Monday, September 19, 2016

Jesus, Radical Black Tee's, Word Become Flesh - Sermon September 18, 2016

You cannot serve God and Wealth. -Luke 16:13

[image source]
I spent the last coupe days in Douglas Park 
(Ogden and Sacramento)
at Riot Fest.

(Thanks to a really awesome birthday present from Daisy. Thank you, Daisy!) 

I’ve been to Riot Fest before. And I quite enjoy it. 

I mean, I grew up on a lot of the music, 
listening to a lot of the bands that perform there. 

So it’s super - nostalgic. And fun. 

And despite it’s name, “Riot” 
it’s actually incredibly organized. 
And very much non-riotous, 

Bands start on time, bands end on time. 

People don’t do too much pushing and shoving, 
but rather stand in line at food trucks for overpriced tacos and lemonade. 

(I did all of these things, by the way). 

the fest ends around 10, 
so everyone is home and sleeping by, like 10:30. 

This is especially convenient for those of us who have church on Sunday.

(I’m sure that’s why they planned it that way). 

The only thing really even sort of riotous about Riot Fest, I guess,

is that there are punk bands 
and there are mosh pits, 
mostly the kind where people run around in circles, 
and then into each other,
(and even those operate with an ethic, 
and concern for anyone potentially at risk)…

When someone falls down, you stop running, you make a circle around them, and you pick them up. No one moves until that person is back on their feet. 

(Our society could learn a lot from a mosh pit). 

And then, I guess maybe sort of counter-culturally, 
sort of 
(maybe this counts)
there’s just a lot of black tee-shirts with, like, naughty words written on them.

This is a thing, right? 

Naughty words on shirts. Provocative pictures.  Transgressive, right? “Punk.”

But the thing is, they aren’t even really shocking anymore.

Everyone and their mother is wearing one. Literally. Kids and moms. It’s an all-ages affair. Edgy onesies on babies. Hardcore. 

It’s become cute. They’re commonplace, 
They’re more nostalgic than they are rebellious.

Perhaps they have rebellious roots, 
but someone figured out how
to turn them into a product that, like, tons of people go out and buy. 

Especially right before Riot Fest. 

“Consumerism Sucks.” Written on a $25 tee-shirt. 



A tee-shirt rebel, a fashion radical 
(a bumper sticker activist, right?)….

Making a statement by wearing it, putting it on, hiding behind it… 

This is nothing new… 

There were tons of folks like this, even in Jesus’ time. 


I wonder if that’s even how people could’ve seen Jesus (at least at first). 

When he was preaching and teaching, 
and wondering from town to town. Like many others in his day. 

I wonder if they could’ve seen him as 
just another religious fanatic, rolled their eyes (right?)—“here comes another one!”
a radical among the crowds, 
preaching at whoever would listen, 
wearing his message on his sleeve…

God’ Reign is near!
The last shall be first.
The lowly shall be lifted.
Blessed are the poor. 
Blessed are the peacemakers. 
Love one another as I have loved you. 
Be transformed!

You cannot serve both God and Money.

These all would make pretty amazing radical black tee-shirts. 

What would they think of Jesus when he showed up sporting these messages? 

“Poor, idealistic youth?” 

“He’ll grow out of it—He’s only, like 30, right?” 

“I used to think that too!? But then I got a job, and now I know better, and vote better!?” 

What did they say, what did they think? When Jesus showed up provoking? 

More, how did they view him when he started breaking rules? When he started acting out the words he proclaimed? 

healing on the sabbath (for love of his neighbor)

touching lepers (for love of his neighbor)

speaking to people whose genders were other than his own when none of this was “allowed”
by culture, 
and by faith, 
(and maybe not even by his family);
(for love of his neighbor),

standing up to popular religion when it was repressive,

agitating civil authorities when they were oppressive, 

feeding thousands without first requesting a drug test
or a state ID

causing a stir…

(for love of his neighbor, and love of God, right?)
Or… Was Jesus just being rebellious? Was he hoping to get killed?

Was he just another common provocateur? 

Another guy with a teeshirt? 

A bumpersticker? 

Maybe a protests sign? 

Some homeless rabbi in need of attention? With a messiah complex? 


Now, please don’t hear me wrongly. I’m definitely not making fun of tee-shirts or statements or provocation. I love all three. And I have lots of black tee shirts. 

And of course I believe, as a follower of Jesus, that provocation is a deeply faithful act.

Certainly, when we’re in a place or in a system where the few benefit and the many suffer 
(or any suffer, for that matter, right?), 
it’s good, ethical, right, faithful, to provoke. 
The right thing to do is to challenge. To call out… 
as did Jesus: “Be transformed, God’s Reign is near.” 

If any person or group is devalued, mistreated, enslaved, discarded, killed   
at anytime, especially in normal, regular, everyday life, 
it is very good (and vey Christian) to challenge the norm, the normal, 
the regular, 
and the regulations that regulate the regular, right? 
To provoke… To challenge, to call out… 
“Be transformed, God’s Reign is near.” 
(These are some of the first words that Jesus ever preached) 

To question a world that produces
pain, exclusion, war, poverty, and so on…
To challenge a society, a household, a religion that leaves us feeling frustrated, lost, shamed, depressed, 
unhealthy or compromised in body or spirit or mind… 

This is all good.

In fact this is the loving thing to do…

And this is certainly what Jesus was up to,
when he called us to give up the things we possess and the things we are possessed by of this world…


Jesus provoked. Instigated. 

But is that all Jesus was up to? Making a statement? Sharing his values? Talking about the way the world “should be?” 

Denouncing “the world as it is?” 

I don’t think so. 


Actually, as far as I know, in the gospels, 
(and the seminarians can correct me if I am wrong here),
calls us 
to take up 
a tee-shirt. 

Instead, he calls us to take up a yoke, 
to take up the cross, 
to take up a community. 

A community we carry with us, but that just might (ideally) also carry us. 

Jesus moves from provocation, its seems, to a new formation, a reformation, (a new creation the Bible calls it in Paul’s letters), in us, and in our communities. A reconfiguration, not simply for making statements, but for an attempt, by grace, to live differently, faithfully, in mutual love and edification (the building up, the lifting up) of one another. 


Be transformed, God’ Reign is near.
The last shall be first.
The lowly shall be lifted.
Blessed are the poor. 
Love one another as I have loved you. 
You cannot serve both God and Mammon.
Mammon requires human sacrifice, in exchange for blessings and material gain.
the God of love sacrifices Godself to lift us up, to lift all of us up, together. 

Lift one another as God has lifted you. 

Jesus’ statement did not simply cover his flesh in the form of a tee-shirt. It became flesh, as he lived it. 
And as a whole community arose, attempting to do the same.

In the words of 1 John, Chapter 3:
May we provoke such love. 

“Not with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”


God, give us grace to speak your love. Give us grace to live your love in action. Give us grace to embody your love in our bones. Give us grace, when were are unable to do a thing, to be held and healed by your love all around us. 


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