Trouble the Water

Preacher: Chibuzo Petty

Scripture: Proverbs 28 and 29

Date: May 22, 2022

Do you understand what just happened? What we just did? Do you really understand? Do you believe in what just happened? I know you’re probably thinking, Pastor Chibuzo that was a long… That was a long little bit of reading Jess B. did. Maybe you got distracted? Maybe you found it hard to follow. We just heard from God. Do you believe that? sisters, brothers? Siblings? Do you believe that in Jess’s reading we just heard from God?

The one Jesus called Abba Daddy, Father, the One who created the universe. If we believe it then what next? If we believe it, then what next? I grew up in a church that was very different than this one and was not a Church of the Brethren was not an Anabaptist congregation was not even a historic peace church, the church that I grew up in was generically contemporary, Evangelical. And being an Evangelical church mission was a big deal. And by mission, in our context, it almost exclusively meant going somewhere else, and sharing the gospel. In Word, often with deed as well, but especially in Word, attempting to get what we would call someone’s first time decision for Christ. When we can parse out what that means the validity of that we can have debates about what the mission of the church is, in our context.

We know very well that the social gospel the work that we’re doing in peacebuilding policy, what we used to call public witness, we know that that’s part of the gospel part of evangelism. But when we’re stuck in our own context, it can be easy to forget, to neglect to ponder the majesty of the gospel. We would send folks to Sudan, to Northern Africa to the Middle East to China and we would be able to watch these undercover videos of our missionaries as they landed in these places and they would go to underground churches and in the middle of the room they would open a box of Bibles and you would think that it was Black Friday at a Walmart

People running over each other for the Word of God. Is that odd? That we just have these books, we just have these books. And it’s like nothing.

The other week sister Anitra from Bethany Theological Seminary, she shared with us a passage from the Proverbs. Proverbs 31. One of the most famous passages in the scriptures. People know about the Proverbs 31 Woman. Or how many of you have had a 31 bag… I apologize. I’m struggling with some allergies at the moment. Legitimately allergies, negative tested. How many of you know the famous line from what Jess read today in Psalm 29.

In the version that she read, it said something akin to where there is no prophecy or where there is no prophetic witness. In the King James perhaps the most famous rendering it says, “where their people are without vision they perish. where there is no vision the people perish.” Do we think we know what this means? Friends? It seems like an apt passage, appropriate passage for us in this time of interim ministry, this time of discernment for what the future of this church is. Certainly having a vision, whether that’s a vision statement or some other sense of call is important.

But did you see friends? What the very next line is? Before I read it will you pray with me? Lord, we are humbled that we get to talk about you. We get to talk to you, with you. help energize us, wherever we are, help sober us for this important task, in Jesus name, amen.

My wife and I were traveling some weeks ago, and we had an off Sunday and we had the opportunity to visit another congregation and they were doing a sermon series on passages that are often misunderstood in the Bible. I’m sure you can think of some, perhaps some of you can think of many. I believe the Sunday that we were there, it was about “all things will work together for the good of those who are loved and called according to His purposes,” it might have also been “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” There are just so many. But here’s another one. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” What on earth? Do you think this means? It’s easy to take one verse, one verse, out of context. It’s why it’s important that we have multiple translations that are being read.

Sister Jess read from a different translation, than many of us immediately recognize. And we hear that this isn’t about vision in some temporal sense, vision in some human made sense. But this vision is about prophecy. What’s that mean to you? Do you believe that God is still speaking? Is prophecy happening in this very place? Is it happening in this room? Is it happening wherever you are? Is just coming up here and being edgy, prophetic. Is coming up here and being progressive, prophetic. What does prophecy mean? Is prophecy about something coming from outside of ourselves? What does prophecy mean? What does prophecy in the sense of vision of prosperity of life mean?

When the very next verse, “Through words, a slave will not accept reproof. Though we understand, there will be no answer.” Do you understand what’s being said here? Right after we’re told that we need to cling to prophesy for that is our vision that that’s how we get our very life. We hear in the next proverb, “you cannot reason with slaves verbally. To get anywhere with them, you must beat them”. that is the tacit implication here.

As a descendant of those enslaved in chattel slavery here in the United States, I can say this is a messy passage. But I can also say it’s frustrating how often we read something in the scripture that we don’t like or we don’t understand, and we just cast it aside. Does anyone with me here this this morning friends? Do we believe that when Jess read this morning and read two whole chapters of the scriptures that she was reading the words of the living God?

If so, what do we make of these things? What do we make of these things? How is it friends? That we’re not running over each other? To get this, the same way that we run over each other to get the Ferbie or the Tickle Me Elmo, or whatever it is, that excites us in the fall? How is it that we’re not jumping up and down? The we’re not cheering for this, the very word of the very God in the same way that we would at the Nationals game, or the Guardians game where I’m from? Are you with me? Friends? What is it that we’re doing here? In our disparate places, Is it not amazing that we are here together this morning? It’s not amazing that we can be here together all day. Is it not amazing that there’s work being done in this very space every single day of the week? Whether that is lobbying, whether that is Christian education, Jewish education, secular education, all of these things happening in this very space? Later today, we’re going to be talking about elections. What do elections have to do with Jesus?

When we read, we heard in this passage over and over again about rulers. Rulers who don’t care, rulers who abuse. We sang about God’s soul crying out, because he is a God of the poor. The Catholic Social Teaching tells us that he’s a god with a preferential option for the poor. I woke up this morning in Cleveland, and I’m gonna go to bed tonight in Cleveland. That’s how rich we are. That I could come out here today and go home? Is that not amazing? What do we do with that? How do we make the most of the resources that we have? I’m grateful for each and every one of you. That is here present physically that’s watching live that’s going to get in touch with Jessie to get the recording later. I’m grateful for you not because my ego needs you to be here. Not because Nate or Jenn or Jessie need you to be here not because the Ad Council needs you to be here. Not even frankly, because God needs you to be here. I’m grateful because I think God wants you to be here. I’m grateful because I know how much being here benefits me. And I want that for you too.

But ultimately, I’m grateful that you are here. Because the point of what we’re doing isn’t us. We can have prayer concerns, we can have praises, we can lay hands on one another. We can annoint each other with oil, we can wash each other’s feet. But all of that is not about us. All of it only matters as much as it points us to God. Where there is no vision, the people perish. God is that vision. Now how many churches not just Churches of the Brethren but churches all over bicker about everything. When Brother Galen was letting me in this morning, we were talking about BVS and we were talking about OPP and talking about what is the work that you do and he said, “advocate for brethren values” and I said, “which brethren values?” As somebody that didn’t grow up brethren have been a part of several congregations and they have been as wildly and wildly different as could imagine. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that they’re in the same religion, let alone denomination.

We bicker not just about what the Bible means not just about marriage, not just about war, we bicker about style of music. We bicker about what kind of clothes you should wear when you come to this place. We bicker about whether or not you should still be allowed to do this hybrid style of worship in my district. I know churches that say stop. Some have even said never start right. We get so caught up in what we want that we forget that this isn’t about us. You can hire an interim pastor. You can call up late leaders, you can get a consultant you can do all sorts of things. And we can help put together a vision statement a mission statement, a strategic plan. But friends throw it out. Fire us, this is it. Now I’m not saying it’s that easy. The Scripture is hard. Even if we just say, “let’s get back to Jesus Jesus is hard.”

Are you the Jesus that washes The disciples feet? Are you the Jesus that puts a line in the sand? When the woman is being slut shamed? Are you the Jesus who says Palestinian lives matter? Are you the Jesus to cause the Samaritan woman a dog? A dog. Are you the Jesus who says forgive them father, they know not what they do or are we the Jesus that says, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? There’s enough difficulty to interpret here that we don’t need to make stuff up. How are we making stuff up friends? This might seem like a peculiar message. It’s different than many of the messages that I have preached so far in my tenure here. But I feel it’s important to say, “who cares what I say?” To borrow from another part of the writings in Ecclesiastes, lamentation is all also it’s all meaningless. If you understand if you take away anything from this morning, I want it to be that God is the vision. God is the mission. God is enough.

We have a historic building in one of the most sought after neighborhoods in the country. Good for us. They didn’t have that in Acts. We have a talented musician. Jacob so gifted that when he’s not even here, he can provide music for us. And not just him with an acoustic guitar but him playing multiple instruments, harmonies even. Good for us. Good for us. We have learned learned preachers. We just celebrated a doctoral degree coming for one of our pastors. One of our other pastors already has one. Our Community Arts Minister has a Master’s degree I have Master’s degree.

Good for us. Did Timothy have that? Did Bartholomew have that? DidThomas? What stumbling blocks are we putting between us and God, between us and neighbor? What does it mean for us, church, to not just worship outside on Easter morning for the sunrise service but to worship outside every week? And I don’t mean to have a traditional service outside on a Sunday morning. But what does it mean for us to be a church that doesn’t come here to this building or stay where we are in our homes, but goes out into the world and shares this gospel? It’s back to what I asked at the very beginning at the close of Jess’s reading. Do you believe it? If you don’t, then that’s a whole other conversation we can have. If this isn’t the Word of God, then the way we treat it the way we treat each other, the way we manage our time, the way that we manage our money.

Did you notice that in the Proverbs 29, when it talks about those who chase whores, it doesn’t say that they’re morally objectionable. It says that they’re financially irresponsible. Are those one in the same? If this is what we say it is, friends, then what’s next? I’m not saying I have all the answers. I don’t believe the Hosler’s have all the answers. I don’t believe in Annual Conference has all the answers. But I believe that this is the question. I believe it’s the only question that matters, friends. That’s why I’m up here repeating it over and over and over again, we heard in this very passage today, things repeated over and over and over again, this whole book, and this, this is a translation of the Bible, that’s only the…come in more volumes. All of it. Whether it’s bound in a book, or it’s in a papyrus scroll, all of it. Jesus said, came down to what? Hero Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. You should love the Lord your God, with all your heart, or your mind or soul, all your strength, and you should love your neighbor as yourself.

The entire thing, the entire thing is just that. So as we meet, as we have our interviews to discuss the history of the church to discuss your hopes and dreams for the future of the church, Let’s do it with that in mind. When we meet, and we have pastoral care conversations, and we’re talking about illness, we’re talking about death, we’re talking about marriage, we’re talking about excitement, let’s do it with that in mind. When you leave here to prepare for your week at work or to prepare for vacation or prepare to come back here to participate in the event later this afternoon, let’s do it with that in mind. Are we focusing on God? Is God the one that we love with everything? With everything that we have with reckless abandon? Because friends, God loves us that way. Do you believe it? Does anyone believe that today? I hope so. I really, really hope so. Can we pray again? Lord, God

Teacher, friend, Savior, sovereign. Thank you. Thank you again. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We could sit here for ages, we could do nothing but say thank you, and it would never be enough. I could say thank you until I’m blue in the face. Galen has to come in and take over and he faints from weakness, and Ayuba has to shout, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” God, help us. Please help us to know you, to believe you to feel you and God damn us when we don’t.

Help us not to just come to this service or to these events half heartedly. Help us to yearn to pine for even to touch the hem of your fabric, Lord, to eat the crumbs that fall from your table, Lord Holy Spirit purge us of everything that is killing us. And by everything I mean ourselves. May we be perfected in You, Jesus and in that perfection may we have grace for one another, when we fail, for Lord, we all know we fail. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to pause. To Be quiet, to be uncomfortable. Help us not only to reflect when there’s communion involved. Who wants to believe that this is communion right here? Help us to know where to go next.

Not in our own wisdom, but in the wisdom that comes only from you. We thank You again for these and all things in the name of Jesus, your son the Messiah the ascendant and the one who we know is coming again. Amen. Amen. As we depart I’m going to try in the midst of my asthma and allergies to lead us in a song. Wade in the water. It’s impromptu it’s not going to be on your screens if you know it. Wonderful. If you don’t that’s also wonderful. We’re not here because I’m entertaining we’re not here because you need to sing. We’re here because God is here. God calls us here. God is worthy of our praise even when it doesn’t sound as good as when Jacob doesn’t rehearsed because that’s not the point. This is a negro spiritual and one I find incredibly meaningful and when I hope you will too. If you know it please sing with me for my annual benefit. Feel free to rise as well as we do sing:

Wade in the water. Wade in the water children. Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water. We’ll do that again. Wade in the water. Wade in the water children. Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water. See those people dressed in black God’s gonna trouble the water. They come a long way in ain’t turning back. God’s gonna trouble the water. Wade in the water. Wade in the water, children. Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water.

Friends, as we go or as we stay, I pray that you’re open to trouble that you’re open to God troubling your waters, and that you’re eager to jump, to dive right in, to get wet along with Him. I’m gonna try. I don’t know how to swim in more ways than one, friends, but I’m gonna try. Will you join me?

Go. Love God and love neighbors, make disciples. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen? Amen. Thank you, Sister Jessica, thank you everyone else.

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