Palm Sunday in Indianapolis
Years ago in a book by Kurt Vonnegut I came across these words:
“I still quote Eugene Debs (1855–1926), late of Terre Haute, Indiana, five times the Socialist Party’s candidate for President, in every speech:
“While there is a lower class I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
In recent years, I’ve found it prudent to say before quoting Debs that he is to be taken seriously. Otherwise many in the audience will start to laugh. They are being nice, not mean, knowing I like to be funny. But it is also a sign of these times that such a moving echo of the Sermon on the Mount can be perceived as outdated, wholly discredited horsecrap.
Which it is not.”
They came to me again today as I contemplated the actions of the governor of Indiana in signing a bill that is clearly aimed at allowing and encouraging discrimination against glbt citizens.
As I reflect on the governor’s action in signing this piece of excretable legislation I was struck by one religious leader’s letter expressing “hope this law will not allow or encourage discrimination.” It is the only reason the bill exists. This is a bit like saying one hopes that eating in a steakhouse won’t allow or encourage meat eating. At this point the cow has already left the barn.
How is it that a dead avowed atheist (as Vonnegut is and was) can speak to the gospel so much better than the leaders of our ostensibly Christian churches?
I’ll say this though. When we gather at worship at Broadway on this Palm Sunday morning we will remember and tell the story about one who understood what it was like to be castigated and told lies about. We will remember one who knew what it was to have the religious authorities (even his own followers) dance away from the uncomfortable stuff he was always trying to get them to see and accept. We will remember one who knew what it was to suffer simply for being his gracious healing beautiful self. Even Jesus.
I hope that for one brief hour on Sunday in a state willing to allow and encourage discrimination amongst its own citizens, people will be allowed and encouraged to remember that though times get tough - God, not the legislature, gets the last word. And that word is a bright and shining morning where all are welcome.
Rev. Michael Mather
Pastor, Broadway United Methodist Church
March 26th, 2015