“Have you ever noticed how people think a person is bright, wise and intelligent because they have power, are on TV, hold a political position or have a title?” asked the Rev. Allan Aubrey Boesak at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service Tuesday. “We think they must be clever, and so we hold them in high esteem.”
His sermon title was “Missing What Matters” and his Scripture texts were Isaiah 45:1-4 and Matthew 11:25-28.
“Poor people have a hard time being heard. People of color know this, too. Those with no position don’t count; their opinion doesn’t count,” he said. “Jesus came to say that those who think they are wise and intelligent are the ones who don’t get it. God has revealed what matters to those who are poor. They are the ones who know what matters.”
Boesak said that the modern church feels that it is sinking to the margins, that it does not have enough influence or money, its numbers are smaller and it is never on TV.
“Jesus said that it was to those who don’t count that he had revealed what really matters in the world,” the pastor continued. “Pharaoh never got it. Ahab never got it. Joachim never got it. Herod never got it. The people for whom Jesus came — the poor, destitute, blind, lame women, children, tax collectors — they got it. And Jesus thanked God that what matters was revealed to those. The power of the kingdom of God, the reign of God is the complete opposite of Caesar,” he said.
Isaiah told Israel that the reign of terror would end and they would see the reign of God’s peace take hold from sea to sea.
“This is the God of the covenant, of justice, of peace, of mercy,” Boesak said. “Israel had a king, but he was not in Jerusalem. Israel had a house, but it was not the temple.”
He told the congregation: “The powerful, the wealthy, the mighty don’t get these things. [These things] threaten their way of life and overturn the way of the world to open the way for God’s reign. We have to find the courage to follow and do what Jesus did, to testify to these things.”
It was important for Isaiah to warn Israel against setting King Cyrus above other humans.
“God used this imperialist king as a servant,” Boesak said. “Cyrus made the decision to let the exiles go home and Israel was ecstatic. Isaiah said, yes he did let them go, but God had called Cyrus as his servant.”
Isaiah reminded the Israelites that Cyrus’ first act in coming to Babylon was to bow down to the statue of Marduk, not the God of Israel.
“Isaiah tells them to ‘Watch it! Don’t act as if this guy is your god,’ ” the pastor said. “Don’t make the mistake of the golden calf. Be careful who you ascribe your freedom to — it is the Lord your God.”
Boesak said that he understood Isaiah’s concern.
In 1994, when Nelson Mandela was out of prison, people began to look at him as if he alone was the savior of South Africa.
“Yes, we fought in his name, prayed for him, were tortured and died for him,” he said. “He is and was a wonderful man, but he is not God and your [South Africa’s] freedom did not come from him. That is why he did not come out until the last minute.
“Who was it who gave you strength?” Boesak continued. “Who was it who got you up when you were shot, when your children were murdered? It was the Lord your God. Don’t make that mistake [to set a human up as God]. Remember the things that matter.”
According to Boesak, Isaiah wrote six times in Chapter 45, “There is no one like me [God]; don’t forget it Israel, ‘I am the Lord your God, there is no one like me.’
“Don’t make the mistake of looking back to the ‘good old days’ of the church,” he said. “Thank God you are still here. God has not changed, not diminished. God still cares about faithfulness, commitment, justice and belief. The One who has helped keep you alive is the One who sent Jesus. These are the mysteries of heaven that change the world.
“Tell them [the powerful] that forgiveness is indispensable but never sentimental,” Boesak continued. “It is soul-restoring and life-giving, but without justice, forgiveness kills. There are things that are forgivable but not excusable. The inexcusable becomes forgivable with God. Repentance lies at the heart of forgiveness, at the heart of human experience. No matter how powerful or technologically sophisticated you are, the soul of a nation dies without reconciliation and forgiveness. [F.W.] de Klerk [former prime minister of South Africa] still does not get it.”
Boesak told a story of reconciliation in South Africa, “of one white woman who got it.” Ginn Fourie’s daughter, Lyndi, was killed in the Heidelberg Tavern Attack in December 1993.
“Three men from APLA came into the tavern and shot it up,” he said. “Lyndi was one of the ones who died. We thought the killing had ended because elections were coming in 1994.”
The reconciliation commission was at work at that time, and Ginn Fourie attended the session where the three young men spoke; they received amnesty. The leader of the group, Letlapa Mphahlele, who had given the order, told the commission how deeply sorry he was and wished he had never done it. He wished he could talk with the families of those who died.
Fourie went home and thought about his request and finally decided to meet with him. He came into the room and started to apologize, but Fourie stopped him. She said that she, as a white person, understood why he had committed this act of revenge. For 300 years, white people had taken his land and enslaved his people. ”Let me ask your forgiveness,” she said. And then they talked.
Fourie and Mphahlele have formed the Lyndi Fourie Foundation working for justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.
“Go out and tell them that forgiveness matters. Love matters,” Boesak said. “These are things the world needs. God be praised that he has given these to those who are children of God. You are so much more powerful. You have no clue.”
The Rev. Susan McKee presided. The Rev. Paulette Clinton, minister of discipleship at Community Baptist Church, New Haven, Connecticut, and a member of the New Clergy Conference, read the Scripture. The Motet Choir sang “Everything is One,” music by Lois Brokering, text by Herbert F. Brokering, arranged by Charles Forsberg. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the choir. The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund and the Randell-Hall Chaplaincy support this week’s services.