Our hearts and minds have been gripped by the murder of George
Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. A
cry for justice has erupted throughout the streets of America. What are we to do?
A pastor friend of mine, Pastor Kai Nilsen, wrote these words and I found them
deeply moving for all of us. I share
Twin Cities to Chicago to
Columbus, Ohio to Norfolk, Virginia. A week ago when we left our home in the
Twin Cities, these cities were simply stops on the way to see family as we
began a cross country trek to help my son and daughter-in-law move in to their
new home in Norfolk, Virginia. As I write this, they are four of dozens of
cities across the country with marches protesting the killing of George Floyd,
including a peaceful march five stories below my son’s new apartment. As we
know, from the gut-wrenching images in our own city, all the marches have not
been as peaceful.
How did we get here?
We can start 400 hundred
years ago when the first black slaves were shackled in chains in putrid bellies
of slave ships for thousands of miles across the oceans then sold, as property,
to the highest bidders.
Listen to that again,
“Sold, as property!” Human beings. Each made in the image of God. Sold, as
property, then submitted to a lifetime of body bruising work and abuse so that
our “economy” could grow. Has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Wealth for some created
at the expense of human dignity and life for others.
That was then, right? Isn’t it time we got
over it? Interestingly enough, when I was driving through Virginia there were multiple
communities where the most prominent image you could see from the highway was a
confederate flag, flying freely and proudly in the wind. Are we over it yet? It's been documented
that white supremacist groups are infiltrating the protests and inciting
destructive behavior. Are we over it yet?
I used the phrase “Black
Lives Matter” in a social media post earlier this week. As happens each time I
use the phrase, someone asks, “Why not just say ‘all lives matter?’”
Here is my quick
response: When one of my four kids got hurt, it didn’t seem to make sense to
say to them, “All my kids matter.” In that moment, I embraced them and said,
“You matter. Your pain matters. Your healing and return to health matters.”
That doesn’t diminish my love for my other kids. It expands my capacity to love
as I live with another person’s pain.
Jesus did the same thing
in his ministry. He didn’t say, “all people matter.” He went to those who were
hurting, who’d been denied a place at the table, who had been cast out of
community and said “You Matter.”
Samaritans matter. Women
matter. Tax collectors matter. Lepers matter. Did that mean he loved other
By no means. His life and ministry expanded
the vision and capacity of his followers to love as they broke down the
religious and cultural walls that had long divided people.
The black community in
America is, has been, and will continue to be in pain. George Floyd died
because a white officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes while he was
handcuffed, face to the ground, gasping for air.
“I can’t breathe.” And
then his last breath escaped his body.
The image is
breath-taking. The pain is traumatizing. The cries of protest from the masses
and the messages of friends I’ve received who are afraid every time their black
sons go out the door are heartbreaking.
Where do we go from here?
Candidly, I don't know
for sure. Our city is still in flames. Hearts are still burning with rage.
Blocks upon blocks of business and local clinics and police precincts have been
reduced to rubble and smoldering ash.
It feels overwhelming.
Confronted with the enormity of it all, maybe you feel as helpless as I do.
But, I go back to this thought, “Nothing will change unless
most often changes me. I’m going to pray to have eyes of Jesus—eyes that see
and are moved by the pain of the world around me, eyes that imagine a different
world, eyes that see the massive gap between the world that is and the world
that Jesus imagined.
must protest the systemic racism that is embedded in our culture. Call it for
what it is. At the same time, in the spirit of Jesus, we can’t let violence be
the answer to violence. Lives are at stake on so many levels; those who try to
protect the peace, those who owned businesses, those who ran needed community
services that were destroyed. Violence and random destruction are not the
and confusion are rampant. Reach out to someone you know who needs to know they
are not alone. Be present. Listen to their pain.
is much to do, much of it will evolve over the next days and months and years.
We will be in contact with area leaders to see how we can specifically help
out. The work of compassion for our neighbors and justice for those oppressed
goes on… and on… and on. Don’t lose heart. We will do this work together.
I prepared this weekend’s
Pentecost sermon before I left and then added some words at the end as this
week emerged. Even before the events of this week, the themes were critical for
us to embrace: When the Spirit of God lands in human hearts, our capacity to
love expands to all nations, all ethnicities, all people, especially those who
have not had a place at the table. When the Spirit of God seizes our
imaginations, each place in our lives—our homes, our communities, our
job—become places where we can extend the love of God.
You have heard me say
these words many times: Jesus didn’t come so that we can build bigger and
better churches; Jesus came to help us imagine and then co-create a better
In the spirit of
Pentecost and the hope for a better world.
living in hope for a better world. May
we give our lives to the movement that the Holy Spirit is creating right now
within us in actively creating that better world.