A verdict and a morning of snow

The morning after the verdict was announced in the trial of the officer now convicted of murdering George Floyd opens with snow on the ground. The common occurrence of late Spring snow in this beautiful part of God’s creation is a fitting metaphor for an all-too-common pattern that we must resist as we lay claim to Christ’s call for the justice worthy of his kingdom. We must not allow this small dusting of the partial purity of human justice to cover over the far deeper work of the emerging call to beloved community springing up throughout our corporate lives.

George Floyd’s death, and the courageous witness of the bystanders who gathered around the scene of his murder, opened so many eyes to the work of healing the long, long brokenness in our human community. Healing human community often requires painful work. In a single human body we might think of surgeries, toxic cancer treatments, grueling physical therapies, and a host of other difficult work necessary to heal a broken body. So too then we should expect that when healing a broken body of a people. We should encounter similar pains and difficult treatments to endure. The paroxisms of the last year bear witness to the body of the American people taking up the difficult work. Peaceful protests of tens of thousands, often facing officers of the peace feeling forced to use less and peaceful measures to restore their vision of calm communities. The evils of rioters and looters taking advantage of the situation, yet even their presence giving voice to anger that for too long has had nowhere to go. Legislators with twisted intent looking to restrict human rights in short-sighted attempts to maintain their version of the status quo. Families motivated by love but entrenched into opposing camps forced to awkward silence at even the most poignant of family milestone celebrations. The pain of the work is real.

And now, a verdict long awaited as we have more or less patiently waited for due process in the work of human justice is received. It would be all too easy now to give thanks for this pure light of hope after a long year of waiting and hurting as therapies have forced their way onto the body of our communities, and then, having received what we so desperately want to think is a cure to our ills, turn back to our visions of calm and peace that so often meant turning our backs on the long lasting evils still undermining the daily lives of our brothers and sisters.

Let the effect of the sunshine of tomorrow be a visual reminder of the right thing, the right path, the right next steps for all of us. Justice has begun to spring up in our lives. Hope, real hope, has begun to grow, and it points to something far greater than just a temporary victory through the courts of human justice. Once our immediate relief and joy melt away, let us take up with increased vigor the continued work of healing the body of our corporate humanity scared and shamed by racial injustice that has lasted centuries. Our congregations, through our work over the last year that include the Sacred Ground curriculum, has raised the minds and hearts of 12 congregants and your clergy person to just some of the scope of the work ahead. Already it has inspired 2 members of other Christian communities to take the classes, and more are expressing interest. Plans are underway to host more sessions this summer and fall. Hear the call to open your mind and heart to what following the call of Jesus to work for the Beloved Community truly entails as it grapples with America’s long, long stain of racial injustice.

And then know that even this work is but a painful first step. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. identified four steps necessary toward taking up the non-violent direct action for which his campaign for racial justice was so well known. May we not need to take all these steps as we work for the Beloved Community he dreamed of, but may we also have courage to do so if the road leads toward such ends. The first step is to truly identify the wrongs that must be made right. The Sacred Ground curriculum may be considered a part of this work, of raising our awareness to the scope of injustice and the current status of our national intransigence. For us here in Warren County, truly identifying what specific wrongs must be made right still remains for us. And then, taking up the next steps, asking in love for justice, purifying ourselves, and then direct action if necessary, will be our course we continue the work we have begun.

this work, here in Warren County, may be the most critical of all in the work of national healing. For we have every excuse to remain blind and beset by racial injustice. With so few Black Americans living among us (a strange circumstance in itself since the children of slavery account for almost 15% of the population of our nation), we are sorely tempted to turn a blind eye and say the problem is not ours with which to contend. Yet this lack of direct interaction with those whose bodies and souls that have borne the scars of our national shame in fact blinds us, who in many ways represent the rest of America, from the hurts such separation and exploitation inflict upon ourselves. To benefit from such a system of exclusion and exploitation inflicts untold psychic harms on us, and it denies us twice the access to the path toward the Beloved Community to which God calls us. First in that we benefit passively by the system that rewards non-Black citizens for living apart, and second in that it blinds us from even being aware. We are being hurt, too, but we may so rather choose this hurt over the hurts involved in seeing true justice bless us with the flowers of the beloved community to which God desires us to go.

This is why our work, the work of us predominantly white communities throughout the nation, may be the most important of all. For it will be from us, who could so easily ignore the real problems and then turn our backs again, that choosing the courageous course will mean the greatest good of all. George Floyd’s death is but one tragedy in a centuries-long history of tragedy. Tragedies that continue apace, we should note. May the human justice of today be but a temporary celebration, like a brief spring dusting of snow, that quickly melts away and reveals the ground ready for the hard yet joyful work of tilling the spring ground so that it might yield the great bounty of a harvest of true justice.

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