“Disunity Lamented” – A sermon for Lamentation Sunday by the Reverend Charles Kramer

“Disunity Lamented”
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is the day we celebrate the UNITY of the Three persons of God. We celebrate the three persons who form ONE Godhead. Who form one relationship of LOVE.
Scripture tells us that God is Love. And love is a relationship that requires more than one person. So the Father without the Son or without the Holy Spirit cannot be God. God IS the Loving Unity.
That is what we celebrate today: God’s Unity.
At the same time, we are called upon by the diocese to Lament our DISUnity. That somehow seems appropriate on Memorial Day weekend. It makes sense to lament the disunity of war, where so many of God’s children die needlessly. Of all forms of disunity, war has to be the ultimate, right? The exact opposite of God, right?

Actually, no. The ultimate DISunity is when we – who are created in the image of God, who are called God’s children, who are all beloved of God – treat each other as less than human, as animals, as objects to be used and discarded.
In that sense, slavery is the grossest, vilest, most blatant expression of DISUnity. Because  it tells the world we don’t care that God says we’re all made in God’s image. It tells the world that Jesus lied. That we don’t have to love our neighbor as ourself.
It tells the world that the Body of Christ doesn’t matter.
To treat another Child of God as anything less than your beloved brother or sister – as a part of your very being – is to spit in the face of God and to say, LOVE DOES NOT MATTER. Unity does not matter. God does not matter.
You would think we had fixed that problem with the end of the Civil War and the resulting end of slavery. But you and I know better.
Over the years, people who were determined to see their brothers and sisters as less than human found other ingenious ways to express it. Jim Crow, the KKK, lynchings,  segregation, red lining, sundowner towns, unequal punishment, unfathomable incarceration rates among Americans of African descent….
You and I know this because it has always been a part of our lives here. Right here in the Diocese of New York. That’s what we are called to lament today.
We lament that from its earliest days, this diocese supported such treatment of others. It did because our members were rich and powerful – remember that Wall Street, banks, and insurance companies were dominated by Church of England and subsequently Episcopalians in the early days. We profited from slavery, and in order to justify it supported efforts to keep even free blacks out of the halls of power – even out of Diocesan Convention.
Why, I remember in 1989 when I was in seminary and serving at a church in Long Island, Barbara Harris was elected as the first female bishop ever. But at church the
next morning, the big topic of conversation wasn’t that she was a woman but that she
was black.

So we lament that even here in “progressive” New York, deep segregation lives to this day. Some demographic studies recently listed Manhattan as one of the most segregated cities in the country. Not by law, mind you, but there are other ways to disunite people. And let us not forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. once called Sunday morning the most segregated time of the week.
So, on a day when we celebrate the HOLY UNITY of God, we also grieve, we sorrow, we lament the DISUNITY that divides God’s children. And we look in hope for the day when we can honestly, faithfully acknowledge, repent, and repair this disunity.
We start this repair with prayer. Across the diocese today – in unity – congregations are using the same Litany of Lamentation as that prayer. So…. Let us pray.

In profound humility, we lament today,
dear God in Heaven.
We lament over the sin of slavery that was perpetuated upon your children for more
than 200 years in our state.
We lament over the sin of complicity committed by this diocese in its failure to oppose or even discuss slavery
We lament over the way leaders in this diocese actively supported slavery
We lament over the fact that many church leaders and congregation members were
themselves enslavers
We lament over the dishonest excuse that we did not want to be political because this
church refused admittance to its councils even for free African Americans.
We lament the church’s failure to intercede on behalf of African Americans in the
decades following the abolition of slavery in name only.
We weep over the limitless offenses committed against and imposed on our sisters and brothers of African descent, creating false barriers of superiority, inferiority and divisions through the warring politics of reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynchings, Segregation, red lining, sundowner towns, and the school to prison pipeline that continues to perpetuate the abuses of slavery to this day.
We lament that your children suffer so egregiously, and to this day must live in fear and carry the trauma that has been inflicted on them individually, in their families, and
in their communities, of unjust treatment by a society that fastened by denial, has not
come to terms with the depth of the problem.
This is our Lament – Our Shared Sorrow.

Yet we lament in hope. As the children of Israel were led in chains into a strange land where they hung up their harps and wept, yet they had hope of return to Israel, so we hope to a return of life where there is no division, no segregation, no suffering of any
child of God at the hands of another because of how they look.

Grant us grace, oh Lord, to weep over our sin, to embrace your love so that we may turn  away from that sin, and seek to repair the damage done so that we may move with compassion toward justice and peace, and that we may all be whole in beloved community.

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