Tuesday, August 2, 2011 The Chautauquan Daily Page 13

R e l i g i o n by Mary Lee Talbot

“Jesus, the lowly field preacher, without portfolio or parish, was busy turning the world upside down. The Kingdom of God was at hand. The kingdom of love and justice was at hand. Even though we read from Matthew today, in Luke, Jesus laid out his agenda,” the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock said at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service Monday. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to preach the good news to the poor.”

Warnock quoted Luke 4:18-19 and then said, “Jesus wason the move.”His sermon title was “The Danger of a Divided House,” and the Scripture was Matthew 12:22-29. “What better evidence was there than they brought a demoniac who was blind and mute, and he cured him?” Warnock said. “Jesus was on the move. That is what people of faith ought to do. How can you love God, whom you have not seen, and not love your neighbor? Jesus was on the move.” Warnock told the congregation that people of faith should give a voice to the mute, evangelize those without faith, give a challenge to the unconcerned, educate the uneducated, strengthen the weak, give courage to the discouraged and hold up the depressed.

“We must embrace the poor until they can feel God holding them,” Warnock said. “People of faith are called to be on the move. Jesus cured the man so he could see and so he could be heard. Jesus gives voice to the voiceless and sight to the blind, and the crowds were amazed.” He continued, “Others were mad. Preachers, be careful how you receive plaudits, because your preaching should make someone mad. Those who were mad had to make achoice. Jesus was a threat to the status quo, a threat to the religious powers. The least, the lost and the left out were being lifted up. Wherever Jesus shows up, we have to make a choice.” The ones who were angry sought to discredit Jesus’ methods and motives. They said that Beelzebub, the prince of demons, gave Jesus his power to cast out demons. “Jesus hears them, and Jesus was a ‘bad brother,’” Warnock said. “You know what I mean; he was so bad that even in their criticism, they could not deny the effectiveness of his methods and ministry. He really is who he says he is. He restricted their power, he evicted the demons and he convicted the crowd. “Jesus responds to the critics, via the Warnock International Version of the Bible, ‘Come on, man, you know what you are saying doesn’t make sense. Why would a demon cast out demon?’ He destroys their agenda. It is a simple, sublime principle — no hou e divided against itself can stand. I liftthis up now because in America today, there are forces that seek to divide us in order to control us. We are in a fight for our lives to keep the house from coming down.” He continued, “Division is our greatest threat today.Abraham Lincoln recognized that a house divided could not stand. We are caught up in an uncivil war of words that demonize and divide. Our motto is ‘E Pluribus Unum’ — out of many, one. The debt ceiling may be settled, but we should not forget that this crisis did not begin six weeks ago or six months ago. We need to grab hold of the best of America. “In 2008, regardless if you are an Independent, Republican or Democrat, we did the unthinkable (in electing Barack Obama as president). We are hearing things aimed at the American president. I rise not to defend him, for he does notneed defending, but I rise to speak to the best of our American conscious. We are using code words in public. ‘He says he is a Christian, but he is not a Christian; he is a Muslim’ — as if that was the worst thing he could be. ‘He says he is an American, but he was not born in America.’ ‘He has aKenyan, anti-colonialist world view’ as if there was a stigma to being African. “Jesus was an anti-colonialist; I am an anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, anti-phobias person. Jesus came to preach the good news. How can we stand unless we stand together? The issue is who will raise the conversation to a new moral and ethical level. We are a special people in a special place, and we all have to stand together, or the Liberty Bell will always have an unsightly crack.” He continued, ‘Thomas Jefferson was one of the sparks of our special union. He wrote about the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of  happiness. As eloquent as he was, he had slaves. But I don’t  mind, because in three weeks, you will look across (the Tidal Basin), and across from Thomas Jefferson will be a black man. Martin Luther King will be there asking, ‘Did you mean what you said when you said it?’ Martin Luther King called us to the best in the American spirit. Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ The slaves spoke up and said, ‘Me, too.’ Then the women said, ‘Me, too,’ through the suffrage movement. “Christians learned about Christian freedom and Muslims,Jews, Hindus and others said, ‘Me, too.’ We must stand with them. If we stand together in the house of prayer on Sunday, we can’t fight each other on Monday. If you burna Quran this week, next week you will burn a cross in my yard. Gays and lesbians are saying, ‘Me, too. We belong in the house.’

“We can use this moment of crisis to demonstrate how dangerous hateful speech is. Words can hurt, or we can use  words to lift us to a new plane. Christian people ought to lead the way. “And finally,” he said, and the congregation laughed as hereferenced a joke from the Sunday sermon. He reminded the congregation that geese fly in a V formation. “They have figured out the laws of aviation and aerodynamics. Pelicans flap their wings more, but they fly less distance because they fly alone. The goose that works thehardest is the one out front. When it gets tired, it movesback and another moves up. They change positions without a church vote, a split or dissension. They move and keep flying because the individual location is not as important asthe collective destination. We ought to have as much sense as geese.”He concluded, “We are not going to go unless we go together. We have to fly together, walk together, cry together,pray together and struggle together. If we rise and fly together, we will make it to the promised land.”