This is one of those days that Karl Barth, the famous 20th century theologian, said we need to preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. I suppose if he said it today, he would include tablets and other electronic devices…

This past week has been horrific. We cannot continue in this way; we simply cannot. Two African American men shot by the police; one not far from here. Five policemen murdered in Dallas. And two babies shot in North Minneapolis, one killed- just two years old. My grandson Alexander is two years old… Hear their names; their lives matter- black lives matter; blue lives matter:

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens and little LeVonte King Jason Jones…

I am glad we are beginning a new sermon series today on the Book of Ephesians, because the text we have in front of us reminds us of just whose we are; just what God has done for you and me. These words give us a foundation on which to stand- they are, as the title of our series says, “Sturdy Shoes,” because these are unsteady times.

I and I suspect you too, have felt just sick this week. And without the grounding we receive here- that we KNOW, it would be easy to sink into a miasma of despair… Heck, that despair is all too close…

The events over the last week lead to strong emotions- anger, frustration and sorrow, to name just a few I’ve been feeling, as we hear yet again of more shootings, with race playing a huge role in all of them, in a land where we have yet to exorcise the racist demon that has plagued us from the beginning, and which plagues us all still…And, I must add, in a land where there are all too many guns, too easily used.

I like to begin series with historical background, context, authorship, but I trust you will forgive me if I just jump headlong into the text, and promise to bring you up to speed next week on the other stuff, because I NEED these words right now; I NEED this grounding, and you do, too.

It is a bold statement of faith, starting from the beginning:

The author begins by saying that you and I are “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will…

So you and I- all God’s people are chosen people; we are adopted children of God through Christ, not because of anything we have done, not because of anything we have earned, but because God chose you, God chose me because God wanted to- because it gave God pleasure to do so in Christ…

I want the parents of the children who are baptized today to understand the wonder of what happened to their children- the wonder of what happened to each of us when the water was poured and the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” were spoken.

It means they- and you- and I- belong to God, and always will!

They have value; we have value- intrinsic value- because of whose we are. Human beings are valuable in God’s eyes- all of us- created by God, in God’s image, and adopted as God’s children- as God’s sons and daughters…

But it doesn’t stop there: look in the middle of the reading- read with me, starting with “With all wisdom and insight… he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth…”

Did you get that? Again, for no better reason than it brings God pleasure, you and I can know God’s will! We can know the very heart and mind of the creator of the Universe- and we know it through Jesus Christ.

We KNOW that God’s will is love, because in Jesus Christ, we see God’s love in action. Jesus flat out says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son… and then he lived it, showing that love- that care for all the folks he lived with and for.

We know that God hates illness and death- that those are a function of our fallen world, because we see Jesus heal the sick, and raise the dead… It is not God’s will, ever, for people to be killed by other people…

There is no way we should ever say that it was “God’s will” that caused the people who were killed this week to die. God’s will was for them to live! Indeed, God wants all of us to have life- and have life abundantly!

We KNOW that God loves the poor, the undervalued, the outcast- because that is where Jesus spent the vast majority of his time and efforts. I believe it was St. John Paul II who said “God has a preferential option for the poor…

We know that in his first sermon in Luke, one of Jesus’ primary tasks was to “set at liberty those who are oppressed…

Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate act of solidarity- that death was reserved for those who were on the bottom- non-Romans, slaves, traitors to Rome (freedom fighters, you might call them…) And his Resurrection was vindication of everything he said, and everything he was- and who he was and is!

Of course, Jesus loves you and always will; there is no question about that. But Jesus also loves the poor and oppressed, and calls all of his people to work for their freedom! That is God’s will!

And might that not resonate with our African-American brothers and sisters? That there will come a day when freedom prevails? That God will bring it, and that they shall see it? Someday? Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome some day…

But we keep saying it and saying it, and it never happens!

For the record, I am as patriotic as the next person. I love our country and always have. But the truth is we have had this problem with race from the very beginning, and we hate to talk about it. So we’re going to talk about it again.

The Founders wrote into the Constitution that a slave was 3/5’s of a person, for the purposes of counting the population, which determined the number of members of the House of Representatives, for whom the slaves couldn’t vote, of course.

And yes, a Civil War was fought to free the slaves, and end the slave trade. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to our constitution were passed to ensure legal rights, and voting rights for former slaves, but that did not end the demon’s life or work- Jim Crow, segregation, poll taxes were a part of life for the freed slaves. So was lynching…

Minnesota played a key role in the Union Army; The Minnesota First was in the center at the Battle of Gettysburg. But in the 1930’s, white folks in south Minneapolis, not far from here at 4600 Columbus Avenue, demonstrated and threatened (stoned their house, threw rocks at them), a black family named the Lees, for moving into the neighborhood… They finally left, but not until they showed they could outlast the demonstrators… African Americans have been lynched in Duluth- it’s a long, sorry list…

And brothers and sisters, I have not ever had to teach my children how to relate to the police, as I know some of my African American colleagues have. I have never been pulled over for “driving while white,” something that happens all too frequently to African Americans for “driving while black…”

One of Ben and Beth Cieslik’s African American friends visited them for dinner, had two glasses of wine, and chose to take a taxi home- not because she was impaired, but because she had a tail light out, and, well… “It’s just easier,” she said…

I have never been stopped for walking through any neighborhood anywhere, but I know of African Americans who live in predominantly white neighborhoods who have been stopped and questioned about why they’re there…

I was on a jury that acquitted a black man charged with assaulting police officers when he was walking in his own neighborhood- was on his own front yard when the confrontation occurred. He was beaten and tased twice in front of his eight year old son… Is it any wonder black folks don’t go to the police when there’s trouble in North Minneapolis?

What I’m saying is that I- and all white folks- never have to think about my race, or my skin color, when I know black folks do, all the time, every day. That’s how I would define “white privilege…” That’s how I would classify myself as “racist,” unconsciously, to be sure, most of the time…

I am one who likes to read and learn from all points of view. And yesterday, on the Daily Caller and on Redstate.com, both conservative websites, there were two amazing articles, in which authors, Matt Lewis and Leon Wolf acknowledged that police violence against black communities had been pervasive, the biggest reason it has come to light is because of smart phones, and that it has to stop. Because when it doesn’t bad things happen…People have been beaten and killed. People are still being killed.

And then others can take up the readily available weapons, and the atrocity that unfolded in Dallas takes place. Please don’t try and justify that, any more than one might try and justify the shooting of a black man stopped for a traffic violation…

This was no righteous anger: the shooter in Dallas was living out his own racist fantasy, in his own words, to “shoot white people and white police officers,” and he had a gun, which made it all too easy to do…

And how in the world can we even talk about babies being shot. And killed. We have created this culture of violence- firearms for everyone! We are all responsible. We are guilty when we turn our backs on the violence in North Minneapolis, because it isn’t about us…

I know that most gun owners are responsible citizens. But I will say that one’s right to bear arms ends where my right- and yours- to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness begins…

So let me return to our reading from Ephesians: You and I have been adopted by God…We are God’s beloved children and heirs! And we can know the will of God because of God’s gift of Jesus Christ. When we are working for peace and justice, we are working God’s will! Those are the sturdy shoes we can wear as we walk through these troubling days…

I would suggest that as our starting place today, my brothers and sisters. We can put those shoes on and wear them as we repent of the ease with which we dismiss the plight of our African-American brothers and sisters- Insisting that we live in a “post-racial society because we elected a black president twice” minimizes the struggle that many face every day…

Our call is to listen, not talk, not be defensive, but to listen and learn what folks who are in minorities are telling us about how they experience life. Those voices are all around us- where we work, where we live, on the web…

And then we’re going to act, to begin to bring peace to our communities. I have been invited by Pastor Richard Coleman, whom I have known for years, to a meeting at the Shiloh Temple International Ministries on West Broadway this coming Thursday, to hear about a “comprehensive set of options for engagement.”

I will share them with you, and we will go to work on them. Because we can no longer turn our backs, or stay silent; we are called to be Christ to our neighbors. What happens in North Minneapolis, what happens in Falcon Heights happens to us all. And we all need to begin working on it.

Let’s put on our “sturdy shoes.” Let’s trust in God’s love and God’s will for us as we begin this long and difficult work. It’s who we ARE.

This is not about being “politically correct”; it’s not about “right” or “left.” It’s about valuing people as people, and not dehumanizing, or demonizing them. Because the simple truth is that if we’re not all free, than no one is free…

That’s where we begin again. That’s when the “someday” in that grand old prayer and anthem comes ever closer to us all: We shall all be free; we SHALL all be free. Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall all be free someday… Will you pray with me, please:

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.