Greetings Friends. The Lord is with you!
When I read the gospels I’m constantly struck by how often Jesus stopped to listen to people whom others had ignored, dismissed, or even silenced. Jesus stopped to listen to a blind man, to a widow whose son had died, to an unstable man who lived in a cemetery, to tax collectors and prostitutes, to a young rich man and an old poor woman. The fact that Jesus stopped to listen to people like these strikes me because I know how often I fail to listen to people who are unlike me and how often I make excuses to dismiss what I hear from those with whom I may disagree. I must change if I am to live the Jesus way, truth and life.
The death of George Floyd and the response across our country to it has once again revealed a place of deep brokenness in our culture – the kind of brokenness that Jesus would move toward with listening ears and healing hands. It seems to me that one habit white Christians must put into practice is that of listening. Specifically, we must listen to our black brothers and sisters. We must listen when it makes us uncomfortable. We must listen when we disagree. We must listen to those whom we have disliked or dismissed or even tried to silence. We must listen so that we learn about ourselves, about ways we have failed to be just and loving, and about what we must do next as followers of Jesus. We must listen so that we can learn how to love and thus carry out what Jesus said was the greatest commandment.
About a decade ago our church made listening one of the three fundamental commitments we would share while following Jesus. And listening is the first step we can take as we seek to understand the pain and frustration of African Americans across our country. To that end I invite you to search out messages from black preachers, or interviews with black leaders, or articles and books written by black authors, and stop and listen to what they say. Listen like Jesus would listen so you can learn. If you wonder where to start, I recommend two interviews. The first is a webinar from my friends at the Global Immersion Project (https://globalimmerse.org/blog/webinar-526/). You may have to register to be able to listen, but I believe the password is: peacemaking. The second is a podcast from Fuller Seminary which can be found at this link https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/dwight-radcliff-on-black-pain/ or by searching your podcast player with “Fuller Conversing Radcliff”. If you wonder what book to read, consider Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Hereor Brian Stevenson’s Just Mercy. If you’re already a student of this subject, there is an extended reading list here: https://globalimmerse.org/blog/racism-in-america-a-learning-journey-for-white-people/. And of course, listening to an African American friend is even better than reading a book or listening to a podcast. Simply being a friend right now, is a critical action you can take.
Following Jesus is not always comfortable. It will take you places you may not want to go. But it is the best and most beautiful path in life and the journey ends at the heart of God where there is peace, wholeness, and the reconciliation of all things to God and to one another. I am thankful you’re on this journey with me.
We anticipate making an announcement next week concerning reopening plans at the church. Your feedback has been helpful in our discernment process. Right now, I hope you’ll continue to join us on line each week by watching our worship video. I also hope you’ll reach out to some of the friends you would normally see in worship or at another church gathering. Say “hello” and ask how they’re doing. We need each other while we continue to take precautions against this virus.
I want to remind you to send pictures of church events or people at the church to Alicia Baumer so she can produce a video remembering our church’s 125th anniversary this summer. You can email pictures to her at email@example.com Carter Powell (firstname.lastname@example.org) is also welcoming donations to the food pantry between 2pm and 3pm Wednesdays. If you prefer to shop for items rather than donating money, this is the current list of needs:
Hearty canned soups
Tuna/ canned meat
Canned or dry beans
Cereal/ dry breakfast items
Mac and cheese
Pasta and sauces
Wash your hands. Love your neighbors. And go with God, who fuels our hopes and quiets our fears. Everywhere. Always.