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Firstly, many Disabled, Queer, Black, and other Non-Black People of Color and marginalized identities have already underscored the oddities of a “revival” or “awakening” that excludes bodies and experiences like theirs from the physical and spiritual location of the event. Alicia Crosby Mack said on Twitter, “A mass unmasked event in a pandemic that’s racially & culturally homogenous is not a revival. …We cannot speak about an event being a revival when the most vulnerable among us are excluded & at minimum the lack of covid safety precautions render this place unsafe. The Scriptures teach that where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom. If we hold that to be true, how can a revival in which this Spirit is present take place when disabled & medically vulnerable people are not free to engage without significant risk of harm? …If their Imago Dei is excluded what exactly is being revived?”
Plenty of disabled people have underscored similar issues with this hyper-located “revival” that will undoubtedly act as much as a superspreader event as anything else. So it is hard (okay, impossible) to affirm the idea that this is a true movement of the Holy Spirit when it is at best excluding oppressed people and at worst placing them at increased risk of illness and death.
Secondly, I’m moved by what Zach Hunt noted yesterday: “Why is [it] that ‘revival’ and a ‘sudden outpouring of the Holy Spirit’ are only ever used for worship services and never to describe things like fighting injustice and caring for the poor?” To me it is rather curious that the 2020 Global Uprising for Black Lives -- which began in the streets and was marked by the literal fire of the Spirit against the powers of oppression and injustice and was led by (masked) people fighting for the Life and Liberation that flows from the outpouring of the Spirit -- was never called a “revival” or an “awakening.”
This sermon was originally preached on February 5, 2023 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis.
The service may be viewed here beginning around the 27:00 mark.
Morning Texts: Psalm 110:1-10 | Sermon Text: Genesis 16
**I am indebted to womanist scholars, in particular Rev. Dr. Wil Gaffney, Renita J. Weems, and Monica A. Coleman, whose explorations of the Hagar-Sarai narrative have so profoundly guided and shaped my own understanding of these texts. For further reading: Making a Way Out of No Way (Monica A. Coleman), Womanist Midrash (Rev. Dr. Wilda C. Gafney), and Just a Sister Away (Renita j. Weems) **
May the God who Sees, who Is, and who is Love + go before, hover over, root our feet, and have our back as we consider the message of Their first prophet, who spoke truth to the one who is Truth and gave to God Their first personal name. Amen.
Good morning, Redeemer! It is a joy to be back with you today. In every real way it is a coming-home, and I am honored to return in this capacity, leading worship with Pastor Babette, a prophet in her own right, and exploring the God Who Sees with people who see me in ways I didn’t fully understand and still cannot fully appreciate, much as I may try. I am grateful.
Today I want to talk about my favorite prophet. But first I think it’s important to establish how I understand “prophecy.” It is not future- or fortune-telling but rather, Truth telling -- specifically, prophecy is speaking Truth to Power. For a long time, I heard “speaking truth to power” as “speaking truth in a powerful way.” But I now understand that Prophecy is speaking Truth to those who have power, and challenging how they use it in relation to those without. It is always subversive to the status quo, and it is always creative in its challenge to those who are so comfortable with what is that they have no need to imagine what could or should be.
And so it is crucial that when we encounter the Biblical prophets or explore their modern expressions we locate ourselves rightly in the social, cultural, religious, economic, and ecological power structures that form and inform the world around us.
So with that said, I want to talk about a prophet who isn't usually called one but definitely is.
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