Sunday, March 8, 2020 – Lent 2

March 8, 2020  

Lent 2 2020

Our Savior’s La Crosse

Waking Up White series

Ephesians 4:1-16

Pastor Jehu Jones was the first African-descent pastor in the Lutheran tradition in America. “Pastor Jones was born in the South.” His family was “part of the so-called mulatto aristocracy of South Carolina” (p. 25). Pastor Jones “was an Episcopalian who eventually found his way to the Lutheran Church” (p. 26). Pastor Jones was “ordained in New York City… he was [assigned] to work with the American Colonization Society,” asked to lead“a Lutheran mission” to Liberia” (p. 27). “Instead, upon his return to Charleston, he was arrested with every other free black… He languished in prison…” (p. 27).

Eventually, Pastor Jehu Jones was sent to Philadelphia where he “founded St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Center City… He bought the land and started to build [the church] with his own money. In 1836, the foundation of a truly free black Lutheran Church was laid down in this country” (p. 28). But, “he was never paid. He was constantly under financial pressure, with no help from the Pennsylvania ministerium… After a while, he was viewed as a failed experiment… that must be shut down” (p. 29). The church’s “assets and land were purchased by the Pennsylvania ministerium and sold off for a profit” (p. 29). (As told by Pastor Lenny Duncan in Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S. chapter 2, Fortress Press 2019)

A few weeks ago I helped my dear friend Pastor Becky Swanson and her husband Gary Anderson finish packing up their belongings so they could move to their new call to ministry in central Illinois. I spent about six hours with them, loading boxes into a truck they rented and cleaning the parsonage. It has been years since I’ve done as much vacuuming as I did that evening.

The next day, my body hurt. There were places that hurt that I forgot were places I had!

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul tells us the body of Christ is no different. We are part of the body of Christ. The body of Christ consists of all who believe. Paul wrote there is one body and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4). Paul wrote

Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

The body of Christ cannot function properly when any part of the body is neglected or abused.

Pastor Jehu Jones was both neglected and abused. As Pastor Lenny Duncan wrote in his book Dear Church, “Jehu’s welcome into ordained ministry in the church of Jesus Christ was chains and jail” (p. 27).

“He was never paid.”

“He was constantly under financial pressure.”

“He was viewed as a failed experiment.” (all quotes from p. 29)

Pastor Duncan wrote “The story of Rev. Jehu Jones is instructive to a church that screams for diversity and can’t seem to understand why it remains so white” (p. 29).

Like most other professions, our pastors of color and women pastors in the ELCA are paid less than white male pastors even though all pastors come out of seminary with a boat-load of debt. This leaves our pastors of color and women under more financial pressure. Ministries that are developed in communities serving African Americans or Hispanic Americans struggle to find support.

Some of you might remember Pastor Melissa Gonzalez from Tapestry ministry in Richfield MN. She preached here about a year and a half ago, when she was biking down the Mississippi River in memory of her son. Some of her parishioners came and led our service…

Their ministry is multi-cultural and constantly struggling to find financial support. They need help. Maybe we should help them.

Jesus calls us to speak truth in love. The apostle Paul said that, to do this, we need to grow up in every way into him (Ephesians 4:15). If we don’t grow into Christ in equitable ways, (as illustrated in my young persons’ message) we have a body completely out of proportion!

Never forget, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:

“…each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (4:7).

For this reason we are called to

“…lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).