Beloved St. John’s community,
I am writing to you today to ask you to join me on a journey—a journey about finally, irrevocably, connecting Jesus’ Way of Love with dismantling racism in ourselves and our country. There isn’t a person among us who isn’t anguished about what happened to George Floyd, and to the countless other black and brown bodies that have been slaughtered and violated in every part of our nation’s history from its foundation. I believe that our anguish about Mr. Floyd’s murder is a pale, partial reflection of the far deeper anguish and anger of the God who created him and whose beloved child he is, who is the One who heard when Mr. Floyd cried out, “Mama,” as he was dying. For every mother or father throughout the world who has ever lost a child, that sound cut to the quick.
The journey I believe God is inviting us to make together is a six-week deep dive into Dismantling Racism Through the Way of Love,beginning today. This journey is a lifelong journey that begins with our own conversion of heart. Can we see that since racism is the ocean we’ve all been swimming in, it is deeply embedded in every part of who we are as individuals and as an institution? What is needed isn’t an intellectual discussion. We need to feel the harm as if it were our child under Officer Chauvin’s knee. And then, to help the church and the empire get a divorce—by returning to what it originally meant to follow Jesus. The Jesus who had brown skin, who was homeless and non-violent and a radical prophet and healer and savior, who our tradition tells us is God in the flesh. The one who liberates the oppressed and heals the oppressor.
Each week for six weeks, we as a community will focus on steps of this journey: steps that will not be “one and done,” but cyclical and perpetual. They are: listen, learn, lament, repent, commit and discern. Here is an overview – please review this first. This first week, beginning today, we’ll focus on listening to the voices and experiences of our black and brown brothers, sisters, siblings—and what the Holy Spirit is trying to say through them.
Here’s what you can do to begin, starting right away (the first week’s assignment, June 18-24):
(1) pray and open your heart to the work of God in you.
(2) buy or borrow James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time and read at least the first chapter, with your heart wide open, listening with all of who you are. If you have time read the whole thing. (You might need to buy this on kindle or rent it from Hennepin County’s e-books; or you could watch I am not your negro)
(3) Listen to my sermon on Sunday June 21, and attend the sermon discussion on zoom at 9:30am. You can also attend the Wednesday night zoom discussion (link available in our weekly emails).
(4) Spend daily time praying through this scripture: Exodus 2:23-25 “After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.” Imagine what God sees, hears, remembers, notices. Seek to draw close to God’s heart as God observes what happened to George Floyd.
(5) Daily seek opportunities to listen to what black and brown folks are saying about their experiences.
(6) As you do all this, ask yourself:
– For those of us who are white: is it possible that I really don’t know what it’s like to be black or brown in this country? For those of us who are people of color: what has seemed most invisible about my experience to white neighbors and community members?
– what would I feel if the experiences this person is describing had happened to my child, my sister, my brother, myself? What would I feel if it was my child or parent under Officer Chauvin’s knee? If it was me?
– Why do you imagine white people can be untouched by the violence around them? For example, how could Officer Chauvin do what he did without concern?
– What do you imagine God sees, hears, notices, desires? How is what is deepest in you akin to what is deepest in God?
As we make this journey together, the very Spirit and Presence of Jesus will be with us, and will open us to transformation we didn’t think was possible. May it be so.