Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “May we listen with the ears of God, so that we may speak the Word of God.”
This is among one of my favorite quotes from Bonhoeffer- because it speaks so well to our calling as followers of Christ- to hear the Word of God proclaimed, and then, in turn, to proclaim it in and to the world.
But in our world today- OH what a task we have before us. Right?
The lessons for today proclaim a God that not only speaks to God’s people- but who comes to them in the midst of life’s storms- whether on the sea or outside of a cave- and says “ Take heart, for it is I- do not be afraid” – and in Romans, Paul assures us that “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim).
But what are we to do with what God has spoken to us?
The Psalm begins with a plea for us to hear what God the Lord will speak, followed by the assurance that God will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Oh, let that be so, dear Lord.
We beg for peace in a violent, divided world.
I stand before you today, with my head barely above water- sinking in fear, anger, frustration. I’m so weary from all the noise in this world that distracts me from God’s Word. My plea, too, is for God to speak peace to God’s people.
As many of you may know by now, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and racism have taken over in Charlottesville, Virginia. White supremacists carrying torches gathered last night. Many people of color were trapped inside of a church Friday night as KKK members, self proclaimed Nazi’s and others shouted threats against them. Yesterday, somebody drove their car into a crowd of people, killing 1 person and injuring 19 others.
In 2017, it is hard to believe that this kind of thing that I, a millennial, read about not all that long ago in history books, is now happening AGAIN. And I’m weary because I know that I am complicit in this, too.
And look- I know it’s uncomfortable to hear- but it’s deadly for our siblings of color. This is not solely their problem. We play a role in this- and this kind of EVIL MUST. BE. CONDEMNED by the Church and by followers of Christ. Anything less is complicity, and that is NOT who or what we were created to be.
Especially by me, a white pastor, and by us, a primarily white congregation. Pastor John Pavlovitz, a Christian blogger, said the following–
“White people especially need to name racism in this hour, because somewhere in that crowd…are our brothers and cousins and husbands and fathers and children; those we go to church with and see at Little League and in our neighborhoods. They need to be made accountable by those they deem their “own kind.” They need to know that this is not who we are, that we don’t bless or support or respect this. They need white faces speaking directly into their white faces, loudly on behalf of love.
Though all of us can eventually trace our lineage back to oneness, all carrying a varied blood in our veins—the surface level differences matter to these torch-bearers. They value white lives and white voices above anything else, and so we whose pigmentation matches theirs need to speak with unflinching clarity about this or we simply amen it.
So I’m saying it.
We are not with the, torch-bearers, in Charlottesville or anywhere.
We do not consent to this.
In fact we stand against this, alongside the very beautiful diversity that is so greatly feared.
We stand with people of every color and of all faiths, people of every orientation, nationality, and native tongue.
We are not going to have this. This is not the country we’ve built together and it will not become what racism and white supremacy intends it to become.
Racism and terrorism will not win the day.”
With that, I’d like for you to join me in a litany against white supremacy, written by the Pastors Jennie Chrien and Elizabeth Rawlings.
Please join me-
Litany against white supremacy
Written by Pastor Jennie Chrien and Pastor Elizabeth Rawlings
Gracious and loving God,
In the beginning, you created humanity and declared us very good. We were made in Africa, came out of Egypt. Our beginnings, all of our beginnings, came out of darkness. We are all siblings. We are all related. We are all your children.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all your children.
Violence entered creation through Cain and Abel. Born of jealousy, rooted in fear of scarcity, Brother turned against brother. The soil soaked with blood, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are our siblings’ keeper.
When your people cried out in slavery, You heard them. You did not ignore their suffering. You raised up leaders who would speak truth to power. And you led your people into freedom. Let us hear your voice; grant us the courage to answer your call. Guide us towards justice and freedom for all people.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we all deserve to be free.
Through the prophets you told us the worship you want is for us to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke; Yet we continue to serve our own interest, To oppress our workers, to crush our siblings by the neck because we are afraid. Because they don’t look like us, act like us, talk like us. Yet, they are us. And we are them.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are not free unless all are free
In great love you sent to us Jesus, your Son, Born in poverty, living under the rule of a foreign empire, Brown-skinned, dark-haired, middle-Eastern. They called him Yeshua, your Son, Who welcomed the unwelcome, accepted the unacceptable—The foreigners, the radicals, the illiterate, the poor, The agents of empire and the ones who sought to overthrow it, The men and women who were deemed unclean because of their maladies.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all disciples.
The faith of Christ spread from region to region, culture to culture. You delight in the many voices, many languages, raised to you. You teach us that in Christ, “There is no Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no male and female.” In Christ, we are all one. Not in spite of our differences, but in them. Black, brown, and white; female, non-binary, and male; citizen and immigrant, In Christ we are all one.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all one in Christ.
Each week, we confess our sin to you and to one another. We know that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We are captive to the sin of white supremacy, Which values some lives more than others, Which believes some skin tones are more perfect than others, Which commits violence against those who are different.
We confess our complicity in this sin.
We humbly repent.
We ask for the strength to face our sin, to dismantle it, and to be made anew
We trust in your compassion and rely on your mercy
Praying that you will give us your wisdom and guide us in your way of peace,That you will renew us as you renew all of creation In accordance with your will.
We ask this, we pray this, as your children, all siblings, all related, all beloved children of God. Amen.
This evil that is in our world today- it cannot be met with the sound of sheer silence that Elijah experienced after the earthquake, the wind, and the fire.
Friends- God IS SPEAKING TO US.
God is in the cries of those who have historically and presently been deemed unworthy through the sin of racism and discrimination; a sin which has violently affected our siblings of color, our LGBT siblings, and our Jewish and Muslim siblings.
And along with those cries, God is calling us to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly alongside our siblings who need not another savior- because Christ has done that through the Cross and the resurrection- but, rather, we are called as companions to stand up to the evil that has rears its ugly head through violence and hate, racism and white supremacy.
As followers of Jesus- who opened his arms to die on the Cross for ALL- we are called to not only listen with the ears of God, to speak the Word of God, but to do God’s work– of justice and radical love of neighbor –with our hands.
The sound of sheer silence is NOT. AN. OPTION. Not a life giving option, anyway.
When God created humankind in God’s image, God did so for us to be companions with each other. And God called that good.
God did not create humankind so that they could run around with torches bellowing threats of death and boasting in a Divinely unintended yet human-claimed superiority complex based on white supremacy, throwing soda cans filled with cement at their fellow human kind and running them down with cars because they dared to remind black and brown people that THEIR GOD-GIVEN, IMAGE-BEARING BODIES- THEY MATTER.
This last week in Atlanta, The Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Junior was one of our keynote speaker. His speech was incredible, and he reminded us that if there is anything we have within our whiteness and privilege that can help the beloved community- then we should use it.
Speaking out against the evil of white supremacy, racism, and all the “isms” that threaten this precious life that God created… THAT. IS. ON. US.
And I get it…it’s daunting to be out in this world where this kind of stuff happens. It’s UNACCEPTABLE that people are treated as anything less than a beloved child of God due to the color of their skin, or for any other reason that seeks to set certain people over and above others in this world. We may feel like we are drowning in the weight of human suffering around us, but rest assured, people of God: Christ is there, grabbing our hands, reminding us that HE. HAS. US. He’s not letting go. He’s in the boat with us–ALL of us– as we brave the storms life throws our way. Jesus offers the way of peace. Jesus calls for the storms to calm, for us to take courage, because God knows this is hard stuff.
And God takes our hand, climbs in the boat with us, and rows along as we navigate a stormy sea. We, YOU, are never alone.
May God speak peace into our ears and hearts, so that we may speak peace into a broken and hurting world, in Christ’s name. Amen.