By Pastor Wes Poole
For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 – NRSV
“Racism is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who willfully live to gratify the sinful desires of racism “will not inherit the kingdom of God” because they reveal they might be still enslaved to the present evil age and to its seductive powers (Gal. 5:17, 19–21), instead of being freely enslaved to love by the power of the Spirit as those redeemed by Christ and bound for the promised land of new creation.”
JARVIS J. WILLIAMS AND CURTIS A. WOODS – cHRISTIANITY TODAY
Tough words indeed…and while they’re not my words, they represent my feelings on this matter to a tee. Sadly, racism and the violence such ugliness begets are in the forefront of the news once again; even pushing the COVID crisis to second place for the moment. Why must this be? In the past two weeks, I’ve read voraciously, and followed the news and social media probably more than was strictly healthy. Police brutality and murder, riots and looting, hatred and vile language. Is this really where we are in the United States in 2020? Frankly, it’s exhausting and depressing. My spirit is heavy.
In the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah writes,
“This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed.”
Jeremiah was obviously writing for a different time and for different reasons, but his words kept coming back to me. This is how many of us are feeling right now. The feeling of helplessness that we’ve all been dealing with for the past three months is taking its toll, to destructive effect. Where or from whom can we find comfort and the strength to move forward and beyond all of this?
Last week, our own Pastor Jim Parks shared an incredibly moving meditation entitled “The Peace that Heals Hurts”. In it, he reminded us of a universal truth, spoken by none other than Nelson Mandela. “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
“Love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Of everything I’ve read over the last couple of weeks, those words brought me the most comfort and hope. Hatred is learned, and thus can be unlearned! There is Good News there, my friends. We know a better way! Jesus taught us a better way! Now the question is, what are we, the modern day disciples of Jesus, going to DO to make that Way better known to this world? What are we going to DO to help bring about healing and wholeness and the unity that is supposed to define this country? Now is not the time for just talk. A crisis of humanity and decency requires more than fair words, even if those words are from Scripture. We must, as the People of God, model that better way. Racism, sexism, violence, hatred, Xenophobia in general…these things are not acceptable for the follower of Jesus Christ! There are no exceptions!
One of the other things that has brought me hope and comfort recently is that I realize I’m preaching to the proverbial choir! Even though we’ve had precious little time to get to know one another as pastor and congregation, I’ve seen the spirit of goodness, kindness, and caring that are at the heart of this community of faith. While we’re still struggling with when, if, and how we can open our building again, we must remember that we are still the church, wherever we may be. Even quarantined and socially distanced, we can still show the World the example our Lord left for us. Kindness, charity, generosity; those are some of the ways we can bring some healing to this troubled time. In fact, the leadership of Good Shepherd is preparing right now to formulate a plan of action to bring a modicum of that “peace that heals hurts” back to this community. We have neighbors out there who are hurting, and we can do something about it! What form that takes is yet to be determined, but make no mistake, we are committed to being a church active in this community.
For now, in the sage words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Friends, that is the Christian vocation. Pray for those who hate, that they might unlearn such things, and model Our Lord Jesus Christ in all that we say and do. The path ahead may not be an easy one, but Jesus walks with us. Keep hope alive…goodness will eventually prevail!
Let us pray…
We are grieving, Dear Lord, for the ills of our community. Yet we know that we are your hands; working your will in this world. Pour out your Holy Spirit for us in full measure. Inspire us to greater deeds of kindness and generosity, and help us to rid your Creation of the ugliness of racism and violence. We know these things are possible because all things are possible in you. We pray this in the name and for the sake of Jesus, the Living Christ. Amen.
Be well, be kind, and be safe. I hope to see you all very soon.
Your Partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes Poole †