The death of an unarmed young black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO and subsequent protests since August have brought to the surface once again the hideous reality of racism in our country, a reality that continues to rear its ugly head seemingly at will. The decision by the Grand Jury not to indict Officer Darren Wilson set off a new round of protests; some peaceful and some violent, both in Ferguson as well as across this nation. People have been pointing fingers at the system, at the Grand Jury, at the police officers who have fought back the crowds, at the justice system itself as well as at individuals. Pointing the finger is easy to do for us, it moves the blame from us to others.
Yet, as we were all told, when one points a finger at someone else, three are pointing back at us. This is not a problem for Ferguson or communities of minorities or the poor, this is our problem as a nation and as a church. Until we can name the demons we can’t begin to cast them out. Until we are able to sit down with those who are strangers and see in them not only friends but the face of Christ we will fail the process. Until we recognize the racism in our own hearts and lives and place it on the table for discussion we won’t move forward.
Christ calls us to forgiveness and hope, to be present in the broken places as he was present during his ministry among those who were broken and is present with us now in our failings and faltering lives. How do we find a way to address this brokenness in our society in a healthy, helpful and productive manner? I’m not certain, but we must find a way for until we do we will continue to experience the present reality as it plays itself out across this nation and world again and again and again.
The Church has a word of promise and hope, grounded in forgiveness, as we recognize and give voice to our sinfulness and seek grace freely offered. Is it time for us to enter into a deep conversation around this issue that calls us all to recognize our shortcomings and sins and see in others not their color or economic standing or social status? If not, when? If so, how? I don’t have the answers but we must begin asking the questions and answering them honestly and faithfully.
I invite you to join me and others in prayer in these days that we might find a way to peace and equality, living into the dream that Dr. King so longed for during his life. Pray for the people of Ferguson as well as those other places the world around where racism exists and thrives openly and freely. Pray for this church, that we might be a beacon of hope and light, grounded in the One who makes all One. Pray for peace and live into that peace.
Michael Brown Sr, the day before the Grand Jury results were released, offered these words: “I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that leaves the St. Louis region better for everyone.” I would add “that leaves this country better for everyone.” May it be so among us.
Redeeming God your arms embrace all now despised for creed or race
Let peace, descending like a dove, make known on earth your healing love.
Indwelling God, your Gospel claims one fam’ly with a billion names
Let every life be touched by grace until we praise you face to face.
Creating God, Your Fingers Trace: ELW 684
John S. Macholz, Bishop
Upstate New York Synod