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Posting — by popular demand — the video and text from Mike Kinman’s November 13th sermon:

“We will create and guard the spaces where we will feel and where Christ will heal. We will testify to the Gospel of Christ the liberator knowing we have nothing to lose but our chains.”

The Reverend Mike Kinman | Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 | All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA
Texts: Luke 21:5-19; “Shed a Little Light” – James Taylor (offered by youth choirs)

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist.
There is a hunger in the center of the chest.
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest.

John Lennon sang, “Nobody told me there’d be days like this.” But our Gospel does. Strange days, indeed.

This morning’s lectionary gives us an apocalyptic passage from the Gospel of Luke. We hear about nation rising against nation; great earthquakes (I’ve heard you already know about those), dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

Jesus is describing trauma. And trauma is real. Trauma can make us angry, depressed, anxious, fearful and sometimes just numb. It can sap us of our energy and will just when we need them the most. It can make us feel stupid because maybe we feel we should be able to handle it but we know we just can’t.

Jesus is describing trauma. And trauma is real if not new. People of color, immigrants, LGBT persons, women and more experience it on a daily basis. Experience what Nelson Mandela called the “steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments that produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.” No, trauma is not new … but there is something different and ominous about how we are experiencing it this week.

This has been an excruciating week for our country. An excruciating week for many if not most of us in this room. There is a lot of pain right now. A lot of pain and anger and fear – and much of it is in the hearts of those who have had to carry way too much of it for far too long … those among us who are already most vulnerable in this nation.

There is a pain to being looked in the eye and told that you are less than just because of who you are. There is pain to have the nation whom you have heard and trusted when she said “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” now turn to you and say “we’re going to build a wall … and you’re going to be on the other side of it.” There is pain, there is anger, there is fear, and the tears are flowing.

People are saying “I feel like somebody died.” We are scared for family and friends. A woman whose family voted mostly for Trump said to me, “I can’t even look at his picture because it’s like looking at my abuser … and knowing not just my country but my family chose him over me … and put him in a position of power over me.”

The Gospel nailed it. This is about dreadful portents and terrible betrayal. This is about deep trauma. And deep trauma can be healed. But first it has to be felt. First it must be expressed.

And so we need to feel the anger of the protesters in the streets and not dismissively call them “crybabies who didn’t get their way.

We need to feel the terror of the Salvadoran student who not only knows his DACA status won’t save him from deportation but that the information he gave the government might very well be used against him.

We need to feel the grief of the mother who has no idea how to explain to her 8-year-old little girl why her country chose a man who brags about objectifying, abusing and violating women over a woman who told her daughter “to never doubt that she is valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve her own dreams.”

We need to acknowledge that these feelings are real and valid. That regardless of the reasons why people voted for Donald Trump, many of which surely are also rooted in trauma of different sorts that needs to be expressed and felt and heard, that this is not about people just being upset because their candidate lost.

Our nation chose for its leader a man whose words and actions have not just fostered disagreements about the proper role of government and how best to accomplish our common goals. Our nation elevated to the most powerful position in the world a man whose words and actions have made this country feel significantly less safe for millions of our most vulnerable people, a man who chose a proponent of conversion therapy for his vice president, a man who has refused to denounce and even encouraged those shouting hate and violence against many of us, and whose election feels like a validation that we as a nation are just fine with that.

Those of us who truly are not vulnerable ourselves have to stop normalizing this election as a way to ease our own discomfort. Those among us who have nothing real to fear must stop issuing calls for “unity” and “respect” that are really just calls for traumatized people to sit down and shut up, hammers used against people to whom the benefits of unity and the courtesy of respect have never been extended.

This is not a call to anger, anxiety and fear, but a call not to dismiss the legitimate anger, anxiety and fear that many among us have. Because Jesus never tells the traumatized to be silent. Jesus never shouts down the traumatized saying “What’s wrong with you?” No. Jesus looks deep into the eyes of the traumatized and says: “What happened to you. Tell me. Tell me about your trauma. I’m listening. You are precious. You are loved. And I am listening. And I am feeling. And I am not going anywhere.”

Alice Walker said “Healing begins where the wound was made.” Asking, “What happened to you?” is the invitation to go to the wound. It is the invitation to tell our stories and contextualize our pain. The invitation to share wisdom that will lead to understanding why we are crying, raging and trembling. To tell the story of what it has been like to be black, Latinx, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, homeless, disabled, female, gender nonconforming and the list goes on and on and on in this country.

To tell the story of the uncle who sexually abused you
…or the kids at school who made fun of your accent until you first tried to hide it and finally you just gave up talking altogether
…or how what others called “boys being boys” and “harmless locker room talk” drove you to a suicide attempt because you started to believe everything they were saying about you.
…or how when your school offered only AP US History and AP European History you felt “I guess I don’t have a history that matters.”

To tell those stories and maybe then get some understanding about why this week has made you so hurt and angry and afraid.

And as we listen, not to rush to quick comfort but instead to share our stories and draw strength from one another. To help one another truly to feel so we truly can heal.

So when we see, hear and feel the trauma coming from our siblings and from ourselves in the wake of this election, we don’t point the accusative finger of “what’s wrong with you?” … and we don’t even throw up our hands at our nation that has done this and scream “what’s wrong with us?” But with open ears and open hearts we ask “What happened to you?” and “What happened to us?” and then we listen deeply to what comes next, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

Some are saying, “OK, enough with the crying, time to get to work.” But the crying and the sitting with the pain, the rage and the fear is a big piece of the work. The crying and the sitting with the pain, the rage, and the fear will lead us toward the work of compassion, it will lead us to where we can no longer abide contributing to a world where the privilege of some causes the pain of many.

We are feeling so much right now.

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist.
There is a hunger in the center of the chest.
And yes, Jesus says
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist

And that passage is the space we create for one another. Space for stories to be told, rage to be shouted, and tears to be shed. We must create safe spaces in this church and in our homes and we must guard the spaces beautiful images of God create in the streets and in the public places to let all the stories of trauma be heard. We must create and guard these spaces without fail. We must tell those among us who believe they can’t go on one more step that it’s ok, we will carry you. That though the body sleeps our heart will never rest.

Jesus tells us that there will be days like this. And more than a few. There will be deep trauma and there has been for a while.

But that’s not all Jesus says. Jesus says in days like this, when these things happen, “this will give you the opportunity to testify.” And so as we create and guard spaces for feeling and spaces for healing, we do not stop proclaiming not the twisted false Gospel of uncontextualized “slaves obey your masters” and misogynistic and homophobic hate but the true Gospel of the Christ who was born as a dark-skinned refugee and died for love with his hands up because he challenged the authority of a police state.

Jesus says in days like this, when these things happen, “this will give us the opportunity to testify.” And the Good News is, we have a powerful testimony to give. And it starts with saying, “Yes, it is like someone has died.” And we need a period to mourn. And no one’s timetables for grief should be set by anyone else’s discomfort with our grieving. But even as we mourn, still we gather at this table to proclaim that death is not the end. That resurrection follows. And that our God effects resurrection through us.

Today we testify that if you feel like your country has betrayed you. If you feel this is one more and even perhaps a final conviction that as a woman, person of color, immigrant, gay bisexual, lesbian, transgender, queer, gender nonconforming, non-Christian, physically or mentally disabled, or any other kind of person that you have heard our president-elect disparage, ridicule, attack and demean – you absolutely are justified in feeling your country has betrayed you. You are absolutely justified in feeling like the white majority in this nation who put this president in office has betrayed you… but that we solemnly vow this church will never betray you. You will always be welcome in this community and at this table. Your gifts of leadership and creativity will always be embraced. And, if necessary, this very room will be your sanctuary and we will stand between you and any who wish you harm.

Today we testify that if you are listening to this around the world, we are, no matter how isolationist this nation gets, committed to being the body of Christ that always claims a global citizenship that transcends all borders. We will build bridges not walls.

This morning our children bid us “turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King, who said that there are ties between us, all God’s children living on the Earth. Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood.”

We testify to that this morning, but we also testify that that is not all that Martin Luther King said.

As our streets fill and people rise up, we testify that Dr. King reminded us to unflinchingly embrace the power of nonviolence and also to understand that “a riot is the language of the unheard” … That Dr. King called out the Trumps of his day, Bull Connor and George Wallace, but also wrote that “the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the … KKK, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice… who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.”

We testify to those words, too, because that is the way God will work through us to see the world become a better place in which all God’s children can go free and strong.

We feel the pain. The anger. The numbness and the fear.

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist.
There is a hunger in the center of the chest.
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest.

We will create and guard the spaces where we will feel and where Christ will heal.

We will testify to the Gospel of Christ the liberator knowing we have nothing to lose but our chains.

We are bound together with Christ by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead.

We are bound and we are bound and holding on to each other through our tears we pray

“Shed a little light, oh Lord.
Just a little light, oh lord.
Shed a little light, O lord,
so that we can see.”

Mike Kinman is the rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA. You can view this sermon on our YouTube Channel.

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