(This is what I shared before our time of prayer in worship on July 10, 2016 at Newberg Friends Church)
What a difficult week we have had.
Lives have been lost in very difficult and visible ways. Times of mutual grief have been far more rare than times of mutual finger pointing. As a nation we are dividing, splintering. It’s difficult to watch. It’s difficult to talk, for fear of being misunderstood or of getting angry at the different perspective of another.
As the church of Jesus Christ, we can and must pray, and speak, and act. But how?
When Jesus spoke his mission in Luke chapter 4, he used the words of Isaiah the prophet to let us know he would take the side of the poor, the prisoners, the oppressed. Jesus lived, the early church lived in a time where they had no political power, and they knew what it was like to suffer unjustly.
People of color in our country have suffered unjustly, over centuries. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are just the latest in a long line of people who, for African-Americans and other people of color, represent oppression and unjust killing. We can and we must mourn with our brothers and sisters who struggle with fear and rage, who struggle even in Newberg with being pulled over by police far more often than I do as a white man.
We can and we must mourn. We must also raise questions about systems of oppression that are present even when personal expressions of racism may be absent.
Yet to do so does not mean we must be or are against our police officers.
They, too, are grieving and wounded this week. Five police officers were killed while serving at a peaceful protest in Dallas: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarippa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. We grieve and mourn those unjust deaths as well. And faithful officers across our country are getting unjustly blamed for horrible actions by other officers.
We are sinking in a sea of escalating violence. I believe our only true hope is in Jesus Christ. I do not mean that as an escape for actions for justice. I do not mean that as a statement of us being better than others. I do not mean that tritely or as an excuse to shake our heads at “all those bad people out there.”
When I say our only true hope is in Jesus Christ, I mean this: I mean that you and I need Jesus to forgive our sin, to point out our sin, to convict us of sin…my sin, not just the people who think differently than me. I mean that you and I need the fruit of the Spirit in our lives to breed gentleness not violence, peace not complacency, faithfulness to God not my perspective.
I mean that we must follow Jesus’ example. We must speak truth to power in non-violent ways. We must cross boundary lines of sinner and saint and get ourselves in trouble for being with the outcasts. We must challenge authority for the sake of the oppressed, and like Jesus who called out the Roman Centurion’s faith, we must recognize that there are people everywhere, even in the most corrupt systems, who are faithful and who should be supported and affirmed.
And we must pray, so let us pray.
Let us ask for wisdom to see the right path in these difficult times. Let us ask for courage to stand for what’s right. Let us ask for grace to be peacemakers, not dividers. Let us ask for justice to pour down like water, for God to rend the heavens and come down.