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It's time to change your mind


If I were to have a conversation with change about changing a mind, this is how I imagine it might go…


“You're here. I did not expect you now.     

          Change.

“What do you expect?

           Change.

“What are you asking me to do – who are you asking me to become?”
         
 Change.

“I’ve never heard this before.”

          Change your mind

“ This is different than what I thought before.

 I’m learning something new.”

          Change your mind

“I’m not sure I know everything I should.

This is a good. This is hard.

          Changing your mind

“I wish I didn’t have so much to learn.

 I care about you – I’m willing to try.

           Change you

“ In time, we will figure out how to solve this.”

          Change you

“It isn’t perfect, but we have a start.”

          Change you

“We must find a way, to truly, honestly, love one another.”

          Changed.

 

The art of changing our minds is one that requires a few essential things: being willing to learn and being willing to fail. In this weeks Gospel, people are stuck in a particular way of thought – because they don’t’ want to be wrong.

Being wrong, especially in a public way, is embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Being wrong, requires that something new be learned.

Being wrong, means that minds and actions need to be changed.

The process of changing of mind – is one that can take a lot of time and energy.

When I think of change in relationship with God, many things come to mind…

The tune of the chorus… Change my heart O God, make it ever true, change my heart of God – may it be like you.

And the partner text for today from Philippians 2:1-13

1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 

When I hear this text, the words “compassion and sympathy” shine.

And while they may be sometime misconstrued is “soft or fluffy” words. I don’t understand them to be so – and I will tell you why.

It’s time to have our minds changed.

When it comes to the changing of a mind and to sharing in the Spirit of our faith; when I have encountered “compassion and sympathy”; they show up on the days that changed my mind as well as my heart.

I grew up in a rural town in Pennsylvania. It was not a what you would call a globalized community. My family moved a few times in my childhood, and I had the distinct experience of being the “new kid” at school several times. The schools were cliquey – and because I my family had not lived there for all the generations -  there always was a level of being on the outside of things in that community.

I was known as the “city kid”, the “Trooper’s kid”, and the “Artsy” kid….

But in that space, I did not feel known by name.

I was on the outside and knew nothing would change that.

Being the eternal new kid did have some benefits. It gave me just enough social space to learn about many different groups of people. It gave me space to bob and weave in and out of the various cliques – and I think gave me some skills to navigate and get to know different groups of people.

Then one day, a new, new kid came to town.

J’s family was actually from the “city”. He was friendly, funny and he was black.

J was the first person of culture and color that I attended school with – and this was 8th grade.

We were lab partners in Biology.

We would sometimes have lunch period together.

In a lot of ways, I thought we were “new kids” together – and we were in some ways.

As a fellow new kid, I thought I knew the challenges that Jamie would face. As a new kid in that community, I knew some of those challenges – but not even close to all of them.

Truth be told I could never know the challenges he would face as a solitary new kid – who was of African descent – would feel, in a community that was entirely of white, European descent.

J attended our school for only about 6 months, before his family decided to move to a city where new jobs awaited his parents.

Sadly, I would come to learn, that in that small rural community, this pattern of a family of culture moving in and out in short course – was an unfortunate norm.

Black families would move in – and in a matter of months – they would move out.

They were pressured to move, or worse, feel threatened and unsafe.

I learned that simply living in that community, as a person of color/culture, was dangerous.

It was time to have my mind changed.

This story of J and his family’s experience is an example of how my mind needed to change. I assumed we lived in a country where all people were treated as equals; this I discovered – was not the case.

Because of my exposure to J”s pain – I learned that what I thought was true about my community and country; was not. While I would not then understand this agitation as the start of my understanding of white privilege; that is exactly what becoming J’s friend, did.

Compassion and sympathy in this case were not “warm and fuzzy”. They were unsetting, upsetting, and left me with a pit in my stomach – knowing the truth that living as a white person in this county and world; is not the same experience of my siblings of culture.

This “change of mind” is what some might equate to the experience of becoming “woke” to the realities of racial inequity. But I’d like to suggest that true change of mind is not a one time “waking”; it is an ongoing process of humility, listening and learning – and relearning again.

These, big, new, and hard learning – these true changes of heart and mind around “isms” are not solved in the reading of one book, one prayer vigil, or having one hard conversation on racism. This is not a one and done – a magical change of mind. This is a long process – one of intention and action, compassion, and empathy.

The process of living as, Jesus-following-anti-racists, requires us to be willing to learn and be willing to fail.

Some may ask why I might preach on racism and what racism has to do with the gospel. The gospel has everything to do with dismantling racism.

In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges the chief priests and elders to admit their wrong. Jesus does not intend to leave them in their error – but to help them to peel away what did not serve God’s purpose… but they were stuck.

He says… “even after you saw it, you did not change your minds…”

Racism is something we are being “shown” and called to change.

If we believe, as followers of God, that all people are created in the image of God; that there is no room for racist ideas and actions to stand.

It’s time for our minds, actions and lives, to be changed.

As Jesus followers, we affirm and stand for the truth that the image of God sacredly dwells in the lives of our siblings of color and culture.

This is the gospel.

And our minds need to change.

Black lives are sacred.

And our actions need to change.

Black lives matter.

And our community needs to change.

This is a start.

We don’t know all the answers.

We are not experts in all the ways of living out an anti-racist life.

But, in imperfection and error, I am willing to peel away these difficult layers with you.

To lament. To listen. To learn.

To read. To walk. To talk.

For “J”, for Martin Luther King Jr. , for George Floyd , for Breonna Taylor… for you and for me: The Spirit calls us to proclaim the gospel that humanity, in all its beautiful colors and variations - is made in the image of God.

This gospel calls us to make a stand, to have our minds changed by the power of true sympathy and compassion.

 

A conversation with change…

 “You're here. I did not expect you now.     Change.

“What do you expect?        Change.

“What are you asking me to do – who are you asking me to become?”   Change.

“I’ve never heard this before.” (You’ve heard it now!)     Change your mind

“ This is different than what I thought before.

 I’m learning something new.”        Change your mind

“I’m not sure I know everything I should.

This is a good. This is hard.        Changing your mind

“I wish I didn’t have so much to learn.

 I care about you – I’m willing to try.     Change you

“ In time, we will figure out how to solve this.”    Change you

“It isn’t perfect, but we have a start.”     Change you

“We must find a way, to truly, honestly, love one another.”    Changed.

Children of God…it’s time to change our minds.

AMEN

THE GOSPEL: Matthew 21:23-32

23When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

  28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

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