Google Analytics Script

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Pink Shirt World

A Sermon Preached by Lee Cheek, Lay Preacher, October 9, 2011

St. James & St. George Episcopal Churches @ Crissey Farm, Great Barrington, MA

17 Pentecost, Proper 23A

“For many are called, but few are chosen” –Matthew 22:14

Good Morning! Francie asked me to preach this morning and when Pennie Curry found out, she told me that a whole bunch of young people from Gideon’s Garden[i] and Taft Farms and out of town were going to be here this morning. And she also said, please preach them some Good News and some Hope.

Well, I thought that that would be a great thing to do. And that this would be the perfect Sunday to do that. You know why? Because of the Bible passage that Father Ted just read.

I mean really, did you listen to it? It is about a party, a wedding banquet that really turned bad. In fact, quite horrible. But I thought it was a very good story to preach on today because it is a story about bullies and I KNOW a lot of you know something about bullies.

In fact, the Bible is full of stories about bullies because it is a history of how people came to understand that if you’re beating up on someone or making them feel bad about who they are, you can’t blame it on God. In fact, God is right there with the person who is getting beat up, trying to give everyone courage to find their own special way of joining in that will turn the situation around—and—here’s the hard part: not beat up on the bully.

But here’s the other thing I know about you young people. Not only do you know about bullies, you know about how to deal with them in creative ways that don’t beat up on them. There’s a story that some of you may already know. It’s the story of the PINK SHIRTS.

In 2007 in Nova Scotia a 9th grade boy showed up for his first day in high school wearing a pink polo shirt. Bullies harassed him, called him a homosexual, and threatened to beat him up. Two 12th grade students heard about this and after school that day, they went to discount store and bought all the pink shirts they could. That night they emailed their classmates about their plan.

The next morning when that 9th grade boy arrived at school he was greeted by hundreds of students wearing pink, some head to toe. Now can you imagine how that young man felt walking into a sea of pink and having that big weight lifted off his shoulders?[ii]

I think Jesus would have loved that story because he spent the last three years of his life going around saying that God is not a bully. That God just wanted us to stop blaming and hurting people who looked different from us or had different customs from us or had made some small mistakes. Jesus kept saying that the best way to settle our differences was to see everyone as someone to love and not as an enemy to defeat or take advantage of.

In other words Jesus kept talking about how someday, way in the future, there would be a time and place where human beings would have no enemies and no strangers. Let’s go back to the story about the party gone bad.

First of all, Jesus compares—not necessarily “likens”—this Kingdom of God very unfavorably to a new king who wants everyone to suck up to him and give him the power he thinks he deserves because he has his own personal army.[iii]

At first he tries to get this by being real nice and inviting the best people to his son’s wedding. Well some people just blow him off and some get so mad about this power play that they kill his slaves. This gets the BIG DEAL KING so furious that he sets the city on fire and sends out his troops to round up everyone else. He doesn’t care about them at all, he just wants everyone there, even if it’s by threat, because he cannot stand to be rejected. Can you imagine how enraged he was?

Now we have this room full of shocked and very frightened people. It’s a very unstable situation until the BULLY KING fastens his eyes on the one person who is not dressed right for a wedding and asks him about it. The fellow is speechless.

Not one person dares to keep this fellow company, or speak up for him. The BULLY, BIG-DEAL KING gives orders to “bind him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

That sounds pretty horrible. It’s probably a place from which you might never return, which is of course, what the Big-Deal King wants.

At the end of telling this parable Jesus tells his listeners that “Many are called, but few are chosen.” In other words, when someone is making a big power play, they will round up and scare a lot of people, but they will only choose a few to get rid of.

This is a pretty extreme story. But I think Jesus wants us to remember the figure of the speechless, silent man. Because there are a lot of people who are not able to speak up for themselves. Maybe they are afraid. Maybe they are ashamed of being different. Maybe they are getting beat up at home and just learned to be silent all their lives. Maybe they don’t speak English very well.

But when you open your ears, and your eyes and your hearts, you can hear them. And you did. In December 2008 a group of you—Caroline, Diana, Jackson, Garrett, Doree—were making Christmas wreaths at Taft Farms with Pennie Curry.

You heard the voices of people who could not speak for themselves say, “We are hungry”. You said, “Let’s feed them. Let’s grow healthy food for them.” And after Pennie heard you speak for those hungry people she went to farmer Danny Tawczynski and said, “I want you to hear these children.” Not only did he hear the children, but his heart, too, had been listening for a long time to the silence of hungry people.

Together you all helped us to hear the voices of people who were suffering in silence. You made Gideon’s Garden into a place where there are no strangers and no enemies. You reminded us how to live the Gospel of Jesus by living in solidarity with others.

Our lives take on REAL meaning when we understand that we are always looking at a far horizon, the horizon of history that reaches way past the end of my life, and way past the end of your life. And way, way out there, there is a time and place where Love—all the Love that is inside you and all around you—where all that Love has been able to survive every bad thing that humans can think of to do to each other.

And if we can let ourselves be pulled and urged toward this future by a huge, gentle, ever-present force that is always there, the direction of our lives becomes clear and beautiful and vibrant and shimmering. This is the ONLY reason Church exists: to come together to remember this and leave feeling ten feet tall and happy to be a part of history.

And so my young friends, for God’s sake, I hope you will have great fun living in solidarity with others. You have what it takes to do this in ways that are funny, bold and hip, sassy and artsy. Use any talent you have and surprise the world with your ideas. There are a lot of people in this congregation who want to help you do this. Because we all want move into that future where no more people are going to be called, rounded up and frightened, and no one person will ever be chosen to be a scapegoat again.

[i] Gideon’s Garden is a free-access, 1 acre garden managed by three teen supervisors and co-sponsored by St. James Episcopal Church and Taft Farms, a non-profit family run produce farm in Great Barrington. The Garden celebrated its 3d annual harvest despite devastating flooding this fall from recent tropical storms. During the spring and summer vegetables are distributed to a local food pantry, a local weekly community dinner, The Women, Infant and Children’s Program, a multicultural children’s program (BRIDGE) and families who come to the garden in need of extra help putting nutritious food on the table.

[iii] ELCA pastor Paul Neuchterlein’s notes for this passage. The preacher is additionally grateful for further insight on this parable through conversation with theologian Michael Hardin and his wife Lorri September 30, 2011. See Michael’s website

No comments: