Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Linda Jaramillo calls for liturgy being all we do

Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries, preaching at Annual Meeting on “Masks and Mirrors,” using James 1, less popular for justice types who like James 2’s urging faith with works.  

Linda Jaramillo

Linda Jaramillo preaches on "Masks and Mirrors" at 2013 PNC Annual Meeting.

The first chapter sets the stage for Christians to do self assessment and put their faith into action by listening.  Paul was writing to a Jewish-Christian congregation with a foot in the past and a foot in the future, between the Torah and the new encounter with who they are in Jesus.  As a “tiny minority” in a population that did not like their beliefs, they were called to be faithful “in the midst of cultural disarray.”

Linda invited people to see how they see themselves because of today’s instant access to media that give images of what it is to be beautiful. 

“We think we need to look and be like someone else,” she said.  “We are masked by our understanding of how we should look or be.”

Admitting even if she is satisfied with her reflection in a mirror, she may wonder how others see her, rather than seeing herself as a child of God, in God’s image and kin to others.  That holy exercise when looking in the mirror, she believes, “should have an impact on our sense of value and importance.

“The general story is our story,” Linda continued. “It values our individual experience and helps us find ourselves.

“We are thrust into a world of ‘isms,’ which are mechanisms to deny people their true identities and to betray their kinship,” she pointed out.  “We can’t look in the mirror and lose track of ourselves or others.  Removing our masks is a tall order, staying graceful while balancing between guilt and grace, chaos and community, our history and our future.

She grows weary of being stuck in cultural disarray, in disappointment, despair and disgust.   Seeing the magnitude of injustice and wondering how to fix it, she said it’s easy to slump into denial, inaction and complacency.

“Then God interrupts our thoughts, messes with our hearts, and reminds us to influence change, because “every living thing is connected and everyone is responsible for the common good.

“If we talk too much and listen too little, we may miss the chance to be shaken,” Linda said, calling for the “bold public voice of Christianity to push for long-term change in institutions and systems, to create liberating, lasting social transformation.  Those who are marginalized are tired of short-term, part-time, some-time solutions to long-range issues.” 

Change challenges current practices and comfortable thinking that create social isolation for some, isolation not acceptable in a world aware of its caste systems, she said.

“In the information age, we cannot ignore the devastation of elitism and oppression,” she said.  “Survival requires progressive thinking.”

Oppressive religious practices are not new.  Throughout history, powerless masses have lost their authenticity in their quest for acceptance by powers and principalities. 

“To change the course of history, we need a wave of liberation thinking,” she said, aware it may cause discomfort like pains of birth.

Voices of historically  marginalized and systemically powerful are essential in the mix,” Linda said, aware that “voice recovery” requires quiet.

“We must be quick to listen and slow to speak.  We must listen to whispers that emerge as the oppressed regain courage to speak. As new ideas emerge, the chaos can be holy chaos.

Change requires negotiating and cooperation that strengthen relationships. She calls for new pastoral skills that challenge current practices and comfortable thinking.

Linda believes “the powerful will be stimulated to recover themselves in ways that are ultimately liberating and transforming.  She seeks liberation that releases both the oppressed and the oppressor without compromising either.

“Removing the mask is an act of liberation for ourselves and the church,” she said.  “James challenges us to be sure the God we tout is God.

Given that the Greek word for religion is liturgy, then liturgy is about “all the ways we worship God,” she said. 

“If religion is liturgy, we are called to do more than come to church on Sunday to pray, sing, preach and fellowship.  Worthwhile religious practice requires that we continue the worship experience every day in our lives,” she said.

“If religion is to be authentic, James says we have to care for orphan and widows in their distress and keep ourselves unstained by the world,” she said.

As author Alice Walker said, anyone can observe the Sabbath, but “we need to make it holy the rest of the week.”

Sabbath is a time to bring things into balance, to be quiet and listen for the Holy Spirit. 

“The pain of war, poverty is in every part of our being.  We see so much injustice, we must overturn tables and continue our worship into every day.  We  need to extend beyond being human beings to be human doings, acknowledging our kinship with the Body of Christ, which compels us to be accountable to one another,  do our part and help others do theirs.  As we remember whose we are, we gain strength for the journey, removing the masks and reflecting the face of God.

For information, 216-736-3701 or email

Copyright @ June-July 2103 Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News.


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share