June 7, 2020
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all!
From our Exodus reading today, we learn the character of God:
Slow to anger, rich in kindness, merciful and gracious.
And in our Gospel we see that character in action: For God so loved the world . . . that he gave his only Son, Jesus . . . who showed us a way, a particular way, the way of grace that empowers us to take on the character of God. If we so choose, we too have the capacity to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness.
The way of Jesus, the character of God, means offering your hand or your back to another person so that they can be lifted out of harm’s way, receive the care they deserve, experience the dignity of being a human person made in the image of God.
You’ve heard it said, of course, that we are created in the image and likeness of God. And today, we acknowledge God as Trinity, which is the epitome of perfect relationship. So, does it not make sense that in our relationships we best reflect the image and likeness of God? . . . Or not.
When our relationships reflect the character of God – merciful and gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness—we actually reflect God’s image and likeness. When our relationships reflect the opposite, we do not portray God’s image. Not even close. We’ve seen examples of both splashed across our news screens all week.
It’s not really a stretch for us to say we condemn racist acts and police brutality. And it’s not really much of a stretch to say we stand in solidarity with all those who call for justice, or to state that Black Lives Matter. Sure, these are in line with God’s character, but just saying them doesn’t cost us much.
And if the events of the last two weeks have taught me anything, it’s that we have to say more, go further, challenge our privilege, and question our comforts. We have to dive deeper into what ‘image and likeness’ really means. We have to probe God’s character for its true depth.
My gut tells me it calls for a level of conviction and vulnerability that I am not sure I am prepared to give . . . but, gratefully, others truly are.
Today, I feel inadequate to the task. Today, I feel you should be hearing from someone other than me. Someone who actually has experience at fighting racism and bigotry; someone who has truly been a voice for the voiceless; someone who can set aside the extraneous details of parish life and cut right to the heart of the message we all need to hear.
So today, I turn to Valerie Chapman, former Administrator at St. Francis Parish, where I worshiped for several decades before coming to St. Charles. Just last week, Valerie wrote:
God is not colorblind. God made all the colors and framed them in a rainbow that speaks through the ages. The white community must stand down. They have had their time and taken more than their share. When Black Lives Matter morphs too quickly into All Lives Matter it really means that white folks don’t want to give up what they have, they do not want to see change that costs them the privilege that they have experienced and they most certainly do not want to step down from places of power.
She goes on to say:
It takes courage to deliberately join with people who are different from ourselves. Courage to listen to what they have to say, courage to admit that we don’t know everything, and enormous amounts of courage to admit, if we are “white,” that our kind has done a great disservice to the human population by terrorizing individuals and families whose skin is dark.
I stand convicted. You? My heart aches and my spirit seeks the right response. To what is God calling me, us? At this moment, the answer is not at all clear . . . but the question is genuine, and that is the first step. The next step is bringing the question to all of us, the community of St. Charles, and trusting that God will continue to guide us as we carry each other along, challenge one another to act, hold each other accountable in love, and support those around us who are in need.
For those who are not “white” it takes courage just to live each day without succumbing to fear or hatred. I don’t know how you do it . . . Surely God has given you strength!
And I would add that you, persons of color, in your courage and strength, in your sacrifices of martyrdom, in your pleas for nonviolence, in your unwavering faith, have shown me the image and likeness of God, the true character of God: merciful and gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness.