If you know me, you know I don’t usually shy away from speaking what’s on my heart. I have been heart broken these past couple of weeks, and this past week in particular. Our country is on fire, people are rising up to protest centuries of violence against black and brown bodies. These past couple of months have shown once again, when pandemic hits our country it is black and brown people who suffer more than white people do. My heart is breaking that some people seem to be more upset about buildings being destroyed and looted then black and brown bodies being looted. Is a bank really worth more than a human life? Does it even matter that it seems to be a small number of white people who are instigating and carrying out the worst acts of violence at these peaceful protests, despite the black and brown leaders pleading for them not to?
Our country is on fire and today is Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit came rushing through a crowded market place with wind and fire. I do not imagine that this was a gentle breeze with a few flickering, beautiful candles, no, this was a mighty wind with big flames. It had such an impact, that we say that was the day the church was born. We say that was the day that transformed all the people present. We say that was the day that changed everything. Fire and wind are two powerful forces, and together, they can destroy everything in their path. Those of us who have lived in Colorado for a while have seen this every summer as fires burn through our forests and we watch California burn every dry season too. Last year the world watched as Australia burned.
What is hard to remember while things are burning, is that after the fire, when the ashes have settled, new life begins to emerge. Some seeds need the heat of the fire to open. These plants grow back stronger. The heat of the flames that swept through them gave them what they needed to open and to flourish. There is a swath of green in our country that is visible from an airplane. It’s the path of Sherman’s march. Sherman burned his way through the south. Now, the trees and plants have grown back stronger and greener.
This country was founded by a revolution and a protest against the British Monarchy. We have seen people go to war in the name of something good and honorable. We have seen cities destroyed in the name of freedom and justice. These actions are often seen as the last resort of desperate people, the thing that people do when they feel as if they have exhausted all the other options. Four hundred years of oppression and violence seems like a long time.
So what do we do, people gathered together in a church born from a rush of wind and flames? What do we do as people who follow Jesus? The Jesus who invites us into a way of love? We are called to respond in love. And When we ask “why are they burning things and breaking things?” we also need to ask “Why, when fully armed white men stormed into government buildings to protest being asked to stay home to help flatten the curve and to wear masks in public, law enforcement stood by quietly, but when black and brown people go out in the street, unarmed, to protest yet another public unnecessary death, police bring tear gas and plastic bullets to break them up” We need to ask what is this system that values property over the lives of so many of us? What is this system that tells us over and over again that black and brown lives don’t matter as much as white lives?
Those of us gathered in the name of Jesus and the Holy-Spirit-who-will-disturb-us are called to learn our history. We must listen to the voices crying out “I can’t breathe” and dig into the issues that are impacting us now and to stand in solidarity to witness the lives and the truth of those lives of our black and brown brothers and sisters. We must learn our history, listen to the voices crying for justice and mercy and respond in love.
The systems that we have in place are killing us, all of us, and we are called to change them. When we ask how do we do this, we don’t know the way! We do know the way. We know the way of love. We have promised to respect the dignity of every human being and to seek and serve Christ in all people. We are called to breath new life into the ashes. We are called to listen across the borders that have been designed to separate us, and to learn the sorrows and the joys of people we have been taught to fear. We are called to love one another truly, madly and deeply. We are the seeds that need the fire to bring forth new life. If we are willing to brave the fire and the wind, I believe that we are in the process of transformation. Something new and powerful and love filled can emerge if we are willing to be there to help birth it.