Yesterday’s services at Redeemer Fellowship looked a little different.
Last week brought wave after wave of sadness and tragedy. In response to the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, our pastors gathered with some of our African American leaders on Thursday to write a Prayer of Lament and a Proclamation of Hope to help lead our church through a time of mourning during our Sunday services. And then that evening, like you, we watched in horror as Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens lost their lives in Dallas.
As we dialogued as pastors and talked with many in our community, a common feeling emerged: so many of us feel helpless, powerless to bring about change, but discontent with the way things are.
Yesterday, we addressed some of these feelings and talked about practical ways we can step toward these issues as a community. By way of follow up, we wanted to point you to a few of those resources and give you some additional thoughts to process.
First, if you missed our services yesterday, here is a link to the Prayer of Lament and Proclamation of Hope.
Second, at Redeemer Midtown Kris McGee spoke for 20 minutes about how we should reflect on last week’s events and what it may look like to walk forward as a community. If you missed it, please take some time to listen to the audio here.
Finally, let me leave you with a few personal thoughts.
Don’t Dismiss the Grief. Grief Leads to Empathy
That grief and powerlessness some of us feel as we engage the issues of racial injustice can actually become a beautiful opportunity to draw near to African American brothers and sisters. Use that feeling and imagine how it must feel to, after all these years, see systemic racism continually rear its ugly, pernicious head. If we draw near to those feelings of grief and powerlessness, it will give us a greater understanding of how many African Americans might feel. My friend and fellow Redeemer pastor, Brian Key, wrote a helpful piece on this topic, which you can read here. “When you weep with someone, you identify with them in their pain. It is humanizing in the face of the dehumanizing pain of grief. It somehow makes the grief less lonely, though not less painful.”
Ephesians 4:26 tells us to “be angry and do not sin.” Author and counselor Chip Dodd says this: “Authentic anger is a caring feeling, telling us that something matters. Anger exposes what we value and expresses our willingness to do what is required to reach that value…. Jesus, who turned the tables over in the temple and drove out thieves from a sacred place, experienced true anger. He showed vulnerability full of passion and compassion, the desire to make what had become rotten pure again.” Many of us are comfortable looking away. We’re comfortable waiting until the next news cycle to bring us something else to react to. But let me exhort you to seek understanding, process, grieve, and respond with love, justice, and mercy. Repent of apathy. Pray for burdens and opportunities to walk out justice in our community.
Stand Together, Black and White, and Call For Justice
My African American friends have repeatedly told me that it means so much when someone stands with them in yearning for justice. In moments of astonishing courage and vulnerability, they say it’s overwhelming and isolating to carry the burden of grief and at the same time feel like they need to persuade others that their grief is legitimate. Could Redeemer be a place where some of the most unwavering yearnings for racial equality and justice come from our white brothers and sisters? What kind of picture would that paint of the body of Christ?
Many of us experience these shootings (and the ones that preceded them) through a screen’s mediation. There’s absolutely an appropriateness about this. But, it’s not enough. Do you have friends in the racial minorities of Kansas City? Have you had conversations with them about how these kind of events make them feel? Have you heard their stories? Have you heard their lament? If not, why not? Is there a fear or a comfortability undergirding that? Where does the gospel of Jesus free you to clumsily take steps forward? Transformation happens in the context of real relationships; when you’re sitting face to face with someone, something changes.
Hope in Jesus
Belief in the gospel and fighting for justice are not polar ends of a spectrum. Rightly understood, a heart transformed by the grace of Jesus shares his heart for justice (Matthew 5:6). It flows out. It is grieved by injustice, and pushes back darkness of all kinds. But, for Christians that comes only in the shadow the great reality that Jesus will come and vanquish all sin and death forever. Rather than baptize apathy, this truth empowers us for and compels to justice. So, as we pour out into Kansas City, let us be people who have callouses of justice on our hands and the sweet grace of Jesus on our lips, laboring with others against darkness and pointing them to the only one who can truly destroy it: Jesus.