I’m sitting in my office just six miles from where Justine Damond was shot and killed by police late Saturday night. Turmoil’s slick fingers have grabbed hold of the city. Some see clearly the issues of fear-based policing and inadequate training for officers. Others feel conflicted because the officer is a Somali Muslim and the victim a white Australian. Few want to admit that the system is corrupt and built on issues of power and control aimed at keeping white supremacy alive and well. It’s a mess. The angry, pain-filled cries for justice are met with angry, fear-filled assertions of terrorism or still more angry endorsement of fear-based policing. There’s no easy, simple solution. I am desperately searching the texts for a word of hope.
If I had my way, Jacob’s ladder would encompass the whole of creation and everyone would see angels ascending and descending, going about holy business. We would also hear God’s promise that our descendants would inhabit this world for a long time to come and God will continue to be present everywhere we go. While I wholeheartedly believe these are messages God would like for us to hear and live by, the whole of creation isn’t likely to have this dream. This doesn’t negate the validity of the message, though. We are to be caretakers, stewards of the land (all of it) and trust that God is present everywhere we go. God is present even in the turmoil, the grief, and the fear. There are no depths deep enough to blot out the light of God.
In the meantime, there’s a whole lot of groaning going on. Paul speaks of creation’s groaning while waiting for redemption. Those of us who claim Christ, ought not to be groaning quite so much. Are we not the redeemed? Are we not the ones who have entered into a life in the Spirit so that we might live in loving relationship with God, self, neighbors, and creation? Then why is it so hard for us to acknowledge that we are not living into God’s dream for creation? Why are we unable to acknowledge how the United States is full of racist systems built by our white supremacist ancestors and maintained by the silence of so many citizens who fear change? People are dying and Christians silently or vocally continue to support murderous systems. Surely this is not the way of Christ any more than it is the redemption for which Paul hoped.
While I’m on the subject of redemption, let’s be careful with our interpretations of Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the weeds. We are often so sure who the weeds are, that we forget that it is not necessarily our job to judge. It is true that actual weeds in a field remain weeds throughout their growth cycle; they don’t miraculously change into grain. However, we need to remember that when it comes to human beings, God can transform the most stubborn, invasive weeds into bountiful harvest. Our job is to tend ourselves, to ensure that we are not weeds. In addition we are to care for the whole field – nurture it, water it, love and tend all that grows in it. Weed plucking is not our job because in the end it will be God who determines which are the causes of sin and which are doing evil. Justice means tending the field, the whole field, weeds and all.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of cries for justice going unheard. I’m tired of the excuses that come when a police officer shoots an unarmed person. I’m tired of POC victims being criminalized while white victims are canonized. Jesus was not a white blue-eyed, blond-haired, U.S. citizen and would be horrified by the conflation of nationalism and religion that allows white supremacy to thrive in this country. The truth is that Jesus was brown-skinned, brown-eyed, dark-haired Palestinian Jew who confronted the power-hungry, oppression-supporting people of his day. Jesus sought to empower people through the love of God, self, and neighbor. Isn’t it time we actually follow as Jesus taught and love as Jesus loved?
Jacob had a beautiful dream out there in the desert. God has the same dream for us and racism, fear, hatred, and violence have no place in it. We are those whom God has redeemed and we are the ones who are supposed to be engaging in the holy business of justice for the whole of creation. Let’s stop worrying about weeds vs. grain and start worrying about why the crops are failing and what we can do to change this. Creation is indeed groaning under the weight of our sins. Isn’t it time we put an end to these needless deaths? Too much blood flows in our streets and too many heads turn away. Paul had hope for things unseen. May we join together to be that hope.
RCL – Year A – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 23, 2017
Genesis 28:10-19a with Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 or
Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or
Isaiah 44:6-8 with Psalm 86:11-17
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43