Unable to lead worship, this morning, because I am recuperating from back surgery, I wanted still to share a pastoral word about the violence and attempted violence that have arisen this weekend –
“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed… This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” (Mark 13:7a, 8b)
We are living through a time that will mark the end of the prominence of division and its justification by religion and tradition. We have come to a time in our existence as a society, and even as a community of faith, in which minority voices are informing us better than those of the majority, when science is informing us better than religion, and when something new and wonderful is emerging. And even though some may feel threatened by the new and react with violence, we as this faith community must not back down; we must not withdraw. We must face this moment with grace, love and faith.
This weekend, we have been horrified as pipe bombs sent to a dozen or so individuals and organizations have been discovered in the mail, and as almost a dozen were murdered in their house of worship. Yesterday, two African Americans were killed, apparently at random while shopping with their families, by a third white male with a history of mental illness.
There is something almost literary about each incident. The perpetrator was an armed white male, identifiable with the customary locus of power and authority in our society. It is as if a story has been writing itself, and history may in fact be writing itself, with characters who mirror myself and the appearance of power in our world as it has existed for nearly a millennium.
That chapter must end and a new one begin. It can begin with us.
When we identify with “the least of these” and seek their enfranchisement and enrichment, we do the will of God. When we reject the tyranny of the cruel and the hateful, we overthrow the powers of this world and invite in the realm of heaven. When we refuse the authority of the misinformed and mistaken, we are one with a Wisdom greater than our own.
As powerful people seek to protect what they consider their own interests, and as individuals who identify with them act out with terror and harm, there is a more thorough interest we must abide. We are called by only one voice, and we must follow only one voice – that of the Word of God, which keeps speaking, “Love.”
If any thing we find ourselves doing or saying is in contradiction of that one straightforward principle, Love, then we have gone the wrong way. If something in our tradition or our religion insists that we must reject our neighbor, then we have fundamentally misunderstood the meaning of our faith. We need to return to the path. We need to restore ourselves to our purpose. This new day is the day for such action. Even if we feel we are already righteously loving and practicing faith, let us re-examine ourselves and recommit ourselves.
I am weary and disgusted, but I intend to give more than mere lip service to Love, and in true faith to remain vigilant and opposed to evil. I invite you to join me, in rejecting division and claiming solidarity with oppressed people. I invite you to join me, in taking the risks of grace, love and faith for this day and each day forward.