Sermon – Canta y no Llores
Alabad al Senor: Latino/a Christian Worship Austin Seminary – November 2015
Biblical Text: Philippians 4: 1-8
1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Sing: ayayayay canta y no llores, porque cantando se alegran cielito lindo los corazones
My brothers and sisters, we are who we are by the life we invent! the grace of God! Life and death is all around us! We live within an immense lucha de classes! We live within a system that is intended to break us apart, to push us away from the very dignity God has placed in us! We have been pushed to places where those who do not fit the economic system are thrown away. More and more we feel the weight of the difficulties in our daily lives and within our communities. We are getting poorer and struggling every day. It seems like the rich and the powerful only have the dump of society for us. We are relegated to the worse parts of our cities, we have the worst kinds of jobs, our kids need to get into gangues to survive in school and we are all relegated to the worse kind of treatment.
I was a pastor of a undocumented church for 5 years. Everybody was an immigrant, everybody without almost any “proper” documents. In that community I learned that this country actually wants us here but only without documented. Why? Because without documents we cannot demand proper salaries, benefits or rights. They give us Tax ID for all of us but they don’t give us Social Security. They want our taxes but they don’t want to pay for our rights! Next time you think you are committing a crime staying in this country without documents think again. IT is good for them to have us here because we are sustaining the economy with our cheap labor and almost no social expenses. They suck all our best energy and then deny medical coverage to treat us when we are broken by the system.
We are all part of communities that are hurting deeply. Day and night we have stories of tragedies in our communities. As a pastor of my community, it was hard to deal with stories of rape, exploitation, brutality, lack of respect and deportation. How to keep the joy Paul is telling us about. How can we rejoice in God when our lives are filled with sadness and pain? Dr Gregory and Nohemi go talk to kids that have just crossed the desert and were put in jail with 3, 4, 7, 11, 14 years old. How can we rejoice in God?
A Venezuelan theologian called Otto Maduro, wrote a book called Maps for a Fiesta: A Latina/o Perspective on Knowledge and the Global Crisis. In this book he says that we need to produce Knowledge and the way Latinos and Latinas create knowledge is to create “maps for the fiesta, a screenplay for us to find paths, ways that will bring us back to the happy life, a life that is worth living, maps that will help life to be celebrated often with joy, pleasure and excitement.” (13)
“Human life,” for him “was about fiesta, since life moves constantly in the direction of celebration.” However, this statement has nothing to do with what we find in many self-help books. Nothing could be farthest than self-help. Pointing life towards life was to find ways of resistance against a smashing presence of death, suffering and pain. Maduro starts by saying that thinking begins with suffering but then he turns thinking as a way to create possibilities of happiness, of defying suffering and death and bring life back to what is its main call: joy!
Sing Ayayayay Canta Y no Llores
In the midst of death we can also create life! In the midst of sadness we must create joy! This is a apart of who we are! When Otto Maduro writes this book he had lost two children. He had to find ways of knowing, creating, inventing joy in the midst of this disaster. Besides, he was deeply in touch with the pain of our people throughout Pacha Mama. He knew that our soul is made of fiesta, of dancing and signing and eating and celebrating. Even death comes to join us and dance and eat at el dia de los muertos in Mexico.
We cannot forget that we are to draw and redraw maps, many maps to help our people to find joy, to celebrate their lives. Moreover, we can’t forget that we are to be taught by our people where are the maps, traces, and paths to joy and celebration.
The suffering in the midst of our people is too great. The taste of death, too often in our mouth. There is no way to do serve God if not from the places where our people continue to be crucified. We must engage our knowledge emotions, frustrations and limitations. Imagination, temporality, critical assessment, checking power, learning and unlearning, and the movement from certainties received from the past to the uncertainties of the future, all of it at stake when we are living. Finding joy in the midst of life is our challenge! But it is also our gift! As Latin@s we carry this gift of holding on to joy that not everybody has.
When we know God from our own realities, we gain a new awareness of ourselves, turning us from puppets in the hand of the powerful by making us agents and subjects of our own history. Yes I believe that we own our lives, not the economic market, not the Estados Unidos, and that as subjects of our own histories, we can create resistance to the economic empire, stop the destruction of our communities and keep on singing the joy of our God!
Here is US, it doesn’t matter where we live, we are always around borders! And here in Austin we are very close to the borders between USA and Mexico. Here, our task as people of God is to bear the weight of this wall, this monument of sin and hatred, un muro de la vergüenza, while finding maps to keep the fiesta alive. We must sit down under that wall and pray for our people. It is from the shadow of that wall that our theologies, our prayers and songs must be lived and written. The border evokes both a sense of tragedy and disaster, but it also challenges us to think anew and find alternatives. Along the border, we see crosses of people who died trying to cross, but we also see art expressions of dreams of transformation. Along the steel heavy walls, phrases that says: walls will be turned into bridges!
At the immigrant trials of terror, there is an underwear of a woman raped (was it a coyote or the border patrol?). At, under and around the border, there are communities of peace searching for a different way of living. At, under and around this high steal wall, like a Lutheran sacrament, a little superman doll breaking into one of the cracks of wall, and of the system.
We must visit time and again this wall and walk along it weeping with and for those who have been smashed by the evil atrocities of hatred, sex trade, drug cartels and detention centers who put every night thousand of immigrants, our family! In detention centers so they fulfill what is called a bed mandate.
At, under, with and around the border we weep many broken families who are divided by the border. At, under and around the borders, gangues destroying countries such as El Salvador. Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio 18, maras, hormigas voraces, that are a result of this fucking horrendous immigration system that not only dismantles families but deport kids back to places they have never been. Disgrace! Angels of death appear from everywhere like fire devouring our communities, stealing the lives of our kids, de nuestras madres, de nuestros países.
Nonetheless, deeply wounded, we keep on walking. Dancing, singing, celebrating, and celebrating life! At, under and around the wall, we defy death and say Oh Death oh Death where is your sting? Ou might come visit us, but we will receive you with offerings of life!
At, under, with and around the wall, we read our sacred texts and provide healing and wonder how these texts can help us face this wall and find courage and alternatives to tear it down.
At and around the wall between Mexico and US, we are reminded that we must go back to our people and cultural resources time and again in order to survive. There with our people, where they live, in the simplest places, we find songs and images, dances and prayers, retablos and religious relics, food, soccer, quinceneras and community gatherings to help us keep going.
There, in the midst of our people, we are called to sing once again: “aiaiaiai canta y no llores.”
At, under, with and around the wall, we laugh! We laugh hard! We laugh in time and out of time. We laugh in place and especially out of place. We defy death with our stubborn laughter. We laugh during the day and cry when night comes. We laugh and cry together. When there is the news of a son that was fund alive in the desert, when somebody goes to a detention center, when someone has crossed the desert safe, when someone is raped. We laugh and cry without ceasing!
The borders and the economic crushing of our communities are maddening. So to find life out of this maddening process we must laugh and we must continue to do theologies as a network of support and sustenance to our people. God is fundamental to our people and we have this gift and this demand to help our people, with our people, to create knowledge, discourses and practices of faith that will defy the maddening and destruction of our communities.
Our theological work as pastors is filled with ambiguities and contradictions. But we don’t shy away from it! We don’t try to even it out or cut the edges so we could create a good proper theology. Our theologies are broken, nonsensical, ridiculous, outrageous. Half sophisticated, half old fashion. Half written, half spoken. Half conscious, half unconscious. Half clear half obscure. Half tears, half laughter. Half discourse half songs. Half academic, half something else, whatever the fuck we want! We do what we want! Don’t tell us what to do or not to do. We know it! The problem is that the academy might not consider it proper because we live in the midst of a magical realism. So go figure us out! Usted estan todos despistados.
In our theologies, we decolonize the content, the format, the procedures, and the establishment of theological and religious thinking. We dress the way we want and we continue to be scholars. We draw maps for the feast that the gringos read y se preguntam: Estan locos estes cucarachas? Que estan haciendo?
They don’t know that our laughter is like the redeeming power of God in Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ himself a laughter out of place. We are also homo ridiculus! That kind of ridiculus way of living/thinking that troubles the status quo. We console by laughing and admonish by crying. Our accent is our resistance, our smiling faces our gentle dismissal. We are a ball of incongruences and complexities because our lives are incongruent to this white system of thinking our complexity comes from a mixture of people, sources, images and practices.
Tears and joys compose the main sources of the Hispanic/latino/a communities. We preach and pray when we write our theologies and when do theology when we pray and preach. Our ears are attached to the ground, and our people matters more than our ideas. We see our people brutal suffering, we see the thin line of our social fabric being destroyed faster than ever. We are at the edge of despair every single day. We hang on a thin rope over the abyss. Nonetheless, our tortillas and tamales, our singing and our fiestas will keep us going. As a Mexican avuela use to say: Satanas quieres que desaparescas! But we won’t! We will take our place in this world and continue!
For we carry the esperanza transgressora de Oscar Romero. We carry and produce theologies that pulse life in the midst of death, that mark and show the ambivalences of life and death from our people’s main structures of life; namely, a life lived within utter necessities and demanding hopes, continuing disasters and ongoing faith, tears and pain, but also joyful songs of alegria. As the poet Cora Coralina said:
“Giving up … I’ve seriously thought about it but never really took myself seriously,
I have more ground in my eyes than the fatigue in my legs,
more hope in my footsteps, than sadness on my shoulders,
more road in my heart that fear in my head. ”
Grounded in the main metaphor of life and death, cross and resurrection, our communities continue to embrace death as it continues to create a knowledge that will create maps for the fiesta.
1 Así que, hermanos míos, amados y añorados, gozo y corona mía, estén así firmes en el Señor, amados.
2 Ruego a Evodia y a Síntique, que vivan en armonía (que sean del mismo sentir) en el Señor.
3 En verdad, fiel compañero, también te ruego que ayudes a estas mujeres que han compartido mis luchas en la causa del evangelio, junto con Clemente y los demás colaboradores míos, cuyos nombres están en el Libro de la Vida.
4 Regocíjense en el Señor siempre. Otra vez lo diré: ¡Regocíjense!
5 La bondad de ustedes sea conocida de todos los hombres. El Señor está cerca.
6 Por nada estén afanosos; antes bien, en todo, mediante oración y súplica con acción de gracias, sean dadas a conocer sus peticiones delante de Dios.
7 Y la paz de Dios, que sobrepasa todo entendimiento[a], guardará sus corazones y sus mentes en Cristo Jesús.
8 Por lo demás, hermanos, todo lo que es verdadero, todo lo digno, todo lo justo, todo lo puro, todo lo amable, todo lo honorable[b], si hay alguna virtud o algo que merece elogio, en esto mediten.
Concluding, as we saw in our lecture, we are all lucha libre fighters! We get into the ring of life and we offer people a way to believe again. We then invite them to come to the ring to fight with us. We have no choice but to fight! We have no choice but to fight. The ring of life is not an option! The struggle is not an option.
Let us sing:
“aiaiaiai canta y no llores: porque cantando se alegran cielito lindo, los corazones”