May 28, 2020
1 John 4:19-21
I’ve been wrestling with what to say and how to say it. Everything I thought to say seemed weak and trivial and insufficient. But I’ve watched the video and felt my stomach turn as a police officer knelt on a handcuffed man’s neck as George Floyd repeated over and over again, “I can’t breathe.” And then he fell silent, the breath of life choked out. In this polarized time, I’ve tried to avoid being a polarizing presence. Because as soon as someone slaps a label on me, I’ve lost whatever little influence I may have had. So, I’ve held my tongue while searching for the words to say as I’ve wrestled with my own feelings and watching the world’s reactions. All I can offer is a confession. So, here goes…
Hi. I’m Andrew. I’m a man. A father. A husband. A friend. A son. And a pastor. I try to live a good life. I’m goofy and silly and a nerd. I’ve attended amazing schools and met incredible people of all walks of life. I’ve learned much and unlearned even more. And yet…I’m still racist.
I don’t want to be. I really don’t want to be. I’m not the hood wearing, flag waving, goose stepping racist. But I still have unconscious reactions and biases that when I realize what’s going on in my head, it makes me ashamed. I’m still too comfortable keeping silent when someone says something that degrades people who are different. I’m still too afraid of going along with the path of least resistance, even if it means other people are dehumanized. I don’t want to rock the boat. And that is wrong.
I don’t want to be the hero. And I don’t want to be colorblind. I want to see people exactly as they are in all of their complexity. I don’t want to deal in stereotypes, especially hateful ones. I still wrestle with the fact that I’m not where I want to be. And I wonder if I’ll ever get there. I’m not sure I can ever be non-racist. Maybe the best I can hope for is to be anti-racist. Maybe the best I can do is to commit to a life of constantly examining my life and my actions to ensure that I do not contribute to the suffering of others. And then, once I’ve done that, to live into my baptismal vows.
In the Methodist Church, one of the questions anyone has to answer before baptism is, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” I wasn’t baptized in the Methodist Church, but I believe I have to answer that question every day.
The last thing any of us need is more words. What we need is action. Love put into action. That’s the only thing that will make any difference. I need to love God and love my brother or sister, whoever they are, wherever they are. Because if I can’t do that, then how can I love God?
John makes this crystal clear in his first letter. “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother or sister.” Racism, or anything else that comes between us and other people created in the same image of God, is sinful.
In this time of pandemic, which has absorbed so much of our attention, we cannot forget to let love guide ALL of our actions and our thoughts, even if it means standing up and saying and doing things that make us uncomfortable. There is not a part of us, even those parts of us that we might try to hide, that can be withheld from the grace of God. Jesus said what makes a person unclean isn’t what they eat, but what is in their hearts. For what is there will eventually come out.
Friends, what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis was unequivocally wrong. Nothing he did warranted having a person kneel on his neck, leaving him gasping for breath. Nothing he did deserved death. His life mattered.
I’m racist, but I’m trying to let God perfect me in love. I’m trying.
This week will be the last of the daily devotionals as we are turning our energy toward what it will take and all the precautions necessary to safely gather again in limited numbers for worship in the sanctuary. Our target, barring the unexpected, is the middle of June.
Finally, as we are making the necessary plans, I ask each of you to respond to let us know whether you’ll be coming for in-person worship or staying online only. We need to get a rough head count so we can the appropriate plans. This time will pass. But in the meantime, let’s walk gently, letting grace guide us, in all we do and with all we meet.
***If you would like to support the ministries of Magnolia Methodist, you can mail a donation to 419 Commerce St. Magnolia, TX 77355 or drop one off in the lockbox at the church office, or through our online donation system; https://checkout.square.site/pay/b98f5bd4309b4d86a412c2b3286d6171. Thank you for your generosity.***
Check back tomorrow for our next daily devotional.