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Pride, Prejudice and Power

Updated: Jun 5



“PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND POWER”

a message by Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens

Coral Isles Church, U.C.C.

June 2, 2024


Mark 2:23 - 3:6 NRSV

23 One sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.”

27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.


I’m an angry man.  I am.  I’m angry.  I’m angry about rules.  Rules, rules, rules.  Mostly I’m angry about people that don’t follow the rules.  You go to the store and there’s the 10 item only express check-out lane, right?  I’m like, “Hey, lady that carton of eggs has 12 eggs you can’t come through here!  Rules, people.  Gotta have rules!  How about driving?  I’m angry with speeders.  When they are behind me.  What?  Of course I speed, but you know, the rules only apply when it is convenient, right?  I’m angry when people in front of me go too slow, too.

         

How about you?  What makes you angry?  Do you like people who follow the rules?  Most church folks are.  They like rules.  So, no wonder all those Pharisees were angry with Jesus when he was breaking the rules.  I mean, come on Jesus, why didn’t you just turn some stones into bread when the disciples were hungry.  Instead, you let them break the rules!  The Sabbath was for rest.  No work on the Sabbath.  No work on Sundays.  Remember when that was a rule?  Back in the day you couldn’t buy booze on Sunday.  It was a rule.


I remember one Thanksgiving Day way back when my cousin and brothers were thirsty for some beer.  So, we went out to get some and then we began to worry that we wouldn’t be able to buy any because it was a Sunday.  I mean it felt like one, right?  But no, it finally dawned on our turkey-and-pie addled brains that it was Thursday.  We could buy beer.  Or I should say they could.  I didn’t drink beer.

         

But today our Scripture reading is about a problem with rules.  First off, Jesus and the boys are wandering through a grain field and popping seeds into their mouths.  That counts as work.  It was the Sabbath.  No work on the Sabbath according to the rules.  Evidently there were some Fundamentalists, er, I mean some Pharisees following, watching, you know?  When someone is out to get you, they watch, and they wait for you to break the rules so they can yell “gotcha!”  When they scold Jesus for letting them do it, he says, “Hey, remember good old King David?  He and his men went into the Temple and took the Holy bread to eat when they were hungry, and God didn’t smite them, did He?  No!”  That made Pharisees angry!  Jesus was breaking the rules!

         

Then as if that weren’t bad enough then Jesus goes and heals a man.  Wait a minute bro’, that’s clearly work the Pharisees are thinking.  Jesus asks them, “Is it lawful to heal or kill on the Sabbath?  What’s that rule, boys?”  Like most weasels do when cornered, they were silent.  Then Jesus was angry!  Angry at their lack of compassion.  Angry at putting the rules before people.  Because to Jesus everyone mattered, and the most oppressed, the suffering, the ones who everyone else thought mattered less mattered the most to him.  He wanted those religious leaders to see this.  God didn’t make people for the rules, Jesus says, God made the rules for the people and the people come first. 


My message title is “Pride, Prejudice and Power.”  The first part, pride, can be a good thing as it is used this month.  People should have pride in being who they are.  But like most good things, if you mix them with other things they can become a problem.  When pride mixes with prejudice and power, there are usually problems.  The problems usually mean people suffer.  That makes me angry.


So today, I’m an angry man, but I’m a happy man too.  Why am I happy?  Because I’m pastor of an Open and Affirming Church.  And this is Pride Month.  And I believe in Pride.  Now, let me apologize because I’m an old[er] man and a lot of the language doesn’t come natural to me.  So, if I miss saying something just right over the next few minutes it is out of age and ignorance, not out of not caring.  I am pro-pride when it comes to affirming gay rights, the equal value of persons who are LGBTQIA.  I get angry when people like those in our state government want to eliminate the rights and value of my gay siblings.  They want to victimize those they consider of less value in order to pander to misinformed, prejudiced voters.  See, often people in power use prejudice and a false pride to manipulate their minions to hate, and fear, and vote them into power.


They scare them with stories of transwomen grabbing children in the bathrooms at Target.  But they don’t say a word about the straight men who commit such crimes in far higher number.  They want to tell scary stories of murderers and rapists who come in as immigrants.  They say our country can’t survive if it doesn’t have borders.  Well, the truth is our country can’t survive if we don’t have a lot of workers who come in to work in jobs at a wage none of us, and none of those people who fear immigrants coming here, would take.  Our economy would not survive if it weren’t for the nearly slave labor we take advantage of to do the jobs none of us want to do.  Then those whose pride and prejudice and power tell a narrative of fear and pass laws and put fences up and victimize and criminalize and dehumanize people out of prejudice and fear.  And those in power use that fear against us. The combination of false pride and prejudice mixed with power means people suffer. It makes me angry.


But I am not going to focus on my anger, I am going to focus on how happy I am to spend this month looking at how being Open and Affirming as a church is healthy and faithful and something to be proud of.  There are a lot of churches out there trying to claim the power to make the rules about people’s lives.  They claim to speak for God.  But to me it all sounds like Pharisees wanting to set rules because they want to be in control, they want the power.  I say that we are expressing a healthy and faithful Gospel, like Jesus.  He asked, “Is it lawful to heal or to kill on the Sabbath.”  I say it is healthy to heal and that is the kind of rule God likes.  Some say we aren’t being faithful because we don’t live by their rules.  I say we are faithful because we know that God says the most important rule is love as God loves.  I am happy that we are faithful to the commandment that Christ gave: “love one another as I have loved you.”  I am proud that we strive to love unconditionally, as a congregation, rather than tell people how unfaithful they are because they don’t read the rules the same as us. 


So, while Jesus was angry that those rule-keeping Pharisees had hard hearts, I want to focus on being happy that we have open hearts.  I am happy and proud that we have a family table where all God’s children are welcome.  I am happy that we can love one another without the prejudices or false pride that lead others to exclude and deny someone else’s value.  I’ll keep believing in and preaching about the way Jesus broke the rules that other made in God’s name when they harm, or cause hate, or lead to false pride.


This table is a symbol and sign of God’s inclusivity.  It is a sign of God’s pride as a parent in all people – people as diverse as the colors of the rainbow.  This table is a sign of God’s faithfulness to all of God’s children not just some.  This table is a symbol of the way God feeds us with love and joy and happiness when we see everyone gathered around this table in all our variety and diversity and possibilities.  Let us celebrate this holy meal which feeds the soul and strengthens the spirit for living happy, proud, and faithful lives.  AMEN.

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