As we come to the end of the Lenten season, we approach Easter with great anticipation. I am reflecting on how much has happened since Advent, when the nation was riveted by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, surrounding the death of Michael Brown. On the first Sunday in Advent I preached a sermon in which I asked the congregation to pray with me and turn the issue of racism in the United States over to God, and wait for a response. The following week, I asked how many people got an answer. Only one person raised a hand.
You might think that that is a sign that God did not answer, but in reality many, many things happened. Several people came to me immediately after worship on that day and told me their own stories of witnessing (and participating in!) racism in their own lives. It was clear that they wanted a safe place to talk about it. I began receiving emails from parishioners forwarding me articles about racism in the United States and concrete actions that white people could take to combat it.
Requests came for more sermons on this topic, for more avenues for conversation and action. The Mission Board discerned that they wanted to focus their efforts on educating the children of immigrants by starting a Homework Club and scholarship program. A long-time member approached me saying he had recently seen a photographic presentation on the Civil Rights protests in Selma, Mississippi, in 1963; would the church be interested in inviting the photographer, Matt Herron, to present to the congregation?
Since then, we have opened up a conversation on race relations in the United States—past, present, and future. We will be seeing Matt Herron present the photographs from his new book, Mississippi Eyes, on April 26. On May 22 we will be watching the movie Selma. In August we will be hosting a performance of Cops and Robbers which navigates an officer-involved shooting of a black man in Oakland, California, in modern day.
We are opening our eyes to the problem, opening our minds to learn new information, and opening our hearts to engage in honest conversation about how our own thoughts and actions can exacerbate or solve the problem.
As we enter the season of Easter, let us remember that Christ revealed himself to people in many unexpected ways, challenged them to open their eyes to uncomfortable truths, and called them to respond with humility, authenticity and service. In December I asked that you pray with me for a clear direction to take. Now I ask that you prayerfully respond to the opportunities and challenges we have been given.