Dear, St Philippians,
As faith leaders, we are heartbroken by the murder of George Floyd, but we know that people of faith cannot remain silent in the face of injustice. As part of the baptized community of faith, we are called to renounce the devil and all forces that defy God. We are called to renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God, and the ways of sin that draw us from God. The white supremacy present in our society defies the world God intended. Racism rebels against God. Our knowing or unknowing complicity in systemic racism draws us from God.
As we celebrate the festival of Pentecost today, the celebration of the Holy Spirit being breathed into creation, the hard irony is that we, as a community and a nation, are grieving the murder of George Floyd, a black man who repeatedly said I can’t breathe while he died under the knee of a police officer. Our hearts break for the Floyd family, for communities of color who continually live in fear, and for how deeply racism is embedded in our society. While our service was recorded before the tragic events this week came to light, we still wanted to speak to the sins of racism and white supremacy from the perspective of Pentecost.
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, a black EMT worker killed in her own bed, and Ahmaud Arbery a young black man killed on a jog in Georgia, are truly heartbreaking and infuriating, but perhaps the most painful aspect is that there are so many more Ahmauds, Breonnas, and Georges whose stories go untold.
Racism is a deep rooted sin in our world and in our country. It is not a past historical concept, it is not something we have moved on from, but a painful, ever-present daily threat for our siblings of color. It may have been brought to bare for us this week in the national news, but people of color know this to be a daily reality.
The festival of Pentecost celebrates the wondrous moment of people of all kinds of languages and cultures coming together, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they are able to understand one another. This is a powerful lesson for us in our present time. We are called to listen. Despite our own reluctance or discomfort, we are called to truly listen to the voices of people of color. Hear their experiences of systemic racism and oppression in this country.
Then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to commit ourselves to the kingdom work of first acknowledging the racism we hold in ourselves, to ask God for guidance and forgiveness. We are called to pray for our siblings of color and for the dismantling of systemic racism.
As faith leaders, we felt that it was important to speak to these tragic deaths, and the racism that caused them, because we believe that all people are created in the image of God. Tragically, due to the sins of racism and white supremacy, not all bodies are seen as God-created. We commit ourselves to the proclamation that Black lives do indeed matter. We commit ourselves to hard conversations about racism, and learning more about ourselves. We know the complications of COVID and social distancing makes all of these things more difficult, but as people of faith, we are called to be about this work. As on that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is indeed blowing and moving the church to more fully proclaim God’s love for the world.
As part of this ongoing work, on Sunday, June 21, we will hold a service commemorating the Emanuel 9, the members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC who were murdered in a hate crime during Bible Study. We invite you to join us online for that service, to reflect on the lives of these saints, and how God is calling us to live more fully into anti-racism work together.
Even as tears flow, as they have for us, the promise of the resurrected Christ is that new life is not only possible, but is inevitable. It is the Spirit of the Living Lord breathed onto, and into, and through us that makes the work ahead work that is steeped in hope.
Pastor David and Pastor Laura