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Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pour Out Love

Sunday, August 7, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
preached at The Presbyterian Church of Willingboro

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 1:1,10-20 and 1 John 4:7-12

Good morning! My name is Katie Mulligan, and I am a Presbyterian pastor. I am a minister member of the West Jersey Presbytery, and I live and work in and around Trenton. I work with youth and young adults and their families, mostly in between the churches. A lot of the people I work with don’t have much use for churches or church people, but they do appreciate fellowship and joining together over meals and a chance to be heard about how life is going. You know, so I work with regular people, not a whole lot different than any of us here, who are gathered this morning for fellowship, sharing table, and being heard.

It’s been a hard week, news wise. First, on Monday, police in Balitmore attempted to deliver an arrest warrant to Korryn Gaines, a young black woman who had two children, ages 1 and 5. She had, like most black folks I know, previous engagements with the police that were negative—she’d been harassed by police, and she wasn’t taking any of it. She posted videos of her engagements with police in prior months. When the police arrived on her doorstep to deliver arrest warrants for failing to appear in court for traffic violations, Korryn Gaines did not answer the door. The police got a key from the landlord and helped themselves in. Finding the chain across the door, they kicked the door in. And that’s when they saw Ms. Gaines had a shotgun.

The police went away and got themselves a warrant. And then they started a 5 hour standoff. They cut her social media. They refused her mother to speak with her. They cornered her in her home with her 5 year old son. And when they got tired of waiting, they stormed into the house and shot her dead. They shot her 5 year old son in the face. He will live to tell the tale. He will live as a motherless child who watched his mother killed by police while getting shot in the head himself.

And this, let me remind you, was all over traffic tickets. Korryn Gaines has been on my mind and in my heart all week. Fierce, unrepentant, refusing to take mistreatment without fighting back. For herself and for her children. Korryn Gaines.

Later that night, I heard about the death of Joyce Quaweay, another young black woman and the
mother of two children, ages 10 months and 2 years old. Her lover and his best friend handcuffed her to a bench and beat her to death with fists and a police baton. Both men had been police officers. Two other children, ages 8 and 10 were also present. All four children witnessed Ms. Quaweay’s murder. She was beaten to death because she would not submit to her boyfriend and he wanted to teach her a lesson. Joyce Quaweay, mother of two, worked at a group home with intellectually challenged adults, smart, strong, independent. She refused to submit. And she was murdered for it. Joyce Quaweay.

And then the next morning, on Tuesday, I awoke to news of Skye Mockabee, a young black woman in Cleveland found dead, face down in a parking lot, bleeding from her mouth. Ms. Mockabee was transgender. Trans women of color are the most vulnerable in our marginalized communities: female, transgender, black or brown, and most often terribly poor. Ms. Mockabee’s death comes less than a month after two other black trans women were murdered: Dee Whigham in Mississippi and Deeniquia Dodds in Washington, DC. Ms. Mockabee is the 17th trans person to be murdered in the U.S. this year—the number is probably much higher, but media does not report these cases well. So often, even in death, victims are misgendered and their cases go unsolved. Who cares, after all, about the poorest of the poor? Skye Mockabee. Beloved daughter. Beloved girlfriend. Lived her life authentically and fully, refusing to hide. Skye Mockabee.

Korryn Gaines was 23 years old. Joyce Quaweay was 24 years old. Sky Mockabee was 26 years old. Beautiful, loving, strong, smart, young black women murdered because they would not submit to a patriarchal, racist, transphobic, white, male, heterosexual, cisgender structure that uses state violence to force compliance. And we are all complicit in this system.

It is in this context that I ask you to listen again to the Isaiah scripture this morning. Let us hold ourselves accountable for what has happened. Can you keep an open heart, an open mind? It seems the least we might do for Korryn, for Joyce, for Skye, three sisters who could be your daughters, your sisters, your mothers, your beloveds of one kind or another. Listen, if you will:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
Bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity
Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates;
They have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;
Your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
Cease to do evil, learn to do good;
Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Spare me your community cookouts with police, the pickup basketball games carefully videographed to share on facebook showing local police as “nice guys”, don’t show me that video of a terrified black woman, pulled over by police who then give her ice cream instead of a ticket. Nobody said cops can’t be nice guys. We’re saying the system is sick and guilty and all those nice guys and all us nice folks here are complicit in that sickness. Don’t go straight to unity and love and peace before justice is considered and done. No more festivals and pageantry—people are dying before, during, and after those community cookouts.

What on earth are we to do? “Come now,” says the Lord, “And let us argue this out.”

We have no choice but to go on, to move forward. There is nothing we can do to bring these three women back to us, to their children, to their communities. All we can do is move forward. But I ask that you move forward with these women in your hearts: Korryn Gaines, Joyce Quaweay, Skye Mockabee. Learn their stories. Don’t forget their names. Follow up to know if and how their killers are held responsible. Read as much as you can and think about what it is like to be poor, black, female, trans, pressed hard against a wall until the only options are submit or die.

Remember their names. Speak their names. Tell their stories. Do it with love and terrible regret for what we have wrought in this world.

And then the second thing is love. Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Isaiah lays it all out for us, it’s very simple. From these 3 women alone there are 4 orphans to care for and another 2 children who witnessed a heinous murder. There are grieving mothers and partners, traumatized communities, and people who know they could be next. The only thing we have to combat this is love.

The text from 1 John reminds us that God loves us so greatly that God is willing to try ANYTHING to get through. ANYTHING to create the beloved community that we and God so long for. And because God loves us like that, we are to love one another with the same strength and desire of that love. And in our love for one another, God’s love will be perfected in us.

Do you understand what that means? It means that the closest we can get to God and love is not individual prayer, tithing, going to church, any of that. The closest we can get to God and love is by loving one another, and in the relationships, the bonds, the ties, God’s love will be perfected in us.

My study Bible says, “God’s love is concrete action.” And so it must be! People ask where to start, maybe you’re asking where to start, and so I’ll tell you—start with love! Are you feeling lonely and loveless and like there is no one left to love? Find someone. Get a cat. Volunteer. Read to children. Bring a meal. Do SOMETHING that is loving every single day. Sounds small to you? You’d be surprised how many of us don’t pour out love and how simple it is.

Start small and love close by. And then keep expanding. Open up your dinner table. Open up your wallet. Open up your heart. Open up your mind. Start loving people different than you. Love people who disagree with you. Pour out love lavishly like there’s not going to be another chance.

Feed people. Clothe people. Help people find jobs. Give that second chance. Speak the truth. Hold our law enforcement, judicial systems, public servants accountable. Work to get laws changed and enacted that make it more possible to love one another. Protest in the street if you can. Bring water to protestors if you can’t. Educate yourself about local candidates and issues. Bring someone with you to vote. Register your neighbor. Love this world, if only because it’s the only one we’ve got. Love people, if only because that’s who is in front of you.

Pour out love because we failed Korryn Gaines and Joyce Quaweay and Skye Mockabee. Do it for their children, because they do not have a mother to love them anymore. Do it for their mothers and fathers because they have lost their daughters. Do it for their partners who are alone now in this loveless world.

I was reading again last night this poem from warsan shire:

they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

Pour out love. For Korryn Gaines. For Joyce Quaweay. For Skye Mockabee. Pour out love.

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