On Practitioners and Practice – A Celebration Sermon
Whenever someone within my faith tradition has overcome something that seemed otherwise insurmountable, has been cured from something that had death as the prognosis, or survived something that no one has ever walked away from, my people say, “Somebody, surely, must have been praying for you.”
I believe that we are all the recipients, the progeny, the beneficiaries, and heirs to a promise, a prayer, a wish, a notion, and a freedom that our ancestors, seven generations back, sent ahead for us to access today, to use today, to enjoy today, and open today. Our ancestors played the futures market. And we are the answer to every prayer sent ahead into the unknown coming histories of our blood and claimed ancestors.
We are what became of them.
They knew somehow, that we would live into the dream, they had to defer. And I’m inviting you to imagine yourself being the recipient of so many carefully placed natural, intellectual, spiritual, psychic, psychological gifts and dreams. I’m inviting you to imagine yourself and everyone you come across, as the soul beneficiary of systems and intelligences—political, critical, analytic, scientific, artistic, survival and thriving that were sent ahead as tools for you specifically, but everyone specifically too.
And when they did not send tools. They sent ahead trophies. They said seven generations back, “I believe that we will win.” You are that winning hand. You crossed the finished line in record time. That’s you and your ancestors on the medal podium. And if your life is not a celebration of the victory that is your people, then we have to make your life be the word that we send back. “Did we ever get free?” And your good life, your forgiving yourself life, your overcoming adversity life, your move from self-harm life to self-love life, can be the only answer they here. If you have not sent word back, the ancestors know, you haven’t accepted the prize they knew that they would one day get. They know it means you have not yet decided to read the map they left for you.
What I am hoping today, as your minister, is that we can surface practices that teach you how to know, how to lead from, and how to locate the wisdom that has accompanied you in this life, as birthright. I want to help you to know that you have always had the master key. What doors you have opened, has been you. My mama used to say, “Don’t write no check, your ass can’t cash.” She meant, choose your door wisely. She meant, don’t use your key to open the crack, the abuser door, the bitter door, thinking you just gon’ close it. One of these doors, you gon’ walk right in. And you might stay for a while, for years, for the entire lifetime, for generations.
But, imagine knowing without a doubt, that there is, and has always been an answer key waiting for you. Imagine that key is to help you feel less alone in the world and in the work. Imagine your key equipping you to lead yourself to your highest self because the source of your wisdom is eternal. Imagine it is the key to not feeling like a failure, like the clock is ticking, like this fall off of this wagon, is your last shot. Begin by asking yourself, “What is the thought or the thing they sent ahead to me?” And, “Will I honor them by fully enjoying, embodying and deploying their gifts?”
Let’s try this: Based on who you are in this moment, what does your being here say about what your ancestors (blood and claimed) seven generations ago, sent ahead for you to access (connect to, open, use, remember, learn from, use to heal, heal from) today?
Based on who you are in this moment, who you arrived as in this moment, and what you have been protected and guided by, to survive the plots against your life, what did your ancestors send ahead for you? They didn’t send your alcoholism. They sent your recovery. They didn’t send your unemployment. They sent your passion. They didn’t send your failed relationship. They sent your heart’s desire. They knew that you would be the one to remember family in the face of collective trauma around displacement. They knew that you would be the one to not perpetuate another season of cycles, but break cycles of violence, incarceration and poverty. They knew that you would be the one to become a new beat in the face of negative “Feedback Loops.” A key is way to get out of a loop. The loop of responding to this hurt with the expected response of more hurt. The loop of seeing our neighbors as trash or garbage, when they are people just like you and me, with a key, but for them, no front door.
And in order to give them clear and precise direction for their keys, we have to move towards an ever increasing spiritual call upon our lives. And we have to insist on our spiritual growth; however you define what guides you, or however your self-contained guidance system compels you, our spiritual growth is paramount to meet this moment and it must be constantly and consistently attended to. But you gotta know who you are and what you have healed from and what chains you have broken, and what good doors have opened for you, because you remembered what your ancestors were trying to keep safe for you. If you want to help anyone know, heal and break chains for themselves, you have to do it for yourself first.
Because if we are moving, like I suspect, into a new prophetic and social justice movement moment, then we are required to train our potentiality to be innovative, nimble, and improvisational. The more they offer us doors of isolation, we look for doors of connection. We have to unlearn capitalist notions of “success,” because love’s key, will not be validated because you are making more money than you ever have. That’s not the key they sent ahead. What is your ancestral gut telling you to do. Door No. 1, Door No. 2, or Door No. 3?
Here is a key: Did you know that there are as many nerve endings in your stomach as there are in your brain? Your gut is your ancestral knowing. Trust your gut and trust your ancestors. Your gut will let you know how quick your gift response activation time to “the call” will be. Your gut will not have to call a joint commission to study the implications of the implications of the action you are going to take. Rights eroded today? Phone bank the legislature today. Black man killed today? Take to the streets today. Our global family detained at airports? Organize to disrupt the entire airline industry today. Detainment camps at borders hidden from our imagination? We call out the reality of concentration camps.
All of us arrive at this moment at the same time for a reason. We are each other’s best chance at walking into the brightest future. We are doorways for one another. Our lives should say, “Come through me.” You were not sent this far to be alone, without community or feeling isolated. No one was. You are what became of y’all. And if you are still in bondage, then you are not yet what became of your people.
Homelessness means, “We are not whole yet.” Addiction means, “We are not whole yet.” Violence means, “We are not whole yet.” Unbroken cycles of incarceration means, “We are not whole yet.” Our ancestors sent the key ahead to wholeness.
But we can’t be judges, we can’t be just outreach workers, we can’t just be a meals line, we are called to be “Practitioners” and the tools of liberation, in our hands are “spirited” — activated and animated, through the institutional naming and recognition of the wisdom in the instinctual, the ancestral, the unknowable, the mystery, the magic, the impulse, the muse, the spark, the imagination, and the light. We the new lock smith. We are here to rekey the world. I don’t know who you are, but I see in the spirit, that you are not what you are injecting. Accept this clean needle. Accepting help is key.
You see, I am a “Social Gospel Interfaith Ministry” practitioner. I bring the radical love-truth of Christianity to the table. Key. My ancestors say, “meet them where they are, do not judge, remind them of their inherent worth, point out that their survival is what points to the ark of ancestral knowledge, of one day living in the full light, that is with them. Where they do that at? At GLIDE! I believe that everyone who enters into the door of the church, automatically gets the keys to The Christ. Nothing else to buy. No hidden fees in the contract. No contract. No Christ credit check. Here’s the keys to your new Christ. And it matters not if you smoke, drink, or gamble away your keys. It matters not if you think you lost your key, gave it away with your draws to that man, or pawned it. You come back next week, a new key. Every time.
So, here, in this church, we are beginning to see one another as “Practitioners”, so we understand that no one shows up empty. Here in this church, we are beginning to open ourselves up to practices that surface non-traditional critical and strategic ways of thinking; the nonsensical, the gut, and the knowing, from which love emanates. And none of it is based in scarcity. The Christ key chain has an infinite number of keys. The Christ is the Key Master.
So, let us continue to surface a leadership that centers practices which allows oneself to unlock the prophetic, intuitive, ancient, contemporary, indigenous, natural, mysterious, magical, cosmological and theological ways of knowing. I am not talking denominationally or dogmatically, but an invitational, generative, iterative, participatory and always liberative unlocking. But if we gon’ lead people out, we have to show we are being led in ourselves. We have to reset the operational stage and preparing the ground & air spaces in our church, to invite people to “practice” unlocking doors. And that means you show up and bring your knowing into the GLIDE Ensemble, into the GLIDE Pride Team, Bridging the Divide, Bible Study, Speak Out, Keeping it Real, Bridging the Gap, Prayer Circle and Lay Leadership.
We begin “Practicing” in the ritualized daily, hourly, weekly knowing. I love that commercial that says, “Marvin: Windows and Doors!” Everybody is a “Practitioner.” This keeps us looking towards each other as the deepest wells of knowledge, as experts and intuits and knowers. This is what’s getting the ancestors excited, that we are paradigmatically defying the confines of systems solutions, by opening new doors, getting closer and closer to the answer, and accessing truths, and wisdoms.
They are excited because they know that when everyone is recognized as gifted, recognized as being endowed with gifts, and everyone is invited to bring all their gifts to the movement table, the work is sanctified. Key. Every aspect of our work and every person doing the work is sacred. Key. We are all in recovery. We are all doing the work. Key.
Sharpened tools have a better chance at sparking the divine. I don’t know if that’s a key, I just enjoyed writing that. But what the hell, KEY!
Here at GLIDE, our practices mean that new thinking emerges. New wisdom surfaces. Enlightenment appears. Movement workers become vessels as practitioners, and vessels accredited by “higher authorities” and not just higher education. Integrative. And our gifts are rooted in Indigenous, Multi-faith, Magic, Mystery and Mysticism. Practitioners give shape to the thoughts, disharmony and disjuncture, bringing the metaphysical to bear on the physical. Our keys don’t fit in the material world, because we have not yet unlocked our minds.
Homelessness is the shape of a people not feeling safe anywhere. What does your shape mean?
And what will it mean, when we begin listening to the still and small voice, the astral and the ancestral body, the prayer and the meditation, the ritualization of silence and the chant, the beer bottle breaking ground and the needle breaking vein, when we learn to speak only when spoken through our response, our joy offering, our justice, love and dignity offering, because Lord knows, love and justice and dignity, moves the needle of our multi-issue and cross-sector work, into multi-dimensional and cross-dimensional work. I’m telling what I see when I look at you. I’m telling you, “You are lit!” You can make better choices in the lit parts. And a lit thing; activated, channeled, summoned, operationalized, shared, taught, archived or invoked, speaks into, calls on, listens for spirit (Soul, Chi, Essence, Life, Lifeforce, Inner Self) to challenge, change and transform tendencies, atmospheres, and airs, into strengths, courage, character, will, force, mettle and the moral fiber. Who ready to get lit? Who ready to light up the world? Who ready to unlock the gifts that the ancestors promised them?
So, based on who you are in this moment, who you arrived as in this moment, what you have been protected and guided by, to survive the plots against your life, what did your ancestors send ahead for you?
Maybe you are the one who showed up with the gift of keeping your eyes on the prize of freedom. Maybe you are the one who held on to the recipe that satisfies the taste for freedom. Maybe you are the one left in charge of the ancestral healing of multiple generations of colonized people. Maybe you are the one whose queerness and straightness are actually tools to use as catalyst to bring change into the world.
Today, at GLIDE Memorial Church, they orchestrated, all of our ancestors orchestrated, this meeting, so that we could have yet another chance at seeing how they sent a deep sense of fierce loving ahead. They said, “One day, they gon’ need this hardcore, fearless and embodied love, for a future, in an unimaginable here and now, in service of a moment such as this. What are we going to do with this gift?
Marvin K. White
Minister of Celebration, GLIDE Church
GLIDE Church is a spiritual center of healing, faith, justice and community for everyone. No matter who you are, where you come from or what you’ve been through, you’re welcome here! Join us for Sunday Celebration every Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00 am.
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