"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12).
This Wednesday will mark the conclusion of a four-week series on the subject of race and reconciliation at University Presbyterian Church. A co-worker and I have been planning it since last October. I must say, it has been a very intense experience. I knew that race was a sensitive subject, but I didn't quite anticipate the strong responses (both positive and negative) that we have received from participants and the enormous sense of responsibility I have felt in stewarding these weekly conversations.
Through this planning process I've become a bit upset about how divided the church is: particularly across race, denomination and socio-economic status. "There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). The "church" does not appear to be "one" just yet.
In the past few weeks, we have heard from Christians of color share their painful experiences of racism in the church and in Christian settings. We have heard from White Christians who work in the criminal justice system and the ethical choices they make every day that affect communities throughout King County. We have heard in a small degree the pain and loss that the Black community experiences through systemic oppression and acts of violence that lead to the deaths of their loved ones.
The title of the series is "What Ferguson Means for Us." I learned early on that I had made a mistake in considering Ferguson to be symbolic in nature, a lesson for us in Seattle to learn about from a distance. It's impossible to look at photos of Michael Brown's uncovered dead body, desperate protests in the street and images from his funeral "from a distance." Things became very "real," very quickly when I read a cover story article in TIME magazine, "Black Lives Matter." The published images of Walter Scott being shot to death shook me to my core. The article also lists incident after incident of young, unarmed black men being shot and killed by the police. I know for a fact that a similar situation of a white male police officer shooting and killing an unarmed young black boy has happened here in our very city. There is nothing distant about Ferguson.
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?...[N]ot to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isaiah 58).
I believe that now is a time for the church to pay attention. We're going to need to be alert. We're most likely going to need to repent.
"[W]hen the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7).
Do your work, O Lord, to form us into one Body--the Body of Christ!!