I have struggled to find the words to express how I have been feeling. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. So many others. I am horrified at how God’s people are treated because of the color of their skin.
Finding one’s voice, for some people, comes quickly and easily. For me, I have had to find a way to first confront my own white privilege. I find tears of contrition are my constant companion. I have not ever had to worry about walking down the street or sleeping in my own bed or facing unimaginable brutality. Yet people I serve with and respect have had to carry this worry every day of their lives. They have had conversations with their children that my parents never had to have with me.
What does it mean to have a voice in such a time as this?
This is where my struggle to speak, my struggle to listen to what God is saying to me, has led me. There is an overwhelming awareness that we are all family. All of us. United by grace and love. United in ways that are more than birth and heritage. We are family because God has created us to be family. Listen to these words that strike me as so very true:
- Galatians 3:28 – There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
- Mark 3: 32 -35 – A crowd was seated around [Jesus], and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.” He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”
- “The clarion call of Jesus is revolutionary: instead of being brothers and sisters by birth, Jesus calls us to be brothers and sisters by choice – to be family. We are to take down the accepted boundaries and understand ourselves to be “siblings by choice” because of our faith and our desire to follow God.” (see Archie Smith Jr. and Ursula Riedel-Pfaefflin, Siblings by Choice: Race, Gender and Violence (St. Louis: Chalice: 2004)
Last fall I met with congregation after congregation to talk about identity, to discuss values which shape our behaviors as people of faith. Over and over again I heard stories about the importance of acceptance and inclusion. It was touching to hear people share the stories about their encounters with God coming through their relationships with one another. And still our society struggles under the oppressive weight of racism. It is time we, the disciples of Jesus Christ, change that.
- We need to come to terms with the reality that God has created us as family
- We must come to terms with the fact that love, and justice takes work
- We have to find ways to hold hands and work to impact our society with the values we hold dear to our faith.
- We can no longer close our eyes and pretend change will just happen. We must be intentional.
I still remember hearing Bishop Leontine Kelly tell our annual conference, “walk in the waters of your baptism. You won’t drown.” Her words fully impact me every time there is a baptism or reaffirmation of baptismal vows. Baptism affirms that we are family and called to live in that familial covenant every moment of our lives.
If your church has not yet taken steps to articulate its faith identity, to name the values that shape one’s behavior, I would encourage you to do that now. Define who you are as the people of God, no longer in nebulous terms, but in a way that holds you accountable for the way you treat one another, stranger, and friend alike.
Who would have guessed that when our Annual Conference adopted its vision statement that we would need to lean into it in the way we are called to do today? God does call us to be a courageous church: loving like Jesus, acting for Justice, united in hope.
For such a time as this – for such a time as this. Let’s make it happen.
Your sibling by choice,