Peacemakers & Justice Seekers: Responding to Recent Events

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

On Sunday, Christian churches around the world marked the holy day of Pentecost as they worshipped. Pentecost is commonly referred to as the birthday of the Church – the day when the Spirit of God was dramatically manifested through wind and fire and speech. This was the day when followers of Jesus Christ were empowered to become the Church – people sent out into the world as ambassadors of Jesus’ love, God’s peacemakers and justice-seekers (Acts 2:1-41). As countless preachers noted yesterday, both the Hebrew and Greek words for “Spirit” can be translated as breath.

Usually the day of Pentecost is a celebratory one in churches. But this weekend, my clergy sisters and brothers struggled to find the appropriate words to preach, as George Floyd’s last words echoed in their hearts and minds: “I can’t breathe.” How can you talk about the breath of God at a time like this? How can you talk about the fire of God when buildings are burning?

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Each created by God in the image of God and dearly loved by God. Lives abruptly cut short. America is once again tasting the bitter fruit of generations of institutional racism. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow” (Galatians 6:7).

What is God calling us to do? Those of us who are white have much to learn from our black colleagues at The Next Door. This is a time for white folks to listen and do the difficult soul-searching work required to root out racism in our lives and systems. We must be mindful that many of our clients have experienced trauma as a result of omnipresent racism. The Next Door must be a safe place for women of all races and all ethnic backgrounds if we intend to reflect our core values and carry out our Christian mission.

What is God calling us to do? Prayer is certainly a good place to start. As I worshiped yesterday, a young woman named Lauren Plummer offered a challenging and comforting prayer. Here is an excerpt:

In this moment we acknowledge the emotions that weigh heavy on our hearts: maybe anger and grief, maybe guilt or fear, maybe numbness or hopelessness. We pause to do that most basic thing that holds us together—that fundamental necessity so often denied to black and brown people: We take a deep breath. We remember how precious it is—given to all people by Love, but stolen from some by hate.

On this day we remember the story of how your Spirit came to live within us as a Comforter and guide, and we beseech you to send comfort to every Black sibling suffering under the weight of generations of trauma and loss. Send the fresh wind of your Spirit to make a path in the wilderness of despair. Ignite hope from the deep stories — how you delivered the captives from bondage and sunk whole armies of oppressors at the bottom of the sea.

On this day we remember the story of how your holy fire came to live within us—to burn in our hearts so that we cannot settle for anything less than love, whose fruits are justice and peace. Let your privileged people hold each other to that fire with listening and action and perseverance, knowing we will all be lost without this redeeming work.

On this day, Holy One, we remember how Spirit rushed in, when it seemed like all was lost, and gave the friends of Jesus the power to listen and learn from each other across vast differences so that they could work together for a common purpose—sharing the good news of a Love that has come to liberate us all.”

I echo Lauren’s prayer: Holy One, may your Spirit rush into our hearts again. May your holy fire purify our hearts from the sin of racism. Empowered and unified by your Spirit, may we work together to liberate women from the bondage of addiction so that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Amen.

Published on June 4, 2020

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