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A Sermon by Marvin K. White

I’m gonna share just a few words with you today. This is my Bible. Sometimes I believe it, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I know there are lies and inconsistencies. And I know most of the people who were writing about the things that they were writing about weren’t even there to see the things that they were writing about.

And still as a collection of stories, it’s one of the most exciting books that I have and love. So there’s a phrase, and although I have math PTSD, I’d like to reintroduce it to you today. It’s “Show Your Work”. Now showing your work in the context of math, homework assignments, or math quiz means when any calculation is involved, you write down enough of the calculation path you took so that someone who comes along after you doing the same assignment or quiz can reproduce what you did.

This is why me going like this: “Psst! What’s the answer?”, that doesn’t work cuz I have the answer, but I can’t show my work. If your classmate or your teacher can tell you how you reach your answer without having to guess, you have shown your work. We know for this test that we are taking right now, this test of poverty, this test of homelessness, this test of drug use, this test of over-incarceration, this test of climate change, this test of racism, and this test of war. We know, and the choir knows, love is the answer. We sing it. Yes, we sing it all the time. And on Sundays in our Celebration you can see, you can see our work. You can see our choir work, our band work, our audio-visual work, our prayer work, our Witness work, our volunteer work, our sermons work, our social justice work, our announcement work, and our giving. You can see our work.

We show our work. And when asked, “how have you brought hope back into the world?” Can you show your work? So that when you leave here, you can tell people how we did what we did here while you were with us. If you were here at Glide, you are taking the same test as we are. But your social, spiritual, and economic context have a different path to the answer called love.

But here’s the thing, right? We are good, bad, or indifferent. Always showing our work. You show your work when people see how you love yourself. You show your work when people see how you love your neighbor. You show your work when people see how you love your family or how you love after resentment.

You show people your work when you love, despite your setbacks. You show people your work when you show what you do, when love slips away from you. You show your work when you show how you are responding, when you are offered love. You show your work when people see how you love when you are right, how you love when you are wrong, and how you love when you forgive.

All this time, we are showing our work. And on this Labor Day, it strikes me if we all showed our work to one another, if we healed in front of one another, if we came into recovery in front of one another, if we showed our work. If we have more paths to more answers, more Christian paths, more Sikh paths, more Jewish paths, more Wiccan paths, more Muslim paths, more Buddhist paths, more humanist paths, more mindfulness paths, than we are each other’s tutors and teachers.

And we all gonna pass. And love, love is not graded on a curve. Love is not pass or fail. Love is not standards grading. Love is narrative grading. You write down love and you show how you got there, how you use your life and service of getting there, and then you have completed the course.

You put in the effort and the words and the work. You study love day and night and you will all ace this test. We all got a job to do. We all gotta show our work. We all applied for this human job we are on. We all been studying our whole lives this entire time, and that means that whatever class we’re in: activists, artists, in academic, clergy and lay, blue and white collar, white or black, rich or poor, physician or patient, retiree and intern, teacher and students. It means that we can possibly leverage this knowing and this labor into changing the whole system, and it matters not if you calculate the L C L M: the Least Common Love Multiplier.

Thank you, and it matters not if you calculate the G C L F: the Greatest Common Love Factor, and it matters, not if you convert the decimal numbers into love fractions, solve unit and total price for love word problems, solve one-step equation, love addition, love subtraction or love multiplication, or solve love expressions, just using substitution.

You gotta show your work. And when you show your work, you show that our work should have some sacred value to it. Capitalism will never believe what I believe that when someone in my faith tradition has to overcome something that seems insurmountable, was cured for something that had death as the prognosis or survived something that no one has ever walked away from. My people say somebody has been praying for you. And I honor the work of prayer by coming up with the right love answer every time. Capitalism will take me, will make me take the test again before they believe that I am the recipient, the progeny, the beneficiary, the heir to a promise of prayer. A wish, a notion of freedom that our ancestors, seven generations back sent ahead for us to access today, to use today, and enjoy today, to open today. I honor today the work of my ancestors. We are the answer and we are the work.

Our blood, sweat and tears is not showing our work. Our grind is not showing our work. Our early bird rising for worm is not showing our work. Our plotting and planning and promotion-seeking is not the work. When we say we are all in recovery here at Glide, we are describing in part the ways that the job market has us addicted to work and how working the steps is work. This is why we show our work here at Glide because it shows that we are not as they have told us, “co-workers,” because they set the wage and pay us to be each other’s co-worker.

It shows that we are free agents and freelancers and free men, and not because they tell us we are, but because we set our own hours. It shows us that we are team players when our co-workers are allowed to win, as much as empire wins. It shows when we are sick from working and we take our sick time to heal from work, to return to work, that’s sickness.

Look, all I’m trying to say, and all I’m trying to do, is tell you that the antidote to burn out is to know the difference between work that promises to wear you out and work that promises to give you rest. And the only way to do that is not by just cashing a check but by showing your work, not by listening to the music here and then just going home and waiting till you hear the music again next week, but by showing your work.

When you show your work, you realize that the remedy of your unbalanced work life is not less work or poor performance, but more love in your loveless and joyless work. Low copays on my Wellbutrin is nice, but it’s not an answer and it’s not a benefit when my work is making me depressed. And showing our collective work points us, to all of us, at the same agreed up on time maybe. And maybe it’s when the ancestor whispers “it’s time to go to work,” we hear mitosis and myosis and knowing to split and divide and grow and begin to strike this new contract because beloved community means collective bargaining. We can give life to something outside of the overworked will and we become true workers’ movements, dedicated to the bargaining of our soul’s desires when we show our work.

I got up this morning around six or seven and I started rewriting this sermon. I was putting in that work. Let me show you some of the work cuz I work for y’all. Y’all know that. So there are people right outside this church as close as outside of these doors who think love could never be their answer.

Who believe that what is on their resume will prevent them from being recruited by love. That if they show their work or their works, they are receiving automatic F’s. Our work is about showing everyone that love wants to sit down and talk to them. Love wants to offer second chances, recovery possibility, and hope that is waiting for them.

Love will show them, showing their work, even if they thought this whole life that they weren’t paying attention, even if they thought that they weren’t ready for this test or for this testimony. We are love’s work and showing your work and love’s answer is your birthright, and it’s what allows you to rise above it all.

Having goals and values is how you show your work. Your birthright is a test and is a rest, and is satisfaction and being satisfied is how you show your work. Breathing deeply is how you show your work, showing how your life and how you bring life and not death into the world is how you show your work. Your gratitude writing in your new journals is how you show your work. Your recovery, again, is how you show your work. Deciding to keep loving is how you decide you wanna show your work. Let me show you quickly how I got to the love answer. I’m gonna show my work. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love I have become sounding brass or a banging symbol. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but I have not love. I am nothing.

And though I bestow all of my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but I have not love it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not parade itself or is puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked. Thinks no evil, does not rejoice in inequity but rejoices in the truth. The answer and how I’m showing my work, because it says,”Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Amen. Amen.