I have been looking forward to this Sunday all week. As today is Pentecost and also a fifth Sunday, our service this morning is filled with the voices and faces of members and friends of Bethany, leading us in song, in prayer, in the Word, as I put together the video to share with you all today I found myself in moments of peace and hope and repentance, of laughter and joy.
All of the pieces of our worship today were recorded earlier this week.
And so although we touch upon the racial injustice in our country throughout the service, as I read through the headlines last night, I knew that it wasn’t enough.
So before we begin our celebration, before we begin our time of worship together through the Spirit and technology, dear ones, we have to talk.
Last night after Greg and Hadley went to sleep, I opened my phone to see the news of the ongoing protests, riots, and heartbreak in our nation. I looked through photos of cities I once called home, Minneapolis and Seattle. I once again read through accounts of violence against our black and brown siblings. I reread the last words of George Floyd crying out to God, for his mama, for breath.
And I wept.
I wept for every black life that was snuffed out too soon, because the evil of white supremacy in our society has devalued and been blind to the truth that black lives do matter just as much as everyone else’s.
I wept for the heartbreak in our nation, for the sin of racism and violence and injustice that permeates throughout our country.
I wept for countless lives that were taken, for Ahmaud Arbery, for Breonna Taylor, for George Floyd. For all those who cry out for their mothers, for God, for breath in the face of great evil.
I wept. I wept and I cried out to God, “God have mercy, Christ have mercy, what can we do, what can we say, how can we change O God?”
And I found myself opening my Bible, not the Psalms, not to the Gospels, but to Amos chapter 5. Amos, a prophet I rarely tangle with, because his anger, his exhaustion, his harsh words are often too harsh for our delicate sensibilities.
We forget sometimes, that our tradition is not just one of hope and peace but also one of heartbreak, and anger, and repentance, and lament.
And so as I wept and read out loud the words of Amos to the people of Israel in his time I couldn’t help but hear God speaking to us. A call from anger, from exhaustion, from heartbreak, to each and every one of us. A call to recognize and repent of our own racism, our own privilege, our own brokenness.
Amos says, “Ah, you who turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to dust” and I hear, “You who ignore the pleas of the marginalized, of the oppressed, you who seek reason behind white supremacy, who seek justification instead of justice…”
Amos says, “seek the one who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the dusk to dawn, and day to darkest night, who summons the waters of the sea and pours them over the land – seek YHWH!” And I hear, “Seek the one who created the universe, you created you and me every human being with life that matters, with skin of beautiful variety, the one who created us with the same power and love and grace that made the stars in the heavens.”
Amos says, “Rest assured: For I have noted your many atrocities, and your countless sins, you persecutors of the righteous, you bribe-takers, you who deny justice to the needy at the city gate….” And I hear, “God knows our hearts, God knows our hearts and weeps for the sin of racism and white supremacy in our country, in our communities, and in us.”
I hear Amos say, “Seek good and not evil, so that you may live…Hate what is evil, and love what is good; maintain justice at the city gate” and I hear the call for hope for a new day, for a new world, a call that doesn’t ask for our songs or our prayers, but that that cries out to God, as Amos says, “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
In the midst of this heartbreak, as a nation grieves the deaths of 100,000, the deaths of black men and women, the deaths of so many, we grieve and we cry out, as we hear the cries of righteous anger from our siblings, dear ones I know that it is hard not to turn away.
It is hard for us not to turn off the news, to ignore what’s going on, to pretend like that doesn’t happen here in our community, it’s hard for us to admit that we have some part in this.
Last night, in a call with a dear friend, we talked about all that was going on. About the pandemic, about the heartbreak, about our wonderings for the coming weeks in our communities, we lamented the violence in this world, the injustice in this world together.
My friend named, “It is so hard to find hope right now.”
It is so hard to find hope right now.
My friend isn’t religious by any means, and so I try not to be the preachy pastor type when we talk, but I didn’t know how to share hope, without sharing the Gospel.
As Christians, sometimes we forget that we come from a long tradition of heartbreak, and anger, and repentance, and lament, and the ability to name that in the midst of this, is God. In the middle of our anger, in the of our repentance, in the middle of our lament, God is there with hope and peace and a kingdom that is not of this world.
Today, on Pentecost, we remember the disciples in the book of Acts, filled with wind and breath and fire for the Good News of Jesus – that a man from a marginalized community who was brutally murdered by the state, who called out for water on the cross, who called out to God, who experienced the injustice, the violence, the death this world wages.
That this man rose from it.
Our God who comes to us in the incarnate Christ, in the body of a Palestinian Jewish man, rises from the dead, from the ashes of injustice and greed and violence in this world to bring something totally new for each and every one of us.
Jesus, who breathes breath of life onto the disciples and tells them, “Peace be with you.”
This is where we find hope. This is where we find life, with the breath of a man who let out his last breath on the cross, who breathes anew into each and every one us, so that we can listen to the anger of our siblings, so that we can lament the lives lost, so that we can repent of our own brokenness, and so that we can find hope, and hear Jesus’s words saying to us, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Jesus sends us into this world, knowing that we will not always do or say or think the right thing, but that we are a people of heartbreak and hope.
Before I went to sleep last night, I listened to the song that will close out our worship this morning, and I listened to it in a new light. Many of you know it, “Canticle of the Turning.” I can’t think of a better song for us today.
It is a reminder that we are a people who sing of the fire of God’s justice with joy and hope.
This song is a reminder that we may be small, I may only be one person, but that God works great things in each and every one of us.
This song is a reminder that we are a people who look to God, the creator of the universe, the creator of all people, we are a people who look to God’s mercy and deliverance.
We are a people who lament and sing, and pray for God’s justice to roll on like a river, God’s righteousness like a never-failing stream.
If you would like more information on how you can help those in the cities that are most affected by the protests, if you would like more information on how you can help in our own community, please don’t hesitate to reach out, I have many links to share.
I invite you to join us now, as we begin our Pentecost worship, to live into this middle place, to find hope in our lament, to find joy in our mourning, and to seek God.