Joy and Sorrow


Someone described yesterday as a day of “emotional whiplash.” From the declaration of love, justice, and equality by the U.S. Supreme Court to the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of those murdered in the hate crime committed at a bible study in Charleston, S.C. I believe, I hope, I trust that the presence of the holy was in these places both of ecstatic joy and of deep sorrow.

I sat in my office, weeping,
reading the live blog
from the Supreme Court.
5-4 in favor of same sex marriage.
Who could have known
this day would come?

Protection for families,
for children,
equal rights for couples.

Small things, so important …
A spouse’s name on a death certificate.
Two parents’ names on an adoption form.
The right to be by a loved one’s side in the emergency room.

The acknowledgment of covenant,
of commitment,
of love.

I sat in my living room, weeping,
watching the President,
family and friends and leaders,
mourn and celebrate the life of Reverend Pinckney.

Deaths too awful to comprehend,
meaningless, senseless,
lives torn asunder by racism,
an ugly, malignant tumor in our land.

I watch as this gathering, these witnesses,
transcend barriers.
I listen, and my spirit
rises out of despair and darkness
towards hope and light.

God, how can you contain
all of this?
All of this joy and sorrow,
all of this love and grief.
Be present with us in these days.
We need you now.

On Injustice, Advent, and Jubilee

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Repost from the Alive Now blog.

I was standing on the street visiting with an African-American friend when a car containing mutual acquaintances pulled up about ten feet from us. The folks in the car motioned for me to walk over to their window to talk with them. I won’t go into the details of what happened, but when they drove away without acknowledging the presence of my friend on the sidewalk, I realized that I had been given the gift of glimpsing the racism that he sees, experiences, and lives every day. In those awkward moments after they drove away, we stood in silence. I finally said, “Well, that was rude.” And then I had a further gift. The barrier was breached, and we were able to talk for just a few minutes about his experiences of being a person who is treated differently from me because of the color of his skin.

In this world, in this time, when there is so much hurt, so much injustice, so much anger and despair, I still live in a place of privilege, protected from the small and large slights, injustices, and downright dangers of looking different, of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jesus came to bring release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. That’s the message of Jubilee, the message of Advent — and I’m mostly on the privileged side of that equation. Most of the time, I’m the free one rather than the captive. Most of the time, I don’t see the daily injustices of racism and classism that oppress persons of color or those who live below the poverty line. It’s uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as the fear of a mother who, when her black son leaves the house, prays that he will come home again safely. It’s not as uncomfortable as a community who feels threatened by the very system created to protect it.

I pray for wisdom to know how to be a Christ-follower today — in this place and in this time. To live faithfully and with courage. To be God’s heart and hands in the world. To have the opportunity to speak truth, to acknowledge that things are not right. To be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I want to make a difference in this hurting world. And I wonder, how can we be prophets, healers, followers of Christ when a world of hurt, injustice, and anger is boiling over.

Break into this world, God of Light.
Open our shuttered eyes, shuttered life,
to the stories of injustice.
Open our locked-up hearts
to your spirit of love and compassion.
Give us courage to speak truth to injustice.
Guide us as we seek to be bearers of hope
in places where there is no hope,
Bringers of comfort where there is despair,
Sources of courage where there is only fear.
Come quickly, Emmanuel.

Share with me your hopes and dreams, your thoughts and actions.