More than one pandemic
May 31, 2020
Much of the country is coming out of the lockdown of the last several months. We are still in the midst of a pandemic that ravages our community. Some are fighting about whether we should be required to wear masks in public places. It’s not particularly peaceful.
But coronavirus isn’t the only pandemic we face in our world. We are experiencing the continuing and ongoing pandemic of systemic racism playing out across our country. If anyone doubted that we live in a world fueled by racism and fear, this week should put an end to that doubt. We stand at a moment of great pain in our country.
All around us, our African American brothers and sisters cry out for an end to the killings and injustices that have brought our country to this boiling point, a boiling point reached with the murder of George Floyd.
We are fearful.
We are outraged.
We are looking for someone to blame.
Beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing
For more than a week now, we have watched anger and distrust explode – first in peaceful protest, then into wanton vandalism and violence on the streets of many places. Know this – the vast majority of protestors are peaceful; they are very different from the instigators and agitators who are opportunistically using this situation to advance their own violent agendas.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I deplore violence against all human beings. African Americans and people of color are attacked and killed daily because of the color of their skin. Peaceful protestors have been attacked. Innocent bystanders have been attacked. Law enforcement officers have been attacked and killed. Anger is justified.
Murder, vandalism and violence are not and will do nothing to further the sacred cause of fighting hatred and racism
We must open our hearts
All of us, but especially those of us who are not African American or people of color, have to listen with open hearts to what is being said. Hate and racism are real, and they are sinful.
Amidst this distrust, division and disagreement, we lose sight of Christ’s message of love, hope and forgiveness. Christ lived in world of distrust, division and disagreement as did his disciples. But Christ’ followers, who didn’t particularly get along, allowed the Word of God to cut through their divisions. Words that changed them. May it be so for us.
We must stand firm
If we truly renounce the forces of wickedness as we claim when we recite our Baptismal Covenant, and call ourselves Christian, we must stand firmly against the sins of hatred and racism. We must say no to violence. We must reject hateful, ignorant speech. We must reject the evil, hate-filled actions and motivations of those who seek to divide people. We must hold our leaders accountable for their actions and their speech and we have to say no to the deeply divisive hateful, partisan rancor that not only exists, but that we sometimes encourage.
Do it for the children
Why? Because over the last ten days I’ve heard more and more about how children are looking desperately to their parents for answers to the hatred they see and sense in the world around them. A seminary friend tried to explain to her six-year old daughter what happened to the man named “George”. As little kids do, her daughter kept asking repeatedly why. Near the end of the conversation her daughter who looked shocked, sad and surprised said – again I remind you that she’s six – “I thought Dr. King made all the world fair and people were safe now.” Another friend told me about the tears and fear of the daughter of her former sister-in-law, who also happens to be six – this little girl realized that she can be hated simply because of the color of her skin. And a little girl who wanted to know what George looked like.
The ultimate social contract: “Love one another”
As I grieve for those children, I think about the Holy Spirit blowing through and bringing together people of varied gifts and backgrounds, of Jesus breathing on the disciples and saying to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The very real struggle we face can be won by the action of the Holy Spirit and through the message of Jesus Christ. It can be won by acting as Christians are called to act, together as one body with many members, working for the good of all. It’s about the ultimate social contract: “love one another as I have loved you.” That Christian, social contract is to love all – Jew and Greek, slave or free.
As followers of Jesus, we know that God is love. In 2020 in the United States of America, people should not be afraid to go to work, school, the store or for a drive because of the color of their skin. We are called on as Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves, standing up for what is right and just even when it is most difficult.
And it means we have to work to build a better world, especially for our children – and I mean really work, not just talk about it.
Imagine how we can make things better. How we can make a difference in our world. How we can make a difference in our community. How we can stand up for our brothers and sisters in the world. How we can stand against hatred and racism without becoming part of the hate.
We start by doing what I know happens every day among people in this congregation. Pray deeply every day, living Christ’s love every day. And maybe imagine starting that prayer with the words “I can’t breathe”. Imagine allowing those words to soak into your body. To feel the fear that George Floyd felt. To feel your own fear.
And then remember the words to the hymn, “Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew…Breathe on me, Breathe of God, until my heart is pure.” Until my heart is pure.
Remember that the Holy Spirit comes among us, holding us together, and we need to bring that word to others.
As members of the Body of Christ we are called again and again to bring a message of peace and the Holy Spirit to the broken world around us. And now more than ever, the world needs our prayers and needs us to care for our neighbors and the world.
Together with the Holy Spirit…
Through all this pain, it is up to us to create a new normal to bring about change and healing. Together we need to pray for social justice and peace. Together we need to pray that all among us will meet one another with love in their hearts, accepting each other as they are just as God accepts us as we are, beloved children of God.
“Veni sancte spiritus”. Come Holy Spirit, come.–
The Rev. Kathleen Murray, Rector
St. Andrew’s Church, Mt. Jackson
Emmanuel Church, Woodstock