So much about life has changed in these last few months. So much has changed in the last week. I have begun to do things I never thought I would, like (kind of) enjoying yard work and reading a daily news briefing. I prefer to listen to NPR in the mornings and afternoons to get the news of the day. But schedules being what they are now in my house since we are all there all the time, I don’t always have the opportunity to listen to Morning Edition as I once did. So, I recently signed up for a daily news briefing email from a national newspaper. Today’s stories included the return of late night television talk show hosts after a week’s vacation. They are broadcasting from their homes these days. There were short clips from the major guys (they are all men). They each stepped away from humor for a television moment and spoke of the protests we’ve seen across our nation in the last week regarding racial injustice. One resonated with me deeply as I read it:
“Not only is addressing systemic racial and economic injustice the right thing to do, it is the safest, most conservative, most self-protecting, most self-serving thing to do. Contents under pressure will eventually explode, and that’s not a threat — that’s a law of nature. So, it’s time to ask ourselves, as it is always time to ask ourselves, what kind of nation do we want to live in? That answer requires moral leadership. So take it upon yourself to be a leader and set an example of the kind of country you want to live in.” — Stephen Colbert
One thing has become clear to me in the course of the last week, months, years: no one is going to do what needs to be done FOR US. We need to do it. Politics aside, I agree with Stephen Colbert of late night television: the time is now to take it upon ourselves to lead, setting an example of the kind of nation, the kind of community, the kind of church in which we want to live. How will we do this?
Truthfully, I don’t know yet. You probably don’t, either. What I do know is that we must do something. That urgency is mitigated by the pandemic, which is still with us. What we can do is not the same as what we could have done six months ago. But what needs to change is the same. Our task is to figure out how to work for change in a necessarily physically distant context. The work is just as urgent. The need for moral leadership is as great now as it has ever been. The need for followers of Jesus to speak the gospel into our current situation is deep. How will we preach the gospel with our lives? More pointedly, what will you and I do and say differently in our individual lives to help create the kind of nation in which we want to live?
John Wesley embraced the doctrine of Christian perfection in which Christians have "purity of intention", "dedicating all the life to God", "loving God with all our heart", and "renewal of the heart in the whole image of God". For Wesley, Christian perfection meant living in a way that was centered on loving God and one's neighbor. That is the kind of nation in which I want to live. That is the expression of the gospel in which I want to move and have my being. Can we bring this into reality?
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discerning ways to start that work. I welcome your questions, your ideas, and your suggestions. I encourage you to seriously engage prayer time every day to listen to what God may be speaking to you about what we need to do to make real change happen. Don’t be afraid to make changes, even hard ones, in your thinking, your words, your actions. Don’t be afraid to try and see the world differently. Don’t be afraid to dream how it could be. And start with something small.
I’m going to make a sign to put out on the church lawn this week. Since we haven’t opened our building yet, I don’t believe it is safe to gather there yet. But we can have a witness. My sign will say something that supports justice for all. You’re welcome to bring yours by and post it in our front lawn, too. This could be our first community witness. There will be more to come.
I pray for you every day. This is a hard time to be alive. It may also turn out to be an important time to be alive. Let’s do what we can to make it the latter and to make our work for change fruitful. May God bless our efforts to join in God’s work for reconciliation and justice in the world.