There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
My year in the 5th grade was a difficult one. My first step-father had been put into a mental institution; my mother had a new baby and was beyond exhausted; and my grandparents had to give us money for food and rent. The one steady person for our family was Minnie. She took care of my baby brother, and she was the rock that held things together.
One day I was sick and home from school, and I asked—no told—Minnie to do something. When she didn’t respond, I spoke with even less kindness. She then looked at me and said, “Jamie, come here.” I didn’t want to, but there was no denying her. Standing next to her she said, “If someone were to cut your arm, what would we see?” I said, “Blood.” She then said, “If someone cut my arm, what would we see?” I said, “Blood.” And then she said, “If someone compared your blood to my blood, would they see any difference?” I said, “No.” And, finally, she said, “Jamie, after all I do for you and your family, why would you speak to me like I was some kind of servant? Don’t you realize that what you have in you is the same as what I have in me? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
I have thought about this teaching-moment with Minnie many times since we first watched the recording of a white police officer killing a black man named George Floyd. I have also remembered Minnie’s searing words: “Jamie, after all I have done for your family, why would you speak to me like I was some kind of servant…you should be ashamed of yourself.”
After we have seen so much brutality and so many senseless deaths, after we have witnessed so much prejudice and racism which demeans and diminishes us all, after we have watched so much abuse to God’s children who have a darker pigment to their skin, after we have seen so many lives destroyed by unfair practices, after 400 years of sin—and that is what all racism is—what will it take for us to be so ashamed that we finally change?
Although I call these reflections “Notes on Hope,” I must say that if we don’t change, there is no hope for real peace in our land. There will be no peace when there is plenty for some and poverty for others; opportunity for some and hardship for others; health care for some and minimal care for others; good food for some and scarcity for others.
A grim picture indeed, so where can we find hope during these challenging times with the Coronavirus and blood in our streets? Our only hope is when we live into and embrace Paul’s message to us today. Did you get the cadence? We need to be one Body, with one Spirit, with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, with one God and Father of us all. And we all need to see and understand the point Minnie was making: we all have one blood, with one heart that beats with the same needs and desires, the same hopes and dreams, the same worries and fears.
I believe in a God who can perform miracles, and we need a miracle right now. We need so much to change in our hearts and in our land, and we need God’s help to live into those changes because it seems patently clear that we aren’t making these changes on our own.
Every time I see a someone’s life being taken away because they are person of color, I pray that maybe, just maybe, this might be the one death that finally brings us to our knees in repentance and grief. And so, I pray that this death, this horrible and cruel and senseless death, might be the one that finally wakes us up. On my knees, on our knees, I pray that we repent, and then ask for God to save us from ourselves by eradicating all racism, all hate, all prejudices, all unfair practices, all poverty, all that separates us, one from another as God’s beloved children.
I have no hope that we can make the changes that are necessary for us to live at peace with each other. But I do have hope that with God all things are possible. A God who gave His son to be born for us, can give us a new birth. A God, Jesus, who went to the cross to embrace all of us, to die for all of us, to extend grace to all of us, can teach us how to take to His cross all that needs to die in and between us. And a God, the Father, who raised His broken and lifeless Son into new life, can raise our broken land, our broken relationships, and our death-dealing ways into new life.
- How have the senseless and cruel deaths of so many like George Floyd impacted you?
- How do you imagine God feels about the racism that still exists in our country?
- What could God be calling you to do about it?