The events of this past week have weighed heavily on me, and no doubt on you as well; just what can we say and do in response to what happened in Minneapolis last week? We are sickened and we are sad. I'm sure you have seen Prime Minister Trudeau's 22-second pause at yesterday's press conference (if you haven't seen it, you should watch a replay of it.) He rightly pointed out that there is a time for silence and listening, and there is a time for speaking and acting. I have found it so valuable to listen and learn from the stories which are coming out now. Yet one is allowed to stay silent only so long. Eventually we all must speak.
My family has a personal connection to Ferguson, Missouri, and so it was poignant to visit the memorial to Michael Brown shortly after he was killed. I was born in Minnesota and so have a personal connection there, too. Yet the sadness I feel from those mere emotional connections pale in comparison with the feelings of our Black brothers and sisters; as Pat and Ysh's son-in-law, Casey, stated it in his blog this week, "we are mentally, physically and spiritually EXHAUSTED."
At various times in my life I've had to strip off my rose-coloured glasses and see the world anew for what it really is. This is one of those times. It's not just the senseless death of George Floyd in the US. I live in the Region of Peel, whose Board of Education is struggling with major systemic issues affecting its Black students; some of you have to teach in this context. I do not. Yet in my own context I must again confront the fact that this world, this country, this city is decidedly unjust and unfair for those who do not share my white skin.
This is not a time for the church to remain silent. Yes, we need to listen and learn. Yes, we need to give primary voice to those whose voices have been silenced. But we also need to speak up, to make the gospel's position clear, to call out the sinfulness of a segregated church, to identify and refuse to support institutions and systems which perpetuate racial injustice. As Casey begs of us, to never forget. And as Chong prayed so clearly on Sunday, "Heavenly Father, we ask for your forgiveness for the sins of racism in our world." Yes, we need to repent of the sin of racism. I do. The church does. You can answer for yourself.
I do not have a song for you today. This came across my email last night, from Wendell Kimbrough (whose lament psalms we have used here once or twice), Open and Unafraid: Faithful Anger and the Psalms (on Facebook tonight at 9pm EDT). I cannot personally vouch for it, but Wendell is gifted at musically interpreting the Psalms, and it looks to be helpful in using the Psalms to turn our hearts to God for the present reality. I plan to check it out. We can lament together.
Finally, we close with this prayer from today's "Do Justice" newsletter from the Centre for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice. Pray with me please:
God of peace,
We stand before you in adoration for the diversity with which you have surrounded us--in creation, in the Scriptures, in each other’s faces, and in you, our Triune God. Lord, we confess to you that we often fail to recognize your faithfulness. We are all too often quick to judge, and slow to listen.
As we hear stories and see images of racial injustice and unrest, we confess that our first instinct is to protect ourselves. Lord, forgive us for the many ways that we segregate ourselves from those who are different from us.
Forgive us for ignoring the unjust systems in which we live, systems from which many of us benefit without thinking twice about the way they affect others.
Forgive us for perpetuating the lie that we all have an equal opportunity for safety and well-being where no such equality exists. We know, O Lord, that we are only equal before you.
Forgive us for making excuses by blaming the victims, pointing to their lack of innocence as if it justifies the loss of their lives. Lord, who of us can stand before you without fault?
Forgive us for failing to live into the life that you modeled for us, a life that enters into the suffering of others and offers healing and grace.
God of all grace, we grieve the tragic death of any person made in your image.
We remember Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the many others who lose their lives for seemingly no more reason than their race. We pray for the family and friends left to grieve them. Grant them comfort and strength and the grace to go on.
We also lift up to you those who live in fear because of racial injustice in their communities, for mothers gripped by fear for their sons, and young people who cannot see a glimmer of possibility or hope. Lord, bring peace!
God of justice, we lament the injustice we see around us. We lament the sin of racism in all of its pervasive forms. We lament media images published out of context. We lament law enforcement that oversteps its bounds. We lament justice systems where some never find justice.
Healing God, we know that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It is in that knowledge that we ask you to convict us of the value of every life made in your image. Move our hands and feet to respond to injustice in ways that build your peace. Empower us to advocate on behalf of those who need our voices raised, even those who we may not know.
Sovereign God, we find our hope in you. Give protection and healing to the United States and the many other places where only you can deliver peace. We thank you that we can bring all of these things to you with confidence, knowing that not only are you capable but you are willing to respond to the desires of our hearts. Align them with yours.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our only Savior, we pray, Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you (2 Corinthians 13:13).
PS - remember that tomorrow night we have the discussion time for our N.T. (Tom) Wright study on the book of Philemon. Details in last Sunday's church bulletin (or contact me directly).