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Tag: Forgiveness

God nah sleep

Zechariah 10 has been my comfort. A counter to the narrative that faith is anemic in times like these. Some take comfort in criticizing rage and pretend that God can be reduced to a justice less peace. This desire to preserve normalcy, this desire to have one behave one’s self while there are knees on our necks is borne in fear. Fear that your myopic readings of Romans 13 won’t be enough. Fear that you didn’t spend enough time with the prophets. All that book learning and you never took the time to see how much God cares about justice? You look for God in your things. You look for God everywhere but the margins. Where God always is. You speak of reconciliation. You have soothed yourself to sleep with the dream of bringing together. You refuse to acknowledge that reconciliation is the repair of the master-slave dialectic. You want to be woke now. You’ve commodified woke. Prolly will commodify non-commodifying soon enough. But all of it means nothing unless you confess. All of it means nothing unless you admit you are complicit. You cannot be the hero in this story, we already have One. Our hero hears our blood crying from the ground. Our hero weeps. And our hero nah sleep.

I couldn’t call when You were dying

I’ve let my loved ones know

That in the event I’m on a plane

And think that I have arrived

At the end

I won’t make a phone call

No terror, or reminders of love

No semblance of intimacy thousands of feet in the air

No delusions of a life wrapped with a bow

Too dissimilar to death’s scar

The jagged pieces of lives shattered to pretend that we can ever truly be prepared

Earthquakes happen so frequent

We believe it’s man’s machinations

A revelation of Revelations

Or Mother Earth’s menstrual cramps

How regular and majestic

Coupled with threats of tsunami that kept me refreshing the page until the alert fell asleep

I forced myself awake determined not to find Wednesday with news you were no more

I opened WhatsApp to close it

Texted then wiped it away

Impersonal at the very least

And that’s never my intent

So I relearned that inaction is an action

And determined that I’d rather refresh then prepare myself for a final conversation

We’ve been doing so much better!

Rebuilding what never was

Though false alarm

I’m reminded that my instinct is well founded

A monument to catastrophe

How small we are in the face of the ineffable

Gardening

Dutty tuff doh, don’t it?

Miracles mi Lawd, miracles

Memba when we never expect a rice grain

Now we plate abundant and water a flow

Wha? Unnu think when you pray the prayer of Jabez

Poopa Jesus only have material things in fi him closet?

Repair better than reparations

Forgive without a man say sorry

But when him sorry?

Bitter tears tun sweet

Impossible, invincible things a gwan

Like falling in love with the wutless

Ab(solve)

i absolved You for myself!

i did it stealth.

Not for my wealth to accumulate when i humiliate my foes.

Am i gaining weight when i step on Your toes?

my heart burns at the suggestion that i should hate You.

Indiscretions pathetic yet i left You lesser in Your lessons

Your Mistake did not predate my absolution

it wasn’t immediate or without confusion

partly regretted i never asserted dominance

neglecting the puffed chest whose exhale is ominous

it’s obvious!

averted eyes, rapid glance

but it is of no matter

i will give You a chance to clear history,

my health matters more than my hubris

Scales measure Our friendship

can i really lose this?

afford the discord perhaps, but the scars stain still, no changing that

I’m hurt. I think I’ve always been.

I’m hurt. I think I’ve always been.

It first hit me when I was singing on the choir. The Children of Hope were a main attraction every Sunday. We stood in our robes, the pride of our parents’ eyes. One Sunday another child asked me, “Where’s your Dad?” I knew he wasn’t there but never thought about why.

I first spoke to my father on the phone at the age of five. I remember the conversation was brief; he told me not to take orders from any woman. Years later, I learned that our conversation was followed by my grandmother telling him about himself, “Yuh wutless!” she cried. I hope it’s not hereditary.

Every birthday, in spite of my mother’s best, oscillated between bubbling sadness and a fight against solemnity. Happiness was slippery. Accomplishments were punctuated by the absence.

Middle school taught me the importance of appearances. I learned to say my parents were separated even though they never married. I fashioned my father as a farmer, man of the people, whose agrarian will and political mind would usher in a new era in the postcolonial world.

In eighth grade he sent me fifty dollars a few times. Each time I felt rich and allowed myself to have pride. We would speak on the phone frequently, conversations ending abruptly when the credit ran out. I finally met him in person that summer, spending the whole day together, laughing with both parents, feeling complete.

I would not see him again until the summer I turned sixteen. I met so many people, good friends of his, who were surprised he had a son. I left Jamaica and was sure that this was going to be our new normal. Phone calls were frequent but still ended abruptly. He visited the next summer when I graduated high school. I realized the depth of my grandmother’s love when she behaved herself and sat next to him at my graduation dinner.

College would be another silent period in our relationship. He was always on my mind. Every accomplishment, any moment of success, filled with the reminder that he was not there.

I would not see him until I got married and I have not seen him since. Life moments have brought us together. We had a good run of phone calls after I nearly died. He called a couple times after my son was born. I had a lot of hope that my own fatherhood would make us closer, give us something else to talk about. Admittedly, becoming a father has made me angry. A younger me made excuses for him but now his negligence is unbelievable. I look at my son and think, “How could anyone not do this?” How could anyone feel the weight of responsibility and not press in? The thoughts spill my rage.
I don’t like to think about this often, much less talk about it. I worry that no matter how right I am, my silence is unforgiving. So I pray. “Lord, I’m hurting. I think I’ve always been.”

Cleaning My Lens

The second sermon I delivered this summer while interning at All Souls Presbyterian Church. 

Chris Burton

7.13.2014

All Souls Presbyterian Church

Cleaning My Lens (Romans 8:1-11)

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, ESV)

 

I’m a creature of habit. Once I get something I like I usually stick with it. I might have five favorite restaurants in town but that would mean I just get five different meals. I’ve been buying a clean version of the same sneaker for over a decade now. I’ve got other shoes that I like but always want a pair of crisp Nike Cortez in my rotation. My mom has been trying to get me to buy a new phone for a year now. It has a slight, very fine crack on the screen but it doesn’t bother me so I haven’t gotten it replaced. Even these glasses! I have had them for three years now, which is no good, but I like them and haven’t been straining my eyes too much so changing them has not been as much of a priority as it should be. Truth be told, I would not even have them if it weren’t for my time as a middle school basketball coach where one of my point guards obliterated an older pair during practice. They looked a lot like these and I’d probably still be peering over them to this day.

 

So yes, I confess, I get attached. I like what I like and I’m sure that I have developed a formidable resistance to change. This is not always good. Routines can afford us stability, and stability is socially acceptable but what do we do when said routine is a bit more constricting than mere stability? What do we do when we get stuck?

 

Our faults, our shortcomings, our sin, our shame. All these conspire within us, trapping us in a perverse cycle. We say things we wish we did not say, we do things that we know we ought not to do.

 

Last week we heard Rev. Keyes illustrate the inner turmoil using the apostles’ words. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15, ESV) Paul articulates the war that rages inside of us all. Knowing better and doing better aren’t always a packaged deal. Our actions can betray us. No matter how disciplined we are, and successful we have become, we are all susceptible to failure.

 

As much as I am moved by the poem Invictus, my relationship with Jesus Christ calls me to thoroughly disagree with the last stanza.

“It matters not how strait the gate,

     How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

     I am the captain of my soul.” 

I pray that I may never desire to be the master of my fate. I’ve tried it my way and have proven myself unqualified for the job. I have come to find no profit in being the captain of my soul.

 

Paul’s letter is good news for all us. You may not fashion yourself to be a creature of habit but the truth is, living life on our own terms is a recipe for failing habitually. Submitting ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ is an acknowledgment that we have no business being captain.

 

Let us look at Verses 3 and 4 once more:

 

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

Recently I began asking God to equip me to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit daily. Galatians 5:22-23 tell us that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV) It has been said that “The fruits of the Spirit, or effects of sanctification, which are begun in us, do not ingraft us into Christ, but declare that we are grafted into him.” 

 

There is nothing you or I can do to earn God’s love. There is no hope for us in and of ourselves. Our hope is in Christ. The kindness that we demonstrate, the love that we have, any and all of the fruits of the Spirit are there as evidence of the work God is doing in us. In my preparation I encountered this quote from William Barclay that resonates, “Because of what Jesus did, there opens out to the Christian a life no longer dominated by the flesh but by the Spirit of God, which fills a man with a power not his own. The penalty of the past is removed and strength for his future is assured.” (Barclay, William. The Letter to the Romans (Revised Edition) Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975 p.103)

Forgiving yourself because you have been forgiven. Step out of the shade of shame and walk in the Son’s light.

Bitterness can corrupt. I remember praying for God to give me forgiveness. I knew that I was at risk of phoniness, in danger of proclaiming a hollow gospel if I did not walk in forgiveness. I prayed for forgiveness so much that it became a part of my daily routine. From time to time I would imagine dry soil, almost like red clay and I’d see a tiller pulling up that soil, breaking its hardness. And I would see this image again and again. I didn’t correlate the two, my prayer and my vision until much later but I am confident that I am able to demonstrate forgiveness because of the good work that the Lord has done in me. Matthew Henry once noted that “By the Spirit the law of love is written upon the heart, and though the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, yet, blessed be God, it is fulfilled in us.” I am free to walk in forgiveness because of the Spirit that dwells in me.

 

I believe that forgiveness is a central component of our faith. Through Christ we have been forgiven. How can we follow Him and not extend forgiveness toward others? I have no doubt that it is a process, a journey too arduous to complete on our own. But I am even more confident that it is one we can complete through yielding to the Spirit and forfeiting any claims to the captaincy of our lives.

 

We’ve heard the story from our Old Testament reading several times and it never stops amazing me to hear of Esau’s forgiveness.

 

Esau stands with Joseph, the prodigal son’s father and Our Father who chose to show solidarity instead of shame.

 

Living a life free from the burden of our failures isn’t done by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

 

Let us seek the Father daily. Ask for the Spirit to till our hearts and nourish us so that we bear the fruit that is pleasing in God’s sight.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

 

7.22.13 STCDNW (Tears for Trayvon)

Image

 

On this episode of #STCDNW, Di Baddest Chaplain shares his heartache, thoughts and the importance of righteous indignation. 

“Songs that can do no wrong” is hosted by Di Baddest Chaplain on the globe, Chris B. Only on #Soundbooth Radio 1. www.soundboothradio1.com

Stay connected. @ChrisB06 on Twitter AND dibaddestchaplain.tumblr.com

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