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Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

When I briefly mentioned Hamilton in my sermon I got a lot of comments on that, and I’m glad that so many of you are able to see it while it’s here in SF! As Ben frequently recommends books for your reading pleasure, I’m going to recommend an album to listen to: the Hamilton Mixtape. It could be seen mainly as a compilation of artists covering the songs from the musical, but the tunes I love the most are those that deconstruct, expand, or further explore the musical’s themes. We are spun stories of more people who “wrote their way out,” and we hear the voices of immigrants who “get the job done.”

The penultimate song on the album, “Who Tells Your Story?” (available to stream here, with a profanity warning: https://genius.com/The-roots-who-tells-your-story-lyrics) has been running through my mind as we enter Holy Week. It’s ripe with Biblical metaphor and with American history. It asks who lives and who dies, whose story will be told, and who holds on to our lives through it all. We know the easy answers to the questions – who lives? The rich live and the poor die. We know that the corrupt thrive in our current economy, that lives are disposable as the government guts the very programs that are supposed to protect our poorest neighborhoods from deadly levels of pollution, and if we see through the layers enough, we wonder why it’s not more of a public scandal that mortality rates (from infant and maternal mortality to overall lifespan) track so closely along racial lines in the US. In a world where a few good statistics – maybe even just your zip code – can predict how long you make it, it matters to say that Jesus is one who died young. And in a world of suffering and sorrow, it’s important to say that God – incarnate in Christ – is one who not only lived, but who died, like Emmett Till, like Sandra Bland, like the victims of slavery, like the children in Syria. God is intimately familiar with the horrors of life and death, from the inside out. And God holds on to our lives through it all, inviting us to also “hold on” to one another’s lives and stories, to remember the forgotten ones and to tell their stories.

I wish you a blessed Holy Week, and invite you to join us in contemplation as we remember Jesus’ arrest, trial, death, and burial… and I’ll see you on Easter for the rest of it  😉

Every Blessing,