Sometimes it is when words are hardest to come by that we need them most. Today I find myself looking for words. I know I might not find the right ones, but I search nonetheless.
The wounds of our divided culture are obvious. Baton Rouge and Minnesota were the latest deadly examples, and the cold-blooded assault in Dallas is the monster born of profound brokenness. How will we respond? Can healing be found?
We are the Church of Jesus Christ. You and I hold dual citizenship as Americans and as servants of God’s kingdom. It is time to serve the former by being faithful to the latter. What does our faith say to the violence of our world? How can our faith bring healing? These are the questions that press upon us.
This morning the leaders of the Dallas protest spoke of the peacefulness of the march and the care and cooperation shown by police in keeping that peace. I heard also that when the gunfire started, the police ran TOWARD the shooting, not away. We owe them. When we are tempted to hunker down with folks just like us and grouse together about those “others” out there, then we need to heed the example of the Dallas officers and move TOWARD our fears, the issues that divide us, and the people with whom we disagree. Healing will come as we engage one another, listen to one another, and seek a higher way.
It is time for the church—and that is you and me—to be heard. We serve a kingdom that is surely coming into the world—a kingdom of justice, peace, wholeness. Do we really believe that? Do we trust the grace and truth of Jesus Christ to heal, reconcile, and save? It’s time to put up or shut up. Or maybe it’s time to put up AND shut up—to shut up and listen, to shut up when we feel the need to politicize and blame. Politics will not heal the wounds that divide us, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ can and, I believe, will. Let us lift high the cross. In those blood-stained timbers is seen the strange power that can break cycles of sin and violence.
It is when words are hardest to come by that we need them most, but not just any words will do. Let us resist the easy words of rage and recrimination and seek the words that build and heal. Love, grace, compassion, forgiveness, mercy—those are good ones—and they are words best spoken in unison and held lightly, ready to share.
My brothers and sisters of Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church, let us seek the way of Christ; let us open our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit that is always moving God’s people outward and toward others—outward and toward, always outward and toward; let us find avenues for conversation and shared ministry with African-American churches (and others who don’t look like us) in our community and beyond; let us support our police officers and their families; let us pray and listen. HMUMC is an amazing people that seems never afraid to reach out, build up, and offer Christ. It’s time to be amazing again. Pray that we will be an instrument of God’s peace. Pray that we will be the Church, radiant with God’s glory and grace and as humble as the Lord we serve.
Rev. Mark Westmoreland