Sermon by Katie Mulligan
Today’s lectionary passage is the Good Samaritan story, and I was going to preach a sermon today that referenced our sanctuary wars here in this church. I was going to talk about our ongoing challenge to love one another in this church. I figure I might as well speak the plain truth that some of us don’t like each other very much. I figure if I say it enough times, it’ll be like sucking the poison out of a wound. Eventually you will get tired of hearing me say it, get mightily offended, tell me to shove off, and get about the business of being a church, just to get me to shut up about it.
Yeah, that’s what I figured I’d preach about. Jesus said a certain man was going down from Jericho into Jerusalem and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. I’ve been in this congregation as a one-tenth time youth pastor (this church technically pays me to work 4 hours per week), for a year and some change now. I’ve seen a lot of people walking around here wounded, in pain, devastated, stuck in their grief for that building across the street. I don’t have a history here—my grandmoms and her grandmoms aren’t buried in that cemetary. I was not married in that sanctuary. I didn’t show up to worship 7 years ago and find the sanctuary doors bolted and a red tag of condemnation on my beloved sanctuary. It’s pretty easy for me to say that God is not in a building, because I have moved around a lot, and I have never noticed God to favor one building over another. I am not of this place, so it is easy for me to say, “Let that building be whatever it is going to be, and let’s get on with the business of being church.” Oh, I was going to preach this today—Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Choose life, so that you may live.
But late last night the verdict came in for Trayvon Martin’s killer: not guilty. Not guilty for murder. Not guilty for manslaughter. Just, not guilty. There is no question that George Zimmerman killed that young man—that 17 year old black boy, visiting his father in the suburbs. But not guilty, because George Zimmerman said he was afraid for his life.
Trayvon Martin’s crime? And clearly he was on trial these last few weeks too. His crime? He was black, walking in the suburbs. He wore a hoodie. He went to the corner store and got skittles and ice tea. He was talking to a good friend on the phone. He didn’t like being followed by a strange white man in a car. He didn’t like when the man came out of his car and approached him on foot. Trayvon’s crime? Being black in a mostly white neighborhood and being disrespectful toward a stalker. The last guy who stalked me like that, I punched him hard.
Not guilty. No conviction, no penalty, no time, no fine, for the man who gunned down a black teen who was armed with skittles and an iced tea. Who was Trayvon’s neighbor? George Zimmerman. And the neighbors who didn’t want to get involved. And the jurors. And all of us who watched this happen.