Lord have mercy.
My grandparents told their sons in the 1930s and 40s, to not run from the police, to cooperate when they were stopped.
My mom shopped in Best and Co. and Lord and Taylor because she used personal shoppers and knew that she would not be insulted or asked if she was looking for A & S or Macy’s.
My mom took my sister and I to foreign films so that we would see people of color in the movies.
I cried as I yelled and screamed at my oldest daughter who had, on a whim with her friends, went to NYC without our knowledge and with no ID. If something had happened, I screamed, we wouldn’t be able to find you. It would be assumed you were just another black/brown kid up to no good.
In my 40s, when I did my required chaplaincy in New York, on the upper East side, a doctor who I would greet as he was leaving the hospital as his shift was ending and I was entering, one day gestured towards his car and invited me in. Seeing the confusion on my face, he attempted to clarify - “I thought you were…” “I work here, you racist s.o.b!” was my retort.
Today, there is a member of Gloria Dei that never calls me pastor. Is it an oversight? Mostly I don’t need people to call me pastor; I’m much more concerned on how I’m treated. But I notice she always calls Lisa, pastor.
This is the history, the lens, with which I view the world. Every black and brown person in this church, in this community, in this country, has stories like mine. It is our history no matter where you live in this country. It is our shared story no matter your profession, no matter how much money you have. No one will look at my oldest grandson, who is on the cross country team at his school, who now runs on the country roads near his home, and see the honor student he is, who has been taking advanced placement courses in math and science for years, who’s parents income meant they didn’t receive the stimulus.
We’re tired. We’re tired of scanning a room to see if it’s safe to enter. We’re tired of hearing we’re different. We’re tired of being reduced to a body. We’re tired of the endless loops of the killings and outrages with nothing changing. We’re tired.
But we are not without hope. Today is Pentecost, when God’s Spirit with another breath of life, ushered in a new creation; the church, would be the repository of the story of Jesus, the black/brown son of God who was sacrificed on the altar of the empire, sacrificed because it was easier to kill the opposition than to change; his breath snuffed out because he dared speak of a new way of living where the poor are not victimized and enslaved by the rich and powerful. This Jesus, who the world dismissed, who, while some wondered if he could indeed be the Son of God, was jeered and mocked even as his disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke the truth of God.
I believe, as many people of faith do, that God is doing a mighty thing.
Our beloved ELCA, which remains an overwhelmingly white denomination, has a presiding bishop, has our New Jersey and New York bishops, other bishops and clergy speaking strongly and unequivocally about the need to dismantle the racism that has been too long our national narrative.
God, who created with a word, creates us with the breath of the Spirit, who, though many, can, in our diversity, be one. This is the strength of the church. This is what we can share with the world; that racism and prejudice doesn’t have to be our way. We can show in the way we live and give, that there is enough for all. We don’t have to live in a world where the top one percent owns more wealth than the bottom 20 percent. We can, in the way pray together, eat together, fellowship together, and work together to address the sins of this world, show how we celebrate the differences, knowing that we need all to be the church God breathed us to be.
We can proclaim and work for justice - because that’s how we make God’s love evident in this world. A just society is what God calls us to; a society that doesn’t just speak of love,but actively works to make sure that all God’s children live in safety and peace.
There was a lot of lament this week. But today is Pentecost, and the church declares that the long night of weeping is over. God has made all things new in Jesus. And we can claim this new life. We can be this new life.
And with God’s help, we will be. Alleluia! Amen.