Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This week I’ve been teetering on the brink of hopelessness and helplessness. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. 5 Officers dead in Dallas, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson. A 2 year old killed on the North Side of Minneapolis.
This is just what’s been in my news feed. Who knows what other tragedy has befallen someone’s loved ones because of stupid and inane violence. It’s been difficult to watch and hear about.
However, yesterday morning I went to the gym and for an hour I was able to forget about the world around me. I was able to forgot about what happened in Falcon Heights and Baton Rogue. I was able to get some distance from the pain and suffering many are feeling as a result of the Dallas shooting. I was able to turn it off. Last evening I went to two BBQ’s. One with folks from my daughters school and another from some of my wife’s friends from high school. It was an escape. It was a privilege to be able to do so. To check out and experience a little bit of normal life in the midst of the maelstrom of media coverage.
It’s a privilege I don’t deserve and didn’t earn. I don’t have to worry about being pulled over. I don’t have to worry about being followed while I’m shopping. I don’t have wonder why I’m not getting any follow up calls to my job applications. I don’t have to think about life. I get to live it.
I’m a white male. The deck is stacked in my favor.
It’s taken me most of my adult life to come to that conclusion. It’s hard to admit that despite your own hard work there were certain advantages you received, ones you didn’t ask for, that helped you get where you are.
This week I’ve realized it’s not enough to know I’m privileged. It’s time, well past time, to do something about it.
And here is where my feet falter. Here is where I feel helpless and hopeless. Because for every voice that is lifted in support of our black brothers and sisters whose value and worth and lives are daily diminished by the actions and the systems of this country, there is another voice, a seemingly louder voice that is raised in critique – a voice that shouts all lives matter, a voice that says wait wait we don’t know the whole story, a voice vigilantly guards the status quo.
And so the temptation to retreat is real. Because I can. I can go back to my south Minneapolis home, I can raise my family the way I want to, I many ways I can choose how my future will unfold, and can my son and to a slightly lesser degree my daughter. And nothing will change.
Last Saturday Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel died. His book “Night” is a staple of high school and college curriculum. In the days since his death I’ve frequently stumbled across one of his more famous quotations from his Nobel prize acceptance speech.
He said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
That’s usually where the quotation ends. And I must say, while it’s incredibly thought provoking and challenging, it’s difficult in application. Am I the oppressor, the tormentor? Am I the potential by stander?
But then the whole of the paragraph reads,
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
In this morning/evening’s reading from the first chapter of Ephesians, the author says,
With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Brothers and sisters, in Jesus Christ God has shown us where this thing is headed. The whole of the universe, all of heaven and earth will one day, in the fullness of time will be gathered up into God’s own life. The pain and suffering, the injustice and inequality that seems so pervasive in our world today will be no more. We’ve been given an extraordinary gift, an extraordinary insight. We’ve been adopted into God’s family. We are inheritors of God’s promises. We can see glimpses of the future, of God’s future when all of this will be made new again.
But we don’t simply wait for that day. Today and everyday we are to live as though that day has come already. We like Jesus Christ who goes before us, are called to enter into those places of persecution, those places of pain, those places of torment and live with our brothers and sisters in Christ who still suffer at the hands of a system and a world that is dying but still powerful.
Today I feel powerful push of holy discontent, I feel a call to shed the privilege that I have, but do not deserve. I believe that I am strengthened by God’s promises to me to put on some sturdy shoes, and walk the difficult road ahead in service of those that suffer most. But I’m not quite sure what right step is. I know that I will make some wrong ones.
So will you pray for me? Will you pray for our church? Will you pray for the Spirit’s guidance in our lives so that we can live out of the promises we’ve been given? Will you pray for our community and our nation?
Will you pray, so that when anger and resentment, when apathy and despair threaten to claim us we might someone be renewed in our resolve to act, to change, to live?
Will you pray so that together our the substance of our lives might praise God’s glory?