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All Saints’ Rev. Bacon Takes On the IRS
Posted on Sep 19, 2006
For pulpits in the USA to become even more neutral than they already are will make religion even more of a problem than it is already. Jesus proclaimed that religion too frequently is not a part of the solution. Too often religion is not only a part of the problem. It is the problem. Jesus said that religious institutions can become like salt that has lost its flavor. It?s only good then is to be thrown away.
The Book of Revelation (Chapter 3) speaks of the Church of Laodicea that had become so bland, so ineffectual, so callous to human suffering, so cowering before the saber rattling of the empire of the day, so lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, that God said, ?I will spew you out of my mouth.? That is exactly what happens to churches and other faith communities that do not stand up, speak up and act up when human beings are not treated with the dignity and honor due those who bear the image of God. The fundamental commandment that pulsates at the core of our being is a threefold love: to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Love of neighbor is never neutral.
I have known a lot of faith communities who think religion consists only of beautiful worship, saying one?s prayers, all the while hermetically sealed in ignoring those forces which are destroying the least of these. All Saints will always invest great resources in movingly beautiful worship. That is often how the heart is opened and moved. At the same time we will never ask someone to check their conscience or their courage at the door. We stand in the prophetic tradition where movingly beautiful worship is valuable only to the degree that it heals the human heart and then empowers the people to daring action on behalf of the oppressed.
In our lesson from the Hebrew scriptures this morning (Isaiah 50: 4-9a), the prophet says, ?God wakens me every morning, wakens my ear to listen like a student.? Listen to God speaking through the prophet Isaiah (1: 14-17), speaking to us the students of God:
Listen to the prophet Amos when he speaks for God (Amos 5: 21, 23-24):
That is the prophetic tradition that tells us that we have no choice about the matters of justice. When Jesus preached his inaugural sermon in his hometown of Nazareth, the reading from which he preached was from the prophets—Isaiah 61 to be exact. This shows that of all the traditions and theologies in Hebrew scripture, Jesus was grounding his ministry in the prophets and their tradition. Here is the account.
Luke 4: 14-21
Jesus stood up to read.
Psalm 15 has been summarized by some scholars as saying this, ?Those who do justice dwell in the presence of the Lord.?
My friends, there is something about a moral argument that clarifies the mind about why we do what we do. And I have never felt more energized and joyful than I do this morning about expressing with passion what is at stake in this argument we have with the IRS. And my heart is filled with hope that there are millions of Americans who are standing with us and will stand with us in the claim that loving your neighbor as yourself has no place for neutrality and silence in the face of anything that demeans another human being.
Whenever I am tempted to despair, tempted to think I am in this work alone, I think of the following quotation from Robert F. Kennedy. It both gives me hope and shows me how justice rolls down like water and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.
?It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man/woman stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he/she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope; and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance?. I believe that ? those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.?
Welcome home, my friends. Happy Homecoming. Let us never forget that our true home is the heart of God, where each of us is loved just as we are and each of us is given this beautiful, energizing, audacious gift to resist any efforts to dehumanize others or to block God?s dream of turning the human race into the human family.
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