Tag Archives: reconciliation

The undivided body of Christ

Our reconciler, Christ is the middle man.   Our sacrifice, his body brings us together.  Jesus shortens the distance between us and God.  He paves the way, makes the way, clearing up any confusion about the way that we should go.  His cross is our signpost.  His hands pinned to a cross say, “This way.  This way.”

Golgotha remains largely undeveloped. The faith doesn’t make martyrs like it used to.  Instead, Christianity produces businesspeople and great success.  Christ’s life is a transaction; we exchange his message for materials.  Capitalism divinized, the Scriptures become a kind of coinage and we cash in on it.  Just “name it and claim it.”  This message has turned some heads and turned others away.

Yes, we get turned around. The songwriter is right: “Our hearts our prone to wander.”  And we are conditioned to turn on each other.  Us against them, it is the American way.  Capitalism calls for contests, for fights to the death.  There can only be one winner.  Crabs in a barrel, we will claw each other’s eyes out for the distinction, the blue ribbon, the plastic trophy, the sash that is a good meal for moths.

We push each other and pull on our own flesh. It all seems to get in the way.  And we do this every day in a myriad of ways, this separation of self and soul, self and sibling.  All God’s children, we invent differences.  We draw lines in the sand and around our circle of influence, our cultural group.  But, our people are not God’s only people.  God’s circle of love is so much bigger.

We cannot get a hold of God’s finger. We cannot get a handle on God’s love.  God keeps reaching out and touching persons strange to us and those whose faces we are trying to forget.  God’s will is undivided.  Mind made up, God’s attention is not divided.

Father, Son and Spirit, God is community and the divine norm is unity. There is no separation in God, no getting between Father and Son or Son and Spirit.  They work together, and this arrangement has worked forever.  Christ’s body, the expectation will not change.  Come together.

Eyes, ears, nose, mouth and feet, all are needed. We cannot be a body without each other.  This is message of the Apostle Paul to the people in Rome: “For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are who are many, are one body in Christ, ad individually we are members one of another (12.4-5, NRSV);

to the church at Corinth: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are, one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (12.12-13, NRSV);

to the Galatians: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (3.27-28, NRSV);

and to the Colossians, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” (3.9-11, NRSV)

Time and again, this is Paul’s message and as baptized believers, it is our new reality and aim. We must reduce our allegiances, cut the ties that bind us to old identities.  We must get smaller, to decrease that Christ might increase (John 3.30).  We must be singular in our focus, setting our eyes on the prize and become the answer Christ’s prayer: “Make them one as we are one” (John 17.22).

We need to get down to one, one body, his body. Because we share one Lord, one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4.5).  As Christ is, so we must be. Undivided.


What the language of apology can do

While the Washington Post reports that there is a surge in hate graffiti in my area and video of the confession of Dylann Roof, accused murderer of nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015, has been released to the public, I am praying that more stories like the ones emerging from the protest of the North Dakota pipeline are on the rise.  Below is proof that if we could all learn the language of apology, then we could talk reconciliation.

There is power in truth- telling, in stepping forward and raising our hands to say, “I did it.”  There is courage in the acknowledgement of fault and seeking accountability for wrong- doing.  It takes a strong person to say, “I have wronged you.”

Anyone can stand to take the credit but there are few who will step from the shadows and break the silence to take the blame.

More than a personal reflection, it is a survey of one’s character that reports all of our findings: “I have lied to you, tricked you, hurt and harassed you, oppressed you, stolen from you, cheated you, murdered you.”  No shuffling of feet, no blame- shifting but an eye- to- eye confession, we are not ashamed to show our faces and we look into the faces of those we have done harm.

Not a deathbed confession, our reputation will suffer.  We cannot close our eyes to see death, comforting in knowing that we will never have to face it again.  This is not for those who just need to get it off their chest.  Reconciliation is compelled by love.

Recently, military veterans went to Standing Rock to apologize and to ask for their forgiveness.  “We’ve hurt you in so many ways.  We’ve come to say we’re sorry.”





A Vision of Reconciliation

Image result for reconciliationRev. Dr. Willie James Jennings, the Associate Professor of Theology and Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School, wrote in his book The Christian Imagination: The Theology and Origins of Race: “In truth, it is not at all clear that most Christians are ready to imagine reconciliation.”  I had to pause there.  Not only was it true, but more needed to be said.

I could not move to the next sentence.  I lost interest in reading the next chapter.  Instead, I needed to sit down with these words and listen for more of their meaning and implications.

Dr. Jennings did not say that most Christians were not ready to answer the call to the ministry of reconciliation or even to practice reconciliation (Second Corinthians 5.17-21).  He said that most of us are not ready to even imagine it.  Think about that.

We cannot get a picture in our heads of reunion.  The social construct of race has really gotten in the way and it is hard to see around it to how we can be brought together again.  We aren’t even able to see how this is going to work or see ourselves in this work.

Sure, we have the Scriptures for it but what about a plan of action?  Where are the real success stories?  What about an actual ministry of reconciliation?  Let me check the list of committees.  Fellowship.  Outreach.  Missions.  Education.  Reconciliation?  Nope.

Maybe the word is too long.  It is too much too say and it does not produce quick results and instant gratification.  It will not make us feel good right away.

I did an internet search of images of reconciliation and the pickings were slim and poor.  See the image at the beginning of this post as proof.  Most were cartoons as if to suggest that there were no real life examples.  Some were statues so we are inspired by the word and we would like to look at it– even if it is not real life and the bodies are stuck in this position of embrace and welcome.  This is not realistic.  Others were artistic renderings of biblical stories of reconciliation so as to point to the model and the call to be reconciled.  But, actual and real pictures of reconciliation were hard to find.

Why is that?  Why is it that we do not have images and real models for the ministry of reconciliation?  Perhaps, it is because reconciliation is a troubling word for Christians.  We have had a long history of division, separation and splits.  While we are being made new, I believe that we have held onto some of the old words and in so doing, we maintain these old and difficult relationships with each other.

If we are to have a vision for reconciliation, we must allow God to make us completely new– not simply swap out the parts that we don’t like.  That’s the only way that this is going to work.  We’re going to have to start from scratch, using God’s words only.  I may be biased but it sounds like words associated with race would have to go.

Take a picture of reconciliation when you do and send it to me.

Let’s Talk About It Again (and again)

Screen-Shot-2015-08-21-at-10.28.15-PMI recently listened to an interview on racial reconciliation.  When the African American man was asked about the way to reconciliation by his European American interviewer and self- described “white ally,” he started the conversation with American slavery.  I was immediately struck by the fact that he felt the need to start there, that reconciliation had a backlog of nearly four hundred years.  It is no wonder then that we often feel overwhelmed, helpless and even tempted to give up, to stop talking, to throw in our hopes and quit.

The distance between us can only be shortened by the number of conversations that we have with each other.  We don’t need walk a mile in each other’s shoes; instead, we need to sit down and talk awhile.  Now, the subject matter will not always be easy; the words and experiences that we will discuss may not produce immediate connections.  But, the bond will form through our vulnerability, in the exchange of words and the holding of these memories.

We will need to talk about race not just in the comfort of workshops or even over dinner but over the course of our relationships, cross- cultural and otherwise.  It is important not only to discover what we have done to each other in word and in deed we mean but why this word or that person carries that kind of meaning. We need to talk it out, to hear ourselves out, without uncomfortable interruption or angry interjection. We need to listen to what we are saying about other people and to our selves.

And we will need to say it now and every day after now.  We will need to say what we mean when we utilize the words of race in our relationships, when we describe ourselves and our neighbors in its burdened colors.  What do we really mean?  What are we really saying?  Why does race have such a hold on who we are and how we relate to each other?

If you haven’t noticed, I am interviewing you now.  Not to worry, I am your ally.  So, let’s talk about it for as long as we have left as I have no interest in handing down to the next generation a backlog of conversations that we never got around to.


Hard Words: Preaching about Racial Violence and Police Brutality

The Christian Century initiates a conversation for pastors of predominately “white” congregations to talk about racial violence in general and Ferguson specifically in an article titled “How pastors talk about Ferguson.”  C. Browning Helsel offers “A Word to the Whites: Preaching about Racism in White Congregations,” challenging those who identify as socially colored white to consider their racial identity development and to create a “nonracist White racial white identity.”  The website http://www.preaching.com offers a sermon illustration that encourages persons to become “gracists,” outlining the points of David Anderson’s book Gracism: The Art of Inclusion.

In light of the ruling of no indictment in the choking death of Mister Eric Garner at the hands of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, we need a word from the Lord regarding our belief in race and the implications of this social faith.  The video of Eric Garner has gone viral and the hash tag #crimingwhilewhite is trending.  In the video, Eric Garner is being choked, an illegal form of restraint banned by the NYPD and his death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.  Eric Garner even says several times in the video, “I can’t breathe.”  The decision of the grand jury not to indict the officer has led to more peaceful protests and rightly so.   

No badge, no uniform should get in the way of common sense and our common humanity.  We do not have the right to take the life of another person; there is no law that is above this, no matter the land or the people.  With that being said, we must consider what is not.  Are we saying what is necessary to encourage a change in our cross- cultural relationships and communication, in the ways in which law enforcement officials “protect and serve,”  in enforcing “equal protection under the law” for African Americans?  How is your church assisting in this dialogue in order to create and/or increase the effects of this change?  What are your leaders singing about, praying for, preaching about?  Because we cannot depend on a video, a medical examiner’s report or a grand jury of our peers.  But, I digress.

Do you have resources or ideas as to how persons can preach about the effects of race on our faith and our fellowship so that we might transform this nation and our world?  Can you offer training opportunities for police officers that would sensitize them to other cultures and communities?  Are there prayers that you can offer for the police departments in America and those citizens who have historically been unlawfully stopped, detained, arrested, injured and murdered?  Are there scripture passages that might assist us in bridging the cultural gaps, in eradicating stereotypes and prejudices?

And we need to do more than shake our heads from the comfort of our homes, hand down family verdicts or pronounce community judgment on social media.  We need to do more than hold a sign and chant.  Each of us need to protest against our own prejudices, to call for a change in the way we view persons from other cultures, to get the hatred out of our hearts before we attempt to remove it from some one else’s.  It’s easy to talk about the sins of these police officers but how have our faith communities aided and abetted in this kind of lawlessness?

Yes, these will be hard words but we have to say them because we need to practice before we preach.