This sermon was preached by the Rev. Carlton Rogers at a prayer service on the steps of the State Capitol to education advocates on June 23, 2015.

Proverbs 22: 6 “Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Carlton Rodgers closeup preaching 2

Pastor Carlton Rogers

We have a moral imperative to act for Fair funding

In the immortal words of Rev. Charles Wesley;
A charge to keep I have, A God to glorify,

A never-dying soul to save, And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age, My calling to fulfill:
Oh, may it all my pow’rs engage To do my Master’s will!

Friends, we are here because we have a charge to keep and a God to glorify. To serve this present age is our calling to fulfill. .

we have come to our State Capitol to demand a moral budget that fully funds public schools.

We recognize that Pennsylvania’s children are our state’s greatest asset and that without an educated and career-ready workforce the commonwealth’s future is dim.

We are here because we recognize that the public school system in Pennsylvania is in constant crisis .

We are here because Pennsylvania ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to equitable school funding between wealthy and low-income school districts.

We are here because relying on the property tax to fund schools has separated our children not only by geography but also by socio economic circumstances, . making equal opportunity for every student in Pennsylvania un achievable.

We are here today to encourage a shifting of our collective mindset to regard education as an investment, and not merely a cost because .quality education requires steady and smart investment. .

We are here today because chronic underfunding of some schools is having an adverse long-term impact on many communities in Pennsylvania and on our overall economy as well.. 

Sadly, we are here today because even after receiving national attention regarding the plight of our schools and a mandate for more education funding from voters, the legislators in Harrisburg still don’t seem to be getting the message.

Friends, I am not a politician or a student of governmental affairs and so I do not presume to know or even understand all of the machinations that go on in the legislature when the issue of educational funding is discussed.

But as I drive through the streets of Philadelphia and watch the news and hear the first hand accounts of students and parents alike, I can see that our current policies are failing our students miserably, and creating a two tier cast system of haves and have-nots.

Clearly, providing adequate funding for public education, has become not only a financial issue in Pennsylvania – but also a moral one

Can we talk? It is no secret that there are some who would rather build more prisons than build additional schools because mass incarceration has become a lucrative enterprise for a few. We incarcerate more people per capita in this country than anywhere else in the world because it has become big business!.

The so called “school-to-prison pipeline” reflects our nation’s prioritization of incarceration over education..   the path to incarceration For an ever increasing number of poor and at-risk, students is being facilitated by the intentional underfunding of the public schools that they will attend. .

Tribulation in the educational system

As many of you are probably aware, there are policies and practices in place in various school districts across our commonwealth that literally push our poorest and most at risk schoolchildren out of classrooms and into the juvenile criminal justice systems.

Spurred by financial incentives to push out low-performing students, and responding to a handful of highly-publicized school shootings, schools have embraced zero-tolerance policies that automatically impose severe punishment on students, regardless of circumstances.

Suspended and expelled children are often left unsupervised and without constructive activities; leading to a greater likelihood of disengagement and drop-outs.
In some jurisdictions, students who have been suspended or expelled have no right to an education at all. In others, they are sent to disciplinary alternative schools, many of which — are immune from educational accountability standards (such as minimum classroom hours and curriculum requirements) and fail to provide meaningful educational services to the students who need them the most.

It’s time for Action: Because the current policies are failing our children, and the elected leaders have not summoned the political will to make fair and equitable funding for all schools a priority, we the people of good conscience have deemed that It’s time to shake things up and call for a “moral takeover”.

We recognize that This is a historic Moment in time, not only for the nation, and for our commonwealth, but for the church. We realize that we have reached the moment of decision and we know that the eyes of the world are watching to see if we will walk the walk , and not just talk the talk.
Today, we the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America stand in solidarity with members of other faith community on the capitol steps to urge the passing of a Full, Fair Funding Formula for our children now! That is why we are here.

We are living in difficult times. . We have witnessed first hand that Sometimes very bad things can happen to very good people. But experience has shown that what happens to a person is not as important as how they respond to what has happened to them.
The real question for us this morning is now that we understand our predicament, how do we want to respond? what are we committed to do to change the situation?.

I have spoken to various people of faith, people of good will, and most agree that many of our public schools are grossly underfunded and that the future welfare of the poor and at risk children who attend these schools are being adversely affected and that something should be done to correct the problem.

And in the next breath they tell me that it is difficult to come up with workable solutions to the problem of providing a school funding solution that is equitable and affordable.

I have been told by members of the faith community that this is going to be a difficult fight to win because various communities across this nation have based their entire local economies on building new prisons and then filling the cells with people , mostly poor, at any cost.

But I submit to you that It’s time to “put the cheese on the cracker”, as far as the faith community need to be involved In Micah 6:8, the prophet says ”you know what the Lord requires, but to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly before our God.

The church is the last line of defense. We are the only safety net that some people will have. We are the only voice that will speak for some of the poorest and most at risk.children in our society.

Therefore, we need to make up our minds that we will either be part of the solution or remain part of the problem. This is a justice issue.
I stand before you as a proud pop pop of five grand children, who I worry about and pray for every day. I know that many of you have children and grandchildren of your own and are doing the same thing. I am determined to do everything in my power to prepare them for the future, but I need your support. It takes an entire village to raise a child. It will take an interfaith community to raise a school system. . .

My theology tells me that we have been summoned by God to this place for such a time as this.

I am reminded that.

When we read about the heroes and heroines of scripture, we can see that the measure of a person is not counted during times of ease and plenty but rather by what he or she does during times of difficulty and doubt

The scriptures tells us that Moses , the great lawgiver went up into the mountain and communed in the presence of God and brought back tablets of stone that contained the word of God. But ultimately we remember that he stood before the people at the edge of the red sea , with an ocean of water in front of him, and the raging armies of Pharoah behind him. It looked like an impossibly hopeless situation. Until Moses lifted his arms toward heaven and the sea became a highway and the people of God crossed over on dry ground.

We know that David was the greatest king of Israel. We know that David wrote almost half of the psalms and was a man after God’s own heart. But David is remembered for being the young boy of faith who dared to stand before the seemingly invincible Philistine giant Goliath and with a sling shot and five smooth stones slayed Goliath, even as the armies of Israel cowered in fear.

Elijah is considered by many to be the greatest prophet of the Old testament. The bible says that he never saw physical death, but was translated or taken up in a whirlwind straight up to heaven. He performed many signs and wonders in the sight of the [people. But Elijah is best remembered as being the lone prophet of God who stood on Mt. Carmel alone and dared to defy the 450 prophets of Baal, saying today we will see whose God is the one true God.

Ester rose from a young orphan girl to being queen of the Persian empire, the largest and most powerful empire in the world at that time. She was renown for her beauty and wealth. Yet she is best known for listening to her cousin Mordecai and then going to see the king to plead for her people, when he reminded her that she had been chosen for “such a time as this”.
“What will our witness be?”
In light of all that the bible declares … I need to ask you a question this morning: “What will be your witness as we go forward from here?”

As I prepare to take my seat, I want to telling you a short story about Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Britain.

“This is our finest hour” Winston Churchill is remembered as one of the greatest statesmen of the twentieth century.

He is perhaps best known for the remarks he made during a speech to the House of Commons on June 18, 1940. The world war a disastrous turn of events in Europe and the frightening realization that Britain was now standing alone against Adolph Hitler and his seemingly unstoppable Nazi military.

Needless to say it was a time of testing not only for the British nation but also for Winston Churchhill, its chief ambassador. What would he say to a nation as the world watched in silence as the greatest threat to world peace in modern history rapidly approached for battle? How would the Britains respond in light of such imminent peril.

After speaking of the tragic losses that had been suffered at the hands of this mighty German army during the war, Churchill said these words;
“I am not reciting these facts for the purpose of recrimination. That I judge to be utterly futile and even harmful. Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

All I will say is that untiring vigilance and mind-searching must be devoted to the fight, because the enemy is crafty and cunning and full of novel treacheries and stratagems. and there is no dirty trick he will not do.

I do not at all underrate the severity of the ordeal which lies before us;
Our position has worsened since the beginning of the war. The Germans have conquered a large part of the coast line of Western Europe, and many small countries have been overrun by them.
The Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. …. The whole fury and might of the enemy will very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.”

Christians friends, we are not faced with imminent peril of a Nazi regime that is hell bent on destroying everything in its path and taking over the world. But we are dealing with a political system, and an educational system, that is threatening to destroy futures of our children and suceeding generations, destroying the very fabric of our communities .

Therefore, let us understand that this is not the time foir finger pointing and recrimination

Let us not continue to argue over actions taken in the past in the present, only to look up one day and discover that the future of our children and our children’s children has been lost .

The Health care Battle is all but over. And the Battle for fair and equitable funding for schools has begun! .

Upon this battle depends the survival of this nation. …. The whole fury and might of those who oppose fair and equitable funding of schools we soon be turned on us.
Therefore, Let us understand that we are in a most difficult fight because the enemy is crafty, and there is no dirty political trick that they will not do..

Let us acknowledge that our position has been weakened by apathy and non participation

And let us go about our work with the understanding that our very souls and the souls of our children, are at stake.

Despite the gloom and doom predicted by the pundits, philosophers and the naysayers who said that we have strayed from the foundational teachings of scripture, that we have lost our prophetic voice, let it be said by future generations that that the people of God came to the steps of the state capital daring to speak truth to power..

When future generations read what historian write about this period in our national battle to have fair funding for schools, , let it be said that the members of the church determined to walk by faith and not by sight.

Let it be said that in the midst of imminent death, we chose to speak life and believe that the dry bones of Public education would live again.

Let it be said that When others were satisfied with maintaining the status quo, that we cam to the state capitol advocating a moral takeover.,

Let it be said that When others gave in, gave up or gave out, during this time of fear and economic uncertainty, the interfaith community came together as one and changed the course of funding history in this commonwealth.

In the end when all is said and done, Let our witness be that we were called for such a time as this and that this was indeed our finest hour, To God be the Glory. Amen.