To Know Justice Is To Know Peace

Prelude Jim Pearce

Chiming of the Singing Bowl Rev. Misha Sanders

Words of Welcome and Announcements  Rev. Misha Sanders

Good morning! I am Reverend Misha Sanders, your senior minister here at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sandy Springs, Georgia.  And this morning I am also your worship associate. 

Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation seeks to create loving community, inspire joy and spiritual growth, and support courageous action. All are welcome, as together we journey towards justice and equity by learning, caring, and acting together.

We especially welcome any newcomers and visitors we have today. I hope you’ll join us after worship for coffee hour… from the comfort of your own homes. The link to our Coffee Hour Zoom room will appear in the chat box toward the end of worship, and we will remind you about it again there. When you click the link to join coffee hour, please remember that the password is “coffee”. Again, you will be reminded in the chat, toward the end of our worship service.

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to grab whatever materials you’ll need to light your own chalice if you’d like that to be part of your worship experience today.

As always, kindly set your phones to worship mode; we won’t know, but I think you might enjoy the hour free from distractions. And feel free to check in on your social media of choice to let your friends and family know about this place of caring you’ve found today. Our congregation is an exciting place to be, and we love it when you share the good news. 

And although we cannot be physically together to greet each other today with hugs, high-fives, smiles, and words of love, we are all together in spirit and each and every one of us is welcome.  

And now let us prepare for worship with this timely music: 

Music Singing: Walk together children

This morning it is my great honor to introduce Seminarian Mathew P. Taylor, from San Bernardino, California. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and over 15 years’ experience working in his local community organizing and serving in Pagan Ministry leadership. He is a student at Starr King School for the Ministry and will be seeking ordination in the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition.

He was the Chair of the Nominating Committee of the UUA Pacific Southwest District 2017-2020 (PSWD) and a Regional Lead with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. He is called to a heart-led mystical ministry that highlights the intersection of Earth-based magickal practices and Unitarian Universalism. And today, we are lucky enough to have him in our virtual pulpit. And he will now call us into worship together. Welcome, Mathew! 

Call to Worship Mathew P. Taylor

Good Morning we invite you into service this morning with an excerpt from a “Letter from a Birmingham jail” written by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on 04/16/1963. He wrote these words to explain why he was in Birmingham, and we share them with you to remind you why we are here in service together.

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”

Music  “Let It Be” Traci Montgomery, guitar

Lighting of the Chalice  Avary and Ellie Lockhart

Blessed is the fire that burns deep in the soul.

By Eric A Heller-Wagner

Blessed is the fire that burns deep in the soul. It is the flame of the human spirit touched into being by the mystery of life. It is the fire of reason; the fire of compassion; the fire of community; the fire of justice; the fire of faith. It is the fire of love burning deep in the human heart; the divine glow in every life.

Story Wisdom  Adia Fields-Udofia

Reading  Malcolm X’s Fiery Speech Addressing Police Brutality

Music #1009 Breathing Meditation

Joys and Sorrows Rev. Joan Armstrong

Prayer and Meditation  Mathew P. Taylor

Spirit of Life, Spirit of Love, Spirit that holds those who are living in unrest.

We call you here.  We call you now to make this place holy. 

We know that we are sitting in homes, and cars, and different spaces across this land now known as America, but we know that this is not our land.  

This is the land of the indigenous people known by many names. 

We ask that your presence in this place be a blessing on all who are present and we hope that this gathering does honor to all those folks who have come before us and shed their blood so that we could have freedom. 

We know that this time is difficult and people are afraid and people wish things were normal again, but we can not go back. Normal is a thing of the past. 

May your wisdom shine bright through the words of the people who will share this night. 

May we be so moved and feel the call to action that the youth are begging for in these streets.

May your will be done.

Blessed Be. Amen. Aho, and Ashe.

Music: Gil Scott-Heron – Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Official Version)

Sermon  To Know Justice Is To Know Peace  Mathew P. Taylor

“There really can be no peace without justice. There can be no justice without truth. And there can be no truth unless someone rises up to tell you the truth.”

–Honorable Louis Farrakhan

To know justice is to know peace and with no justice, there can be no peace. 

I think it’s time that we tell the truth. The Hard. Cold. Unbearable truth. America was born on the backs of people of color. From the looting and theft of indigenous land to the looting and theft of black people. We have to be willing to admit that America claims to be the land of the free and the home of the brave–but America has never been free and honestly never brave. America was built on this false promise to ensure that folks who were threatened or running away from their homelands would come here to find safety and instead they became cheap labor–because we were forced to abolish slavery. 

Even then, we didn’t abolish slavery we just created an institution to reinforce and reintroduce a new form of slavery. We know that our police system was founded as a way to catch runaway slaves and to corral the animals, I mean the criminals. If slavery ended then why was this same type of police system still needed? It was also decided that if the slaves had to be set free we had to put in place a system to imprison them and punish them.  Think about it for a moment, what other systematic way have we gotten slave labor?  

As a nation lawmakers have fed us the poison and then provided the cure through incarceration. As a nation of lawmakers, we have placed a marginalized portion of the population in cages because we deemed them unworthy to be in society. Many of us who are alive now and working on the front-lines and virtually were only kids or not even born when the 1994 crime bill was introduced and then passed. A crime bill that strategically placed millions of black and brown people behind bars because it created mandatory sentencing. This bill disproportionately targeted low-income folks who were only trying to feed their families. These folks were trying to survive in a system that wasn’t built for them.  

Has anyone ever thought about the irony of the sixties and seventies where the country was steeped in Free-love, LSD, and cocaine? Being caught with any of those drugs would get you a slap on the wrist maybe a few months in jail—and yet only a few years later cocaine gets remixed into a crystallized form, Crack, which was more addicting and offered at lower prices and was somehow funneled into the black and brown neighborhoods. In our history, we have seen the brutality of what the promise of freedom can do. It fostered segregation because black folks were not worthy to share the sacred space of whiteness. It gave birth to a movement to desegregate because the people had had enough. We were equal then, we have always been equal, but certain ancestors did not see it that way. They chose to hold their boots to our necks and wanted to impress upon us that we are not enough. We have in our DNA the strands of unrest that are begging for a voice. Begging for America’s dream of freedom to mean something. Yet even now in the midst of a global pandemic where black and brown people are the most impacted we still can’t be free.   We can blame it on a lack of resources and people will tell you that as black and brown bodies that our DNA is predisposed to have exposure, but they won’t tell you the truth. The truth is that this system places the importance of black life on the back burner while other folks have access to the best healthcare money can buy. The truth will not be told that even during a pandemic—blackness will be weaponized and used as a cause for concern. My blackness and the blackness of my siblings across the country will be a cause to call the police because white people don’t want to be inconvenienced and forced to follow rules they don’t believe in. It is apparent that for the rest of us our lives are meant to comply and not to stand out. Our lives were not meant to challenge this system that promised us freedom.  

I am not here to tell you about conspiracy theories or here to give you a history lesson. As black people, indigenous people, and people of color we are not here to absolve the guilty feelings you have. I am here to remind you that the problem is the system. Our forebears created this system for white men–and white women get to enjoy the spoils of the war on black people. We choose to glorify figures like Susan B. Anthony until we tell the truth that she and many of her fellow suffragettes protested that they were not going to have the right to vote before black men. When will we tell the truth? When will we be honest that these calls to the police on black people and these murders are a catalyst for a revolution that America is not ready for? How can we change this system? How can we reclaim the land and the dream that America originally stood for? If that is what America was ever meant to be? How can we make amends for America’s first sin against the indigenous folks whose land we live on? How can we make amends when we have systematically made them appear as alcoholics and “savages?” We have made a mockery of their heritage and culture. How do we make amends for the theft of a people? How do we make amends for the slave labor forced upon black people? How do we make amends for the immigrant siblings and their children in cages?  Can we hold all of these feelings of injustice at once? How can we make a difference if we are afraid? How can we make a difference when we feel alone? How can we make amends when your inconvenience is more important than my discomfort? More important than my life?

We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to be better than what we have been in the past. People are so worried about going back to normal. We are in the midst of a pandemic. People have been willing to march on the capital buildings in their states with assault weapons and to spit in the face of police to get a haircut. Those same people are being called “Fine people”. Those same governors whose lives have been threatened are being told to ease up so that we can go back to normal. We can’t go back to normal, because normal was broken. How is it in the same breath that people who are fed up with a system that is killing them who have complied and stayed home be called “Thugs” when they have had enough. When there has been too much loss and for once they want to take it back. They want to take it all back because we have to create a new way. How is it normal to incite violence among your people. Normal got us a president that doesn’t care about the country. We can’t go back to normal. Normal was a part of the problem. Normal gave the #Karen movement the audacity to call the police. Normal has gotten us in a situation where our media is not a trusted source and we are told that what we see right in front of our eyes is a lie. 

At this moment think about it there are those who choose to believe that these are the first instances of violence and that is not the truth. There are those that would want you to believe that all of this violence was necessary—that somehow these black bodies deserved to lose their lives and that is not the truth. Gil Scott-Heron said the revolution will not be televised but the truth is it is being televised. It’s being posted right now on Facebook live and IG Live and TikTok. It is being uploaded to YouTube so instead of waiting for the hours or weeks in which the video proof could be edited and a new narrative could be created, it is being seen now. 

And. We. Can’t. Breathe.

Let us hold this discomfort together as a community. Let us move from just praying to a place where we welcome action. Let us speak this truth to power. Let us bring to light that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and so many others have been the prophets of our time. Dr. King says so eloquently what I believe you need to hear today “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  We are all impacted by this moment. Action is required now.  

To my black siblings, I love you, we are in this fight for our freedom together. I know that we are all tired, we are weary, and just plain old fed up. But hold on, we are descendants of enslaved people who made a way out of no way and we too can weather this storm. 

To my Indigenous siblings, I love you, we are in this fight for our freedom together. I know that you are tired, the land of your ancestors has been taken and looted of its resources. But hold on, you are the descendants of the caretakers of this earth and we will restore you and her to your glory.

To my Latinx siblings, the Mexica, Boricua, and all Afro-Latinx, I love you, we are in this fight for freedom together. I know that you are weary tired of being made the other, tired of being erased and made white so that you can not fully embrace the beauty of your diasporic identities. But hold on, you are the descendants of resilient peoples who have been here and who remain here. You did not move the borders of this country. The system did that. We can make it through this in solidarity. 

To all my other siblings out there. We all deserve liberation. We all must make amends for the wrongs that have impacted our marginalized community. We are not obligated to do anyone’s emotional labor but our own. We are obligated however to uplift marginalized voices. We are called forth to share our resources, called forth to change those people in power so that we can change this broken system. We are asked to sit with this discomfort because being comfortable has only created complacency.

 I implore you that we must take action.  

If you are so moved I invite you to give of your time or your resources in your communities. Seek out bail funds that are popping up all over the country to take care of the protesters on the front-lines. There are teams across the country that are gathering to clean up their communities and your labor could be used there. I also am inviting you, if you are a clergy person, a therapist or a healer to reach out to people that are a part of a marginalized community and just listen. Offer those folks space so that they can grieve, be angry, and heal. I am not asking you to offer solutions. I am asking you to listen to the black and brown voices that are leading this charge. I am asking you to do something because doing nothing is leaving this system as it is. 

Music:  Building a New Way Philip Rogers

Offering  Rev. Misha Sanders

This morning we will be sharing our plate with the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. The text to give information will soon be on your screen. If you are going to be writing and mailing in a check, please be sure to designate BLUU or just STP on the memo line.  

The offering that we take each Sunday isn’t just a stale habit; it’s an opportunity to recommit to this place, and to this people. Our offering is an affirmation—a “yes.” When we give, we say yes to something we value.

With our gifts, freely given, may we say yes to the values of our faith.
May our text-to-give offering today help us to practice the Unitarian Universalist belief that Black Lives Matter within and beyond our congregation, as tools to empower our mission.

Our offering will now be given and gratefully received.

To the work of this congregation, which is weaving a tapestry of love and action, we dedicate our offerings and the best of who we are.

And such a great big thank you again to our guest, Mathew P. Taylor. You have blessed us this morning.  

Benediction  Rev. Misha Sanders

Now may we go forward from this moment with hearts open just a little bit wider. With perspectives just a little bit shifted. May those among us whose black skin makes them targets for violence and oppression find here a measure of safety, and the certainty that your beloved community loves you and has your back. May those among us with brown skin know that you remain precious in our sight and you are not forgotten. May those of us with white skin and social privilege behave always in ways that make us worthy of the honor of being called allies. May we be the first to rise and say loudly and clearly that Black Lives Matter. And for all that is holy and good, may we mean it when we say it. Amen. May it be so. Blessed Be. Aho. Ashe. 

Postlude Jim Pearce