One Body: White Christians, Time to Get in the Game

(Grateful to have this piece also shared on sojo.net and eugenecho.com)

I am grieving and lamenting and beyond angry over what feels like open season on the Black Community/Church right now in the US. White Christians, this is the time to pay attention and be part of our nation’s struggle to understand and address the continual violence happening against our black sisters and brothers. When one part of the Body hurts we all hurt – when one part of the Body is repeatedly targeted, killed, not protected, pulled out of swimming pools, seen as threats when unarmed – and then misrepresented, silenced, or made small through ahistoric excuses, side-stepping through political mess, or any other form of evil – we need to stand up. We need to show up – loudly. We need to demand a different response – and start with our people in the church.

White church – and the wider church in general – this is the time for all of us to engage. Help present the truth wherever you can, whether it’s on facebook or over lunch at work. Fight for life, by holding up friends right now and grieving with those too tired to carry on, and preparing for advocacy and work that is necessary and is always before us in the future. Seek to understand, lament, and see the systems and principalities at work in our world, in our churches, maybe in our minds – ask Christ for the eyes to see. Thank you to all those already in the game – advocating, grieving, listening, standing with, and paying attention.

If you’re not sure what to do – start paying attention, right now. Read articles from the Black Community, notice the particular beauty and pain within the Black Church, start to feel this pain and shock and repeated abuse as if it were in your own family, because, well, it is. Pray, pray more, confess, lament, and learn more, and pray some more. Bring this up with your people. Ask about this reality of race and death at your church – where will it be addressed within worship this Sunday? Where will we take our part of the responsibility of educating, advocating, understanding, speaking out, and helping change how race and faith and life and death are seen in the US? Publicly share information and lament and hope with others. Publicly stand for and with and fight this sense of black life not being as valuable, as noticed, as mourned. The more we join the outrage and point to the truth that ‪#‎faithandracealwaysmatter‬ and ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ , the more we help open up spaces of lament, healing, Good News, justice, reconciliation, hope and the potential for life to flourish.

This is not a time to leave the black community alone, to let them mourn or be angry or fix it alone. White Christians, we inherited this mess and this story of power and privilege and racism that shapes our individual lives, our corporate realities, and even our congregations. The wider church and the world will be shaped by how we choose to engage or turn away from this kind of death. Particularly those of us with any voice, leadership, influence, and the privilege to choose whether or not to engage issues of death and race – it is time to get in the game. Because of course, this is no game – these issues of racism and how we choose to see truthfully or speak up – these are literally matters of life and death for the Black Community. So it is past time to choose life, to advocate for our people – all people – in the Body of Christ. It is on our shoulders to be part of fighting the evil we are witnessing over and over in our nation that is taking and diminishing Black life – actively, with faith and hope and love, and with each other. ‪#‎timetogetinthegame ‬ ‪#‎payattention ‬ ‪#‎prayforCharleston ‬ ‪#‎standwiththeBlackChurch‬ ‪#‎OneBody‬

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Call to Arms – Arm in Arm – After Ferguson

Christians – especially those of you who are white, asian-american, in my particular church family, my wider church family, or all those who are often in a position of protection and relative privilege when it comes to law enforcement in our country – I am writing this to you. I believe most of us are trying to sort through what is happening in MO and our nation with the best of intentions, hoping to clearly see the facts and get down to what is fair and right and true. And I get this work, and at some level acknowledge sifting through the details may be helpful. But because so much more is going on right now, and I believe that we need to be in this together at a deeper level as the church, and because I’ve been asked why this is such a big deal – I want to point us in another place.

As a pastor, mother, human being – I am sickened by what our country is now experiencing in the wake of the #FergusonDecision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson. And I am not right now interested in going through the ME reports, the angle of bullets, or the witness reports – I am not even interested in parsing out how it happens that an extraordinary pre-trial through the grand jury went down that resulted in not even indicting an officer that killed an unarmed teenager in the street.
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Losing is Good News ?!?

I preached this past weekend on the Matthew lesson from the lectionary that our church has been working through. There were many reflections and interesting thoughts that I found while researching and ruminating to prepare for this message, but a couple things have stood out to me since the “a-ha”, Holy Spirit just hit me on the head, moment hit me near the end of my preparation last weekend:

– the cross, which of course stands for suffering and death, is at the heart (or the crux) of Christian faith
– we, and by we I mean mostly me, often avoid this central truth, ’cause its kind of a downer, a tricky topic, and frankly just doesn’t sit that comfortably next to our to- do lists and church obligations we compile
– the fact that death and suffering exist in our frail human world is something that we pretend isn’t real; Martin Luther says the good news of the cross is that it tells the truth about suffering and death to us, and so frees us from illusion. So the cross (or a theology of the cross) doesn’t bless or intend death, but is able to redeem even the worst experiences, the deepest suffering, b/c of what Christ endured.
– That reality, that death (both “big,” final death and “little,” difficult deaths to self) is truly all around us, all the time, is then somehow – GOOD NEWS! Crazy, right? Death, when set in its appropriate, honest, and redeemed light, is good news. It frees us/me up to embrace life, even when we are in the little and the not so little deaths, because we know it is going toward something else. It is headed toward life.
– So we just have to follow. I mean its hard, its difficult, it takes practice, requires help from friends, and necessitates discipline to follow – but that is how it is possible that “through losing our life we find LIFE.” By seeing the truth of the cross, accepting what Christ did with death, and following Him through it, nothing can (finally, at the end of the story), touch us.
– I am convinced that for most of our lives, for both Christians and non-Christ followers, the struggle is usually in the details of this reality. In other words, its in the remembering that death is true, and all around us, but that we will still get through this, and the three days in the ground never hold God and they never hold us. It is in the holding each other’s hands when we are in the dark, groping for the light, recalling where we are – after the season in the tomb. The struggle is in seeing other people proclaim Christ and then live in that awkward place of acknowledging death to self and then still keeping it together – seeing a community that models the freedom, grace, and long vision that those who follow Christ are empowered to steward.
– All those details, they aren’t really details as much as lifetimes of understanding who God is, where God is when things are dark, and where the hands of others are that reach out to us – or don’t – during our own times in the tomb buried in the cold ground.

Somehow, this mystery that losing is winning, and that death is life – is good news. Good news that doesn’t make any sense outside of what Christ did on the cross. And that doesn’t make much sense without tangible examples being lived out in front of us, as the expression of Christ followers who get this radical, upside down world kind of living. Otherwise it seems like someone is telling you to go to the back of the line while they stay up front. Or stay up on the cross of suffering, b/c that is your cross to bear so I am free to abuse you. But Christ went on the cross for us – and showed us the truth – about oppression, death, and the need to die to our own self for others. That truth somehow seems fresh to me today, renewed and interesting, as if it weren’t the most basic tenet of the Christian faith. :) And I am grateful. And I am in awe that it is such Good News. And I can hold my “little deaths to self” tonight loosely, even gratefully, as I realize this truth again.

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