This is an ending of a sermon Craddock gave at a Princeton Seminary graduation. You can search the first 2 parts if you like it. But there is a TON of great Craddock sermon stuff here. Enjoy!
I am white. This comes as no surprise for readers who know me. It is very apparent. I am the grandson of a member of the Eufaula Public School Board in the 1950s and 60s. You can only guess the racism present in my genetic history that has had to be rid through deliberate efforts of social awareness.
When I was growing up I remember learning about Black History Month. Funny thing is, looking back I learned about the figures featured in Black History Month from many, many well-meaning white teachers. It has only been later in my life that I realize that I missed out on something. I have spent my life appreciating Black History Month from a very “white” perspective.
Last year, something similar happened during the historic election of Barack Obama. I noticed on cable news networks the coverage was dominated by well-meaning white political commentators. In my life the election was celebrated by many well-meaning white friends. But something occurred to me sometime after the inauguration celebrations: can I truly celebrate this event in the same way as my African-American friends? Can white news commentators cover the excitement of the moment in the same way as African-American commentators? Frankly, I don’t think so. And furthermore, while the moment of change meant a lot to me I can’t say it meant the same to me as it did to my African-American brothers and sisters.
It’s because of this I don’t feel I can write or reflect with the same meaning on Black History Month as someone who is African-American. I won’t try to pen (or type) superfluous words trying to catch a moment or express a meaning of something that is larger than I am and of which I can’t truly embody. While Black History Month can inspire and move those of all races, it is for someone of African decent to embody and define the meaning of.
Be on the look out for a blog submission from a good friend who is African-American and who I feel can truly offer some meaning to a month in which we celebrate a people who have contributed so much to the American experience and who are, even today, often overlooked.
Sin. I am United Methodist and frankly this is a term we don’t normally hear in many of our congregations. I can’t tell you how many sermons I’ve heard about God’s grace and love in my life but I can honestly say that I can count the sermons I’ve heard on sin on one of my hands. It’s the pink elephant in our sanctuaries that we never give name or voice to.
Lent is a season where we are to be reminded of our sinful nature as humans. Over time we’ve changed this to mean it’s a season where we try to kick habits such as chocolate, cigarettes, caffiene, etc. But this is not entirely accurate of what the season means. We are on a journey. Like it or not we are headed to Jerusalem with Jesus. These 40 days will be over sooner than we expect and we will find ourselves on the cusp of the Passion Week. We will be in Jerusalem for a celebration and we will get much much more than we bargain for instead.
It is very true that Lent is a season where we examine those habits in our lives where we fall short of the glory of God. But let’s not forget that Lent requires that we add as much as we give up. Where we cut a habit we are to replace it with prayer. Fasting, for example, is a wonderful discipline. But the biblical notion of fasting is not without the other half of the equation-praying. Christ faced temptation in the wilderness but make no mistake-He went there to pray and be close to the Father. Wherever we give things up during this season we are to replace it with prayer and meditation.
Further, we are to do more than make this a season of endurance where we go as long as we can without something in order to take it back up after Easter. This is a very real season where we are to be reminded of just how sinful human nature is. We can’t figure it all out. We don’t get it all-no matter how much we try and convince ourselves of the contrary. We spend so much time legitimating and justifying ourselves “just as we are.” But we often forget that we have a God who very much does love us “just as we are.” And we can’t forget this as many walk out of our churches because we preach, teach, and try to convince ourselves otherwise. But the beauty of this God is that this God’s love doesn’t stop there. This God loves us just as we are but refuses to leave us just as we are. This God loves us so much that we are following him to Jerusalem for the ultimate example of this love. And it is only when we know how depraved the human condition is that we can truly receive the redeeming love of a God who will go to Jerusalem and the very ends of the cosmos to get us.
Lately I have found God pushing me towards a different line of theological musing. I have made no bones about being an advocate for various ideas and persons I feel the Church leaves out of its activity. I have also been fairly outspoken about my feelings for the Church of the 21st Century to be more inclusive in its community. I want to write a short post-one that will surely be followed by many others as my research and thinking progresses.
I feel we spend a lot of time today advocating for the inclusion of many types of people who find themselves on the outside looking in on Sunday mornings. However, there is one group I feel does not get enough attention and is surely not included in the life of the Church as much as they could be. Persons with disabilities and, more specifically, those with mental disabilities are often left out of the life of the church. From the outset worship is set up for those with a basic working amount of cognitive abilities. I fear because of that the Church is often not a place for those with mental disabilities to feel welcome.
Over the next few months in my free time I want to further explore this notion. I want to explore whether Church can indeed be a place where those of ALL abilities can find a voice. God surely works in all of us and whether we can express this awesome working or not does not prohibit it. Surely God is big enough to overcome all levels of disabilities. Further, I wonder what our working definition of “normal” is and whether such a definition is truly faithful in light of the Kingdom of God. Also, I want to explore practical notions and highlight actual ways congregations are being inclusive of the mentally disabled.
I hope these posts will get people talking. I hope we will delve into areas of discussion we often neglect. I’m afraid we neglect these areas because, in the end, they expose how unfaithful we as the Body of Christ can be. Most of all, I hope that through these thoughts and conversations the Living God will move and remind all of us that it is good for everyone, even those who can’t always speak for themselves, to go to the house of the Lord (cf. Psalm 122:1).
Here is a nice clip from Barbara Brown Taylor on Scriptures she turns to when she is in search of hope and comfort. She is a tremendous voice in Christianity today. Enjoy!