Pastor Julie shared these words with the congregation before worship on May 31, 2020, Pentecost Sunday.
Before we begin worship, we need to acknowledge what we are about to do in light of what is happening in our country as we speak. As we enter into worship together, we center, as we always do, the story of one who was killed at the hands of those enforcing the “law of the land,” at the hand of those who Peter tells us today acted outside that law and yet with the backing of the power of the empire they served. This is the one who we worship each week. Jesus, who was crucified.
In seminary, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing James Cone speak, who was one of the fathers of Black Liberation Theology. In his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, he says that “In the “lynching era,” between 1880 to 1940, white Christians lynched nearly five thousand black men and women in a manner with obvious echoes of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus. Yet these “Christians” did not see the irony or contradiction in their actions.”
As we have seen on our screens this past week and over and over again in this country, the “lynching era” is not over. It just looks different. It looks too often like people- people like George Floyd- shouting, gasping, “I can’t breathe.” Black and brown people dying while cameras are rolling because the perpetrators know that the likelihood of them being arrested, tried, convicted, punished is minimal. That no justice will come.
We come here today to worship the Christ who knows these things all too well. Who pleads with us from the cross that “Black Lives Matter.”
They matter to God. And if they matter to us…as a predominantly white congregation….we will not look away. We will not look away from their suffering. We will not look away from those uncomfortable feelings inside of us…that want to say things like “But I’m not racist…” or “But ALL lives matter” or “But they shouldn’t be kneeling in front of the flag or protesting or rioting.” Or maybe it’s so uncomfortable we just say nothing at all.
But these are hard things we have to speak about. Our siblings lives are at stake. Our lives are at stake. The pandemic time has shown us if nothing else, how interconnected we are. What I do affects my neighbor. And our Black and Brown neighbors are asking us to speak out.
On the first Pentecost after Jesus died and had been raised, the Spirit rushes in like a violent wind and gives the disciples courage to boldly speak about Jesus’s death and resurrection. She sends them out to the streets from the place that they had been gathered together.
And when they finally get the courage from the Spirit to say hard things, the crowd- 3,000 of them- repent. They find their own liberation. They find new life in community together. They discover what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like and feel like.
Today, I’m praying, as I lead worship, as I go about my life as a citizen of this country, as I try to love my neighbor,….I’m praying that the Holy Spirit might not be pushed down inside of me but that I might allow the boldness, courage, imagination, and love that She has gifted me with to not abandon my black and brown siblings and to keep working towards that vision of the kingdom of God.