Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
2807 N. Augusta St.
Staunton, VA 24401
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11
I lament and I grieve for our country as we struggle with the sin of racism. As we are distracted by gripping images of chaos, I will not forget the instigating tragedy in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN.
As I grieve, I do not want to lose sight that this moment is different. For example, the chief of police in Chattanooga, TN said: “If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with [the death of George Floyd]…turn it in.” George Floyd died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes. Mr. Floyd was already in handcuffs. Three other police officers watched and did not intervene as Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation. The outrage over this death is wide spread and nearly universal. Criminal charges have already been filed against all four police officers. It is not just the police chief in Chattanooga responding. On Monday, police officers from that city took a knee with community members gathered together to call for racial justice.
Other police officers and chiefs have spoken out against this criminal betrayal. They have taken knees with protestors and joined marches. Sheriff Chris Swanson joined a protest march in Flint Michigan. He said, “I took my helmet off. They [other officers] put their batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest.” A man who marched alongside Sheriff Swanson acknowledged the moment and said, “We don’t need this to be a one-day occasion We need this to be something every day.” On Monday, Flint announced a Black Lives Matter advisory board for their Police Department. The people of Flint have gathered peacefully for three consecutive nights for racial justice.
I lift up the response of Police Chief Joseph Wysocki from Camden, NJ. While Philadelphia struggled with their response and with violence. Camden, just across the Delaware River, had two days of peaceful gatherings. Residents credit relationships that police have made within the community over the last seven years. When one mother organized a march to the police department, police officers and Chief Wysocki joined her.
I also lift up the photograph that comes from Louisville, KY where a group of African American men placed themselves as a circle of protection around a police officer who became separated from his squad during riots in that city.
As I lament and grieve the injustice and cost of racism, I give thanks for these moments of compassion, patience, and respect for the sanctity of life. I find hope in these moments for future relationships that will help heal communities and build the stronger relationships that will address the physical and emotional costs of racism in our nation. I may lament, but I will remain focussed on the issue of justice before us.
As I lament, I will also give voice to my hope and my confidence in God who breaks down barriers and responds to injustice in many and various healing ways. In the days ahead I will provide to the congregation connections to prayers, a message from our Bishop, and a message from the national body of the ELCA to help sustain our human spirit in full confidence of our resurrected Savior. I will continue to reflect on how the Holy Spirit dwells within the church. I will also order several copies of “Dear Church” by Lenny Duncan, an African-American preacher as well as ELCA pastor and theologian. Let me know if you would like to borrow one.
As I said on Sunday, I pray that the Holy Spirit heals us from all that ails us, including racism. I also pray that the Holy Spirit helps us bring about lasting change for our nation, our communities, and our African American neighbors.