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Waking Up to Racism

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Contents
“Waking Up to Racism” by John Sumwalt
“Twists and Turns” by Frank Ramirez

 
Waking Up to Racism
by John Sumwalt
Psalm 98

Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.
(vv. 8-9)

When little Johnny started grade school the first week of September in 1957, in the one room schoolhouse in Loyd, Wisconsin, he had no idea he was entering an integrated classroom. Of the eighteen people he would meet that first day, Mrs. Mary Lins, the teacher, Ed Lee, and Tom Laufenberg, his first grade classmates, Sharon Cooper, Helen Joestgen, Mary Ironmonger, Ruth Joestgen, Diane Benson, Beverly Elliott, Donna Joestgen, Curtis Elliott, Allen Thompson, Diane Huff, Mike Lee, Shirley Thompson, Dennis Elliott, and there were two others. Out of all of these students, thirteen were Caucasian and five were Negro. It all seemed perfectly normal to Johnny and his parents, and everyone else in the Loyd Caucasian community.

Far away, in Little Rock, Arkansas, but not as far away as everyone thought, the Caucasian community, including the governor, were trying to prevent nine Negro students from attending the local high school. On September 24, 1957, while helping his dad milk cows Johnny heard President Dwight Eisenhower’s voice come over the radio which was always on in the barn. The president was explaining why he was sending federal troops to Little Rock.

The president said, “…under the leadership of demagogic extremists, disorderly mobs have deliberately prevented the carrying out of proper orders from a federal court… It is important that the reasons for my action be understood by all our citizens. As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that separate public educational facilities for the races are inherently unequal; and therefore, compulsory school segregation laws are unconstitutional.”

Nothing was said about the events in Little Rock the next day when little Johnny went back to his already integrated school in Loyd, where everything seemed right with the world. But now it occurs to little old Johnny, 63 years later, to wonder what life was really like for his African American school mates, whose formerly enslaved grandparents came up to Loyd from the south after the Civil War. Those who settled in ramshackle shacks up against the bluff outside of Loyd, just past Smyth Hollow Road on State HWY 58? Old Johnny thought to himself, “If I could sit down and talk to them now, what would they tell me about what life was like for them in 1957, and what it is like for them now in 2020?”

This week, a commander from nearby Fort McCoy logged onto Facebook and posted this account of just such a conversation, in which the men and women of color, under his command, told him what their lives are like in these turbulent times:

“Today was one of the worst days I’ve ever had in the army in almost 24 years. Today I sat down with my entire battalion to discuss the current issues we are facing as a nation. I wasn’t prepared. Fort McCoy is in a very rural community. Very rural. It is nestled in between the towns of Sparta, Wisconsin and Tomah, Wisconsin. Each town has a population under 10,000, and the demographics are not diverse. Both towns are situated in the poorest county in the state, and we are 45 minutes to an hour away from the next biggest town. It’s not a bad place to be stationed if you like peace and quiet, small town living, and you aren’t black or brown.”

He wrote: “I sat in front of a room full of people who are like family to me. I would do anything for them. By the very nature of my profession, I would give my life for them. I’ve been their Command Sergeant Major for over two years now. These are people I see every day. I had no idea that I have soldiers who wear their uniforms to grocery shop because they are scared of how they are treated in Walmart when they don’t. I had no idea that I have soldiers whose kids regularly come home from school crying because another kid called them the n-word ... again. I had no idea that I had a soldier who had to take their child out of school because they were being so tormented over the color of their skin. I had no idea I had a soldier whose wife was turned down for a job at a local bank because, ‘we don’t hire your type in this town.’ I had no idea that a few weeks ago one of my soldiers, who is one of the most kind and gentle women I know, was told to ‘get out of the crosswalk n-word’ as she was out for her evening walk. I had no idea that I had soldiers who felt like this is the worst place they had ever been stationed in the Army. Not because of the unit, but because of the racism in the surrounding area. I had no idea. I spent two and half hours listening to them, letting them vent their fears and frustrations, and crying with them. I’m still a wreck three hours later. I’m not able to type this without choking up. These aren’t towns I want to live in. This isn’t the America that I want to live in. Something needs to change. Something needs to drastically change.”

Those of us who follow Jesus, and all of us who love America, have work to do. We can begin by listening to people of color who are in the streets and to those who are in uniform at Walmart.

* * *

Twists and Turns
by Frank Ramirez
John 15:9-17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  (John 15:9-11)

The Sumerian civilization flourished in the Fertile Crescent nourished by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers over a thousand years before Sargon the Great set about to conquer the region. His name meant something like “the true king,” which he adopted since he was a usurper who in 2334 BC conquered one of the independent Sumerian city-states. Within time, he conquered them all.

The ancient people he subdued are renowned for the advances they made in agriculture, metallurgy, construction, and, most crucially, writing.  

The art of writing seems to have first developed in the Sumerian cities as a way of keeping records for accounting purposes. Over time, however, the Sumerians were not content with simply recording business transactions. The art became more sophisticated, so that they could tell the stories of their ancient heroes and their gods in such epic sagas as Gilgamesh, that grappled with the mysteries and sorrows of death and included a failed search for immortality.

Sargon discovered, unremarkably enough, that conquered peoples resent it. That is when his daughter, Enheduanna (pronounced “En Hedu Ana”) entered the story. She was a princess, priestess, poet, and writer. She was the high priestess of the moon good Nanna-Suen in the city of Ur, which five hundred years later would become the birthplace of Abraham.

Enheduanna was also the world’s first known author. Though other literary works have come down to us from antiquity, she was the first person to attach her name to her writing! One of her works for which she is famous is a cycle of 42 hymns praising the gods and goddesses of the temples in the many varied cities of Sumer. In each poem, she poetically praises what is unique about each god and temple. Many believe her purpose was partly to cement her father’s claim as ruler by connecting the gods and cities together, uniting them all under his kingship.

The Uruk Temple of Inanna is praised as:

house of seven corners
seven fires lit at midnight
seven desires apprehended


Kish is praised in Zabara for having:

…adorned your inner chamber with a battle mace
its right side is a mountain shaker
its left a wicked squeezer
your prince strong and mighty
a great storm bound to earth vents terrifying awe


Whereas Nisaba’s temple is described as

this shining house of stars bright with lapis stones
has opened itself to all lands
a whole mix of people in the shrine every month
lift heads for you Eresh
all the primeval lords


Enheduanna is aware that she is doing something unprecedented by taking credit for her literary work, because at the end of this last poem she wrote:

the person who bound this tablet together
is Enheduanna
my king something never before created

did not this one give birth to it

But Enheduanna was first and foremost the priestess of the moon goddess Inanna of Ur. Three other poems under her pen (or stylus — her poems were written in cuneiform, carving the letters into wet clay which was later baked to preserve the writing) praise Inanna who she praises in one poem as:

Lady of blazing dominion
clad in dread
riding on fire-red power.


She is a fierce goddess who wears “the robes / of the old, old, gods.”

In another poem she is described as “lady of largest heart,” who, just as the moon waxes and wanes, “is changeable and hidden.” And later in life, when another threatens her position as high priestess, rejecting her and sending her away from the temple, Enheduanna calls upon the goddess she loves, with whom she identifies, to take her part, confident she will not be abandoned.

Through these poems that chronicle the ups and downs of life, she proclaims her faithful love and is confident of the love this divine being has for her.

As strange and distant as the world of Sumer sometimes seems, there’s no question that this first known author felt love and trust in her god regardless of the twists and turns of life, and she invited her fellow worshipers to share in that love. In the extended speech of Jesus that follows his last supper with his disciples, related in the Gospel of John, our Lord also speaks of the love and unity he experiences with the Father, and that we also take part in. Regardless of the twists and turns of life, we are assured that God is with us.

(Want to know more? I recommend “Princess, Priestess, Poet: The Sumerian Temple Hymns of Enheduanna,” and “Inanna, Lady of Largest Hear, Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna,” both by Betty DeShong Meador, as well as “Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer,” by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.)


*****************************************

StoryShare, May 9, 2021 issue.

Copyright 2021 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to the StoryShare service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons, in worship and classroom settings, in brief devotions, in radio spots, and as newsletter fillers. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to permissions@csspub.com or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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StoryShare

John E. Sumwalt
Frank Ramirez
Contents
“Waking Up to Racism” by John Sumwalt
“Twists and Turns” by Frank Ramirez

 
Waking Up to Racism
by John Sumwalt
Psalm 98

Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.
(vv. 8-9)

Emphasis Preaching Journal

David Kalas
In the mid-1960s, a popular song declared, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of.”1 It was an era of both national and international unrest. And the American landscape was reeling from the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and opposition to both. Amidst headlines so marked by unrest and division, therefore, the sentiment of the song struck a chord with an American audience. 
Bill Thomas
Mark Ellingsen
Frank Ramirez
Bonnie Bates
Acts 10:44-48
Prejudice is always wrong. Nat King Cole is a well-known artist who was the first African American to host his own national television program. In 1948, he purchased a beautiful home in an exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood. When the local neighborhood association confronted him and informed him it didn’t want any undesirables to move in, Cole responded, “Neither do I. If I see any coming in here, I’ll be the first to complain.” He lived in that house until his death in 1965.

CSSPlus

John Jamison
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (vv. 9-12)

Hi, everyone! (Let them respond.)

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Call to Worship:

Jesus gave up his life for us. In our worship today let us explore how to love one another as he has loved us.


Invitation to Confession:

Jesus, sometimes our love for each other is thin and pale.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, sometimes we pretend to love but fail to care.
Christ, have mercy.

Jesus, sometimes we don't know how to love.
Lord, have mercy.

SermonStudio

John E. Sumwalt
Jo Perry-sumwalt
One evening, when I was 26 years old, beleagered by guilt for acknowledged sins, I was deep into an hour-long prayer of repentance. In despair, I grieved that I had broken the commandments and that I was not worthy of God's love.

Near me lay the Bible, unused and unfamiliar. I had never, ever read from the Bible. Yet my hands reached out and took the Bible to open it. I knew not where, nor why. But my hands knew the way. They opened to John 15:9-11 and as my eyes began to read, my mind knew the meaning with clarity. My eyes read verse 10 first:
Mark Ellingsen
Theme of the Day
God's love brings us together.

Collect of the Day
It is noted that God has prepared great joy for those who love Him. Petitions are then offered that such love may be poured into the hearts of the faithful so that they may obtain these promises. Justification as a reward for our deeds (love) is communicated by this prayer.

Psalm of the Day
Psalm 98
Stan Purdum
(See Christmas Day, Cycles A and B, for alternative approaches.)

Richard E. Gribble
Once upon a time a great and powerful king ruled over a vast territory. There was something very strange about this kingdom, however -- everything was the same. The people ate the same food, drank the same drink, wore the same clothes, and lived in the same type of homes. The people even did all the same work. There was another oddity about this place. Everything was gray -- the food, the drink, the clothes, the houses; there were no other colors.

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