Sermon: Sunday, April 9, 2017: Palm Sunday

This homily was preached during an ecumenical worship service at Humboldt Park United Methodist Church on Sunday, April 9, 2017 in advance of the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance’s 6th annual #OccupyPalmSunday rally. This year’s rally called on the City of Chicago to expand the Welcoming City ordinance and demand reforms to the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police.

Text: Mark 11:1-11, 15-19



Pastor Erik preaching during a series of short homilies by clergy from St. Luke’s, Nuestra Señora de las Americas, Kimball Avenue Church, and Humboldt Park UMC.

“Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers!” The implication is clear: the Temple is the house of God, intended to be open to all people, but a system had sprung up that economically exploited the most vulnerable people. Those who had travelled the farthest. Those with no family connections or personal favors to cash in. Those with no higher authority to whom they could appeal.


We know all about these kinds of systems. The kinds that work one way for locals, but another way for visitors. One way for citizens, but another way for immigrants or refugees. One way for people that look White, another way for people who clearly aren’t. One way for people with extra money, another for people working hard to pay the bills. We know all about these kinds of systems.

We know about systems that will tax your paycheck and in exchange fund schools and hospitals and police departments — but no guarantee that every neighborhood and every community will get the same benefits out of that exchange. Some schools will be well-funded. Some neighborhoods will get level one trauma centers. Some police departments will come when you call 9-1-1.

But some neighbors will never call 9-1-1. Because the moneychangers of this day and age will take their hard-earned income, but in return they get racially profiled, treated with excessive force, or maybe shot 16 times. Some neighbors run drills at home with their children about what to do when there’s a knock at the door. Who to call if Mom or Dad don’t come home from work.

People made the long journey to Jerusalem expecting sanctuary. They were coming to the Temple, after all. Shouldn’t they have been able to expect to be treated with dignity and offered hospitality after coming all that way?

Shouldn’t all people, from every nation, be able to expect to be treated with dignity and offered hospitality however far they’ve traveled? And not just in our sanctuaries, not just in our churches and temples and mosques — but everywhere! Don’t we remember that we are the ones who decided to build a temple to house our God and not the other way around? We wanted to hem God in, define the place where God would reside, where God could be colonized.

But God, who made the heavens and the earth, created all land to be sacred, and all people to be holy, and called all nations to worship God by caring for one another.

So it is time to expand our ideas about sanctuary. We’re not talking about hiding behind our church walls. We’re talking about taking to the streets, showing our holy outrage at the ways we are dehumanizing each other, and ourselves in the process. We’re talking about exchanging a dead legalism for a living, daring faith that risks all for the sake of our common humanity.


Sermon: Sunday, March 20, 2016: Palm Sunday

On Sunday, March 20, 2016 members of Kimball Avenue Church, Nuestra Señora de las Americas, and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square met for worship at Diversey River Bowl before a joint procession with palms to the rally for public housing at Lathrop Homes. At that worship service Pastors Liz Muñoz, Bruce Ray, and Erik Christensen team preached a sermon on Luke 19:28-48, drawing parallels between Jesus’s dramatic entry into Jerusalem, lament for the city, and disruption of Temple commerce with the planned action for public housing planned by the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance (LSEA).

For the text of the #OccupyPalmSunday sermon at the LSEA blog, click here.


Sermon: Sunday, March 29, 2015: Palm Sunday

Texts:  Isa. 50:4-9a  +  Ps. 31:9-16  +  Phil. 2:5-11  +  Mark 14:1-25

The following sermon was delivered by Pastor Erik Christensen of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square (ELCA) and Pastor Liz Muñoz of Nuestra Señora de las Americas (Episcopal Church, USA) in advance of the 4th Annual Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance public witness for justice in our communities.

title845264485There may be a riot among the people. (Mark 14:2)

About three years ago a group of interfaith labor activists — and by “interfaith labor activists” I mean people like you and me, people of faith from congregations and synagogues and mosques who care about the treatment of laborers in our communities — got together to present the Chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which had just received a $109 million gift from city and state tax coffers to pay for cosmetic upgrades at the Chicago Board of Trade with a golden toilet as a way of dramatizing the stark contrast between the kinds of corporate welfare that big businesses get and the kinds of treatment average Chicagoans have come to expect. The tactic was effective, and $34 million was returned to the City of Chicago.

When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem some two thousand years ago he staged a bit of street theater to attract the attention of the crowds. On the other side of town Pontus Pilate was also entering the city astride a warhorse of some kind, I’m sure, intended to remind the Judeans as they gathered to celebrate Pesach, the Passover, who was really in charge. The leaders of the Temple establishment were worried that Jesus would disrupt the delicate arrangement of power that had been worked out. They were right. As Jesus moved through the city streets he put big money on notice, he stood in the public square, before all the powers and principalities of the empire, and declared that in God’s reign the last would be first.

title406527677No sea que se amotine el pueblo.

O mejor dicho no sea que se encienda el animo del pueblo.  Eso era la preocupación del Imperio Romano, el mismo de todas las principados y potencias que quieren mantener un control absoluto.

Por eso llegó Pilato con sus tropas en Jerusalén.  Vino para desanimar el pueblo y mantener la paz del Imperio durante estos tiempos turbulentos de la fiesta de los Panes sin levadura.  Eran tiempos turbulentos no sólo porque un grupo de personas oprimidas se reúnen para comer y tal vez beber un poco demasiado. Turbulentos hasta peligrosos para Roma porque la propia fiesta celebra un momento en que estos Pueblo de Dios fueron liberados de la esclavitud y la opresión. Esta fiesta podia despertar en el pueblo la memoria de que el mismo Dios que los liberó de un régimen opresivo los liberará de nuevo.

Así que Pilato llega montado sobre un caballo de guerra. Trompetas, tropas, banderas y armas, símbolos sangrientos de intimidación y guerra anunciando su llegada.   Entra del oeste al Templo de Jerusalén, un espacio sagrado de Dios,  con todos los los símbolos de intimidación y brutalidad anunciando su llegado.

Desde del oriente llega un pequeño grupo de disidentes con su líder en un humilde burro. Y ellos, tienden sus mantos en el suelo, alababan a Dios, todo un espectáculo de su alianza con el que viene en nombre del Señor.  Este es el anuncio de un reino con un tipo diferente de poder ha entrado en nuestra historia humana.  Jesus anuncia una paz que sobrepasa todo entendimiento una paz envuelta, integrada en justicia  a la cual toda la creación tiene derecho.  Una paz donde los benditos los mas oprimidos y los fieles que trabajan por la justicia de Dios. Todos los que las potencias y principados consideran los pobres pero que Dios reconoce como los herederos del cielo.

title845264485You always have the poor with you.  (Mark 14:7)

So often we hear Jesus’ words “you always have the poor with you” spoken in resignation, as if to say that even Jesus recognized that we will never deal adequately with the problem of poverty.  But listen to what he really says, “You always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.”

Jesus points to the persistence of poverty, it is always there, and then immediately to our capacity to do something about it, “you can show kindness to them whenever you wish,” as if to say, “if you are so concerned with the poor, what’s stopping you from doing something about it?”  That is precisely the right question, especially for those of us who delight in holding the right opinions on the pressing justice concerns of our day, but struggle to take action. In the face of growing gaps in income between the world’s richest and the world’s poorest, when corporate giants like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart knowingly pay their workers unlivable wages and then refer them to federal food assistance and Medicaid programs, Jesus says, “you can show kindness to them whenever you wish.”

The precious oil poured out on his head was done in acknowledgement of the fact that by confronting the powers, Jesus had set his face toward the cross. But weren’t our brows also anointed with oil on the day of our baptisms, anticipating the many confrontations to which our baptisms calls us? What dangerous kindnesses will we show?

title406527677A los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes

Los pobres siempre los tendremos con nosotros.  Unos lo toman como una declaración pesimista.  Si los pobres siempre estarán con nosotros entonces para que trabajar para hacer cambios.  Tal vez lo único que se puede hacer es aliviar su sufrimientos un poco…cuando me queda tiempo.  O para que hacer el esfuerzo, mejor invierto mis esfuerzos en mi propia supervivencia.  Pero escuchen lo que dice Jesus: “Los pobres que siempre han estado con nosotros podrán ayudarlos cuando quieran.”  Jesus nos esta diciendo que en nuestras vidas tendremos la oportunidad de hacer algo inesperado, profundo, que puede cambiar no solo una vida pero la historia humana.  Podemos hacer algo que puede transformar el centro de nuestro ser.

Miren hermanos y hermanas no hay garantías absolutas en nuestras vidas. No garantías  para el bienestar completo de nuestros seres queridos ni de trabajo ni de relaciones estables.

Pero con lo que si contamos es la promesa de Dios, que es fiel y amoroso que ha hecho maravillas con y para su su pueblo.  Los pobres siempre estarán con nosotros y también la bendición y responsabilidad de abrir nuestros corazones y vidas al reino de Dios, a una nueva realidad.  Entonces así como la mujer derramo ese  perfume sobre la cabeza de Jesus nosotros podemos derramar bendiciones sobre este mundo.  Es en ese contexto que Jesús dice que siempre tendrán los pobres. No voy a estar aquí, pero ustedes serán mis testigos, mis manos, mis pies, mi cuerpo, mi corazón.

title845264485Take, this is my body. (Mark 14:22)

Knowing that he would soon be leaving them, trying to prepare them for that loss, Jesus sits among his friends sharing a meal and takes an ordinary loaf of bread, blesses it, divides it, and calls it his body. Hoping that every time one of them handled a loaf of bread, or sat around a table, they would remember him, his words, his teaching, his courage, his confrontations, his life. Take, this is my body, this is what I’m made of, food shared among friends who become family. Dignity shared among neighbors who become community. Nothing fancy, just a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. Ordinary food for ordinary people.

But also something more than that. Because we take it into ourselves over and over again, week after week, year after year, digesting it and allowing it to reconstitute us. Words baked into these loaves of bread to fortify the mystery of faith, words like “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17)  Words sung, like, “as the grains of wheat once scattered on the hill were gathered into one to become our bread; so may all your people from all the ends of earth be gathered into one in you.” Words pronounced, like “holy food for holy people.”

Christ, hidden in bread just as he was hidden in a manger and hidden on the cross; Christ in the most ordinary, the least likely location, these loaves of bread.  What body, what hands and feet, does Christ have but mine and yours?

title406527677Tomen; esto es mi cuerpo

En este Domingo de Ramos no nos limitamos a escuchar las Buenas Nuevas.  En este Domingo de Ramos vamos a participar en el drama del: lo bueno y lo difícil de proclamarlo.  Vamos a vivir nuestra tradición como lo hicieron nuestros antepasados y toda la comunión de santos de todas naciones y las fes que proclaman paz y justicia. Vamos a reunirnos con otras iglesias de Logan Square a proclamar el reino de Dios en un servicio Eucarístico en aire libre.  Lo vamos a celebrar con First Lutheran Church, Humboldt Park United Methodist Church, Kimball Avenue Church, San Nuestra Señora De Las Americas, San Lucas UCC y St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.

Hoy tomaremos el cuerpo de Cristo para compartirlo con el mundo.  Así como Jesus enfrento las injusticias de su realidad, nosotros siguiendo su ejemplo, vamos a McDonalds para apoyar a los trabajadores allí en toda la nación que trabajan en comida rápida que aclamen por justicia.  Que solo exigen suficiente salario para proveer alimento y refugio para sus familias y respeto para su dignidad humana.

Lo hacemos en nombre de Cristo y por nuestra propia liberación.  Como dijo Nelson Mandela, el gran profeta y santo

“Para ser libre no es sólo de deshacerse de las cadenas de uno, sino vivir de una forma que respete y realce la libertad de los demás.”

Vamos a McDonalds testigos,manos, pies, manos, cuerpo, voz de Cristo guiad@s por las palabras de Jesus en su primer sermón.  Vamos por las calles “PARA PROCLAMAR LIBERTAD A LOS CAUTIVOS, Y LA RECUPERACION DE LA VISTA A LOS CIEGOS; PARA PONER EN LIBERTAD A LOS OPRIMIDOS; PARA PROCLAMAR EL AÑO FAVORABLE DEL SEÑOR”