A lot has been taking place in our world over the past weeks. It all began with a global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 105,000 people in the United States alone. The pandemic then began to be a partisan talking point for politicians and elected officials to criticize the other party. I am like many of you, I want things to go back to how they were before the pandemic. I am tired of wearing a mask to the store; I still wonder when the right time will be to take my wife and children into a restaurant safely. I am ready to have physical in person worship again; it is odd preaching, praying, and offering communion to an empty sanctuary. The focus for much of these past few months has been COVID19, the economy and the ever-growing unemployment numbers. Then there were the deaths of Ahmaud Arbrey and George Floyd. Both men were killed in tragic and senseless ways. Aubrey was shot while running because two men thought he was a burglary suspect. Floyd had a knee to his throat for over eight minutes by a Minneapolis Police Officer for allegedly using counterfeit money.
Because of these deaths, peaceful protests have sprung up all over the country and some have turned violent. Looting, rioting, burning of buildings and even more innocent deaths are taking place. Things seem out of control, out of our hands. We mourn for the loss of life that spurred these peaceful protests but are unsure what to do next. We call on God to send the Spirit of Peace much like God did during the day of Pentecost.
Hearts need to be mended and souls need to be put back together.
The Book of Isaiah speaks to what God wants from God’s people. The opening chapter is a vision from God that Isaiah speaks to the people of Israel. They have become a nation who just goes through the motions. They are good at having their religious celebrations and festivals, but their hearts are not changed or moved by the commands and calls of God. Prophets, like Isaiah, had the task of speaking God’s word to the people but most of the time the people did not want to hear it. Like us today, Israel thought they were doing fine. They believed that things were going well for them and nothing needed to change; they liked things the way they were. It was comfortable (for most people) and why “rock the boat?”. God’s message to them was clear “cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16b-17) In other words, it’s time to change; God’s laws and Gospel demand it.
We can not and should not go back to the way things were before this pandemic and before these tragic deaths, to do so would violate everything the Gospel stands for.
We cannot go back to a time when people are shot due to the color of their skin or on the assumption of guilt.
We cannot go back to a time where people continue to struggle for food, comfort, shelter, not when we are the most prosperous country on the planet.
We cannot go back to a time where we did not place others before ourselves.
These are wide casting statements, I know that. I am not saying that there aren’t people who have been doing good in our community, but we need to join with them. These statements are easier said than done but we have to try. I know this sounds like an impossible task but we have to start somewhere. Something has to change, the way things always were is no longer an option.
God is calling us to examine the ways we are living, the ways we are interacting with each other. God is calling us to reflect on what we believe and how we are living into that belief. God is calling us to continue to do good, speak to the evils in our society. God is calling us to turn away from what has brought us down and embody the message of love, true and unconditional love. 1 John 4:20 reminds us “Those who say, “I love God” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars. After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen!”
During this time of uncertainty, let us pray not just for the end of violence but for the start of conversations. We need to examine our lives, our actions, and our history so that we do not fall into the same traps of repeating things just because they are easy. We must not back down when others are being hurt. We cannot not turn away when our brothers and sisters are facing injustice. God is calling all of God’s faithful to stand for justice but also join with others on the front lines and those who have been there for generations. It is time to move forward; we cannot go back.
Jesus calls us to seek out the lost sheep, to find the one who is in pain and missing. We seek after that one because our faith demands that those in need must be cared for and must be looked after. This will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do.
Join me as we continue to seek peace, grace and justice not just now, but forevermore.
Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.
May it be so.