14 Aug

On Charlottesville, Banquets and Baptisms

The following is an excerpt from Rev. Jeremy Shoulta’s  August 13th sermon entitled, “Parable of the Wedding Banquet,” based on Luke 14:7-14.

It’s difficult on this Sunday to speak in generalities (which, for better or for worse, I often do from this pulpit) in light of the horrific events our country has witnessed this weekend.

If you are still unaware of these events, let me take a moment to fill you in on the details. Beginning Friday evening, a weekend rally called “Unite the Right” was convened in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was a gathering of Alt-right, Neo Nazi, Far Right, White Nationalist groups protesting the removal of confederate monuments and memorials.

The protestors were not in robes and hoods. Quite frankly, the protesters looked like me.

The protesters carried torches and marched through the town chanting, “You will not replace us,” “White lives matter,” “Jews will not replace us” and “the Jewish Media is going down.” Far more offensive things were said, which I will not repeat here.

On Saturday morning, protesters and counterprotesters faced off, kicking, punching, hurling water bottles at and deploying chemical sprays against one another. An estimated 500 protesters were on-site, with more than double the amount of counterprotesters. On Saturday afternoon, a rally participant drove a car into group of counter protestors, killing 1 and leaving 19 others injured. Additionally, at this time, a helicopter crash leaving 2 police officers dead is being investigated; this tragedy is believed to have been connected to the protest.

Let me be clear: there are no other sides to what I just described. This is not news with a bias. This is not fake news. These are the facts.

On this tragic weekend racists held a demonstration to support the notion that a certain “pecking order” is real; that people of a certain skin color are inherently more valuable than others.

They clearly did not read or understand this parable of the wedding banquet. They clearly do not understand the Gospel of Jesus. They do not serve the Christ that we worship and proclaim in this place.

And how could they? This worldview is simply incompatible with the essence of a loving God made known, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Because in the kingdom of God, we do not position ourselves above others physically, ethnically, racially, philosophically, metaphorically or theologically. We are all seated, as equals, around the great banquet table that honors the King of kings – and not the principalities and powers of this world.

At the great banquet that is the Kingdom of God, we are welcome to celebrate our diversity and sit beside others who are different from us – some who might look different from us, some who might talk different from us, some whose health is different from us and some whose wealth is different from us.

At this great banquet, every tribe, tongue and nation is represented, without hierarchy, in the presence of God.

In summary – the white supremacist rally, and the issues surrounding it, are serious – and the Church must, without hesitation, condemn this racism that in no way resembles or draws from the Christian faith.

 

Next week, we will celebrate two baptisms at First Baptist Church – the baptism of Alanna Watkins & Jammie Watkins. In that act of Baptism, Alanna & Jammie will publicly profess their faith in Christ. They will profess they have died to their self and have been raised to new life with Christ.

At the same time, First Baptist Church will covenant to walk alongside them as fellow disciples. In doing so, we will affirm our common purpose and identity at this banquet we call church – and in a greater sense, the Christian life.

This Baptism has taken on a new meaning for me and this church. We just witnessed a large group of individuals, perhaps only a sliver of a pervasive sickness across our nation, who would say that Jamie, Allana and others are not welcome at their table. They believe there is a certain pecking order in this world, proclaiming that unless you are a certain color, you are “less than,” and “you don’t deserve to be here.”

Jamie, Alanna, and anyone else in this place who has been at the receiving end of this disgusting message or had to relive the pain of this message by seeing clips of these rallies and the violence that ensued, let me offer these words directly to you:

I can’t imagine how you are feeling or what is going through your heart when you witness this. I can’t imagine the pain, the heartache, and the fear you sense. And so today, as your pastor and on behalf of this congregation, all I can offer is this assurance: you are loved and valued in this congregation – and as we prepare for this special day of Baptism next Sunday, I pray that you feel completely welcome at this banquet that we call the Body of Christ at First Baptist Church.

It is my prayer that you have, and would only continue to feel the loving presence of the Spirit of God as we continue to dine together – often figuratively, but sometimes literally – at this banquet that Jesus Christ welcomes all of us to. That includes the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. The invitation also includes people of every race, tribe and tongue – such as we see in this room today. Thanks be to God for the grace and the opportunity to continue worshipping together, eating together, praying together and serving together.