I never thought I’d be spending time at murder scenes. Yet, too often, this is where I find myself as a member of a Police Community Support Team. When there is a critical incident, team members receive a text. Just as I was preparing to sit down and write, I received such a text. There had been a shooting and a man was dead and support was needed at the scene. When I arrived, everything seemed quiet and almost normal. Yet, there was the yellow crime scene tape and the familiar faces of homicide detectives. Then a little further up on my right was the body of the man who had been shot.
As the detective escorted me across the scene and told me what they knew, I noticed the scattered groups of people. Some were standing in silence. Some had tears flowing while they talked on their phones. Others were openly weeping for the man who had just been killed. Others greeted new arrivals with hugs and smiles of welcome. I was a part of it and an observer. My heart ached for those gathered. Yet another shooting in a neighborhood with far too many. It was not the first time these folks had gathered at a murder scene and it won’t be the last.
“Royal blood flows through our streets,” was my thought as I introduced myself to the newly widowed woman and stepped into the process of getting her immediate needs met. Her husband was killed for no reason. He just happened to be in the wrong place when the bullets were fired. How could no one see his holiness, his chosenness while police collected evidence and mourners cried?
The words of 1 Peter have been echoing through my head all week while getting louder this afternoon. We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” Yet, we spill the blood of our neighbors so easily. When did it come to be that young people cannot see the value in their lives or in the life of another? When did it come to be that violence is the only solution to a problem? When did it come to be that one’s value as a human being is determined on such insubstantial things as where you live, the color of your skin, your abilities, or where you happen to be standing?
God has chosen us for something other than destruction. God has chosen us for something other than violence and death. Why do we still live as if we were still “not a people” when we are God’s people?
That relationality that Jesus proclaims in John, “no one comes to the Father except through me” was not an exclusionary statement. It was a statement of great love and welcome. Jesus and the Father are the same, yet there is a relationality that is essential to life, to faith. My favorite word in seminary was “perichoresis” and it literally means “inner dance.” This is the dance of love that moves through the Godhead. It is the dance to which we are invited. We are invited, not as observers but as participants. Join in the relationality. Claim the dynamic movement of the Spirit that unites Father and Son as your own. Follow the footsteps of this holy dance and you will know Divine Love, the kind of love a parent has for a child but so much more than even that.
It’s this Love that marks us as chosen, royal, holy, and God’s very own. It’s a gift freely given. It’s a gift that comes with a cost. Once we accept the claim God has on us, we are obligated to live accordingly. We are obligated to love our neighbors with that same kind of Love. We love to save lives, to stop the blood flowing in our streets. We love without condition or expectation of reciprocation. We love hoping it will be contagious and others will join the sacred dance and pass it on.
I don’t want to go to another homicide scene. Murder happens when fail to see our neighbors as residents in God’s holy nation or because we fail to participate in the work of justice, the work required of the royal priesthood. If Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life for you, then you cannot afford to sit still while the blood flows. Invite everyone you know to join you in the sacred dance because we are all members of the same royal family. As one of my colleagues frequently says, “There’s no such thing as other people’s kids.” Let’s start living as though we really believe that we are one in Christ before it is too late.
RCL – Year A – Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 14, 2017
1 Peter 2:2-10