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 →
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.”
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…
This reflection on race, faith and justice was written by the 2015 team leaders of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE), a pre-event of the ELCA Youth Gathering that empowers young people of color and those whose primary language is other than English to claim their story as a part of God’s story, in order to move toward healing and wholeness as transformational leaders in the church and in the world.
Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
As we write this, our hearts are breaking. The events of the last few months, the extreme responses from some and lack of responses from many have left us questioning. For such a time as this, we are uncertain about the role of the church and our own roles as women of color within the church. When some people are left thinking that our social patterns of hate and fear are the only way and others know of more life-giving ways but are paralyzed from realizing them, how do we speak hope to all? How do we speak out against injustice? How do we address the issue of racism? How do we use our prophetic witness of the gospel to not just speak out but live out our commitment to transnational justice in this world? Click here to read more.
Authentic is a word we use a lot nowadays in progressive church circles. We talk about people being authentically who they are. We talk about authentic relationships. We talk about authentic ministries. It truly is a buzz word in the communities I get to hang out in. And I like that it is.
Authenticity is defined as something or someone who is of undisputed origin; genuine. Some synonyms for authentic are genuine, real, bona-fide, truth, veritable. I believe that we are first and foremost to be authentic people. And I also believe that this is where so many of our human problems lie – many of us walk around being inauthentic and being unclear of our origin. We don’t know whose we are, who we are or why we are. This lack of knowledge leads us to live lives that are a facade as we try to be what we think others want us to be instead of doing the work and taking the time to be authentically who we have been CREATED to be. Continue reading →