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Member since: Sat Oct 20, 2018, 06:11 AM
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Racism and Resurrection Easter Homily 2008

Our pastor gave this homily at our Easter mass of 2008. His message is pertinent today. BTW the parishioners applauded after this homily.

Well, it’s Easter. Most of us have experienced many Easters. Many of us have experienced a number of Easters here at. So I imagine that as you were driving to church today, if you were in a reflective mood, you might have easily come up with a list of terms that you would expect to hear in today’s homily. Those terms might be: Resurrection, new life, Baptism, joy, Alleluia. If you were a young person, you might even be thinking, “If I was in a playful mood, he might even say something about the Easter bunny.” But I bet none of you, on the way to church today, would ever have expected that in my Easter homily I would mention Barack Obama. Barack Obama does not fit easily into the list of expected Easter themes. But now that I have mentioned him, I will need to spend the rest of the homily telling you why I am thinking of him and how that relates to Easter.

I have not mentioned Barack Obama to encourage you to vote for him. Who you vote for president, as we discussed several homilies ago, is a complex matter that you must decide within your own heart in the presence of God. I am thinking about Barack Obama because he is the first credible, black candidate for president in the history of our nation. I am thinking of him because this past week the issue of racism emerged dramatically within his campaign. He has been charged with having too close a relationship to his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who has said a number of things in his sermons which many find offensive and some even anti-American. In response to these charges, Mr. Obama gave a speech last week to discuss the issue. Many commentators say that it was the finest political speech since Jack Kennedy discussed his Catholicism in 1960. In this speech Mr. Obama disagreed with his pastor but understood the anger and frustration which caused Pastor Wright to make his remarks. Mr. Obama drew the attention of our nation to the presence of racism in our country. There are in fact two different Americas, white America and Black America. These two Americas see the world very differently.

For example: Jeremiah Wright suggested in one of his sermons that there was a government plot to release the Aids virus into black neighborhoods to kill black people. Now as a white American, I consider this suggestion, absurd. Our government, at times, may be incompetent. But I do not believe that it consciously seeks to eliminate parts of our population. I am sure that there are many black Americans who would agree with me—but not as many as you might think. Surveys have shown that thirty percent of black Americans consider the possibility of a government plot to release the Aids virus as plausible. As plausible! Thirty percent, that’s almost a third!

There are a significant number of black Americans who see things very differently than most of us in church today. Those differences remind us that there remains a racial division in our country, a division that comes to the surface now and again. Some of you might remember how after O.J. Simpson was found not guilty for murder, only four out of ten white Americans thought that it was the right decision. In contrast, nine out of ten black Americans felt that the verdict was justified.

What’s going on here? Two different worlds, two different ways of looking at government, at law, at police enforcement, at education, at the prison system, at health care. I am not wise enough to tell you, which one of these two views is more accurate. But what is clear is that as a country, we remain racially divided.

And that brings us to Easter. Our God does not want us to be divided. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who created all things. As Creator, God gave to each person, a dignity and a worth that cannot be erased—to each person, black and white, red and brown and yellow. From God’s perspective, the divisions that exist within humanity are flaws in creation. God raised Jesus from the dead to bring us together. As the letter to the Colossians says: “Jesus came to reconcile all things to God—all things in heaven and on earth, making peace through the blood of his cross.” It is God’s purpose to heal every division between us, and we who believe in God are called to make God’s purposes our own.

Now there are, of course, all kinds of divisions. Some we see more clearly than others. We see divisions in our families. We see economic divisions which pit us one against another. We see divisions in terms of ideology, in terms of deeply held convictions, in terms of religious faith. Racism is only one of the divisions that are opposed to God’s will, but the Obama campaign makes it a topical one and one that we should follow in the months ahead.

As Christians we are committed to oppose divisions among us where ever they are found. We cannot hold that Easter candle and deny the cracks that exist among us which that light reveals. We cannot stand here and renew our Baptismal promises—professing our faith in Father, Son and Spirit—and forget that the oneness of our God is the model upon which a united humanity is to be built. We cannot feel the wetness of the Baptismal waters and at the same time deny the thirst of so many—the thirst for justice, unity, and peace.

But you say: “This mission of reconciliation, this mission of unity is not practical. There are so many divisions that exist between us that we will never be one.” God did not raise Jesus from the dead because it was practical. Jesus did not come out of the tomb because it was likely. Faith does not mean that we believe in the things which we think are possible. Faith means that we trust in God’s promises of what is possible. That is why in faith we hold on to the hope that we can heal the divisions between us. That is why, in faith, we are committed to make God’s purposes our own.

So you came tonight expecting Alleluias and the Easter Bunny, and what you got was racism and a mission to heal the divisions of our world. Sorry about that. But welcome to Christianity. Welcome to Easter.
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