Lift Your Drooping Hands

I am pretty adamant about not being a participant in my own dehumanization. Christian Cooper, birdwatcher. New Yorker. black man

Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12

Lord of Love and Justice make us honest enough to tell the truth about racial terror and courageous enough to step into the waters of racial justice. Amen


Last week, a black male birdwatcher in Central Park asked a white female dog walker to observe the leash law in the brambles. Instead of honoring the law and her neighbor, she called 911 and told the dispatcher: A black man is threatening me in the brambles; send the police. Christian Cooper calmly lifted his phone and video recorded her little shit fit. His sister posted the video on the internet and it went viral.

When asked why he stood firm, Mr. Cooper said, I am pretty adamant about not being a participant in my own dehumanization.

Christian Cooper held on to his humanity as well his neighbor’s and lived to tell about it. The attempt on George Floyd’s humanity ended differently. His body was crushed under the knee of an armed bully. Mr. Floyd was unable to escape the terror of a public lynching.

Friends, like it or not, we are inextricably connected to one another. If we don’t stand up to racial terror, we are complicit– and we have become participants in our own dehumanization and the dehumanization of our siblings of color, worldwide.

We have a problem:

We live in a culture that favors its privileged children in every way imaginable. As a result, most white Americans lack some of the discipline needed to become fully responsible adults. Instead of responsibility, we blindly engage in self-protective and indulgent patterns, which act as an opiate—numbing our personal and collective conscience. We are literally swimming in an ocean of unconscious self-interest. Unconsciousness is why white Europeans and Americans enslaved Africans in the first place. Unconsciousness permits the terror of mass incarceration (modern day slavery) and police brutality (modern day lynching) to happen in 2020.

There is Hope

There is a passage in Hebrews Chapter 12 that applies to this situation. The word discipline is used at least nine times. The writer uses the image of a parent disciplining a child. In ancient families, the role of parent was to discipline a child so that the child could grow up to be a responsible member of the family. The Old Testament prophet Amos describes how unaware, religious adults come to “trample on the poor” with unjust economic policy and corrupt judicial process. (Sound familiar for our time? Have you seen the movie Just Mercy?) In Amos’s time, these practices catered to the privileged at the expense of the vulnerable.

In the face of such exploitation, prophets like Amos, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, MLK and Malcolm X name the evil and call the children of God back to responsibility. “Seek the Lord, seek good, hate evil, love good, establish justice.” These are the works of good neighbors everywhere.

The time is now. Americans of all faiths are in a season of discipline by which God is summoning us away from the self-service that furthers racial oppression, and in many situations, racial terror. This problem is more than 500 years old with new permutations and combinations emerging every generation. The call to grow up goes way beyond private character and all the way to public practice.

If we are lucky, we modern culprits will grow up to be like the tax collector in Jesus’s parable: aware of our own sin and hopeful that the LORD of mercy will forgive us and heal us.

Will we put our armor (privilege) down and stand up to racial oppression and terror with true power– our human vulnerability (most effectively exercised by acts of compassion and truth)? Or will we hide behind the lame armor of blaming and scapegoating various individuals, institutions, neighbors of color, non-church-goers, rioters and arsonists?

Spiritual practice:

Each person must ask: What does the LORD require of ME? How will I stand firm in my vulnerability?

Some things I’ve decided to do out of simple discipline: Go all in for #blacklivesmatter. As a Christian pastor, I sometimes stay quiet about subjects that might alienate a parishioner. No more. #blacklivesmatter. PERIOD.

I’m going to re-read and re-watch a whole library of works written and scripted by black leaders and theologians over time. I’ll share the bibliography and watch list with you here in the coming days.

I don’t really care what religion you are. Being a Christian does not make you a conscious person. Many people outside my faith are awake and active and working for justice. Our siblings of color need us all to work together.

Love you, K

Simply Enough

Every generous act of giving comes from above. James, the brother of Jesus

Giving God, we are amazed by your creative generosity. Help us to trust and participate in your way of sharing and providing. Give us eyes to see who is being left out; and give us the courage to broaden our circles of care.   


Yesterday afternoon I made corned beef and cabbage. I couldn’t find a green cabbage, but I found a red one—good enough. I didn’t have large carrots, but Amy had a small bag of mini carrots—good enough. I was out of onions, and a neighbor gave me her two onions—simply enough.

This ordinary experience has me thinking about the way God moves provisions through people to overcome scarcity and create enough.

Remember the Jesus story where he has the disciples seat a hungry crowd on the green grass? Jesus and his team then create a meal out of next-to-nothing. The story is all about God overcoming scarcity. Everyone was invited to the table, and everyone was fed and satisfied—unlimited inclusion; unlimited food.

Contrast this with the Old Testament story of Joseph, his brothers and an Egyptian Pharaoh during a famine. Joseph tells his brothers to lie to Pharaoh and tell Pharaoh they are cattlemen rather than shepherds when they ask for food. Pharaoh controls the food supply; and he dislikes shepherds.

Walter Brueggemann comments: Pharaoh’s practice is quite ordinary. We are always sorting out people to see who qualifies for abundance, whether by race, class, gender, character, education, performance, or production. This is standard practice in every society. But Jesus is extraordinary. No norms of qualification. No questions asked. All are welcome! All are fed! Jesus’s extraordinary generosity contrasts with the ordinary outlook of Pharaoh.

Spiritual Practice:

Consider these things: With whom are you sharing these days? It matters not what you have nor what you need: It matters that we share. God moves resources through people. Period. If our table is open to everyone, our hands are extended for sharing and our hearts are humble for receiving… we simply will have enough.

With whom are you sharing these days? Who shares with you? Leave a comment and tell us about your circle of sharing and how you plan to expand it during our community-wide struggle with the spread of the coronavirus.

Have a blessed day and peaceful night,
Katie

Elevate Our Hearts Today

Sometimes God’s vision of a new humanity is proclaimed in the world through the life and voice of one ordinary, enlightened person. Their words are so stunning and true, we simply can’t get past this person’s message. We cannot see around the largess of the vision. We can only marvel at the relationship between this person’s imagination and the mind of God.


Jesus is the Ultimate Example of such a life. The message and leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is also an example. Reverend King’s life is a stunning illustration of how every human being might live into a portion of God’s work and imagination.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it so well:

On this day when we remember Martin Luther King, we recall especially his “dream speech” in which he articulated a version of the kingdom of God when there would be reconciliation and solidarity across all our distinctions. King spoke out of a renovated imagination. He no longer imagined the world according to the corrupt imagination of fear and hate. He summoned his listeners into that renovated imagination through which God’s future could be seen differently… We are invited by Dr. King to engage in the new creation, apart from old ways of wounding and division.

Our hearts are elevated this day, because Divine Love within us identifies with King’s vision and King’s sacrifice.

If we are so graced today, we might empathize with the suffering of the tens of thousands of God’s children who marched and wept and prayed and suffered violence during the Civil Rights Movement in this land. If we are so graced, we might empathize with the millions upon millions of Africans who journeyed through the dark waters of the Middle Passage to this land. If we are so graced, we might agonize with the five thousand who bore the lynching tree even after the Emancipation Proclamation of this land. If we are so graced, we shall face the reality of the mass incarceration of black persons in this land today—and fight it as the plague it is.

This day let us remember the dream. Let it elevate our hearts. And let us contemplate our own true calling.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4)

Prayer for the day: God of all our births, give us in this season [Epiphany] a fresh capacity to see your hope for your world and resolve to live according to that vision. In his name. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann)