2 Corinthians 13: 11-13
This week I needed the words from the letter to the Corinthians . Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. I long for peace, but I think we have a lot of hard work to do along the way before we get there. Still, let’s think about how we might begin. The passage says, encourage one another, be of one mind, strive for full restoration. My friends we need to consider what that restoration might look like. A good place to start is a recognition of the humanity, the inherent worth of those who have long been oppressed.
Early this week, Monday or Tuesday, the days seem all to run together now, I found myself anxious, worried about the events across the country last weekend, the protests to the killing of George Floyd, the violent and destructive acts of some protestors and opportunists, and the disproportionate use of force to largely peaceful protests. As I sometimes do when I am struggling with a difficult situation in my life, I sat down to write. I didn’t get very far but I want to share a bit of what I wrote that morning:
“And so, I rise to face another day. My body aching from another restless night on top of a day which will be remembered as one more day when the president’s actions revealed his casual disregard for the people of this country. Insult added to injury. A nation sick and in mourning is greeted not with compassion, with words comfort and encouragement, but with insensitivity to the understandable grief and outrage at the cumulative weight of racism. I am worried, I am angry, I am bereft, and I know this feeling in my body. Some might say it is a feeling in their bones.”
Yes, I know this feeling. Perhaps you know it too. When I say I know this feeling, it’s because that sense of being on high alert, the feeling that every nerve ending is alive, was one I lived with as I dealt with my experience of childhood trauma. Thankfully it’s not a feeling I experience often now, but it is something I would not wish an anyone. And yet I’m aware some know it all too well. Now no doubt some experience it differently, but the worry that come with a perceived threat to the self, the family, or the community demands attention and diverts energy from the everyday routine of usual commitments. It is exhausting. And recognizing that, I am brought to my knees for those who experience it on a regular basis.
Think about what it is like for our black brothers and sisters. Every time there is a report of a black man or woman in an encounter with police or self-appointed community observer that ends badly, your heart aches once again. You remember the person in your community who had a close call when stopped by the police for a busted taillight that wasn’t out after all, but just an excuse for a stop. Perhaps you remember threats made when you walked into an establishment where the owner preferred not to serve people they called “your kind.” And you remember the many across the country who did not survive such incidents. Once again you feel called to set aside what you were doing, or worry simply gets the best of you as grief takes the place of the productive work you had planned for the day. And then, next week, next month, it happens again… and again…. and again.
I happened by chance upon an article that voiced the same concern. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist who works with groups seeking solutions to the climate crisis. Like others she is aware of the costs to the poor and people of color of unwise environmental practices of the past. She is aware that black communities are especially vulnerable to the ravages of storms and pollution by virtue of having access only to overcrowded areas that whites have abandoned. Blacks and other people of color are often consigned to places deprived of clean water and good soil for growing food crops and polluted by chemicals. So, Dr. Johnson, policy expert on the environment and NYU professor, wrote about all the things she had planned that didn’t get done last week because she was distracted from her work. Once again, the deadly results of racism invaded her thoughts and her community, and she says she couldn’t concentrate. Now imagine what that takes away from our society when entire communities are affected, making it difficult for them to function. Dr. Johnson puts it this way. “Consider the discoveries not made, the books not written, the ecosystems not protected, the art not created, the gardens not tended.”**
We need our black brothers and sisters. We need each and every one of us working together if we are to create a just and equitable society. We need to encourage one another, be of one mind, strive for full restoration. Only when we learn to nurture and value the contributions of each and every person will we begin to realize the prophets’ visions of a repaired city and nation. Let us all be about that work. Amen.
*2 Corinthians 13: 11-12 (NIV)
** Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet. Washington Post, June 3, 2020 https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/03/im-black-climate-scientist-racism-derails-our-efforts-save-planet/?fbclid=IwAR15SrmZTFh98NfOe1HN-UE6sPd2lIUvryT-vVW9cR62cM_DK7U8oW1jC5g