Pastor’s Letter for June 2020
When, two weeks ago, I began to think about this June greeting to you, I thought I might muse on the joys of Spring in the midst of this crazy pandemic time, specifically about my delight in maple seeds (a.k.a “helicopters”). Having two large maple trees in my yards, I have a lot of opportunity to think about maple seeds this time of year. I never fail to delight in their amazing, God-given design: how they can transport themselves far and wide with their built in “sails”, plant themselves anywhere with their rotating “helicopter” tails—my yard, my flower beds, the rain gutters, and how they can flutter down in absolutely astonishing, prodigal abundance. Through the years I’ve used them in children’s sermons as metaphors for God’s prodigal love, for our commission as disciples (“Go ye into all the world”), for the miracle of God’s design in our lives. Yup, I love maple seeds.
I was then planning to ask what wonders you are experiencing this Spring, and invite us all to open our eyes to God’s abundant wonders.
It seemed a reasonable approach two weeks ago. Now it all seems pretty trite.
What, of course, intervened was the horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and all that this most recent evidence of police brutality against a man of color has unleashed in our nation and our world: protests and demonstrations in over 140 American cities and in cities around the world, painful memories of other similar brutalities, wrestling with issues of our nation’s systemic inequality, injustice, and deep rooted racism.
Social and political commentary is not my strength and is often beyond my comfort zone. But this moment is too overwhelming to retreat from some reflection with you. I am helped by insights from the LA Times op ed (May 30, 2020) written by Dr. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, author of 16 books, and the N.B.A’s all-time leading scorer. In his piece entitled “Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge”, he writes:
“What was your first reaction when you saw the video of the white cop kneeling on George Floyd’s neck?...If you’re white, you probably muttered a horrified “Oh, my God,” while shaking your head at the cruel injustice. If you’re black, you probably leapt to your feet, cursed…, while shouting, “Not again!”
“The black community is used to the institutional racism inherent in education, the justice system and jobs…But COVID 19 has been slamming the consequences of all that home as we die at a significantly higher rate than whites, are the first to lose our jobs, and watch helplessly as Republicans try to keep us from voting…it feels like hunting season is open on blacks.
“I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible—even if you’re choking on it—until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air…
“What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.”
It seems to me that a starting point for us as people of faith is, to borrow Abdu-Jabbar’s words, to let the sun in, to dare to shine that light on our own lives, and on the lives of our family and friends, to reveal the dust of racism, white privilege, generational entitlements and assumptions that we breathe in without even realizing it, and to begin together to do the long hard work of calling out that dust for what it is, and “cleaning it wherever it lands”.
Sunlight has a great deal of power. Enough power to bring the dawn of a new day for us all.
So may it be.
Yours, in Christ’s love,