Sermons on Anti-racism
By Derek Weber
What do you say? In the midst of all that is happening around us, what do you say as a preacher of the gospel? How do you take that place, stand in that pulpit, or sit in your living room and livestream a message in the face of unrest and turmoil and heartache? How do you speak of injustice and of grace?
If you’re a preacher these days, you’ve asked that question. Some have chosen to ignore it, turn a blind eye, and stick to the preaching plan laid out and trust that it’ll all blow over eventually. Some believe it is a political issue and not a spiritual or theological issue and try to be careful to not politicize the preaching moment. Too many of us have been burned by congregations not ready to hear a prophetic word in the midst of a tragedy, so it seems safer to wait.
Thanks be to God, not everyone holds that position. Thanks be to God that there are those who are willing to speak out, to speak truth, to begin a process of repentance and transformation. Here are some sermons from which we can all take courage. Some come from large churches; some come from small ones. Some come from white preachers; some from preachers of color. Some might seem bold, and others somewhat timid. But all chose to speak about the virus of racism that has sickened our society for far too long. It is time to speak. Listen to these preachers and take heart for the movement of the Spirit in The United Methodist Church. Listen and be encouraged to speak a hard truth.
The Rev. Darren Wright, is pastor to young people, Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He speaks of his experience as an English teacher in South Korea and what it meant to be heard and included in a place where he was a stranger. Rev. Wright brings a new hearing to the Pentecost story. He then gives practical steps to becoming an anti-racist:
Rev. Sandy Kim, associate pastor Southern Pines United Methodist Church in Southern Pines, Florida. As an Asian American, Rev. Kim reflects on the George Floyd incident from a different perspective, through the eyes of the Asian American police officer who stood by.
Click here to watch. Rev. Kim’s sermon begins at 35:45.
Rev. Cody Stauffer is pastor of Lewiston First United Methodist Church in Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston United Methodist Church in Clarkston, Washington. Stauffer’s churches straddle a state line and are out west, where the image of whiteness is a matter of course. But Cody preaches his own confession of the racism he harbors as well, as the vow to take a different path. He invites his churches to join with him in a process of education and repentance. His book list is impressive and daunting for these small churches.
Click here to watch. The sermon begins at 33:00. Like many of us, Cody had some technical problems in the recording of this sermon, but stick with it; it is worth the time.
Rev. Tori Butler is pastor of Good Hope Union United Methodist Church in Silver Springs, Maryland. Rev. Butler sits at her desk in this online sermon and shares the gospel and her heart. As an African American woman preacher she brings a perspective that many need to hear, but she also shares the confidence that the God she proclaims is bigger than the problems that surround us.
Rev. Sam Parkes, pastor Mary Esther United Methodist Church in Mary Esther, Florida, brings a heartfelt message of the person of George Floyd and why his murder should weigh on the hearts of all the people of God. Sam is a storyteller and brings out the human element even as he proclaims the Gospel in compelling terms.
Something a little different: Dena Bales Kitchens is a volunteer in the Children’s Ministry at Brookhaven United Methodist Church in Brookhaven, Georgia. It fell to her to bring an online message to the children of her church on Pentecost Sunday. Rather than avoid the issue, she decided that even the children need to hear the message of anti-racism.
Rev. Rob Fuquay is the senior pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis Indiana. Like many, Rev. Fuquay was troubled by the events that occurred just before Pentecost. So, he decided he needed help in preaching that Sunday. Rob gathered together a mixed race panel of co-preachers to help deal with the issues. Hearing other voices and finding ways to respond and to grow in this moment is what preaching is about.
Click here to watch (The date of the sermon is listed as June 1, 2020, but it was really presented on May 31).
Rev. Carol Cavin-Dillon is senior pastor of West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. West End is the epitome of “high church,” and it has tried its best to maintain that vibe, even in the time of COVID-19 and livestreaming services. But high church doesn’t mean low emotion. Rev. Carol, as some in her congregation call her, is adept at weaving heart and mind together. As a resident of Nashville, she was heartbroken by the events that transpired in her city and around the world, but she was also encouraged by the voice of protest calling for change. She too invites the congregation to begin a journey to learn and repent and grow to become anti-racist as a core value of the church.
Rev. Nick Talbott is pastor of University United Methodist Church in Salina, Kansas. Rev. Talbott’s heart is hurting; that is evident in the sermon that he shares. But he is also convinced that this is a message that needs to be shared, even in Salina, Kansas. Nick is one of those who dares to address the “Black Lives Matter” rebuttal of “All Lives Matter.” He challenges his congregation to think deeper about what Black Lives Matter really means.
Click here to watch. The sermon begins at 4:37.
Rev. Jasmine Smothers is pastor of Atlanta First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Rev. Smothers shares from her heart as an African American woman and how she has experienced this sin of racism and how her understanding of the gospel has been filtered and challenged by the world in which she lives. Yet her profound faith comes across as an encouragement to the congregation, as she embraces hope in her Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
Rev. Kyle Meier is pastor of The Peak Church, a United Methodist Congregation in Apex, North Carolina. Rev. Meier invites us into a conversation as he wrestles with the issues surrounding all of us. This is not the first time, he declares, that he has spoken about the sin of racism, and he knows that there will be those who don’t want to hear this message. But he is convinced this is not a social issue, but a spiritual one; not a political problem, but a gospel one. In an intimate but compelling manner, Rev. Meier encourages his congregation to not just sit still, but to get involved. The Peak Church has produced an anti-racism kit that is on their website and he challenges the whole church to get engaged in God’s work on the Kingdom.
Rev. Aaron Carter is the senior associate church planter at Pflugerville United Methodist Church in Pflugerville, Texas. His sermon, preached in early June, carries a reasoned argument and a sincere call to the church today to hear the cry of the oppressed. Rev. Carter brings a historical perspective as well as an appeal to human dignity in his sermon titled, “Unalienable Rights.”
Another Trinity Sermon was preached by Rev. Justin Coleman, who is the senior pastor at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rev. Coleman preaches about “God in Community” and argues about the interrelationship of all God’s creation and the human creation that finds itself more divided than ever before. Coleman argues for the power of the Holy Spirit to be a source of strength and healing for the brokenness of human community.
A different approach is taken by Rev. Annie Ricker, who is senior pastor of Berryton United Methodist Church in Berryton, Kansas. In her June 14 sermon, she introduces the idea of patterns at work in the world, and how we human beings look for those patterns, even when they aren’t necessarily there. It is, in some ways, a scientific approach to the nature of racism and racist thinking.
Using the occasion of Independence Day and the monuments in Washington DC, the Rev. Tom Berlin, senior pastor of Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia, was able to bring a reasoned presentation of the living out of the second baptismal vow to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Rev. Berlin’s sermon also takes a historical view but resolves itself in the present, as he calls his hearers to claim and be guided by our vows. From the Floris UMC website, sermon archive, July 5, the scripture text begins at 29:35.
Lest we forget, anti-racism begins with how we teach our children. Here is a children’s sermon from Josh Shaw, director of children and family ministry at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. With a light hand and a winsome approach, Josh speaks to the children about the invitation to the party for all.
David Brooks is a Canadian American journalist and commentator who writes for the New York Times. He was invited to preach at the National Cathedral on July 5 of this year. Brooks is not a preacher, but his sermon touches on the brokenness of our nation and the call for people of faith to respond in a way that leads to beauty and not ugliness. He is not United Methodist, nor is the Cathedral a Methodist Church, but this is a sermon worth hearing. It is a call to return to Jesus in his most revolutionary mode and be willing to love the world into a new reality.
We may add to these sermons as we receive more. Perhaps you want to share a word that you have heard or proclaimed. This is not, this cannot be a one and done, “we’ve dealt with that” kind of issue. This will take time for us to live into a new reality and proclaim a gospel that rises above our limited vision into a more hopeful and just future.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.