If I Speak…

This is my column from the January issue of the First Church Simsbury Newsletter, The Cornerstone.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1

In my sermon on the Second Sunday of Advent (December 9, 2018), I preached:

There are two essential commitments I make as your pastor and preacher. First, that each of you know that you are created in the image of God and loved unconditionally. And second, that together we follow Jesus in standing alongside the most vulnerable, those the Gospel calls “the least of these,” including immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, women, ethnic and religious minorities, those with disabilities, and the poor. These two commitments are not incompatible with one another. Both are biblical, and both are central to our Christian walk of faith. That said, as your pastor and preacher, I sometimes find that in lifting up the gospel’s commitment to the least of these, I leave others, some of you, feeling diminished or judged rather than unconditionally loved.

Here, public theologian Christena Cleveland, offers a helpful perspective about how we might all more effectively communicate our commitment to both justice and love.

In 2019, I want to practice justice with a deeper wisdom and sustainability…Very few injustices escape my attention – and I’m not shy about speaking out…but sometimes my words have the impact of a clanging symbol – they are neither loving nor effective.

In 2019, I hope to practice a wiser justice by carefully choosing when I speak up and when I stay silent. I want to intentionally practice what one of my beloved spiritual teachers has taught me. Before I speak out about an injustice, I want to ask myself these 3 questions.

 

  • IS IT TRUE? (more than just factually true — does it take into account & affirm the fullness of their humanity, not just the action/belief at hand? Am I currently able to see and interact with them truthfully in the fullness of their humanity?)

 

  • DOES IT NEED TO BE SAID BY ME? (Am I afraid that if I don’t say it, it won’t get said? Am I afraid that the Divine will not be able to reach them if I don’t intervene? Am I “playing God”? In other words, am I operating from a place of love or fear?)

 

  • DOES IT NEED TO BE SAID BY ME RIGHT NOW? (Sometimes, issues need to be addressed immediately. But often my sense of urgency is fueled by self-righteousness or my need to rid myself of my own discomfort. It’s helpful for me to remember that I can usually circle back to the issue when I am able to engage the issue and person from a place of spaciousness, hope and love.)

 

When I ask these questions, I often find myself keeping my mouth closed & leaning into a trust that God will guide the person in God’s time. And when I do feel led to speak up, my words and approach are so much more effective because I am not running on fear. Here’s to more love-fueled justice work in 2019!”

 

Amen!

In Christ,

Pastor George

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