.

 

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