White People’s Work!

Welcome to my blog’s first guest post! The writer is the Rev. Lorrie Corder, my wife, who is  called to the holy work of bringing about social justice for all oppressed, marginalized, and stigmatized people.

White People’s Work!
Sermon thoughts from a recent Sunday Lectionary
By Rev. Lorrie Corder

John 1:43-46        New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathaniel

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can anything good come out of any place we who are white might fear or mock or ridicule or make less than our own homeland?  For anyone who has traveled, the answer is a decided, “Yes.” We have crossed boundaries and borders and seen that all of God’s world is good and that there is good in all persons. More than good, there is God in all persons—whether they look like us, pray like us, love like us, eat like us, dress like us, die like us, mourn like us, celebrate like us, or worship like us. God is in and through all the earth.  The key to the scripture passage is Philip’s invitation to “come and see.” Nathaniel must make a journey in order to see the good that came from Nazareth.  He must step out and see the world outside to answer the question.

In Saint Louis where I currently live, many white people are insulated in gated communities and intentionally, economically, and racially segregated suburbs. In order to see the good that exists throughout the city and the county, white residents must “come and see.” White people must let go the convenience of driving the freeways—that also serve to isolate them—and travel surface streets. They must drive north and cross the Delmar divide, the avenue that separates the people in St. Louis by race and class from their Nazareth. delmarWhite people must stop lying to themselves that since they have good schools and grocery stores and hospitals and health care, everyone here in the region has the same access and opportunity. They need to cross the divide to learn that the “derelict” neighborhoods in North City and North County are actually full of human beings with similar dreams and ambitions.  These Nazareths are full of human beings who deserve the same access to services where they live as anyone in wealthy enclaves like Ladue or Chesterfield would expect.  Furthermore, if one were to come and see, one would learn of the amazing work happening in these so-called ghettos to repair and restore communities.  There is enough wealth here that all parts of the city could prosper if there were a will to do it.  The Gospel here is about integrating access to basic human services in all places and taking down the walls and barricaded streets that keep all of us in our own lanes and separate us from our common humanity.

What about where you live? Do you need to reach across a street or a border? Do you need to come and see the indigenous people whose homelands we of European descent are all squatting on as illegal and unwanted aliens? Do you need to learn a new language or about a new religion? What is your journey? To whom or to where do you need to “come and see”?

Besides an outward physical journey to understand that good can come from Nazareth, we who are white need to take an interior journey as well. The courageous pastor Andre Trocme’ stood up to the Nazis and saved as many Jewish people as he could regardless of the danger to his own life. He once preached: “Whoever does not love God will always be dividing humans into races, classes, or other kinds of groups…We, on the other hand, know that God abides in the soul of every human being. Every human can find God there, can hear God’s voice. Every human possesses the capacity to look within, where God can always be revealed. Sometimes this even happens without us being aware of it. God’s love for humans teaches us how we too are to love…Every human is a bearer of God’s image in the world.” 1

When we look within ourselves and find God there and listen for God’s voice, what do we hear? If we do not hear Jesus’ command to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, then we have work to do. We must ask ourselves what lies have we swallowed from friends, parents, news programs, history books, and pastors that do not square with the great commandments? Where are our carefully taught biases and blindness to white privilege keeping us stuck and ignorant? Again, Philip’s words send us out to “come and see.” We need to investigate our own hearts and minds and souls, to ask questions, to meet neighbors we don’t understand or know.

We will make mistakes and it won’t be easy!  The very act of questioning our inner thoughts will prevent our hearts from hardening like Pharaoh. If we say we have faith in God through Christ, then we must take a risk and turn our inner examination to outward visible action.

Little children can help us as we go. A little girl I know is fond of questioning adults who give sermons and lectures at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.  Her question is always a variation on, “What do like best about what you do or who you are?” She asked Bishop Gene Robinson what he liked best about being gay. She asked young demonstrators from Ferguson what they liked best about their work. To a pastor friend of mine she asked, “What do you like best about being black?” These are simple questions asked to strangers designed to elicit responses that cut to the heart of our common humanity. We must come and see and go and ask of ourselves and our neighbors, “What is it like to be you?”

Recently, the president wondered why we should take in immigrants from certain countries. In his crude way, he asked Nathaniel’s question, “What good can come out of those ‘shithole’ countries?” Disciples of Christ pastor and social justice activist the Rev. Dr. Barber tweeted this response to the president’s version of Nathaniel’s question: “Since we have a President who wants to talk about ppl [sic] from ‘shithole countries’—& extremist preachers & politicians who defend him—let those of us who believe in love & justice turn this shithole moment into fertilizer & grow a movement of resistance & redemption for America!”2

Indeed, we cannot let the tweeter in D.C. go unchecked. We must protest his hate. More than that, we who are white need to search our thoughts and deeds and figure out where we too have “othered” people and places that we do not know. From that searching, we must act to explore, grow, and learn.  We must correct our ignorance and our actions. From searching, growing, and learning, we must then turn to action: to fix broken relationships in our own families and communities, to reach out a hand of giving to persons unknown, to offer shelter, to feed and clothe the least of these, to set free the wrongly imprisoned, and finally to love even our enemies.

It is a tall order, a calling that could lead to personal discomfort or possibly danger. We are not living into the life of Christ if we are not willing to lose our lives for the sake of others known and unknown to us.  Don’t let the scriptures be only words. Act now! Grow into the stature of the Living Word each day.  Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of a lot of time for all this searching and growing. The world needs our action more desperately because of the hard and soulless Pharaoh in the Oval Office who currently claims to tweet for all of us. We must challenge this wrongness and say, “Not in our Nazareth!” Good things and people are found in all parts of our towns. They are found both in the ghettos our ignorance and greed have made and in the segregated neighborhoods of the wealthy and fearful. We need to cross the divide and meet at the communion table and realize we are part of a common humanity created by God. We need to live for one another and not against.  We can do it because we walk in a love that is from God and that is greater than any hate. Come and see the good that comes out of Nazareth. Be the good that comes out of Nazareth. Amen!


  1. Schott, Hanna. Love in a time of hate: the story of Magda and Andre Trocme and the village that said no to the Nazis. Herald Press., 2017.
  2. Barber, Rev. Dr. (@RevDrBarber) Since we have a President who wants to talk about ppl from “shithole countries”—& extremist preachers & politicians who defend him—let those of us who believe in love & justice turn this shithole moment into fertilizer & grow a movement of resistance & redemption for America! January 13, 2018, 4:09pm. Tweet.



A Place to Call Home

We all take up space on this planet. Birds in the air and on their nests, whales beneath oceans, foxes in their dens, trees in forests and suburbs. None of earth’s creatures or plants pay a mortgage or a rent. It is a given that if a creature or plant begins to grow, it will require a space in which to have its being. The earth provides that space with generous abundance.

Why then is it a given that humans must pay to be given space on this planet? Why is housing a privilege instead of a basic human right and need? Why do we monetize the necessities for living? Imagine if birds monetized their food. Worms $1.00. Seed 25 cents per teaspoon. No money? No eat. Nesting material 3 reeds for a dollar. Soft down to line your nest will cost extra.

Imagine if whales were expected to pay tolls to travel their ocean migratory routes. Don’t have enough dough to make it to salmon spawning feeding grounds, too bad, so sad. What if trees had to pay by the foot for their growth? You want to be 100 feet tall? Fine, but it’s going to cost you.

Of course, there was a time when humans did not monetize their living arrangements. They simply found a place to settle and built either temporary or more permanent dwellings. They paid no rent to anyone except the price of subsisting off the bounty of the land. It was not an easy life, but they lived upon the earth in the same way that other animals and plants did. It was normal to expect that you would require space in which to live.

Then, of course, human societies began developing systems of domination. Overlords took over swathes of land and demanded that the people already residing on it owed the lords for their protection. Without cash money, the peasants paid in crop yields and livestock.

Today, in my view, this system of domination is not much different. If a family cannot afford to purchase a home, they must rent from a landlord. Landlord….think about this term for a minute. Landlords charge a “market value” for their rents, which is oftentimes much more than the mortgage they pay, if they have a mortgage left to pay at all.

To purchase a home in many areas of the country is a prohibitive proposition. Some people manage to do it but at a ratio too high to afford their medical, food, and other expenses.

Naturally, with the number of people living on the earth these days–billions of us–it is not reasonable for humans simply to choose a place and go live in it. Where would they go that isn’t already occupied? However, I do believe we need a better method of assisting people to get housing. We need to see it as a right, not a privilege, and provide housing allowances for those unable to afford to rent or buy a home or apartment.

Some will say, but why should I help some deadbeat person get a home? I have earned what it took to buy mine. They should earn what they need to get theirs. That logic does not make sense in a housing market like Seattle where even an 800 square foot house sells for half a million dollars. No person working full time for minimum wage is a “deadbeat.” They have a right to a warm, dry, affordable place to call home.


At this moment, wind is coursing through hemlocks and cedars, its movement like surf through branches and needles. A branch, kicked out of the stream, clicks onto the roof, and I look up, wondering whether more will be ripped loose.

Darkness surrounds the house and me, except for the two candles lighting my home altar. Even with windows closed, this storm tilts the candles’ flames to the current. It is two months since my mother died in this place. I sit now in the room farthest from where she lay. Twice, the touch lamp in her bedroom has turned on by itself. Once, I awoke to a voice saying, “It’s lonely here.”

Twice in one year I have sat next to the body of my parent. Twice, I watched to make sure they were not still breathing. And I held their lifeless hands and beheld their unseeing eyes, and I cannot unsee this. These were uneasy deaths, full of pain and suffering.

And silences. A year of silence while they yet lived; a year of silence now they are dead. What should have been said? The things they left behind are no Rosetta stone. They are size 6 pants, 3/4 sleeve blouses, and shoes. They are sets of twin sheets, nail clippers, and unopened vials of insulin.

They are my missing baby clothes and cup. My letters unopened never read. No pictures of my wife. Misunderstandings as deep as the piles of Mom’s clothes neatly folded on her bed.

The wind has died down. The candles’ flames steady themselves. I ponder the good times and the bad, the music, the laughter, the omissions, the love. A love that ripped my heart out. Like a branch torn off a tree in the wind.





I saw a Facebook meme the other day that showed in the top half of the picture someone doing drugs and the bottom half of the picture two extremely obese women eating a pizza the size of a table and drinking straight from liter bottles of soda. The picture’s caption said, “Substance abuse comes in many forms.” That picture bothered me because I know I have a problem with overeating. And I know I need help.

I’ve done Weight Watchers and lost 50 pounds. Gained it back. Did Nutrisystem and lost 50 pounds. Gained it back–and then some. In the past year I’ve been using an app called “Lose It!” to track everything I eat. I started doing some high intensity interval training. And still my weight won’t budge.weight

In the small town of Port Angeles, Washington, where I used to live the local hospital regularly offers a six to eight week course called the Diabetes Prevention Program. It involves teaching you the habits, exercise, and nutritional goals you need to develop to take care of your body. I heard about it while I was visiting family in the hospital there.

Upon my return to St. Louis I looked for a similar program here. I thought surely a city this size with all of its medical facilities would offer something akin to the Port Angeles program. Nope. I asked my primary care physician if she knew of anything. Nope. I saw many listings for smoking cessation programs. Drug rehab is available. But nothing for weight management. I couldn’t believe it. My doctor and my OB/GYN just tell me every time I come to see them, “You need to lose that weight.” And I say, “I’m trying, but I need help.” And they say, “Control your portion sizes and get more exercise.” Easy, right?

Why are there programs helping people to quit smoking if that’s the logic? Quitting smoking is easy. Just don’t smoke. (I know there’s really more to it than that.) But you can’t just quit eating. I would even consider weight-loss surgery, but my health insurance doesn’t cover it. I can’t afford it otherwise.

I know I could return to Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, or TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). I have done them all. But I just keep rebounding after each program, eventually gaining more weight back than I lost.

What brings this all up for me again is that I have an appointment tomorrow with my OB/GYN. When I saw her six months ago, she admonished me that I need to lose the weight. My pre-diabetes could become Type II diabetes. For the past six months I’ve tried and tried and failed and failed. I am embarrassed and ashamed. But I can’t do this without some tangible help–that I can afford.

I know that many people in America are in my same situation. Health insurance, if you are fortunate to have it at all, does not pay for many of the preventive services that could stave off the conditions caused by excess weight. Advertisements in health magazines tout wellness retreats where you can go for a month and learn cooking techniques and develop exercise routines to get you on track. The price for those retreats is something I will never be able to afford.

Other countries offer programs like that as part and parcel of their health insurance. Germans can go yearly on a spa retreat for restorative therapies–not only good nutrition and exercise but also massage, acupuncture, etc. They return to their workaday lives rested, relaxed, and having reinforced healthy habits. The US wouldn’t sanction paying for people to relax and get healthy. We wait until people have chronic conditions and pay the (higher) cost to treat them with pharmaceuticals and surgeries.

I’m frustrated and sad about all this, but I will continue trying. I’ll track my foods, do my exercises, and walk. And continue to hope that somehow, some way, my lone efforts will begin to tip the scales in my favor. With our politicians unable even to repair Obamacare I hold out little hope for preventive therapies and programs to become a part of our health care paradigm. I’ve got to do this on my own.

Sin by another name

What if we looked at the word “sin” in another light? For many people, especially those who grew up in conservative Christian traditions, the word “sin” is fraught with crushing connotations. Many were taught that God sees them as lowly, sinful creatures. Throughout each day of their lives, they are committing acts that will damn them to hell. Only through Christ, they are taught, can they be redeemed.

Everyone surely is prone to make mistakes and to do wrong things, and for some, it is quite intentional. Many of us, however, make a lot of our errors because of our egos. We don’t intend to do harm, but because we are trying to protect what makes us feel safe, special, and unique, we do hurtful things. So, I want to conduct a little thought experiment. What if we looked at some Bible passages and substituted the word “ego” for “sin”?

Of course, I’m not saying that I have any authority whatsoever to change the words of the Bible! I think however that this little mental exercise might be helpful in examining a different perspective on “sin.” Everyone has an ego, and some live more according to its desires than others. When we think of someone who has a big ego, we see a person who is self-centered, selfish, easily angered, and who craves control over others.

In this thought experiment, we will also use some phrases from the Bible akin to the word “sin” such as “living according to the flesh,” “bondage to decay,” and a “spirit of slavery.” If you will indulge me by taking those phrases to mean that one is living a life led by one’s ego rather than by God’s Spirit, let’s take a look at a passage from Romans 8. In verse 13 Paul wrote, “…if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live.” Now read the passage replacing “the flesh” with “your ego.”

…if you live according to your ego, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the ego, you will live.

In other words, if you live your life always looking out for yourself, you are leading a life steeped in negativity and harm to others. If you live instead out of a sense of concern for others without a need to defend your territory, your specialness, even your reputation, you are really living. You are living the Spirit-led life.Seeking_human_kindness

When you think about how Jesus lived, he had no concern for protecting his ego. It did not matter to him one whit what others thought about him. The disdain of the Pharisees, the scorn of the Romans, the unbelief of the crowds never made him less caring, compassionate, and loving. He was secure in God’s love and did not need the people’s adulation. He was centered in God; no insult could harm him. Jesus came, in part, to demonstrate to us that we too could live that same way—no longer concerned with the “things of this world”—ego, fame, reputation—but with the things of God.

Indeed, Paul went on to say in verse 15, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” Try reading that verse as follows:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to the ego, to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

You, as also with Jesus, have become a son or daughter of God. Therefore, you don’t need to live a life afraid of what other people think. You belong to God! What could be better than that? No earthly accolade can surpass God’s adoption of you as God’s child. You can go forth and live abundantly in the same ways that Jesus did. If humans, through Christ, are adopted now as children of God and are no longer in bondage to sin—their lower natures, their egos—then we are to work to the glory of God and not for the salvation of our egos. Working for God’s glory entails, by God’s very nature, creating, redeeming, making whole. And Paul says that when humans are working and creating in imitation of God’s creative power, then creation itself will rejoice because it too is set free from the selfish, destructive acts of the human ego: Verse 21, “Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Creation itself will be set free from the selfishness of human ego and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Ego seeks its preservation at the expense of others; people infused with the Spirit of God seek wholeness for all. This dichotomy—ego vs. Spirit of God—becomes a good evaluative tool for testing our own motivations and for seeing behind others’ motives. You can ask yourself, “Is the action I’m taking meant to ensure the protection of my ego, or is it truly meant for the well-being of all?”

For example, is every instance of our moral outrage really about God’s will? Or is it about protecting our status, tribe, political party, or wealth? Darrell Lackey in a blog post called “Christian: You are upset about the wrong things” wrote:

If you become upset when hearing that gay marriage is legal or that a transgender person may use the same public restroom as you, but you are less upset regarding the hate, violence, and discrimination directed toward such people, often leading to suicide: You are upset about the wrong things.

You are protecting your sense of self without regard for the well-being of the whole. In another example, Lackey wrote:

If you become upset when the government tries to pass reasonable gun restriction laws, but you are less upset with the amount of accidental firearm-related deaths among children and the general level of gun violence in America: You are upset about the wrong things.

What you are upset about is the thought that someone might take your right to own a gun away. Your ego-protection is outraged at that thought. How dare they? This anger makes you unable to work to mitigate gun violence and death in any way because of your fear of losing out on something for yourself.

I could add that if you become upset when NFL football players kneel during the national anthem, but you are less upset about the injustices African Americans face every day of their lives: You are upset about the wrong things. If you become upset about the removal of Confederate statues, but you are less upset by the generations of harm done to enslaved Americans: You are upset about the wrong things. Is protecting these symbols more important than the harm that was and is being done? Is the protection of your ego (and the idols of it) more important than alleviating suffering?

When sin is looked at in terms of ego, it gives us a new way to engage with our issues. We can stop and wonder whether we want something for ourselves or for others. Are we protecting our turf? If so, why? Am I protecting, with righteous indignation, something benefiting me while turning a blind eye to the suffering it causes others? Is my ego causing me to sin? You know what Jesus would say about that.