To the people of St. Paul (and beyond),
With you I was appalled by the evil revealed on full display in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend by white supremacy groups and individuals. I was mortified to see the hatred in the faces of those captured in the pictures of those carrying burning tiki torches at night, and I was saddened by the violence that killed a young woman and injured nineteen others by using a car as a weapon in a crowd the next day. The images of Nazi flags and t-shirts on participants quoting Hitler made me both disgusted and afraid by what I was watching. In the days that have followed I am severely disappointed by our President’s false moral equivalency of pairing those who gather around the ugliness of hate, blame and white supremacy alongside those who value our shared humanity, solidarity and peace. I lament what our country seems to be becoming, while at the same time I am convicted by what has more likely been present among us all along.
Sunday I could not be with you to process what we were all watching, thinking and feeling. I trust Pastor Mary Robinson’s words and presence among you were helpful. We were worshiping at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL where my sister Cheryl and her family belong. Pastor Glen Wagner did a great job of capturing the moment, proclaiming hope and calling us to action in faith.
We were in the Chicago area for a surprise party. We celebrated my parents’ 70th birthdays on Sunday afternoon. My mother’s reaction when she entered the room was a priceless expression of unanticipated joy. We need more unanticipated joy in our lives – especially during these days of uncertainty and sorrow. Joy is here – all we need to do is locate it, name it and celebrate it – together.
After the party, I caught-up on my respective news feeds. In response to the monstrosities that took place in Charlottesville were images, stories and sermons of those who were there in body, spirit or both; standing alongside residents, speaking-out against racism and in several cases putting themselves in harm’s way for the sake of strangers. I was inspired by their courage and witness. I hope you are inspired by their witness too. This is the America I want to live in, and it is the faith in which I seek to participate.
Here are a few links I found helpful:
As this past weekend displayed in full-force, racism in America did not end with Mrs. Parks and Dr. King. Nor did it simply reignite as a reaction to either Mr. Obama’s or Mr. Trump’s presidencies. Racism has been smoldering under the surface of four hundred years of injustice quietly burning the lives of our fellow Americans while many of us have had the luxury of ignoring the smoke or thinking the fire was somebody else’s problem. It is time we all acknowledge our shared failure as individuals, communities and as a culture to live up to our ideals of “peace and justice for all.” It is our moment to “be the change we hope to see in the world” (as the popular quote attributed to Mahatma Ghandi says). Change requires diligence, but diligence demands each of us to acknowledge our own stake in preserving the status quo.
Pay attention. Listen. Repent. But above all else –
Remember whose side you are on.
At the end of the Bible, the Revelation of John portrays a vision of the gathering of people from every nation and tongue celebrating around the throne of the Risen Jesus. Evil is at long last defeated forever, and weeping and crying and pain are no more.
The scene is a party! It is an unanticipated joyous kind of celebration – and you are invited to enter the room for the most wonderful surprise. All of us are. Together.
After weekends like this one, it is important to reclaim the good news that the final victory is already yours and God will never abandon you; especially when it looks like evil has the upper hand, the world is on fire, your neighbor appears to be your enemy and the future looks like certain death – death on a cross.
Pay attention. Listen. Repent. Remember. Persevere.
Let’s get back to work. The invitations to the party need to get to our neighbors and God has called us to deliver them with faith and courage. Not somebody else – you and me. Not another time – now. God’s kingdom – the unanticipated joyous party – is at hand.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ (Revelation 21:1-5)