Lord, have mercy on us that we might show mercy: A sermon for Proper 10, Year C


Alton Sterling

Philando Castile

In Dallas…

Brent Thompson

Patrick Zamarripa

Michael Krol

Michael Smith

Lorne Ahrens

And Madison…

Paul Heenen

Tony Robinson

Michael William Schumacher

When I went back to my sermon for this gospel text from 2013, I was shocked to learn that I mentioned in it the not guilty verdict George Zimmerman received the previous day in his trial over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The lectionary has moved through three years since then and America’s culture of violence and idolatry of guns has brought us to a place that none of us could have imagined on July 14, 2013. With the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the shootings of law enforcement officers in Dallas after a protest rally, our hearts are raw with emotion—with fear, anger, grief. I want to take a moment and allow you to sit in silence with those emotions. Continue reading

Clergy respond to the shooting of Tony Ferguson

Clergy of Madison and Dane County have written a letter in response to the killing of Tony Robinson. In it, we write:

We grieve the loss of one of our own, a child raised and educated in our city, a member of our community, and a member of the human family whose life ended too soon and in a manner that has shocked and disturbed us all….

We call upon you, the people who have been entrusted with the power to effect change in the policies and practices that undergird and perpetuate the disparities in our communities, to enter into dialog with this community and with us as we do our part to address the attitudes, bias, and prejudices that allow racism to go unchallenged and unchecked in our community.

We commit to examining our own failure to challenge the racism and bias within our communities, in the ways that we do our theology, and in our failure to preach and advocate for justice and equality.


The full test is available here: 5503216db2f1a.pdf

The list of signatories is here: 5503216f8b434.pdf

Pat Schneider’s article from the Capital Times is available here:

Madison isn’t Ferguson

Madison is deeply divided racially. I’ve written before about the chasm separating whites from African-Americans in our city and county. You can follow some of those posts and sermons here. The Race to Equity report from 2013 lays out the details and is a must read. It’s available here: WCCF-R2E-Report

The contrasts are especially striking when it comes to the criminal justice system. While arrest rates for African-Americans in general, and African-American juveniles are down over the last decades, they remain considerably higher than those of whites and of the national averages. For example, in 2010, the arrest rate for African-American juveniles was 469 per 1000; for white juveniles it was 77. Nationally among the same age group, the rates were 71 per 1000 for African-Americans, 33 for whites. Although African-Americans account for only 9% of Dane County’s youth, they make up 80% of those sentenced to Wisconsin’s juvenile correctional facility. In 2012,43% of the new adult prison population were African-American men, while they account for only 4.8% of the county’s total population. More information on these statistics is available here.

But it’s important to note the significant differences as well.  Perhaps those differences are best exemplified by the response of the city’s leadership to Tony Robinson’s death. Both Mayor Soglin and Chief Koval were on the scene of the shooting Friday night. Michael Johnson, head of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Madison, took Chief Koval to meet with Tony’s family that night where he prayed with them. In his press conference on Saturday, Koval refused to comment on Robinson’s background. There’s an informative piece on Chief Koval here.

There’s another difference. The shooting did not take place in some strip mall in the suburbs or in a primarily African-American neighborhood. It took place on Williamson (Willy) Street, close to downtown and in the heart of Madison’s eastside, most progressive neighborhood. It really is quite jarring to drive down Willy St. as we did yesterday on our way to visit friends. As you drive past the artisanal butcher shops, bakeries, and shops, you suddenly see four or five police cruisers, police tape blocking the sidewalk. Just as quickly, the site recedes from your rear-view mirror. The wound in our social fabric won’t disappear so easily.

The response from the community has been remarkable. The engagement of African-American leadership, clergy, politicians, and ordinary folks has already made a difference. There is anger, yes. There is grief and mourning. But there is also renewed commitment to work on our city’s problems, to work toward solutions, so that Madison can become one of American’s “most livable cities,” not just for whites, but for everyone.

A Just God, a just society? A Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent, 2015

Yesterday afternoon, on my way home from the prayer vigil gathered by Everett Mitchell at Christ the Solid Rock Church on the east side, I passed by, and was temporarily stopped on East Wash by the protest march as it went from the State Capitol to the scene of Friday night’s shooting. For a moment, I felt like the priest or Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, too focused on where I needed to be and what I needed to do, to enter into the pain and suffering of the moment. Continue reading

From Ferguson to Madison

I woke this morning to hear the horrible news that a Madison police officer shot and killed a 19-year old African-American man yesterday evening. The incident took place on Williamson St., which is the heart of Madison’s east-side progressive neighborhood. Here’s the story from the Madison State-Journal

This comes less than a week after gunfire in the parking lot of Westtowne Mall forced its early closure last Saturday. After that event and several other shootings, the official word was that these incidents were gang-related. Earlier this week, arrests were made in those shootings.

Over the last couple of years, the progressive veneer has been stripped from our city, revealing the ugly underside of racism, division, and deep disparities between black and white. These incidents have brought the horrors of that reality to the very heart of where white Madison lives, works, and plays.

It also couldn’t come at a worse time. We are in the midst of a mayoral election and our relatively new police chief hasn’t handled issues of racism very well in his tenure. With the political turmoil in our state, our community as a whole has been struggling to find a way forward.

My prayers go out, for the repose of the soul of Tony Robinson, to his family and friends, to the officer involved and to all members of Madison’s police force, and to our city.