Last Sunday, I was at what is soon to be my new assignment in life. I had never heard Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis preach at Middle Collegiate Church. Oh, I have heard her preach; we met many years ago when we both were preaching and teaching at a large conference of Unitarian pastors. I was awed then and have been impressed by her every time since. I know how amazingly gifted she is, which is why I’m excited about serving Middle Collegiate Church with her.
Her sermon on Sunday was titled Stay Woke. Because Middle Church is deeply committed to social justice, and because Jacqui is a prophetic preacher, I expected her call us to new heights of service and commitment in the movement to resist oppression. That was not at all what the sermon was about.
Rather, she challenged us to look within and awaken to what is in our hearts that sometimes can lead us to do the right things but from the wrong place or in the wrong way. Wow! That is a sermon all of us activist types need to hear regularly.
We all are so much better at, because it is so much easier, looking at our world and seeing what is wrong. During the past few months, we certainly have been correct in naming the multitudes of wrongs done by the current presidential administration:
- Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama has been rolling back civil rights protections, police monitoring, immigrant rights, and voting rights, and doing it with glee.
- Oklahoma oil advocate Scott Pruitt has been fanatically dismantling protections for the environment and support for clean energy.
- Exxon-Mobile’s former CEO is neglectfully letting the State Department die while encouraging the buildup of the industrial war complex.
- Former Goldman Sachs executives are undermining regulations of the industries that got rich destroying the environment and burying the poor in debt.
There is so much wrong needing our attention that it is a grave risk to neglect the wrongs within our own souls. The danger is we rightly will fight the wrong but do it out of our own brokenness and in the wrong way or to the wrong ends. The greatest danger when we do that is to our own souls. We only compound our brokenness and are much less effective at speaking truth in love.
Rev. Michael Piazza