This is a piece I wrote for our church’s weekly email announcements, which went out yesterday.
It is difficult to know what to say or do in the face of such tragedies as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the communal cries from decades-old tensions in the aftermath. It is difficult to maintain composer or any sense of the peace of Christ in the face of the attempt by terrorists to ransom U.S. journalist James Foley and then showing the video of his beheading to the world. I find it equally difficult to wrap my head around the centuries of turmoil and violence that has plagued the Middle East, Africa, Central America, and so many places around the world. It is all too easy to feel overwhelmed, turn off the TV, stop reading the news, grab a latté from the local coffee shop and escape into a good bit of light-hearted fictional reading. But that is not the example Jesus has given us.
In many ways Jesus tried to lead by example, putting himself in places and relationships he knew might get him in trouble, but for the sake of God’s compassion and justice, and inviting people to taste the kingdom of God in their midst. The Gospel of John is famed for recording Jesus saying, “[God] and I are one.” I have come to understand this and many other sayings as not Jesus so much putting himself on par with God, but opening himself to and seeking to be in harmony with God’s work of transformative justice and seeking peace in the world.
I wrote a brief reflection this week on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri (you can find it here). It does not offer many answers, but raises many questions and is an attempt at honestly expressing my outrage, deep sadness, and frustration with racial and ideological tensions that are inevitable in human relations. I hope and pray for a better future for our children, but I can’t help but wonder if anything will really change, mostly because of our (I include myself in here) seeming inability as human beings to deal with the diversity of God’s beautiful creation.
For me, Jesus is the Messiah, the one through whom God has sought to reconcile the world according to the Creator’s purpose in creating––namely: partnership, love, grace, mercy, compassion. Through Jesus, God revealed to us the truth of our potential as creations of the Living God. In Matthew 16.15, Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” I invite you to consider who Jesus is to you. I then challenge you to consider how your understanding of Jesus is being embodied in your life day-to-day and in response to tragedies and violence around the world. What difference does Jesus make in your life, and how might you live that out in the midst of a world of chaos and pain, as well as joy and celebration? What might God be inviting you and us into here?
A number of clergy friends are descending on Ferguson, Missouri, to be present in the chaos and stand in solidarity with the black people who are being targeted day after day. I want so desperately to be there with them and give witness to the dangerously radical and risk-taking Jesus I read about in scripture. For now, I hold the people of Ferguson, people of color throughout our country, my clergy friends, as well as all those suffering from violence and war in my thoughts and prayers, and I seek to stand with them at least in spirit if not in person. Will you join me in doing the same?