Category Archives: Reconciliation

We’re going to need a bigger heart


See the source imageDoes it feel tight in here or is it just me?  It feels like the walls are closing in, like fences are about to rain down on me, like bridges are being stolen in the middle of the night.  I’ve lost my place again.  Now where were we?

The distance between us and them is increasing and I don’t know how to make up the difference.  I don’t know how to make up for lost time spent chasing and pinning down lies.  Fear spreads quicker than truth.  On your mark, get set, here we go again.  I think that fear gets a head start.  So, we will need to do more than catch up and it is not enough to run alongside of it.  No, we must get ahead of fear or there is no point in moving at all.

But, I can’t just sit and do nothing.  I don’t know how to wait patiently.  I am trying to write down the directions to the progress we’ve made.  It’s a little cloudy because “we’ve come this far by faith.”  I don’t see why we would want to turn around.  I can’t go back now.  I have loved too many and for too long.

And when did the earth become a tight squeeze, a tight fit?  No room for you or me, him or her potentially?  God’s got the whole world in God’s hands but we can’t seem to find any room on the land.  Get out.  Stay out.  Keep out.

I can’t keep still.  I have to move closer.  They tell me, “Let’s just wait and see.  Let’s take things slowly.”  One step at a time, we are walking away from our shared humanity.  I can’t breathe.  I need to sit down.  Head between my legs, head in my hands, head between my legs, head in my hands…  I pray and cross my heart.  Lord, open my heart.  Amen.

Give me space and the time of day.  What year is this?  Because this feels old.  This division is old news.  I’ve read all about it before.  Ball up the paper and don’t recycle it.

This is a complete mess, a circle.  History is chasing me around.  I better not come around or come back or be here after sundown.  Darkness sets in our hearts.  It will all come to light but first it must break our hearts.  This is how the light gets in.  It must come from our hearts breaking.

Because this is more than I can bear.  I need more heart.  I need your heart to join with mine.  My sisters and brothers, we’re going to need a bigger heart.

Race and reconciliation do not go together

See the source image

“16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

| Second Corinthians 5.16-20, NRSV

Recently, I led a series of workshops on racial reconciliation.  I did not choose the title but welcomed the challenge of a conversation with the two words.  The attendees saw no conflict between them, at least not at first.  I thought it necessary that they be clear of the meanings that they brought to the words.  As expected, the definitions were most often the total opposite of each other.

When I asked what words they associated with race, there was nervous silence.  After I reminded them that they were in a safe space for which they would not be penalized for learning, they offered words like hatred, division, anger and apathy.  It took quite some time before anyone mentioned color or prejudice.  And when I asked them what came to mind when I said reconciliation, there was almost a sigh of relief with each answer: apology, love, redemption and unity.  It was obvious that they knew and favored reconciliation over race.

The gathering focused on being an ambassador but it was clear that they wanted to get as far away from race as possible.  Though participants understood intellectually that race was and is a social construct, socially and emotionally it remained very real.  And this is understandable as there are real life consequences and implications for those on the last rung of its social ladder.  As we saw recently at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, two African American men socially identified as black were falsely arrested and imprisoned for asking to use the restroom and while waiting for a friend.  Not ordering immediately is apparently a crime for some people.  These men posed no threat but the perceptions associated with the social coloring of their skin prompted the manager to call the police.

As a result, I have given up my grande, seven pump, extra hot chai with whole milk, no water, no foam.  It had been my favorite morning drink for almost ten years.  But, when I saw the video and the faces of the men being arrested, I lost my appetite immediately.  I need authentic community more than I need caffeine.  Race and community simply do not go together.

To be fair, the social construct of race never aimed to unify human beings.  It never claimed that it would create community, that after it was finished with American slavery, lynchings, the Black Codes, Jim Crow segregation, redlining and the like that it would bring us back together again.  Its purpose was to justify a caste system, which enabled persons socially colored white to oppress and enslave those socially colored black.  There is nothing of this relationship that can be reconciled.  The two don’t go together.  Instead, we should spend our time reconciling the fact that we hate persons who are our siblings.

Reconciling ourselves to race is not apart of this ministry; reconciling ourselves to each other and to God is.

The Price of Community

f06f2d884fb0f4ead58266b285a28a1bWhy is it so hard for us to live together in unity?  Unity is a short word and such a nice word.  Still, it really is easier said than done.

No matter our good intentions and in spite of our best efforts, it’s difficult to maintain unity in our homes and communities.  Working together at a job can sometimes prove testy.  Regrettably, church fights are to be expected as there are disagreements that greet us at the door, beginning with the color of the carpet.  So, conflict is to be expected for it is as natural as our differences.

It becomes a problem when we allow our differences to create and even maintain conflict.  So, often we use our differences to pick fights and to create divisions.  We even rank our differences and some are better than others.

The price of community is not terror or suspicion, fear or pretentiousness, tolerance or injustice.  The price is not feigned ignorance or forgetfulness, silence or anger, prejudice or stereotypes.  There are other ways for us to be together and it does not have to bring out the worst in us.

Besides, community does not come with these things.  Instead, we bring them to the table and to the conversation.  We pack them for the journey or someone places them in our heart- baggage, thinking that we might need them.  But, these weights do not strengthen us but slow us down.  They are hindrances to Jesus community.

The price of community is much lighter and freeing.  It will cost us vulnerability, authenticity, truth and peace with one’s self.  Because unity begins when we are no longer at war with ourselves.  The fight is first with us and it is here that we must find accord.

The cost of fellowship is the acceptance of this truth and once we open our arms to it, then we will be able to open our arms to each other.  So, we don’t accept major credit cards but handshakes and group hugs are welcome.

Overruled by Love

suspect-dies-baltimoreBaltimore, Maryland is burning.  Protesters and looters have flooded the streets in response to the questionable death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  Stores have been vandalized, buildings and police cars set on fire.  A state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard have been called in.

Tanks, rubber bullets, tear gas, curfews are all in effect.  External force is the order of our days.  But, what of the spiritual force that lies within us?  Dr. King called it “soul force.”  What of the power of the human soul to change?  And how are we prepared to meet these hurting souls so that we might effect sound change?

This is an all too familiar story in America.  In fact, it is the American story, the tragedy of race.  We know the lines and yet, we have not figured out how to stop repeating them.  We know violence only produces more violence.  We recite the words of Dr. King, “Hate cannot drive out hate.”  But, this recipe is not only for riots but for the relationships that we have with each other today and every day after the smoke settles.

We know both sides, the pros and cons.  We know the charges of our history and what has been our defense.  We have been the judge but I think that today is as good a day as any to get up. We need to be overruled by Love.

We need the Power greater than ourselves Who can do what we cannot because He knows what we find so hard to believe: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails” (First Corinthians 13.7-8).

I know that we cannot see it now but Love will win.

Just do right

imgres 13-06-22These three words are Maya Angelou’s and they have inspired this morning’s post.  I don’t know about you but I search for wisdom.  And as is evident in her three words, it does not take many.  I don’t need a long or grand speech, just a couple of thought-filled and authentic words can release me from longer words that have bound me hand and foot.

I open books with an eager excitement and hope that courage will come, peace will be found, assurance will be given.  I look for good words that might guide me to a higher place, to a better part of me.  And the need is fresh every morning.  I am hungry for words, driven to write them and read them every day.

Likewise, I don’t like fearful words, ill- informed words, hate- filled words.  They do nothing for me but work against me. Now, when persons ask me about race and reconciliation, forgiveness and justice, oppression and privilege, when they question how we can solve the race problem, I have three words for them: “Just do right.”