Monday, August 26, 2019
(Carl W. Kenney preached this sermon on Sunday, September 25, 2019 at Liberation Station, home of Underground Church. It was the 40th anniversary of his initial sermon)
“21From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, LORD!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" 23Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." 24Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:21-24)
This scripture represents a radical shift in the teaching and focus of Jesus. It challenged the assumption of his followers. It turned their attention away from the privileges of being associated with Jesus to the responsibilities that come with being a follower.
He offers hope for the poor. He looks at a crowd of frustrated people and calls them blessed. He tells them the poor are blessed rather than cursed by things they find hard to control. He shifts conversations involving privileged by informing them last shall be first.
He challenges assumptions of power with parables regarding the least among these. He confronts religious leaders. He violates customs by touching lepers and a woman with a serious bleeding condition.
He refutes the political elite with words involving a new type of Queendom
He restores sight to the blind and heals a variety of other conditions. He redefines inclusion. He respects women and affirms foreigners.
He doesn’t blame people for not having enough but encourages us to take care of strangers. He feeds them. He has compassion and redefines the boundaries of love.
it’s easy to follow Jesus until he changes the focus of his ministry.
The disciples of Jesus are excited.
They have a front seat
They are witnesses to the miracle of his work
They are the recipients to his transformative teachings.
Their lives are changed by the witness of his work. There’s no reason not to follow Jesus. the future looks bright. Thee madness will soon stop. They will soon enter Jerusalem where the momentum will increase. Taxes will be lowered. They will have their own king. The hypocrisy that ruled the religious system will be changed. They were excited until Jesus shifted everything with a question
It’s the same questions we are forced to answer. It’s relevant in helping us understand why we follow Jesus. What is it we seek to gain from his work and teachings?
Who do they say I am?
It’s a complicated question. It’s a question rooted in years of theological and historical interpretation related to the meaning and significance of their national identity.
it’s a question about power
it’s a question about who has the right to control others.
What do other people think about his work? What is their understanding of his teachings? How do they interpret all of it?
these are questions regarding the usage of his teaching. how can we use his power? how can we shift power in our direction.
Some say you are a prophet. Some say you are the Messiah. Some say you’re like John the Baptist.
There are numerous interpretations. What do you say? What do you think?
You are the Messiah, Peter says. You are the Promised One. The one to teach us about our ongoing role as a nation. Teach us what it means to participate in a world created to reflect God’s will. teach us how to use your power
Good Job Peter. Now that you know that, there’s more. There’s more you must see. Teaching you what it means to live together means I must show you more about what that means.
I must die. I will be crucified.
Peter’s response exposes our hesitation in moving away from the Good News.
The Good News of his teaching
The Good news of changed lives
The good news of healing
Peter’s interpretation of the Good news is the story of restored personal relationship with God. He understood the work of Jesus to place him and others in position to rule over others.
Peter wanted a new type of queendom
A kingdom like king David’s
a kingdom were men ruled
a kingdom with power in the hands of a select few
a kingdom defined by control over others
a kingdom with a military to protect an agenda.
Peter says no to Jesus’ shifted message. The new message involves the ongoing presence of evil.
it’s not all good news.
the shifted message involves bad news.
it’s a message involving Jesus’ personal struggles to maintain life due to his message. It's a message regarding what happens to people who speak on behalf oppressed people. What happens when you shift from talk about the benefits to emphasize the pain?
It’s a message about the dark side of life.
The dark side is the death of Z’yon Person and other children killed in the mean streets. The shifted focus forces us to examine all of the deaths. Today marks the anniversary of the eulogy of mike brown of Ferguson, Mo
400 years ago, kidnapped Africans landed in Hampton, Virginia to begin the business of legal slavery. Jesus begins a new conversation about the bad news. in lifting the new emphasis, he is forcing a decision on the part of his disciples. it’s the same decision we are making today.
WHAT IS THE DECISION WE MAKE IN CONFRONTING THE SHIFT FROM THE GOOD NEWS TO THE ONGOING NARRATIVE OF THIS WORLD’S BAD NEWS?
I. The shift from celebration to death exposes the dark side
This is who we are. This is what people do. As much as we’d like to focus on the good humans do, there’s the dark side. As much as we hate the dark side. It’s always there. It’s there constantly reminding us of what can happen in a twinkling of an eye. It happens when we least expect it. It happens to remind us of the things we can’t control.
The death of Jesus is a reminder. It’s not a Good Friday. It’s a gloomy night. Another innocent person convicted. Another unnecessary execution. Another misunderstood person killed because of an unwillingness to fit in.
The death of Jesus uncovers the dark side.
The side that killed J’yon Person, here in Durham
The dark side was exposed on Friday in St. Louis where an 8-year-old girl was killed.
Over 250 mass shootings in America this year
Over 30 in Durham this year.
Is this the lesson of Jesus shifting the conversation from his work as a healer, teacher and prophet to talk about his own death? Do we need his tragic story to remind us not to get stuck in the holy dance while surrounded by all this darkness? Is it a challenge not to allow privilege to conceal the rest?
People can’t pretend it’s not there with sermons about the bright side of heaven and no tears and sorrow.
Peter says you can’t die. You have to preach Good news. Jesus says open your eyes to the other side.
The side where children die
The side where hate attacks innocence and destroys the Utopic vision for America. The side that used black people to make white people rich. The side that stole land from native Americans and robbed black people in Mississippi of more than 7 billion dollars’ worth of property.
the dark side using government to promote the agenda of a few
this is the dark side
the side were scriptures are used to elect a president
the side were hypocrisy show up to defend the biases of some men, some white people and people intoxicated by power
Is the death of Jesus there to remind us of things beyond our selfish intentions?
This is who we are.
this is who we have always been.
this is America’s story
Not all of us, but enough to challenge the good news
Not all the time, but often enough to force a stoppage of our praise.
Jesus forces a decision
We can pretend none of it is real
Or we can face the violence of his death
We can sing Hosanna on the way to victory.
That’s what the followers of Jesus did when he entered Jerusalem
They shouted Hosanna, Hosanna
Jesus stopped them to talk about death.
To remind them of the dark side
II. Shifting from the good news forces a response to violent death
Begin by rejecting the assumption that it doesn’t impact us
It’s easy to distance ourselves from violent death. We can easily make it about those people.
It’s what black people do.
It’s what poor people do
It’s a function of having bad parents
There’s a vast distance between them and us and religion defines the dark side of crime
crime is a construction of their sin.
The death of Jesus forces a different conversation.
His life and faith aren’t enough to shield Jesus from the dark side.
Going to Sunday School isn’t enough.Attending Church every Sunday isn’t enough. Placing our children in private schools where the day begins with prayer isn’t enough. Not listening to hip-hop won’t help
The pain will find us
When it happens, we have to stop the processional of praise to feel the pain cause by another child’s death
It matters that congregations care
It matters that we her sermons about the dark side
It matters that we do more than pray
It matters that we consider how faith culture impacts how we feel.
Jesus shifts the conversation from the good news to violent death to teach critical lessons about religion. We are not better than the victims of violence. We should avoid building walls to protect us from them.
It’s time to listen and learn.
It’s time to move beyond the comforts of culture
We can learn from others.
We overcome divisions created by cultural differences by participating in A life of consistent presence
When a child dies…our work is to be present
When any person is killed, our work is to listen
Our work is not to judge
Our work is not to remain locked in our churches to pray
Our work is to walk with them
Cry with them
Press the age-old questions…why Lord…how lord. When lord
Our role is not to hide
or to Take comfort that it’s not me and my family
Our work is to engage beyond the celebration of the life and witness of the good news. it’s to be present within all of the bad news
III. Death demands a revised ending
The joy of the Christian story is the ending. Bad Friday is renamed Good Friday because of what happens on Sunday morning. The gift of the Christian message is trouble don’t last always.
Joy comes in the morning.
It’s what gives us strength.
It’s what helped the ancestors press forward during the heat of enslavement.
Yes, they were brought to the Americas 400 years ago on this day. It’s a horrible story.
Some didn’t make it.
Some jumped overboard during the middle passage.
Some would rather to be buried in a grave than be a slave.
Some ran in the direction of the North Star.
Some sought freedom
Some were lynched due to their disobedience
Some witnessed burning crosses upon fighting for equal treatment
It’s the dark side of the story.
Some never had a chance to revise the ending.
The descendants of slaves have a revised ending
We can shout today
We can sing new songs because we walk in the victory of our ancestors’ dreams
Its why some come to church.
But, not far away.
Within a few steps from this building
The blood of murder victims still stains the ground.
Not far away
The tears of hurting parents form puddles where the bad news first came
There’s pain in these streets.
Every death deserves a revised ending
The story of a resurrection
The story of good news
The story of dreams fulfilled
The story of victory secure.
Where is the revised ending for J’yon and his family?
What can we do to revise the ending of Shaquana Atwater, a 4-year-old killed in Few Gardens back in 1994?
The blood of murder victims continues to speak in Durham’s streets
How do we revise the ending?
What do we pray?
What do we say?
What can we do to revise the ending to all this bad news?
I begin by say, enough is enough
I begin by standing with victims
Monday, August 19, 2019
This is the sermon Carl W. Kenney II preached for the launch of Liberation Station, home of the Underground Church, on Sunday, August 18, 2019. As part of the ongoing work of these ministries, Kenney, the spiritual leader, will publish his sermons on the Rev-elution each week.
Luke 4:16-21 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18"The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor." 20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
The journey from the wilderness to the temple reveals of myriad of hurting people. We pass them by. We watch them linger in misery without blinking an eye. We travel in the comfort of our privilege – headed to the temple to pray.
We watch them from a distance. On our way to the temple.
We witness their misery
On our way to pray.
We see the vastness of brokenness
We see the consequences of not enough
We see the torture of dreams deferred
We see homeless people with no faith
We see the torment of isolation.
People walking like zombies
Dead men and women walking
On our way to the temple
To hear words to validate our pretension
We witness the slow-motion movement of men and women walking in the streets.
We watch them on our way to the temple
We hear the cries of racist indignation
Go back to where you come from
Lock her up
Build a wall
On our way to the temple
To hear good preaching
to shout when the holy ghost comes
To sing about trouble don’t last always
We witness the hypocrisy of our teaching.
On our way to church
I would like to use my sanctified imagination of the black preaching tradition to conjure a thought regarding the context for today’s scripture.
I imagine Jesus walking from the wilderness – to the temple
I imagine Jesus spending time alone to reflect, mediate and pray – before heading to the synagogue
I imagine Jesus engrossed in thought regarding what it means to be used by God -before going to Church
I imagine Jesus grappling with taking the easy rode before traveling down those tough streets.
I imagine he saw some things.
I imagine he felt something
With every step
With every sight
With each disappointment.
The sight of political corruption – high taxation, no representation
The smell of inadequate health care
The sound of deceitful teaching
Women, take your husbands abuse
Bring your hard-earned earnings to the church
Feed the system when you can’t eat
I imagine Jesus witnessing all of it
On his way to Church, Jesus watched it
Did you watch it today, on your way to Church?
I like to think that Jesus felt what I felt while on my way to the temple
Did you feel it
Did you weep for the children?
Did you cry for the mothers isolated from their children because they’re trying to find freedom?
Did you cry when hearing about more hate filled public policies.
did you weep for the victims of gun violence?
did you cry
On your way to church
If not, why not?
Did your soul cry for an answer to the question how long because how long is taking too long
Did you pause to consider the things you take for granted in the face of indifference
I need my sanctified imagination to help me escape the lingering madness in my head.
I see Jesus walking, from the wilderness to a place of worship.
I see Jesus headed to the synagogue, not to pray, not for worship
I see Jesus headed home, to go to church, to make a point.
To make an enduring statement. To put an end to the madness
To share how he felt and to announce what he plans to do.
I see Jesus walking, from the wilderness, to Church, as was his custom, to set the record straight.
To talk about what he saw on the way, to the church, to fight for justice
He opens the scroll to one of the pages of the great prophet, Isaiah
The prophet who wrote, But they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.
The prophet who wrote, Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.
The prophet who wrote, And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here I am! Send me.
He turned to the pages of that prophet and read
"The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because she has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. She has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor."
Then he rolled it up, after traveling from the wilderness
He took his seat, after making the trip from the wilderness to the temple
He looked at the church folk. He looked at the holy folks. He glared at the students of his faith tradition and says
"Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Do you hear him. I hear him saying, enough is enough. I’ve seen enough. I’ve heard enough. I’m sick of talk about freedom
Let’s do this thing. Let’s bust a move. Time to make that change.
Let’s fix economic disparity, that’s what he said.
Let’s repair the criminal justice system and undo the horrific injustices of mass incarceration, he said that.
Let’s create a system that allows everyone access to healthcare, it’s there in the text.
Liberate the oppressed
Then he tells them it’s time for Jubilee. It’s time to celebrate. Let’s have a party.
How do you celebrate freedom when living with perpetual struggle?
How do you celebrate with all this chaos?
With Donald Trump?
With the uncovering of expanding racism.
1. Change the narrative
What we’re told, and what is said about us has significant bearing on how we approach life. Changing the narrative shifts the language used to define who we are
Changing the narrative exposes the lies of their definitions
Changing the narrative forces reconsideration involving history. It adds the parts taken out of textbooks about black history
Changing the narrative shifts the way we interpret scriptures. It places women in the middle.
Changing the narrative is both personal and corporate.
When I say BLACK LIVES Matter, that is about a historical interpretation. I matter now., I’ve always mattered. It changes the narrative
Liberation begins when I challenge being placed in potholes and labeled by a racist agenda.
Liberation begins when women talk about being absent from the Biblical text and being denied leadership because of their gender
Liberation begins when people say you have no hell to put me in and my relationship with God has nothing to do with the miscalculations in your imagination.
Freedom is attached to the promise in the text.
Jesus has seen enough. I’m changing the narrative of a woman dipping her bucket in the well. She’s not a ho, she a person
Jesus has seen enough, he takes the hand of a leper, and says be free
Jesus has seen enough, he uses the history of his people to teach a lesson, God told Pharaoh, let my people go.
This day, today, Is the day of jubilee.
No more walls used to define and minimize the humanity of people born a few miles away
No more public policies aimed at keeping America white
The work of faith involves changing the narrative regarding what it means to be human.
It’s an anthropological question
It’s a theological question
It’s an ethical question
It’s a question lifted in the Biblical text. It’s for us to witness.
Jesus says, I see the poor. I see the incarcerated. I see the homeless. I see LBGTQI and A. I see the isolated and I see all the people troubled in spirit.
I’m changing how you think about them
2. Revamp the purpose
The purpose is participating in work offering liberation. Our work is about communicating wholeness. Wholeness is the answer to brokenness. Wholeness is the gift of completeness.
It’s the answer to the humans who construct limits to feel better about their place in creation. It’s the answer to language that places limits above freedom.
Our purpose is to tear down walls that trap people into accepting less than enough.
Not enough money
Not enough access
our purpose is social justice work
our purpose is advocacy
our purpose is being present with victims of all forms of violence
violent housing laws
greed is violent
Or purpose is presence for everyone in this room and for those seeking liberation from the damage created by massive pretension.
3. Expand the vision
Jesus has seen enough. Jesus has heard enough.
He walks into a room filled with church folks. Holy people. People who know the scriptures. People who measure the divide between sheep and wolves. The gatekeepers. The advocates of tradition.
Jesus walks into that space. After spending time in the wilderness. After witnessing the consequences of the churches neglect. He watches the spiritual refugees seeking a place to call home.
He offers a solution.
It’s time for a new vision. It’s time to move past a constraining narrative. It’s time to embrace wholeness for all who need freedom
it has helped some people to hear about the need for personal salvation. Some people need to know and feel a deeper relationship with God
it has helped some people to be active in the work of a local church. To work on the usher board, sing in the choir, teach Sunday school
it has helped some people to listen to a message about heaven. It helps seeking a place away from earth for the promise of a place with no weeping, no heartache, no more death, no more sorrow.
it helps some people to memorize scripture
to learn church doctrine
to serve in leadership
But today, Jesus says, I’m expanding the vision
He tells them they have waited long enough
The time has come
it’s party time
How can this be true?
Because we are jubilee. we announce the change. we exist to celebrate change.
Not in the sweet bye and bye
Not in life after death
In the imminent here and now.
We affirm this because we are Jubilee
We represent the day of the Lord’s favor.
We bear witness to God’s changing agenda
We manifest the work of Queendom building
We are the advocates of peace.
We are the conveyors of a new vision
Let’s go. Let’s make that change. Let’s be that change.
Today. This text comes to life. Now. In this moment.
Friday, August 9, 2019
[Picture taken on the site where Michael Brown was killed on August 9, 2019, in Ferguson, MO. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was shot by Darren Wilson, 28, a white Ferguson police officer.]
Clarence Thomas messed it up for black people. Put another way, I miss the good ole days.
Back in the day, way before today’s “woke” generation, it was assumed that black people had a collective agenda. It felt good standing behind the virtuousness of a black monolithic expectations. For all that plagued black life in America, there was comfort in believing the brother/sisterhood were on the same page.
Clarence Thomas changed all of that by giving new meaning to Frantz Fanon’s book Black Skin, White Mask. Fanon sought to present a historical critique of the effects of racism and feelings of dehumanization inherent in colonialism. Thomas introduced the reality of Black Skin, White Soul.
When Thomas was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court on October 15, 1991, it uncovered black America’s secret. Not all black people are progressive thinkers. There are black republicans, some of the most conservative ilk, who fight for causes and support people independent of the supposed black agenda.
Nothing has been the same since that day. Black pride and power came with a new verbiage to explain incongruities. He’s not really black. She’s not with us. They’re not our people. They can’t come to the family reunion. You can have her.
She’s not “woke” is another way of distancing the Clarence Thomas type black person from others who identify with the unwritten agenda of black solidarity. Black unanimity was understood and celebrated as part of the black cultural experience. It’s what happens when black people, from coast to coast, gather at family reunions and line dance to the music of Frankie Beverly & Maze. It’s the festivity of getting down with the get down during homecoming at an Historically Black College and University (HBCU). It’s the black homecoming long before Beyoncé’ introduced black culture to white Americans
It’s a black thang, and you wouldn’t understand is jargon intended to address the people who agree with Clarence Thomas. Not all people get it. Not all black people understand it. Not all black people care about being black.
Being “woke” is another way of saying you’re not down with causes that impact black people. “Woke” is black talk aimed at censuring black people who don’t care about being black. It also applies to the embrace of viewpoints outside the purview of the unwritten, national, black manifesto.
You’re either with us black or seduced into a deep sleep. You’re either down with the televised black revolution or protecting the master’s property like Uncle Tom on the plantation.
Being “woke” is black talk. It is created, adapted, endorsed and inspired by cultural variance, nuances and concerns of black people confronted by the ongoing influence of white supremacy, institutionalized racism and assumptions of white privilege.
It’s a black thang, you wouldn’t understand.
White power, white supremacy, and all of its side demons are managed by the influence of cultural appropriation – the inappropriate espousal of customs, practices, ideas and language of black people. White people have taken “woke” and named as their own creation. White people have taken the continuing movement of black people to obtain and maintain progress and named it a progressive movement.
The search to undo the outcomes of slavery, post-reconstruction, Jim Crow legislation, voter repression and the ongoing quest to maintain white domination is the work of black progressive movement. Progress is the goal of the unwritten manifesto of the black collective vision.
Black progress is about sharing the wealth, getting our share and being outspoken about what black people deserve after years of deprived progress. What the black delegation doesn’t need is a gang of white progressives defining what progress means. These are labels created to assert power and privilege defined by white people who have stolen the language of “woke” to separate themselves from other white people.
Step back. Take notes, and please back away from asserting high levels of cultural appropriation in declaring the merit of black people. We got this. We’ll keep our folks in check.
In the meantime, check your white folks.