My heart aches. My heart aches for all those grieving the coronavirus, and its effects on them, their families, and their livelihoods. I grieve its effects on congregations, and give thanks for doctors and scientists and medical professionals who are serving faithfully in their vocations and who have made clear to me that we really can’t safely gather in person yet here.
At the same time, my heart not only aches, I am furious, for the continued brokenness and pain caused by our shared sins of systemic racism and white supremacy, that run rampant in our society. I am furious, because our sisters and brothers who have darker skin than me, have been crying out for years, “I Can’t Breathe,” and where have we been? Quietly watching from the sidelines. Turning our heads away. Not listening. Not responding as we ought. Not doing nearly enough, if anything at all. And that brings us to now.
In the midst of a pandemic, the people are rising up. Our system is broken. It’s time for those of us who have privilege, like me, a white man in the United States, to use it for the sake of our neighbors. This is a calling and a responsibility. As the Director for Stewardship, I preach often about how all that we have and all that we are has been entrusted in to our care by God. God does this because God loves us and invites us into deep and meaningful relationship, offering abundant life. God does this too, so that we might join God in some of God’s kingdom building work- of reconciliation, justice, and neighbor love in the world.
So what can I do? That’s a question I agonize over. I want to listen, and get out of the way. At the same time, that has been my approach before. Yet, God has entrusted me with a voice. I have a voice. I have a blog. I have some social media presence. Recognizing such, I feel convicted, and I will use my voice to do what I can. Thus, I write. Thus, I share. Thus, I follow the Gospel’s call as I understand. Thus, I make space for the voices that are not often heard as they ought to be. Thus, I remember that even Jesus overturned the tables in the face of injustice, and gathered with people that society and those in power thought not worth their time, energy, or focus. He did so in the face of great risk- by those in his hometown running him out of town, and that of the authorities who felt so threatened by him, their fear of him and his work would ultimately lead him to the cross. Through it all, Jesus showed another way. And we are called to follow too.
If you are wondering why I have shared all the posts that I have in the past twenty four hours on Facebook and Twitter, this is why. As a called and ordained minister of Word and Service, I am called to be at the intersection places where the church and the world meet. To point to the pains and injustice in the world, and lift them up for the faithful in prayer. Not to just leave those concerns in prayer, but to pray, hope, and trust that our prayers to God, lead us to discern, listen and follow the Holy Spirit out into our active and faithful response in the here and now- to meet the needs of our neighbors through service. And to proclaim the Good News of God and God’s promises for all- out in the world, beyond the walls of any church building- because that is what is the church.
We are a called, gathered, and sent people. Last night, the President drove the people doing God’s work away, to use God’s house and God’s Word and desecrate it. I am livid. If you dare blame me for playing politics, than realize, the President started this. He misused the Holy Scriptures entrusted into all of our care. He misused a place of worship and service- a place that was living out its congregational vocation of serving the people- caring for the peaceful protestors with bottles of water and holy presence, until they were chased away just to make space for a short photo op. No. What this was, was a desecration and blasphemy. As a saint and sinner who is called to see the “both and” of things, to know the intersection of law and gospel, and to in the spirit of Martin Luther, “call a thing what it is,” I cannot help but say with all my breath… that was sinful, that was blasphemous, antithetical to the good news of the Gospel, and honestly, it was evil.
In the face of the pain of our nation, that was self-centered sinfulness. In the face of a people calling forth for a better way, for a more just society, that was blasphemous against the very Word of God which the President held upside down in his hand. The President did not take questions. The President did not reach out to the congregation’s priests or bishop. The President did not come and humble himself in prayer. He used God’s place for his own purposes. By doing so he has challenged all people of faith to step up and respond. I, for one, cannot stay silent. Can you?