I am an incarnation Christian – my faith in the Christian story begins with God becoming human. For this reason, Christmas is my favorite time of the year. It reminds me the importance of being present and embodying themes like peace, love and joy. It reminds me that God is love and that this love is present in the world, despite what we may think. This love is a living, breathing, transforming force that overcomes hate, fear and anything that would seek to thwart God’s promise of abundant life for us all.
I love the church. I know that I’ve said many things and written many words that may cause some to wonder, but my emotion and passion about things such as church, faith and life together stems from my deep and abiding love for God’s church. I define God’s church not as a specific denomination but as an already but not yet reality where people who recognize their identity as beloved children of God gather to worship and grow. These people then engage in their communities – local, national and global – to seek change and transformation because their faith rests in a God of new life and healing and restoration. This is the image and practice of church that I love and this is the church that I fight for.
Today I was honored to preach during the weekly chapel service at my denomination’s headquarters. I found it to be quite serendipitous that the Gospel lesson was from John 8:31-36, which speaks to knowing the truth and being set free. I’ve written about that before and it didn’t go so well. Or maybe it did because it pissed some people off…
Below is my sermon from today that explores truth, what is true, how it sets us free and why it pisses us off..
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”[i]
This quote has long been attributed to leaders in activist movements without specifically knowing who was the first to say it. Regardless of who said it, it bears repeating: “The truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off.”
This leads me to three questions:
- What is truth?
- How does it set you free?
- And why does it piss you off?
Today’s gospel text helps in answering these questions and it does so quite simply and one might even say, quite succinctly.
Jesus is the truth.
He sets us free from bondage to sin.
This pisses us off because it goes against our human nature and calls us into a different way of being – one that is not theoretical, but actual because it is a way of being that follows the person of Jesus Christ. It causes us to change course; to die to ourselves and live anew in ways that are about loving God, loving others and loving self.
However, in true Rozella form, I can’t stop or even begin there. Let’s back up to some personal reflections. Continue reading
I am very clear about who I am and how I show up in the world. I carry major parts of my identity with me.
I am black.
I am a woman.
These are two realities that are inescapable – not that I’d want to be anyone other than who I have been created to be. These two realities mean something in every space I inhabit. They are visible and I believe that this is what makes conversations about race and gender slightly different than conversations about other issues of injustice. This is another way that I have learned to embrace my shadow.
Saturday, July 18, 2015 is a day I will never forget. I had the distinct pleasure and honor to be a speaker at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering. When it was announced that I was speaking, many people sent me messages of encouragement. I realized very quickly that most people thought I was going to talk about racial justice or gender equity, two things I speak loudly and unapologetically about. However, my invitation to speak at the Gathering was not about current events and the church’s response. My invitation to speak at the Gathering was an invitation to share my story with 30,000 people.
I remember the first time I publicly shared my story. It was the fall of 2012 and it was the first blog I published on this site. Fast forward three years and I was asked to share this story verbally. Leading up to the event, I was quite anxious. But something happened as the hour drew near for me to speak. I felt that all elusive peace that we often talk about in faith circles, the peace that surpasses human understanding. When I stepped on stage I had a moment where I thought, “This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
I am not writing this to elicit any responses. I honestly don’t want anyone to feel shame or guilt. I am not writing to receive recognition. I am not writing to piss anyone off. I’m writing because I don’t know what else to do. I’m writing because I value the process of reflection and meaning-making that comes through words.
I’m struggling. And you know what I do when I struggle dear Shadow Lovers. I write.
A recent study was released by the Pew Research Center on the most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups. Some have commented on the lack of broad-based religious diversity that this study covered and it’s lack of focus on some pretty significant nuances that define some religious traditions. However, for me as a Christian, this study proved to be quite enlightening. And this enlightenment has been profoundly troubling… Continue reading
Over the past week and a half, I’ve experienced an outpouring of support unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I have received hundreds of messages from people collectively lamenting and grieving after the tragedy in Charleston and of people affirming me and showing support of my last blog post. I can only think about the words in the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon in the New Testament of the Christian Bible:
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all of God’s holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, dear sisters and brothers, have refreshed my heart…
I have been with family and friends this past week and it has been a timely break. i did not plan to write such a pot-stirring blog post and then head out of town, but that’s what happened and I am so grateful. Things were put into perspective and I was reminded that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable and that there is no need to fear. I felt the love of those who matter most in the world to me and was able to be renewed and refreshed. I also had plenty of time to reflect on the numerous messages I received and it became clear that there are so many people who care about the racism and inequity in this country and around the world; so many people who feel helpless and hopeless; so many people who are seeking ways to be the change they seek in the world. And I realized, that not one of us is alone…