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november 24, 2016

you know, i’ve been a preacher since i was a kid. a little church in missouri hired me as their full time preacher the year before i left for college. we ended up having about 100 people on a big day… 80 was the average i think. since then i’ve had over 40 years of reading faces. not that i’m all that good at it, but you can usually spot the people who aren’t with you. and it’s hard to say something that helps everyone. i’m not talking about ‘people pleasing’. i’m talking about a message that meets the needs of everyone, helps everybody, doesn’t leave someone out. jesus of course is all inclusive but sometimes the extra things we say can alienate someone even when we’re talking about ‘for God so loved the world.. ” … even with a message of love and forgiveness you can sometimes say something that might alienate someone and often, if you’re the speaker i mean, you can read the alienation on their faces. these days you can also read it on fb but that’s a different story. my point was to say that if i was speaking to 100 people i still have enough eye sight that i can tell when 2 people don’t like what i’m saying. i can still pick that out in a crowd of 100. it’s not that hard. they stand out like red sox fans alone in a sea of yankees. they look sad, mad, indifferent… they’re not along for the ride you’re trying to take them on. yeah, i can still see 2 out of 100. not that everybody else is ‘all in’ necessarily, but in this hypothetical let’s say they were. 98 are amen-ing me, churching it up; but those 2… nah, they’re just not buying it. now say that my sermon is about how God has blessed us that nobody died in our family that year, that we all had a great year and we needed to be thankful. and for 98 that was true and it was all hallelujah. but i failed to mention, i kinda even forgot, that for those 2 who are frowning or maybe even crying.. they lost everything and everybody they ever knew. imagine that my church used to be full of their family who now were all gone and while i’m whooping it up about how good God has been for us, they just can’t feel personally the same way about it. so, here’ the thing: there’s still about 2% of this country who’s ancestry dates back to before the pilgrims. for many of the children this is not a day of thanks, it’s a day of mourning. and i think we need to at least be aware. i’ve been luxuriating around this planet for over 6 decades and every day i become a little more painfully aware of how much i don’t know. i’m not suggesting that we don’t give thanks today. and i’m not going to follow that with the typical ‘everyday should be thanksgiving’… i hate a party pooper. those 98 people in my hypothetical had reason to celebrate the good that had befallen them. but what if in my hypothetical their ‘reason’ to celebrate came at a price that those 2 mourners had to pay? it might be nice to be aware that those other 2 who could not summon up an amen… they are the over 6 million people who see today’s events a little differently from many of us. now i know it’s mostly about turkey and football and family times together. so many people aren’t thinking about today beyond being thankful for blessings. but let’s call blessings, some of them at least, ‘privileges’. and let’s agree that some time, maybe not today… there’s too much to cook and do and my phone is blowing up with ‘happy thanksgiving’ texts coming from people i love…. but let’s agree some day WE WILL think about these things. a lot. my family doesn’t celebrate the holiday Thanksgiving. Lisa Johnson and i promote and support our congregation giving turkeys and meals to hungry families this time of year (this year we gave a record 100 turkeys, amen portland church) but we stopped celebrating today as “Thanksgiving” a while ago. for me it’s mostly out of respect for those two sad faces i see and an attempt to surrender privilege when i can. i can’t say that i’m in mourning even though family stories and ancestry.com says i’m at least 1/16 cherokee. but maybe we all should be a little more open to mourning this year. the largest protest of original residents is going on right now and for many it’s news that doesn’t matter or it’s a controversy we want to argue about. all i know is that a young lady might get her arm amputated today because she dared take water to protesters. bury my heart at wounded knee anybody? maybe i should be mourning, but it’s my birthday on saturday and that’s a holiday i can get behind everyone celebrating.
so what about me? i will do this; like most of you i’ll take time today to talk to as many friends as i can and thank them and i’ll also take time to try and find a way to help the 2 who aren’t happy. jesus gave up ALL of his privileges when he walked on earth. and he proposed a hypothetical, too. in the form of a parable, similar to my 2 out of 100. he went after the one in a hundred that was lost when the 99 were already safe in the pen. i want to spend the rest of my life trying to be a bit more aware, and sensitive, to the plights of others. isn’t that what you’d expect of an old preacher? and i’m going to take time in my house… and if you’re reading this you’re in my house and you’re a welcome guest, but if you disagree please be nice; we argue in a friendly manner in my house often, nothing wrong with that (another time i’ll tell you what i think about people popping in on someone’s fb page and being rude)… i’m going to take the time in my house to ramble on about these things from time to time. i’ve always loved this time of year and i’m no more turned off by the commercialism of this holiday than any other; we live in a consumer society and economy and i can be just as bad as anyone about joining in the revelry of unnecessary spending and celebrating… celebrating is fun and when you can add an emphasis on being thankful it’s more worthwhile than harmful. i’d just like us to notice those 2 people and be respectful and somber if but for a moment. and be open to un-learning some history we were taught and searching for deeper truths that might some day take us just a little closer to our God. for God so loved the world, not just one people… right?

http://www.snopes.com/2016/11/22/standing-rock-protester-in-danger-of-losing-arm-after-police-use-force/

Steve has been a minister for over 4 decades; 39 of those years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He's swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he's not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the http://portlandchurch.org
  1. James Lloyd Reply

    Thanks for this insightful article. If you could see my face while I was reading it, you would clearly see how it touches my heart. Thanks for your sensitivity.

  2. Eileen Peterson Reply

    I agree and appreciate your sensitivity. I might join a celebration but my heart and mind for years has been with the Native Americans. I pray the gov’t will honor these people at Standing Rock and their purpose instead of one again breaking treaty and honoring big oil

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