Sermon preached at All Saints Church on Sunday, August 20, 2017, by Antonio Gallardo.
“Thus says Our God:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.”
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and sustainer. AMEN
After all the events related to the white supremacy movement, and the pain and suffering that we experienced as a country, as a community, and individually, we certainly hope that the words from the prophet Isaiah become reality sooner that later, God — we need your salvation to come, and your deliverance to be revealed!
What happened in Charlottesville was for me blatant and undeniable sign that somewhat reaffirmed the fear that I experienced during the last two quarters of the presidential campaign, when I saw then Candidate Trump appealing to the fear and frustration of many, promising what they wanted to hear, and allowing hate and division to start taking root in the country.
It was disheartening to hear the President supporting the extreme right by not condemning genuinely their behavior, and instead, empowering them. On Tuesday he said that there were “very fine people” protesting in Charlottesville amid the torch-bearing marchers.
By Wednesday afternoon, most of the GOP representatives appeared to have made their calculation: deserting Trump then could only harm — and not help — their agendas or political fortunes, so very few of the GOP representatives had the guts to condemn the President lack of leadership.
I hope that as a country we have learned from that, and that at the 2018 elections we elect representatives that stand up to what is wrong.
Also, probably not much to our surprise, the President’s Faith Advisory Council, the religious leaders that accompany the president, also have remained silent.
In moments like this, people look up to their leaders for guidance, and we don’t have that in the current political establishment, and in some religious leaders, so where do we turn to?
Here at All Saints, we are turning to the only inextinguishable source of wisdom, hope, strength and determination, our God; and in our pain, in our frustration, and in our fear, we repeat once again the words of the prophet Isaiah that we heard this morning:
God, we need your salvation to come and your deliverance to be revealed!
In the same way that we experienced it after the Presidential election, and given this lack of political leadership, I foresee that more people will turn to places of worship as refuge for their fears, and also as centers for action to defeat evil, and All Saints is one of those places.
At All Saints, we have certainly found ourselves at the forefront of movements, in and out of the church, that some find controversial – advocating open communion, the ordination of women, the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and taking bold stands in opposition to the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan; and more recently, taking bold stands and opposition to the proposed legislation of the current presidential administration that will impact those more in need, including immigrants, the poor, and the LGBTQ community.
Moreover, we openly state that we “seek to be a bright beacon of God’s inclusive love to the Church and the world, and to ‘turn the human race into the human family’”
Now, more than ever, the country needs our prophetic voice, and for that reason more people may turn to us.
I foresee that more people are going to join us to join us in the fight to end white supremacy in our country, and to promote fairness, love and compassion, instead of preferential treatment for some, division and hate.
Knowing that we are going to have more people joining us, I have a question for all of us:
Are we ready to fully welcome everyone who comes to join us in this fight to “Maintain justice, and do what is right?”
Please raise your hand if you think that we are fully ready to welcome anyone who comes and join us in the fight for justice and what is right.
I can see why many of you consider that we are already a welcoming place, after all, every Sunday we restate the words:
“Whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, you are welcome here.”
In fact, in some of our literature the church identifies itself as a vibrant, multicultural faith community called to share Christ’s message of God’s unconditional love for ALL. We publicly express commitment to inclusion at every level – in the world at large, in our ministries, at the communion rail – and we say that that commitment shows up in all we do.
Do you all think that we are really living up to this statement, that we are really committed to inclusion at every level, in our ministries, in the communion rail – and that this commitment shows up in all we do?
I can say with 100% certainty that at the communion rail is where we live this commitment to the fullest. Every single time that we have communion, everyone is invited, no exceptions, no rules, no conditions, no questions asked.
Are we living up to that commitment to be fully inclusive in our ministries, and in ALL we do?
Here is where I think that we have some work to do, and the time is now.
Let me share with you my perspective and my experience as a member of a minority group here at All Saints.
In 2005 All Saints officially welcomed a Latino-Hispanic congregation. It was such a moment of joy for the entire community that in our newsletter we said (quote) “an exciting dream is about to be realized, a weekly Spanish / English bilingual worship service will premiere on November 20th.” The page-long article went on to reaffirm “our shared profound belief that the abundant love of God embraces all.”
If you read the article, you are both inspired and moved by the statements about the life-giving forces that came together to help us experience the embracing love of God….that is, until you reach toward the end of the article where it says …
“Educational opportunities will be developed to orient new members to the All Saints and Anglican ways of understanding scripture and how God acts through history.”
When I read that statement, I was hurt because to me it sounded like the “All Saints and the Anglican ways are the only ways,” Statements like this, do not show appreciation, or even recognition, of the gifts that this new group of people, my people, were bringing. This to me, sounded very much like “assimilation,” that colonial mentality that we know just promotes oppression, and does not see “the other” as a carrier of gifts to enrich our lives.
I know that after 12 years we know better, and that we have become closer as a whole community, still, on a regular basis I am reminded that I am not fully welcome in this, my own spiritual home.
For the past 8 years, every time that I come to worship at the 1.00 pm I can’t avoid noticing that the vibrancy of this community is vanished right there in front of my own eyes, all the activity and community that happens at the lawn in the morning is gone (sometimes being picked up as we come to worship). How welcoming do you think that this feels?
I am sharing my experience, which I think reflects the experience of the 1.00 pm congregation, as a call for the kind of discernment that will help us as a community of faith to determine what God is calling us to do to become a community that is spiritually enriched with the Latino, the Anglican, and other spiritual and cultural traditions.
I know, that the “defaults” under which All Saints has been operating are deep, and that we are invited to ask ourselves a question that Alan J. Roxburgh posted in his book entitled “Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World.” The question to reflect upon is:
What practices would help us to truly join up with God, to remake Church, and ultimately to take our part in transforming communities so they reflect the reign of God?
I think that to move past the defaults that have been in place for a long time and become a community that truly reflects the demographics of Pasadena we all have to start by understanding that we all have a role to play, and this includes understanding that Mike did not come here as a mighty savior sent from heaven for us to become the church that we envision to be.
It is not even about the clergy, or the church staff alone, it is up to all of us baptized, who in the renewal of our baptism vows have committed at least once “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
We also have to understand that when strive for justice we are all called to name injustice within our community, not just for our own group, but on behalf of anyone that is being oppressed.
Last week, after the events in Charlottesville many of us committed publicly via social media to “end white supremacy and put our house in order,” and today I am inviting all of us to put our All Saints house in order, by making sure that everyone that is going to come and join us in this fight to end injustice and do what is right, feels welcome, valued, and not assimilated.
To start, let’s put out heads and our hearts together to figure out how we can have one single and richer congregation by ensuring that the 1.00 pm congregation has access to the same resources than the rest of the congregation has, and that they don’t feel left out when they come to worship, and find that all the activity in the lawn is gone.
Let’s strive to make sure that everyone is welcome in the way that Stephany Spellers shared in her book “Radical Welcome.“ by telling everyone:
“Come and bring your culture and your traditions,
come and bring your voice,
come and bring your whole self.
We want to engage in a truly mutual relationship,
with you, and with what you bring to our church and life”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, let’s make of our beloved All Saints community a welcoming place, and fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah that we heard today “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”