John Boopalan: Bias is an ancient problem

catherine, John, Esther Boopalan

The Ethnic Other was John Boopalan’s topic for the sermon series Gospel of the Nobodies and the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) was his text.  Boopalan (shown with his wife, Esther, at right, and Rev. Catherine Williams on the left) is a student at Princeton Theological Seminary. Some excerpts follow– and the for the complete text click here: Boopalan, UMC Sermon, Edited for Print

The topic for today—ethnic other—is one that is both important and urgent, not because it is a new problem but because it is an old one, an ancient one—one that is etched into our patterns of thinking, our reflexes, our everyday dispositions, our ordinary reactions to things and people, even our very selves. We have always struggled to live meaningfully with difference, with others who are different from us in more ways than one.

I come from India. And difference is in the very air we breathe. Although many people think that we Indians all get along, we don’t. If you don’t know already, we are some of the best when it comes to discriminating people. . . . 

When we look at strangers who are different, we are struck by their peculiarity—those eyes, those lips, those cheek bones, that skin, hair, speech and all of those things that distinguish them and remind us that there is someone else there with us, someone who is different from us, an “other.” 

And then we have a few options. We can say, “Remarkable! How beautiful! “How fearfully and wonderfully you are made!” and then look into their beauty and peculiarity with wonder and love and childlike curiosity….

Or, we can be overcome by fear of difference or some unarticulated prejudice, or some other failure of the imagination or the inability to envision a world that is different from the world that we are used to….

Boopalan considers the parable from the point of view of the lawyer who is familiar with the Torah and, indeed, summarizes its teachings. The lawyer is a good person, and we are generally good people. ..

What does God have to tell us who are generally good people? The parable shows us that while goodness is found in each of us, goodness is also found outside of us, often in places and persons we don’t expect. The parable is a rejoinder to many of us who have the tendency to find the center of our gravity within ourselves and within our in-groups. In contrast, God reminds us that we have to find the center of our gravity outside of ourselves.


It’s OK — whatever you need and how long it takes — it’s OK

a timeFor the sermon series “Gospel of the Nobodies,” based on the parable of the Prodigal Son, Rev. Kaleigh Corbett compared the desperation of the Prodigal Son, reduced to slopping pigs, to the desperation felt by those suffering from addiction, depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. Our Associate Pastor for Children and Youth quoted a much-read blog post by Jamie Tworkowski, “There Is Still Some Time” illustrated in a poster above.

If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

If this world is too painful, stop and rest.

It’s okay to stop and rest.

If you need a break, it’s okay to say you need a break.

This life — it’s not a contest, not a race, not a performance, not a thing that you win.

It’s okay to slow down.

F0r the complete post by the founder of “To Write Love on Her Arms, click here.  It closes with these lines:

Other people feel how you feel.

You are more than just your pain.

You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.

There is still some time to be surprised.

There is still some time to ask for help.

There is still some time to start again.

There is still some time for love to find you.

It’s not too late.

You’re not alone.

It’s okay — whatever you need and however long it takes — it’s okay.

It’s okay.

If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

The unusual line, as Kaleigh pointed out, is the part about surprise. The good news “is that there is always time for us to be surprised, and there is always time for us to find the love of God no matter how far we stray.”

Here is more from her inspiring sermon 

Keeping watch over their flock by night

IMG_0623 shepherds 2014

Instantly, when we see the phrase “keeping watch over their flock by night,” we recognize it as part of the Christmas story. Scott Sherrill, PUMC’s pastoral assistant, will use the familiar text (Luke 2:8-15) for his sermon on August 9 at 10 a.m. In the Gospel of the Nobodies series, he will talk about “The Night Workers.”

The 21st century night shift is more likely to be stocking shelves than herding sheep — but we’ll see what parallels he draws. Bring your friends, and there is the “Caring Kids” program for nursery through 6th grade!

In this month’s newsletter, Scott affirms: “So many good, vibrant, creative, and engaging things are happening in and through our church. It is a privilege to be a part of a church family that knows how important service is to others in the community, in the area, and in the world. It is a true blessing to be apart of a church that surrounds its members, visitors and community with the love of Christ.”

As you have guessed, the picture shown is of the shepherds in PUMC’s telling of  the story of Christ’s birth, December 2014.