It is Thursday morning and I’m here in my office at church. Yesterday afternoon, we witnessed a terrible thing happen in the United States. We watched angry people storm the Capital, push through barriers, break windows, attack law enforcement officers, and replace American flags on poles with Trump flags. The people who did this believed their actions were patriotic. They believed they were fighting for their nation. In fact, they were doing a terrible, terrible thing.
I think perhaps the most disturbing part for me as a follower of God in the way of Jesus was watching the news coverage and seeing flags that said “Jesus 2020.” I don’t know what faith those flags represent, but they do not represent the Jesus we see in the ancient scriptures.
Wednesday afternoon and evening was scary. We saw ourselves at our worst. That event showed us what thugs and bullies look like. It showed us what white privilege looks like. A woman lost her life. Law enforcement officers were seriously injured. It is imagery that broke our hearts and, I believe, deeply grieves the heart of God.
So now here we are today…where do we go from here? Let us pray for a new way forward.
Today, we claim anew the promises of God. Today we embrace again the noble path of Micah 6:8 that says, “What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Wednesday was for weeping. And now today we return to the hard work of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Today, we resist the urge towards tribalism.
Today, we remember that Wednesday was not who we are. We are better. We are kinder. We are braver.
Today, we stop and catch ourselves each and every time we start to caricature the “other” in our minds.
I dropped the kids off at school the other day, and I was walking around Wash Park, and my loop that day was about 45 minutes, and when I got back to my car I realized that I had spent my entire walk having an imaginary conversation with a family member who I used to be close to, but currently find myself in a bit of a silent strained relationship with because of our differences in perspective on race, religion, and politics. When I realized that I had wasted 45 minutes in an imaginary conversation, I wanted to cry. The hot tears behind my eyes felt like tears of confession. Because here is the thing, we were not actually talking with each other. And my time thinking about this person was not time spent in prayer for them, it was time spent in an imaginary argument. Assuming that I knew exactly what they’d think and say because of the labels I have placed on them. That is not right and that is not fair. People are complex, and people do not always fit into the smug little boxes we have for them.
So today, we stop that. We do not vilify the other. We reject the pressure of our world that seeks to caricature “the other” by placing a label on them and thinking we understand them. You and I do not know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes. It is not your job to control or change others, it is your job to love others. It is our job to love others as we have been loved by God. God did not love me because I deserved it. So I do not love others because they deserve it. I love others because God has loved me. And sometimes, just sometimes, that love transforms and surprises us.
Today, we stop the tribalism and divisive rhetoric, and we choose justice and mercy over fear and hate.
Today, we give so much thanks to the law enforcement officers, reporters, and peace activists who stepped into the danger on Wednesday for the sake of the common good.
The truth is, we need faithful followers of Jesus on both sides of the political aisle. We need faithful followers of Christ who will live with integrity and seek truth even when that means departing from whatever their party or tribe is saying. Our primary allegiance is not to an empire, or platform, or ideology. Our allegiance is to a crucified and risen Savior. Today we choose our word of the year, which is peace.
May the peace of God permeate all I think, say, and do today.
Today, let us remind ourselves that there is more – much, much more – that holds us in common than divides us as a people.
Today, we seek to walk the way of faith, hope and love again.
We may have hard days ahead but we will find our way through them together. May we not forget what we have seen and may our disturbance lead us to holy action. May God’s spirit be before you and beside you and around you and within you in these coming days, and may we walk the way of love, that is the way of Jesus together.