Sermon: Foreign to the Heart and Mind of Christ

August 13, 2017
Matthew 14:22-33

Pastor’s note: This sermon followed by just a day the racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. It was not written in advance, but improvised at the pulpit. This is a transcript (and the audio recording is below). Pastor Eric Anderson began with a prayer:

Please pray with me:

Gracious and Holy One, in some ways it seems so distant, this rage and violence, but in some ways it seems all too familiar. If we do not often see it at this scale, we do know the glances, the disregard, the moments in which we realize that we do not have the power and authority that another one takes for granted and we know that others are perfectly willing to use that against us.

So hear our prayer.

Hear our prayer for changing of individual hearts, that they might turn from the evil which they have adopted as their own. We pray for the discernment of people of good will, that they may look upon this world that is so broken and see its brokenness, see the way in which systems and laws and expectations maintain the power of some over the needs and the yearnings of many.

Gracious God, help us to end this scourge. We ourselves, we have more than enough troubles without these. We have illnesses that beset us. Our very steps stumble and we fall. Our skin bleeds; our minds are confused; our relationships, they shift. We are hurt by casual words. We do not need this.

So God, help us stand. Help us with the hurts of the day, and help us with the great matters that affect so many. Help us not to turn back the clock of racism’s history but to move it forward to the day when the last signs of our

racist history are erased from our day, and all your children may live out the worth that you gave to them: without fear of others being favored, without fear that they be oppressed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


To say it again, because apparently it must be said again and again and again:

Racism is a sin.

White supremacy: first of all, it’s false. I mean, the only thing that I get out of having white skin in and of itself is more sensitivity to sunburn, and I gotta tell you that that is no superiority whatsoever. I picked one up yesterday and yeah, I was foolish, I didn’t put sunscreen on early enough.

But white supremacy as an idea, as an ideal as a way of organizing society, it is not just false.

It is a sin.

And both are utterly foreign to the heart and mind of Christ.

I say this without fear of contradiction when I stand before my Maker. I know that of all the things that I get wrong about the heart and mind of Christ: that one I haven’t. There is no part of Christ’s heart that favors one skin tone over another. There is no part of Christ’s mind that sees whites as supreme.


Yesterday in Charlottesville three people died. Two, they were public servants. They were there to keep an eye on things and to see that violence was restrained, but the helicopter that Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Pilot Berke M. M. Bates were flying went down in the woods – so far no one knows why – and they died.

Heather Heyer – I’m sorry I don’t know how to pronounce her last name – of Charlottesville: she was there because she believed in taking a stand against the racism, against the white supremacists, and so she was standing when a man drove a car down the street at a high rate of speed with the intent of causing harm, and he did.

19 were injured. Heather died.

It seems a long way away, but we here, we are not free of America’s racism. The history of our state is rife with it:

  • From the words of the original missionaries – and particularly the beliefs that their children adopted about who was entitled to rule in these islands when it was an independent nation;
  • The racism and sexism which underlay the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani just two years after this church was founded;
  • The racism which maintained the plantation systems and separated people one from another so that they would not unite and gain a true living wage throughout the first part of the last century;
  • And the racism which saw people of Japanese ancestry taken from their homes and interned – yeah, here on this island – not all of them, but too many, because of where their parents had been born;
  • The racism which prevented the Hawaiian language from being taught in the schools for years;
  • And the racism which you can still see because you can see it in the prison population, where there are more folks of Hawaiian descent locked up proportionate to the rest of us than there are living on these islands.

How does that happen?

How is it that you can look at racial groups and see who’s wealthy and who’s in the middle and who’s at the bottom?

How does that happen if racism is no more?


On Friday night, a group of clergy in Charlottesville gathered in a Methodist Church. They had invited ministers from all over the country to come and gather with them, and to stand as a witness against the white supremacists, and against the racists.

On that night they were not gathered to protest. They were gathered to pray, to find inspiration in one another and to be prepared for the next day.

And the church was encircled by the white supremacists carrying torches – lawn torches to get around the fire codes – shouting “blood and soil” (a Nazi slogan), and the police advised those gathered in the church not to come out until the crowd had dispersed.

Yesterday, a reporter was doing a live interview with a leader of the United Church of Christ, the Reverend Traci Blackmon – she’s our executive for justice and witness – and she was in Charlottesville, which is where a witness to justice needed to be made.

She was outside the park where the white supremacists were marching, and a reporter was in a studio asking her about the night before, and suddenly somebody swoops in, somebody who was watching Reverend Blackmon’s back, saying, “We got to go, we got to go, we got to go,” and you could see in the background the scuffle starting to break out between the racist marchers and the counter protesters and for some minutes nobody was quite sure whether Reverend Blackmon was ok.

She is.

So what do we do?

Well, I’ve got a recommendation for a start.

There has been widespread public condemnation from public figures. There is one startling exception: the President of the United States saw fit to condemn violence “on many sides, on many sides.”

Today, my friends, take your pen in hand, or your keyboard to your fingers, or whatever means you may, and send the message to the White House that that will not do.

He may not maintain the loyalty of white supremacists and still enjoy the confidence of the people of the United States.

He must be told that a failure to speak out against these voices of hate and oppression is a statement in itself, and it is a statement that must not be tolerated by the American people and especially in the Church of Jesus Christ.

It is foreign to the heart and mind of Christ.

Instead, let us follow the example of those from many faiths who stood there outside the park. They linked ams. Some faced out, and some faced in, with their backs to the marchers of hatred – and I do not understand their courage. I can face them; I do not know how I can stand with my back to them.

But you and I must be part of that grant human chain of faith and witness. Somehow, some way, to say, “We will be the people of God, and not the people of the enemy.” We will be the people of God and not of the demonic forces that would say you have to be white in order to be right.

We will be part of the heart and mind of Christ, and we will link arms with one another.

We will link arms with those who are of other faiths – Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu, those who follow the ancient gods of Hawaii, those who are uncertain of any God – we will link arms with them against the forces of hate.

And we will, we will be confident in one another and confident in our God.

I don’t forget the texts we read this morning.

It’s likely to be a lot like jumping out of the boat. There’s gonna be a mighty wind.

Don’t fear the wind, though it’s worth fearing. Don’t fear the waves, though they’re worth fearing, too. Or at least, if you fear them, step out anyway and with our tenuous foothold on the water, tossed by the waves, grasping always for the hand of Jesus, let us make our statement and declare the truth:

That in God’s sight we are every one of us precious and there is no place in our churches or our cities or our nation or our world for the exaltation of one group over another, no place in no time:

And never ever in the heart and mind of Christ.


This is an audio recording only. The photo was taken on Sunday morning, August 13, by Rev. Eric Anderson: “God weeps in Hilo for Charlottesville.”

Categories Sermons | Tags: , , | Posted on August 15, 2017

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