I have spent much of these past months considering how I used to spend my time, energy and resources. Maybe you have too. What must happen in person, at a social distance, and what can be accomplished online? What tasks were vital to the pre-pandemic routine and now seem obsolete? How was I adjusting to a new rhythm until last Monday, when George Floyd couldn’t breathe and everything changed again?
What will we learn and keep and sanctify for the next chapters of life, adopting habits for the long term, as acts of resistance, as a refusal of “back to normal”? Because we will never be “normal” again.
Our families, our communities, our country, the church, and the world will never be normal again. It’s okay to grieve that. It’s change and loss. It hurts.
But we are being deconstructed by these moments — these uncertain and painful moments — for the sake of a movement the Spirit is stirring.
Remember the Reformation began as a moment, but then stirred a movement because so many different gifts from the same Spirit collided all at once — and for the long haul. The Reformers spent years and years translating scripture into common tongue, moving theology into the streets, and protesting institutions that were abusing their power, preying on the meek, and leaving the hungry no part.
The Medieval Protest was more than a moment, thanks to the collective power of art, music, politics, communications, and education amplifying what could still be possible for the people of God.
Since then, the church has divided a thousand different ways, standing firm in each division about how we differ, each claiming the Holy Spirit for their own directions.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that the Spirit will not be divided. Time and again, She proves that we can do much more together, united in Christ, and aligned with all of God’s children than we can manage apart.
I confess that I have been deeply humbled by the intensity of this shared human experience. Not only the pain, the death, the injustice. But also the letting go that I never would have allowed or amplified without these extreme crises. Without a renewed understanding of breath and life.
Today I took my daughters to pick up their personal items at school. Their Kindergarten teachers were waiting outside the building to hand them garbage bags of paintings and snow pants. We talked and waved, masked and at a distance. It wasn’t enough. But, by now, my girls understand that’s how it is.
On the way home we talked about next year and first grade. I made a comment that suggested a return to normal in the school building and one of them interrupted me: “I don’t want it to go back to normal, though. Everybody was too busy to be helpers before. But now everybody wants to help. I don’t want first grade to be like Kindergarten. I want something new instead.”
For the first time in my ministry, maybe my life, I believe in the power of a revolutionary moment that becomes a lasting movement that leads to real justice. I want to stay awake in the what is hard about this death and resurrection of our collective conscience, our privilege and power, our becoming the church all over again. I want to stay awake, even though I’m scared. Because my daughters aren’t. They’re ready.
If this time is different, we’ll need to listen more than we talk. We’ll need to follow the right leaders. We’ll need to keep showing up — long after the reporters leave and the hashtags quell. We’ll need to hold vigil with our tender and holy gifts from the Spirit until everything has changed and we have built something new together.
The pastors at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church have been doing the work and showing up for their neighbors for a long time. The trust was already there when their building became a medic station last week, when thousands began pouring onto the yard with donations, when local businesses asked for help boarding up and keeping watch.
Yesterday a neighbor named Brain Dragonfly approached Pastor Ingrid carrying a lantern. He is an employee from MIGIZI, an organization that focuses on Native youth empowerment and countering stereotypes about Native people in the media. While their organization is nearly 50 years old, their building was completed just last year. And this week, despite supporters doing their best to protect it from flames, it caught fire from a neighboring building.
Here’s what Pastor Ingrid said about their conversation:
Brian Dragonfly said that when he arrived to assess the situation, he found that the building was still burning. “I decided to capture the fire,” he said, holding up his lantern. He wondered if Holy Trinity would tend the fire with MIGIZI until they could rebuild. He thought that the flame — the fire — might bring some comfort to his community.
We went to the sanctuary. Brian set the lantern on the altar. I ran to find a candle. We shared the fire — and along with it the trauma of the preceding days, the conviction that not all that was destroyed is to be mourned, and the hope that this ashy moment in our neighborhood’s life will be an opportunity for new life. MIGIZI shared on Facebook: “Despite the flames, we as a community burn brighter…We look forward to showing our resilience once again.”
The people of Holy Trinity are taking turns tending the fire, a sacred responsibility and a high honor. This is a glimpse of the world for which we are being taken apart. A future in which neighbors trust one another with the tending, with the sacred responsibilities, with the length and depth of time it takes to move toward justice.
The littlest ones have already set their eyes on it and do not want to turn back. The elders have captured the fire and offer its flame — the memory, the danger, the honor of tending and building something new together.
Come, Holy Spirit. May this new reformation take the fragments of who we have been, how we have divided, and what we have denied. Use what we have been and by your holy breath, give us new expressions of your gifts; a fire to hold in communion, a light to tend until we have rebuilt everything. Amen.
The Light shines in the darkness… And the darkness has not overcome it.